Citation
Academic neutrality as a process of critical discursive action

Material Information

Title:
Academic neutrality as a process of critical discursive action
Creator:
Truitt, Ben
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Physical Description:
ix, 109 leaves : ; 28 cm

Thesis/Dissertation Information

Degree:
Master's ( Master of Humanities)
Degree Grantor:
University of Colorado Denver
Degree Divisions:
Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, CU Denver
Degree Disciplines:
Humanities
Committee Chair:
Bookman, Myra
Committee Members:
Shelby, Candice
Tanzer, Mark
Hildebrand, David

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Education, Higher -- Moral and ethical aspects ( lcsh )
Universities and colleges -- Administration ( lcsh )
Partisanship ( lcsh )
Education, Higher -- Moral and ethical aspects ( fast )
Partisanship ( fast )
Universities and colleges -- Administration ( fast )
Genre:
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

Notes

Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 101-109).
General Note:
Department of Humanities and Social Sciences
Statement of Responsibility:
by Ben Truitt.

Record Information

Source Institution:
|University of Colorado Denver
Holding Location:
|Auraria Library
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
255966859 ( OCLC )
ocn255966859
Classification:
LD1193.L58 2008m T78 ( lcc )

Full Text
ACADEMIC NEUTRALITY AS A PROCESS OF CRITICAL DISCURSIVE
ACTION
by
Ben Truitt
B.A., University of Colorado, 2005
A Project Submitted to the
University of Colorado Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for degree of
Master of Humanities
Spring 2008


This thesis for the Master Of Humanities
degree by
Benjamin L. Truitt
has been approved
U/o/
Date


Truitt, Benjamin Leven (Master of Humanities)
Neutrality as a Process of Critical Discursive Action
Thesis directed by Professor Myra Bookman
ABSTRACT
Academic neutrality is a controversial topic in academia. A deadlock between
advocates and critics of neutrality in education has placed the universitys
autonomy at risk. Two current theories of neutrality have been put forward to solve
the dilemma, but both have been found wanting by critics. Internal critiques of
academic neutrality reveal that academic neutrality conflicts with academic values
of honesty, excellence and morality. External critiques of academic neutrality show
that academic neutrality is detrimental to the universitys social function. Critiques
of partisan models show that partisanship can lead to indoctrination which uses
students as means rather than as ends and risks making the university a partisan
entity subject to external attack. Most significantly, indoctrination leads to severe
backlash against partisan causes. This thesis recommends a new model of neutrality
that is a self-corrective process of critical discursive action to address the concerns
of critics of neutrality. The new neutrality model also meets the requirement of
academic neutrality as a condition for academic freedom as dictated by the AAUP
Guidelines of 1915.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I
recommend its publication.
Signed


TABLE OF CONTENTS
INTRODUCTION............................................v
CHAPTER
1. NEUTRALITY....................................1
2. THE IMPOSSIBILITY CRITIQUE...................16
3. THE STANDARDS CRITIQUE.......................34
4. THE MORAL CRITIQUE...........................45
5. THE URGENCY CRITIQUE.........................56
6. THE SURPL US INDOCTRINA TION CRITIQUE........66
7. WHAT IS WRONG WITH PARTISANSHIP?.............74
8. NEUTRALITY AS A PROCESS OF CRITICAL DISCURSIVE
ACTION.......................................81
GLOSSARY OF TERMS......................................98
BIBLIOGRAPHY..........................................101
IV


INTRODUCTION
Neutral adj 1 not taking sides, neither for nor against, impartial: 2 not
strong or definite: n a neutral person or party.
Neutrality n the state of being neutral.
Websters Concise English Dictionary (143)'
In the academic setting, neutrality is a stance that the university, department,
or professor takes that requires that they not take sides in issues of political, moral,
ideological, and religious conflicts in the educational function of the university. The
neutral university, department, or professor remove all group or personal biases thus
becoming neutral actors who transmit knowledge fairly and objectively to students.
Unlike military neutrality in which action is refrained from or in sports where there
are rules by which the referees must abide when calling penalties, the university is not
a place where action is refrained from nor are there any clear rules to abide by. Rather
a combination of the two seems necessary: the university, department, or professor
must take a stance of non-involvement regarding areas of controversy, while the
activity of teaching requires adhering to the rules of objectivity and fairness in
presenting different sides of controversial issues.1 2
1 Neutral comes from the Medieval Latin neutralis: a version of the word neutralitis middle ground
1549 c.e. ^Encyclopedia Britannica)
2 See Simon on this analogy of the referee and the professor. Neutrality and the Academic Ethic 13).
V


This thesis proposes that academic neutrality should be a self-corrective
process of critical discursive action. In other words, neutrality should not be a stance
but rather an action with the goal of setting the conditions of student intellectual
autonomy. In order not to indoctrinate students, the engagement in the process of
neutrality aims to give students informed choices about what they choose to believe
and accept.
This thesis is concerned with neutrality only within the educational context.
Outside of teaching students what perspectives they have an option of accepting or
rejecting, any other question of neutrality, whether in regards to student behavior in a
dormitory or professors speaking on their own time, is irrelevant so long as it does not
relate to education.
As this thesis will show, all current models of academic neutrality are in
conflict with the academic values of honesty, excellence, and morality; as well as
with the universitys function in general society. Five critiques of conventional
academic neutrality will show the weaknesses of arguments for academic neutrality
as well as the value of academic neutrality per se. These critiques will reveal five
valid concerns over the likelihood and value of academic neutrality that must be
addressed. This thesis will first examine and define neutrality as it has already been
argued by Robert L. Simon and Martha Nussbaum. It will then proceed to assess five
important arguments against neutrality. These arguments can be divided into two
categories of critique: internal and external.
vi


