The blog of Academe Magazine. Opinions published here do not necessarily represent the policies of the AAUP.
George Leef of Art Pope’s Center for Higher Education Policy denounces Jane Mayer’s recent profile of Pope in the New Yorker as a “scurrilous attack.” But Leef’s response reveals how accurate many of the critiques were.
Leef argues, “it’s no more possible to ‘buy the curriculum’ than it is to corner the silver market.” His logic seems to be this: you’re not buying the curriculum unless you purchase virtually all of it (i.e. cornering the market). And higher education is a commodity similar to silver. He’s wrong on both counts.
Obviously, we should be concerned if rich people are purchasing ideological control over any part of the curriculum and infringing upon academic freedom and integrity, even if it’s a small part of the curriculum. That’s because higher education is nothing like silver. It is not a soulless commodity to be bought and sold.
Leef declares, “What Art Pope and the Pope Center have attempted to do is to add some conservative and libertarian voices in an academic environment that is dominated by left/progressive theories and sentiments. For anyone who is truly interested in education, there can be nothing harmful in that.” Really? Nothing harmful in allowing control over parts of the university to be sold off to the highest bidder in order to impose their own political ideology? I’d say that anyone truly interested in education must regard that as incredibly harmful.
Note how Leef is openly confessing (and praising) the ideological control sought by Pope. After all, you can’t “add some conservative libertarian voices” unless you’re imposing that ideology in the curriculum and the selection of faculty. You can’t add “conservative libertarian voices” unless you’re requiring that faculty hired with Pope money speak with a certain voice. Leef doesn’t praise Pope for adding ideologically neutral programs to a biased academia; he praises him for ramming right-wing ideology down the throat of academia, all in the ironic name of fairness.
And while he’s embracing attacks on academic freedom, Leef mocks Pope’s critics as enemies of intellectual liberty, denounceing “the campus thought police types she quotes.” This makes me wonder: exactly who does Mayer quote that Leef thinks is an advocate of thought policing? Does he have any evidence to support this charge against unnamed persons? We’d be happy to print Leef’s response if he offers one.