I have been a philosophy professor for about 27 years. In a nutshell, David Horowitz is right. We absolutely do need a Student Bill of Rights to ensure not just academic freedom, but reasonable discourse in general. As things are, with the ever-growing strength of Relativist Studies and all its permutations, the steady march forward of scientifically dubious Psychologies, and the leftist propaganda implicit in Service Learning curricula, PC hokum now tends to squelch logic and reasonable discourse on just about any day in the hallowed halls of the Humanities, in particular, and throughout the University in general. The more interesting question, though, is how this came to be.
My sense is it occurred when Humanities professors — Philosophy, Literature, and History — abdicated their professional responsibility to teach and analyze great works on their own terms and began instead to yearn for the prestige they imagined existing in the Social Sciences. Suddenly we in the Humanities wanted to be scientists too, albeit pseudo-scientists, but scientists nonetheless. After Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud had proclaimed philosophy is praxis, God is dead, and morality is merely sublimation, we foolishly lost our way. After World War II and up until the advent of the Political Correctness revolution of the 1970’s, the discipline of Philosophy, for example, had been reduced in most American universities to the analytic logic chopping of moral arguments, existential/phenomenological bewilderment and the spinning of Aristotelian metaphysical arguments for theologians in a godless world. All real social advancement appeared to be happening in the Sciences, even the limping Social Sciences.
These were times of despair for the Humanities: “Why couldn’t we be scientists like the Psychologists and Sociologists?” Then from the Social Sciences came structuralism, which allowed us in the Humanities to analyze all books in the context of linguistic structures rather than in terms of what the books actually said. But better was on the horizon. As if by magic, our final salvation arrived in the form of post-Freudian/post-structuralist/post-modernism. All books were now magically transformed into “texts” and all texts were meta-texts. Beyond all odds, we now believed we had been deigned “scientists.” The world had become our oyster. Old Humanities had entered the game again and had become a new branch of Science: Subjectivist Science. We had some serious science work to do. In our newly deigned scientific minds, Humanities departments would root out all those silent social diseases. We would cure academia of the heartbreak of Phallo-logo-centrist, patriarchal, post-colonial, marginalizing oppressive Late Capitalism. Oh yes, now that we in the Humanities were scientists, too (even if only in our own minds), by golly, we were going to change some things. And we did.