An internal critique is a critical examination of a value with respect to how it
conflicts with other functions within the system. For example, in the military, an
internal critique would examine how troop morale and team units can come in
conflict with army discipline, thus examining military values and their compatibility
with other military values. In a sports setting, an internal critique could be to balance
the needs for a strong defense with the requirements for a stronger offense. In a
university this means critiquing an academic value, such as academic freedom, to
understand how it impinges upon other academic values, such as academic
excellence. Thus one would examine whether academic freedom should be restricted
when it comes to academic excellence, e.g., would freedom to teach alternative
theories or sources lower the quality of education?3
An external critique examines a value within a system to understand how it
helps or hinders that systems function within society. For instance, in a military
setting, will a program of assassination be acceptable to the nations values of justice?
In this way the military value of a winning strategy may be weighed against the
national value of proper justice which the military must abide by. Thus, insofar as the
university serves a public function in educating the young and contributing to a
functional political and economic public system, academic values are examined as to
3 Some charge that replacing a part of the literary canon, such as Goethes Faust, with literature from
other cultures, such as I. Rigoberta Menchu. constitutes academic freedom impinging upon the quality
of learning. This topic will be explored in depth in Chapter Three.
Vll


how they add or detract from this function.4 In a university setting, one might
examine the previously mentioned value of academic freedom as to how it helps or
hinders the universitys purpose to serve the general public, e.g. whether or not
academic freedom teaches students necessary skills for functioning in a world of art,
politics, and business.5
The internal critiques I will examine are what I have labeled the Impossibility
Critique, Standard Critique, and Moral Critique. These critiques argue that academic
neutrality is in conflict with academic honesty, academic excellence, and academic
morality. The external critiques I will examine are the Urgency Critique and the
Surplus Indoctrination Critique which criticize academic neutrality as quietist or as
detrimental to a truly informed decision based upon argumentative evidence alone. I
will then show the pitfalls of partisanship and the problems with indoctrination. I will
conclude by demonstrating why the model of academic neutrality as a process of
critical discursive action answers the concerns of critics of neutrality while still
holding true to goals of academic neutrality.
The goal of this thesis is to diagnose the core problem(s) with academic
neutrality which are revealed by the five critiques I will examine. I will show why
those who promote these critiques should seek revision and compromise concerning
4 That the university should contribute to the democratic process is Martha Nussbaums argument, see
Cultivating Humanity._(10)
5 An external critique in a sports setting would be evaluating the success of a game play with how
entertaining it will be to watch, thus examining a sports strategy with regard to how it serves the
function of a sports game as entertainment.
vni


academic neutrality in a way that can address their concerns. I finally seek to propose
a different model for academic neutrality which can serve as a basis for progressive
discussion.
IX


CHAPTER 1
NEUTRALITY
A History of the Neutrality Debate
In order to understand the current controversies about neutrality it is important
to understand the foundations of contemporary models of neutrality and the history of
the current critical models. This section will show the purposes for which the
principle of academic neutrality was founded and its subsequent refinements over
time. This history will show the basis for many of the critiques of neutrality. I will
give a brief chronology of the neutrality debates.
In 1915, A. O. Lovejoy, John Dewey, and E. R. A. Seligman proposed a
guideline to defend the universitys academic freedom from interference by external
political forces. In exchange for professors' academic freedom to hold their own
views and have the right to free inquiry as well as protection from interference by
trustees or politicians, professors had to practice neutrality with regard to teaching in
the educational setting of the university. The hope was that the professors' freedom of
inquiry and values would be separate from teaching students to avoid clashing with
1


the general publics interest and concerns that professors would indoctrinate
students.1 2
In the 1960's and the 1970s the neutrality debate focused on the rights of the
university to interfere with the affairs of students. If the university censured students
who engaged in disruptive political activism, would this cause the university to risk
becoming biased against the activists causes? Sidney Hook argued in his book,
Academic Freedom and Academic Anarchy, that the university had a right to prevent
disruption of activity since it was a place of learning and debate, not a political
ground for action. Everyone had a right to hold their own political views, but no one
had a right to interrupt the universitys educational mission of teaching and
scholarship with lock-outs, violent and loud protests, etc. Thus, while the university
took a neutral stance to controversial political or religious ideas, opinions, and beliefs,
the university did not have to be neutral when such ideals became actions which
resulted in disruption of transmission of knowledge. The university, Hook argued,
had a right to stop activities that would prevent it from fulfilling its duty to educate
students. (53-57)
In the 1960s and 1970s there was also debate about what right the university
had to police the moral affairs of students in their private lives. Did the university
have a right and requirement to impose moral standards in loco parentis? If it did,
1 See Simon, Robert L. Neutrality and the Academic Ethic. 9. The guideline was the General Report
on Academic Freedom and Academic Tenure.
2 E.g. Restrictions on sexual interaction with other students, curfews, alcohol use.
2


what standards could the university enforce without then violating its neutral stance? 3
Most universities today try to enforce only the basic rules of discipline so as not to
interfere with the students' education or the rights of other students and thus not try to
teach a particular moral view to students. This debate is ongoing today with regard to
whether universities have the right to enforce policies such as speech codes.4
In the 1980s, debate broke over the problem of divestment from South
Africa. Could universities be morally neutral and have financial investments in
countries that engaged in repulsive practices? Martin Trow of the University of
California argues in Neutrality Precludes Divestment that actions such as
divestment were not moral actions but political ones and that economic action of the
university should be restricted to good financial management. (Neutrality and the
Academic Ethic 158-160) Other thinkers argued that such distinctions were not
possible and that fiscal policy always had moral and political implications.5 This
debate continues today in movements that seek to break off scholarly relations and
economic business with Israel.6
3 While speech codes are used to control students' public behavior, the line between the public and the
private is not clearly drawn. For an in depth examination of the arguments for and against In Loco
Parentis read David Hoekemas Beyond In Loco Parentis, in Morality, Responsibility, and the
University.
4 In depth philosophical examination on this issue can be found in Paul Bermans compilation
Debating P.C. and a more extensive history of these practices can be found in Alan Kors and Harvey
Silvergates book The Shadow University.
5 See the following essays in Neutrality and the Academic Ethic. Werner Richard, South Africa:
University Neutrality and Divestment" (161-171); Cohen, Daniel H., A Reply to Cahn (173-174);
and Gordon, David and Sadowsky, James, Morally Principled Divesture? (177-181).
6 UK lecturers union back boycott of Israeli universities and scholars, www.Israelinsider.com., May
2007.
3


Critics and advocates in the 1980s also debated whether or not the presence
and involvement of the military on campus violated the universitys neutrality.7 In
allowing programs to exist, such as ROTC, recruitment offices, contracts between
various programs and the military, etc., it could appear that the university implicitly
approved of military policy and action, thus violating the universitys requirement to
be neutral. At the same time, restricting the militarys involvement on campuses
might also violate the universitys requirement to be neutral.
In 1994, Robert L. Simon warned in his book Neutrality and the Academic
Ethic that if the university and its employees were not neutral in the educational
setting, the university risked becoming a partisan entity that could be subject to
partisan attack. Indeed legislative branches are considering interfering with academic
freedom and enforcing neutrality as a result of the seemingly intractable conflict
between advocates of neutrality and advocates of partisanship.8 The university is
now, as Simon warned, viewed as a partisan entity, and the risk of interference by
external forces threatens the autonomy of scholarship and academics. (34)
Current debate over the merits of neutrality has become an intractable conflict
with advocates of neutrality failing to negotiate with the opposing side, and seeking to
enforce codes of academic freedom and neutrality through state legislatures. Those
7 E.g. Military involvement in scientific applications or scientific scholarships, the ROTC, or army
recruitment on campus.
8 In March 2004, the Colorado legislature passed an Academic Bill of Rights in which teaching in a
neutral fashion is required (Horowitz. Indoctrination U. 5-6, 131-132) Similar bills were being
deliberated in other legislatures.
4


who argue for partisanship, finding their concerns overruled by external force,
respond with personal attacks or fallacious arguments of guilt by association.9 The
consequences of the deadlock between neutrality and partisanship could be the loss of
autonomy for the university as well as possible restrictions and repercussions for
academic freedom.10 Unless some sort of compromise or breakthrough is made
between advocates of neutrality and advocates of partisanship, the universitys ability
to be an institute that fosters the pursuit of truth and knowledge will be compromised.
The imperative to work towards a new arrangement between both sides
requires that the concept of neutrality must be revised to adequately address partisan
concerns about neutrality while still retaining academic institutions right to
autonomy and freedom of inquiry. All sides need to come together and make a system
which works for everyones best interest, i.e., academic freedom of inquiry. Both
sides must commit to working with one another in forging a neutrality model which
9 Stanley Fish, or Paul Campos, for example, or some feminist thinkers accuse advocates of neutrality
such as Horowitz or Hoff Sommers of having a hidden conservative agenda, while conservative
thinker Robert George accuses liberal advocates such as Paul Berman of harboring masked relativism.
For more on this see Horowitz, David. Indoctrination U. (35-47); DSouza, Dinesh. Illiberal Education;
George, Robert. The Clash of Orthodoxies; Christina Hoff Sommers. Who Stole Feminism?; and
Berman, Paul. Debating PC.
10 Since it has become the case that advocates of neutrality no longer see the point in debating and have
turned to state legislatures to mandate neutrality, (e.g. David Horowitz) Some may dispute the claim
that discussions about neutrality are no longer meaningfully progressing, however in the more than 100
sources I have examined concerning academic ethics, I have not found anything to substantiate that
there is any meaningful discussion about neutrality occurring. (It may perhaps be discussed in faculty
meetings or behind closed doors in the university, but in my experiences and discussions with
professors and facilitators, which are admittedly anecdotal, I have not heard any arguments for or
against neutrality apart from the ones explored in this thesis. Since these arguments now fail to be
persuasive to the other side it appears that no progressive discussion is occurring, but my research is
not exhaustive.)
5


can be a starting point for future discussion and progress. Academic neutrality as a
process of critical discursive action is that new model.
Current Models of Academic Neutrality
There are various arenas where conflicts occur and different forms of
neutrality can be taken. In warfare, disputing parties resolve disputes through military
tactics and might. In a democratic society, disputes are resolved through voting
systems. In an economic setting, economic strategy and monetary power determine
the outcome of a dispute. In a sports game, athletic ability and intelligent plays
determine the victor. A neutral party in any of these systems is one who does not
interfere by advocating for one side or the other. Sometimes neutrality simply
involves restraint from involvement, but other times it may entail an objective stance
from which intervention is engaged to enforce agreed upon ground rules.11 12 For
example, a sports referee is neutral to which team wins but not to the rules of the
game. A referee may enforce penalties on a team that breaks the rules of the game,
12
but that is not the same thing as working against that team or for the other team.
Academic neutrality as a process of critical discursive action incorporates two
models of neutrality. The first is Robert L. Simons system of academic critical
neutrality in which neutrality is achieved by enforcing ground rules of critical
inquiry. The second is Martha Nussbaums pedagogical model of Socratic inquiry
in which teaching is oriented towards students' intellectual autonomy.
" i.e., Switzerland not taking sides in WWII.
12 This is Prof. Simons example. Simon, Robert L. Neutrality and the Academic Ethic. (28)
6


Academic neutrality, as generally understood by most critics and advocates,
requires that the academic entity with power, e.g., the university, department, or
professor, adheres to the ground rules of academic inquiry, disciplinary requirements,
and educational rigor.13 The university should be neutral to the scholarly pursuits of
professors, academic activities, disciplinary, and interdisciplinary scholarly disputes
within the confines of critical inquiry.14 A university department should be neutral
with respect to conflicts that arise within the focus of that discipline or scholarly
differences between faculty members. And neutrality in the classroom entails that
professors should not take a stance on debates or controversial issues that are within
the focus of the course that they teach, but rather take a stance of non-involvement.
Robert L. Simon argues that the university cannot be neutral to the ground
rules of rational inquiry and reasoned debate because the university cannot be neutral
to its educational mission. Adherence to the principles of critical inquiry does not
make neutrality a farcerather adherence to the basic ground rules of reasoned
argument narrows the scope of neutrality to the university's mission of education and
inquiry. Just as a referee enforces the rules of a game fairly but is not neutral to the
rules themselves, so too, a university can enforce the basic rules of critical inquiry
fairly while still avoiding taking sides, thus taking a neutral stance. Simon calls this
13 Simon points out that these ground rules themselves may be a basis for controversy; he argues that
strictly enforced neutrality, or what he calls strong critical neutrality, can be applied to a basketball
game. Simon also describes a less restrictive neutrality which condemns only the most blatant
violations of neutrality. Simon calls this weak critical neutrality {Ibid., 23)
14 e.g. university speakers, debate panels, peaceful rallies, student club activities, etc.
7


adherence and enforcement of the ground rules for rational argument and debate
institutional critical neutrality. (28)
Thus the university, while taking a neutral position with regard to the content
of disputes within and between disciplines, can and should enforce basic standards of
critical inquiry to these disputes. Similarly, while the university does not take a side
in ideological campus events, the university can enforce basic rules of rational
argument.15 As a result of institutional critical neutrality, positions that do not have
rational methodologies should be excluded from becoming scholarly fields of study;
the university can intervene in interdisciplinary disputes should they cross the line
into irrationality; and campus events can be censored should they fail to adhere to
basic rules of reasoned discussion.16
Enforcing the rules of critical inquiry requires that disciplines within the
university must, as mentioned before, be able to adhere to the ground rules of critical
inquiry. This means that a discipline must have a rational methodology to be able to
be included as a field of study within the university. Thus astrology, palm reading, or
witchcraft is excluded from becoming a discipline by virtue of their irrational
15 e.g. If speakers are brought in for a debate, the university does not take sides with regard to topic,
but can demand civility and reasoned discourse at the event, or that individuals gathering in a campus
rally not shout insults and epithets at other students or interrupt other campus activity.
16 i.e. It would be ideal if adherence to the rules of critical inquiry means that actors within the
university promote various reasoned positions in a well-researched and scholarly manner which Simon
calls strong critical neutrality. Weak critical neutrality requires that only the most blatant examples of
non-scholarly work and behavior are censored (23).
8


methodologies.17 The same requirement of rational methodology would exclude the
establishment of disciplines such as creationist studies, historical denial or conspiracy
theory. The rational methodology exclusion does not mean that the topics of astrology
or historical denial can be censored from the universitys lecture halls and classrooms
per se\ rather it is only that they cannot hold the status of a legitimate field of study
within the university.18
Disciplines themselves can bar positions that are outside of their field so long
as the disciplines methodology is rational. Academic departments cannot be neutral
to their specific methodologies much in the same way that the university cannot be
neutral to critical inquiry and scholarly conduct. Thus a course in Holocaust denial as
an acceptable historical methodology should be excluded from history departments
because holocaust denial fails to follow historical methods. Disciplinary critical
neutrality19 can be invoked in order to bar positions from being taught that do not
adhere to the acceptable methodologies within the scope of the discipline.
Disciplines should, under this model of neutrality, seek to hold their courses to
the standards of their methodologies and stay neutral with regard to debate within
17 For proof that astrology fails to employ rational means see Phillip Plait. Bad Astronomy:
Misconceptions and Misuses Revealed, from Astrology to the Moon Landing Hoax. (213-220) On
witchcraft and palm reading see James Randi. Flim-Flam: ESP Unicorns and Other Delusions.
18 In other words, such pseudo-theories may be present on campus as opinions held, even vocally, by
students and professors, but are not legitimated as fields of study. (For more discussion refer to
Chapter Four)
191 am indebted to Dr. Hildebrands paper, Does Every Theory Deserve a Hearing? Evolution,
Intelligent Design and the Limits of Democratic Inquiry, Southern Journal of Philosophy for the
discussion of disciplinary critical neutrality in which he presents the arguments for exclusion that
scientists use for not teaching intelligent design. (223-224). Michael Shermer discusses how intelligent
design conflicts with scientific methodology in Why Darwin Matters. (93-99).
9


their specific fields. In order to invoke disciplinary neutrality fairly, departments
should seek to ensure that courses remain committed to present only what falls within
the proper methodologies of their respective fields of study. Thus, a science
department, for example, would not teach Intelligent Design courses as an acceptable
scientific theory due to creationists' non-compliance with scientific method. In
fairness science courses should not teach religious doctrines which fall outside the
sphere of scientific method.20
Professors should seek to educate students in the subject matter of the course
and the accepted methods of inquiry. The professor is required to present the various
disputes within the topic(s) of the class in a balanced fashion roughly as they are
accepted within the field concerning the topic, and students should understand when
they study a particular disputed concept or topic that it is controversial. A professor
must take care that fringe positions, including possibly his or her own, must be
20 Joseph Ratzinger points out that philosophy must sift out the non-scientific element out of the
scientific results with which it is often entangled, in That Which Holds the World Together, The
Dialectics of Secularization. (57). He argues that it is the responsibility of science departments and
their faculty to try to ensure that they, too, do not make teleological (he uses this term in a broader
sense than simply final purpose; he extends it into claims of non-purpose) conclusions within their
field insofar as they claim it falls outside their methodology. Thus (anti) teleological claims such as
random mutation (the random part, not the mutation part), which provide the grounds for charges by
religious groups as a basis for inclusion in scientific curriculum, should also be removed along with
intelligent design arguments. Ratzinger's restriction only applies to education in a broad context. He
does not argue that science or scientists cannot challenge teleological claims of religion regarding
purpose. Michael Shermer calls Ratzingers view of science and religion in the educational setting the
Separate-Worlds Model since it makes science and religion mutually exclusive methodologies, and
thus separate from one another. Shermer calls Ratzingers view of religion and science in the non-
academic realm the Same-World Model insofar as religion and science seek to debate and interpret the
other. (Why Darwin Matters 120-121)
10


presented clearly as a fringe position in the classroom, i.e., that students have a clear
understanding of which positions are mainstream and which ones are not. (Simon 25)
The classroom must be neutral in order to accurately educate students about
the relevant topic, allowing students to evaluate for themselves which positions they
wish to make their own. Professors should seek to make the conflicts within their
topic accessible rather than influencing or indoctrinating the positions they personally
feel to be correct. Simon argues that critical neutrality in the classroom should be
followed to respect the students autonomy to make their own decisions. (Ibid 25)
The new model of academic neutrality will incorporate the elements of critical
exclusion and rational basis in education into its model. Also included will be the
basic requirement of adherence to critical inquiry. Thus the system of neutrality, as a
process of critical action, will include the critical element of Simons neutrality
model.
Counter-Point Neutrality
Another kind of neutrality, which is argued by Martha Nussbaum in
Cultivating Humanity, strives to raise the student's awareness by countering his or her
accepted views in life with alternatives. The goal of counter-point neutrality is to
present alternatives to the students' lifestyles and upbringings in order to put their 21
21 As with university or disciplinary exclusion on methodological grounds, topics or positions
irrelevant and outside of the course focus should also be excluded when they do not relate to the class.
Thus a political rant during a mathematics course, or a religious lecture during a course on economic
theory would be unethical and unacceptable.
11


traditions into a critical light.22 In doing so the students learn other points of view
and are then able to choose or discard their beliefs based upon rational criteria. Thus
students from a certain background become aware of other backgrounds and are
challenged to defend their own through what Nussbaum calls Socratic inquiry
which also allows students to have autonomy in making decisions concerning the
topics they are taught. As she writes:
The central task of education, argue the Stoics following Socrates, is to
confront the passivity of the pupil by challenging the mind to take
charge of its own thought. All too often, peoples choices and
statements are not their own. Words come out of their mouths, and
actions are performed by their bodies, but what those words and
actions express may be the voice of tradition or convention, the voice
of the parent, of friends, of fashion. (28)
Thus neutrality cannot simply be teaching rational argument. Rather it is the case that
action must be taken against the upbringing of the student to promote rational choice.
This is achieved by presenting and arguing alternative positions against the students
22 Nussbaum does not argue that her Socratic method of teaching is a model of neutrality. In fact
Nussbaum will argue later that indoctrination (as defined by Roger Scruton) is unavoidable and
necessary for the goals of education. (See Chapter 2 pages 18-20) The goal of the Socratic method of
teaching is to counter indoctrination and open students' minds which is the purpose of instituting
neutrality i.e., ensuring that the freedom of opinion among professors does not result in the
indoctrination of their students.
12


background and thus making the student someone who thinks for him/herself. In
counter-point neutrality, education requires tailoring challenges to the students based
upon common backgrounds, thus conservative students must be challenged by liberal
arguments and vice versa. Therefore, since Nussbaums Socratic method of teaching
is aimed at preventing indoctrination by countering students' beliefs and knowledge
with other possibilities, i.e. neutralizing indoctrination, I have titled it counter-point
neutrality. (32-33)
Nussbaums counter-point neutrality also applies to the university. The
university must foster and encourage diverse viewpoints. Thus admissions and hiring
practices should be oriented towards ensuring different cultural heritages are present
on campus and echoed in educational events and classrooms. University core
requirements should necessitate that students are exposed to alternative lifestyles, and
student advisors should steer students into courses which examine different cultures,
the opposite gender, and alternative lifestyles.
Unlike critical neutrality, counter-point neutrality is a goal-oriented process of
neutralization. The process and goal-oriented elements of counter-point neutrality
will be an important part of the new proposed model of neutrality insofar as both
elements change neutrality from a stance taken to a goal-oriented action. Thus the
new neutrality system will incorporate the elements of critical exclusion, base rules of 23
23 Nussbaum argues that at least one mandatory class in multiculturalism would be an improvement.
(Cultivating Humanity. 295-296)
13


critical inquiry, process, and goal orientation from both Simon's and Nussbaums
neutrality models.
Simons arguments for critical neutrality leave many partisans unconvinced.
Advocates of partisanship argue that, despite the merits of critical neutrality,
legitimate and serious partisan concerns still can supersede those merits. Simon
admits that many extreme arguments against critical neutrality leave little to no
common ground for debate.24 25
Nussbaums argument for counter-point neutrality immediately faces
problems of practical implementation, placing university programs in the possible
position of being unable to fulfill the promise of challenging all students'
backgrounds and even possibly, in some cases, indoctrinating students. Other
problems with the counter-point system leave critics concerned whether such a
program actually works, or if it might not provide the outcome it seeks and would
come in conflict with other academic values such as academic excellence. Nussbaum
understands the concern that many have with her program in the broader context of
the universitys role in society. Her defense of the Socratic inquiry program, however,
does not satisfy critics of such a program.
24 In Neutrality and the Academic Ethic (93), Simon is correct in pointing out that some post-modern
critiques of neutrality leave no grounds upon which any discussion and agreement can be forged. (67-
85) I will not be addressing the arguments of these groups in this paper insofar as my neutrality model
addresses most of their concerns in Chapter two, Simons response to their arguments can be found in
Simons book.
25 See chapter three for more detailed discussion.
14


!
The question that neutrality advocates must begin with is: how can neutrality
be revised to address the concerns and complaints of partisan advocates so that a
common ground can be found? The arguments and counter-arguments seem to repeat
themselves over and over again with no progress made in coming to an agreement. It
seems as though the current arguments for partisanship and arguments for neutrality
leave little room for negotiation and in fact it seems to have reached a point at which
there can be no progressive meaningful discussion.
In order to solve this seeming intractability, the points made by the counter-
arguments need to be addressed by fixing neutrality with the following important
features which are incorporated into the new model. The new neutrality system will
need to be self-correcting action rather than stance to answer the impossibility
critique, it must teach both point and counter-point to answer the standards critique,
be demonstrably critically exclusive to answer the morality critique, confrontational
to answer the urgency critique, and actively critical to answer the surplus
indoctrination critique 261 will show how each critique reveals the flaws in
conventional neutrality, Simons critical neutrality, and Nussbaums counter-point
neutrality systems and thus why the new neutrality model is the answer to these
problems. 26
26 Each critique requires more than just one concession by neutrality, but the concessions listed are
aimed at answering the central problem of each critique.
15


CHAPTER 2
THE IMPOSSIBILITY CRITIQUE
The impossibility critique reveals a serious flaw in conventional neutrality and
Simons model of critical neutrality insofar as the possibility of taking a stance
whether as uninvolved or being a sort of rule-enforcing refereeis impossible. This
chapter will address the necessity that academic neutrality be an active process rather
than a stance. Furthermore, this chapter will show that the process of instruction in
the classroom does not always result in indoctrination.
The impossibility critique argues that no institution or individual can take a
neutral stance or position. We are fundamentally biased creature, and decisions made
by universities, academic departments, and professors will always reflect that. Claims
made of neutrality by any group or individual are always false, and are often used to
hide less-than-neutral agendas. As Stanley Fish writes in Theres No Such Thing as
Free Speech (and Its a Good Thing Too):
That secret known by everyone is that talk of equality, standards and level
playing fields is nothing more than a smoke screen behind which there lies a
familiar set of prejudices rooted in personal interest. (92)
16


Since neutrality intends to level the playing field of competing claims to a setting of
rational inquiry (thus allowing for equality of positions in a debate) it then falls into
this smoke screen." Fish then states:
My point is that the practices of those who have declared themselves against
curricular reform, multiculturalism, affirmative action, deconstruction,
feminism, gay and lesbian studies, etc., are informed by a massive bad faith.
(Ibid. 92)
Since neutrality entails being against many of these programs which already
consider neutrality to be antithetical to their positions, neutrality is then, according to
Fish, impossible; there can only be bias; and any claim otherwise is in massive bad
faith."27
The impossibility critique of neutrality can also be applied to counter-point
neutrality, since, it can be argued, that the presentation of various backgrounds as
alternatives to students' upbringings levels the playing field in making lifestyle
options equal to each other. Since Nussbaums Socratic inquiry and rationalism,
27 Critical neutrality asks for adherence to critical inquiry, and as Nussbaum writes: [Socrates'] values
are assailed by the left as well as by the right. It is fashionable today in progressive intellectual circles
to say that rational argument is a male Western device, in its very nature subversive of the equality of
women and minorities and non-Western people. (Cultivating Humanity 18-19) Thus since both
neutrality models adhere to rational argument, they then fall into these progressive intellectual
circles which are the programs of multiculturalism, feminism, deconstruction, and gay and lesbian
studies Fish mentions.
17


which is considered by many of the programs Fish writes about, are antagonistic to
these viewpoints, these positions then must also be in massive bad faith." The
suspected motive that could stand behind counter-point neutrality is that it serves as a
D
smoke screen for radical agenda.
The impossibility critique is most succinctly put by Professor Richard Werner
in South Africa: Neutrality and Divestment:
[BJecause of these types of problems [i.e., divestment] many contemporary
philosophers, myself included, conclude that neutrality or impartiality is an
impossibility, a fiction. We do not take neutrality seriously. (Neutrality and
the Academic Ethic 167-168)
Thus subjective perspective or partisanship is an inevitability; any sort of attempt to
restrain our opinions and beliefs would be a fiction i.e., dishonest according to
Werner. Therefore impossibility critics, such as Werner or Fish, are arguing that
academic neutrality (in being bad faith and fiction) conflicts with the important
educational value of academic honesty. Since no university can be truly neutraland
any attempt to pose as neutral directly violates academic honestyit is clearly better
to adhere to academic honesty and openness rather than try to attempt any sort of
fictional and dishonest academic neutrality. 28
28 More on the radical agenda smokescreen in Chapter Three.
18


Insofar as there is only subjective viewpoint and no objective viewpoint, it is
only from a natural position of advocacy that the university is structured, i.e. from a
point of view. Bias is the only stance from which professors can teach, it then
becomes the case that bias and slant are inevitable on campus and in teaching. This
inevitability of bias leads to the problem of possible student indoctrination in
classrooms since professors will inevitably promote their ideals and denigrate others,
which, when done consistently by like-minded people, can result in students being
used and inculcated with the values and ideals of their instructors. As Werner further
writes:
Humans cannot separate from particular contexts or personal beliefs. One
cannot both hold ones own subjective perspective, which is the only
perspective one can hold, and, at the same time hold the objective perspective
of impartiality or neutrality, the view from nowhere. (168)
Thus professors only offer subjective viewpoints (objectivity being a mythical other
option to subjectivity) and academic neutrality is a stance from nowhere." Therefore
professors impart their values to their students and, should sufficient agreement occur
on a perspective or perspectives within the university, indoctrination will be the likely
result.
19


The conclusion of this argument against neutrality is that taking any objective
stance is a lie; human beings are subjective in nature and thus there is no
subjective/objective dichotomy. Neutrality assumes such a dichotomy is possible and
is thus a non-existent position. In order to answer the arguments mentioned above, the
new neutrality must account for the inevitable bias of individuals and groups and thus
be a self-correcting process that aims towards the possibility of granting students an
autonomous choice over what beliefs they will take as true.
Can a process of neutrality exist? Some impossibility critics argue further that,
not only is the neutral stance impossible, but that neutralitywhich would include a
process of neutralityis antithetical to teaching. Teaching cannot be divorced from
partisanship and indoctrination, thus neutrality is impossible. Insofar as students must
be indoctrinated with the basics of any field, i.e. learn the fundamentals as fact. In
order for the pedagogical process to occur, it must be shown that teaching can exist
independent of indoctrination. The argument that teaching entails indoctrination is
raised in defense of partisanship in certain feminist classrooms. For instance Martha
Nussbaum raises this argument in Cultivating Humanity when she argues against
Christina Hoff Sommers Who Stole Feminism?. Nussbaum writes, What is
indoctrination, and how is it different from regular instruction? (203) Nussbaums
question equates indoctrination and teaching. Nussbaum then shows how the
20


characterization of indoctrination is similar to the characterization of teaching. As
Nussbaum continues:
Indoctrination, suggests Hoff Sommers, is characterized by three features: the
major conclusions are assumed beforehand, rather than being open to question
in the classroom; the conclusions are presented as a unified set of beliefs
that form a comprehensive worldview; and the system is closed, committed
to interpreting all new data in light of the theory being affirmed.
Whether this account gives us sufficient conditions for indoctrination and
whether, so defined, all indoctrination is bad college pedagogy, may certainly
be debated. (Ibid.) 29 30
As one can see, Nussbaum questions whether any pedagogy is not indoctrination
according to Hoff Sommers (actually Roger Scrutons) debatable definition. If
indoctrination is necessary to instruction per se, it must therefore be the case that
*1 A
learning any topic or discipline is at odds with any sort of neutrality. Nussbaum
29 This is not a definition of indoctrination nor is it Hoff Sommers argument, but is rather Roger
Scrutons prominent features as discussed by Christina Hoff Sommers in Who Stole Feminism? It is
also a significant misrepresentation insofar as the closed system that is referred to is not one that is
simply committed to interpreting all new data in light of the theory being affirmed; it is closed
because it is immune to criticism and non-falsifiable. (96)
30 Nussbaums argument that all teaching requires some element of indoctrination and that it is not a
bad thing is problematic insofar as she confuses the teaching of any premise in a field as a fact with
indoctrination. She argues that one cannot question the basic theory of economics in an introduction
class or challenge the assumptions of medical research in biology, or that assumptions that slavery is
wrong are often pre-assumed conclusions within many classes. (Cultivating Humanity 203-204)
21


further dismisses Hoff Sommers by saying that she uses indoctrination as a scare
term to vilify feminism, and states that Hoff Sommers evidence is anecdotal.31
This characterization of Hoff Sommers arguments and the accusations that
she employs "scare terms" and anecdotal evidence significantly misrepresents what
Hoff Sommers actually writes. Hoff Sommers does not argue indoctrination on a few
anecdotal examples, but rather:
For the past few years I have reviewed hundreds of syllabi from
womens studies courses, attended more feminist conferences than I
care to remember, studied the new feminist pedagogy, reviewed
dozens of texts, journals, newsletters, and done a lot of late-into-the-
night reading of e-mail letters that thousands of networked womens
studies teachers send to one another. I have taught feminist theory. I
have debated gender feminists on college campuses around the
country, and on national television and radio. My experience with
academic feminism and my immersion in the ever-growing gender
feminist literature have served to deepen my conviction that the
These examples confuse indoctrination with staying on topic; a student who questions economic
methodology or the basis of medical research, is not rebuked for asking the question per se, but should
be told that such questions are off the topic of the course but are welcome in classes where they are
relevant and on-topic. Classroom neutrality means neutrality to the debates within the topic of the
class, or the scope of the discipline. Indoctrination, as discussed by Hoff Sommers, occurs when no
latitude is allowed for questioning principles.
31 Like Hoff Sommers they base their conclusions on a small number of anecdotes." Hoff Sommers'
scare term, indoctrination, has not yet succeeded in isolating a phenomenon that is really bad; more
argumentation is surely needed. (Nussbaum. Cultivating Humanity 202, 203-204)
22


majority of womens studies classes and other classes that teach a
reconceptualized subject matter are unscholarly, intolerant of
dissent, and full of gimmicks. (90)
How any of this research from which Hoff Sommers draws her conclusions constitute
a small number of anecdotes according to Nussbaum, is unclear.
Hoff Sommers does not use the term indoctrination as a label or scare term
for womens studies courses; rather it is the case that she is responding to the
justification used by gender feminist scholars that their teaching is and should be
indoctrination. As Christina Hoff Sommers writes concerning gender feminist
studies:
She [the Gender Feminist] justifies turning her classroom into a base
in the struggle against patriarchy by arguing that all teaching is
basically political, that all teachers indoctrinate their students, though
often without being aware that they are doing so. As for the
pedagogical ideal of disinterested scholarship and objective truth,
the gender feminists deny that these ideals are attainable. (95-96) 32
32 Gender feminists is Christina Hoff Sommers' characterization of feminists who essentially argue
that women are fundamentally different from men, in perpetual oppression and at war with the male
hegemony," and that women are superior to men in a variety of ways. This is distinguished from
liberal feminists who argue that women are equal to and not radically dissimilar from men. (Who
Stole Feminism? 11-18)
23


As one can see, gender feminists themselves state that their teaching is political and
indoctrination. Thus Hoff Sommers is using the debatable definition of
indoctrination as so understood by those who practice it. Gender feminists hold the
view that the possibility of a neutral classroom or university is simply an oxymoron.
Hoff Sommers would respond to Nussbaum by pointing out that this argument
is an overgeneralization and oversimplification of education, and that it recognizes no
difference between better and worse. As Hoff Sommers writes:
Those who believe that all teaching is political have labeled everything in
advance, and they brook no counter arguments. Critical philosophers are well
acquainted with this move: first it labels everything, then it rides roughshod
over fundamental differences....There is a difference between events that
happen accidentally and those that are planned...So, too, is there a difference
between education and propaganda. (98)
Thus, the extreme argument of impossibility, that education is indoctrination, is a
fallacious over-simplification by labeling everything as political and proceeding on
the assumption. It follows from this line of thinking that since teaching falls into the
category of everything that teaching must be political. The result is that education and
24


indoctrination become synonyms. Therefore it follows that a process of neutrality is
impossible.
These fallacies of over-simplification and hasty generalization are the basis of
the argument that teaching is indoctrination. Unless political is the definition of
everything, the argument that all teaching must be indoctrination is not justified.
Thus, it is possible that some forms of teaching do not necessarily entail
indoctrination i.e. teaching the basics of a field as basic assumptions, rather than
unquestionable facts. Therefore, there is a basis for a neutrality model that is not
antithetical to teaching.
The impossibility argument also has less extreme positions; these positions
argue against neutrality by pointing out that it is simply not possible for a university
or individual to be non-partisan and neutral no matter by what degree. As Robert Paul
Wolff writes in The Myth of the Neutral University, the university is necessarily
involved in politics, and any action it takes is partisan because it takes a stance for
one side or for another. Thus distinctions of more objective or less objective still
entail deception (insofar as objectivity is illusory).
It is often argued that neutrality is a facade unpopular views use to get forum.
These subversive agendas (or some argue the status quo) hide their partisanship
behind mythical arguments and claims of taking a neutral stance. Thus the inability to
achieve a fully neutral settingsince bias is inevitable in teaching and drafting
25


pedagogical policies, as argued by Fish, Wolff, and Wemer-means that neutrality,
even as a position one should try to achieve, is mythical and always at odds to some
extent with academic honesty. Therefore it must be the case that either one is honest
concerning ones biasesand partisanor one is dishonest about ones biasesand
claim neutrality. The greater danger lies in the indoctrination of students by a so-
called neutral professor than in the open-to-contradiction honest professor. (Wolff
The Myth of the Neutral University, Neutrality and the Academic Ethic 103-110)
This argument is also advanced by conservatives with regard to defenses of
neutrality, and reveals the unavoidable partisanship in the university. A frequent
charge that circulates in right-wing arguments is that the university, specifically the
Liberal Arts and Fine Arts colleges, have become radically liberal as shown by
overwhelming political liberal leanings (self-definitions as liberal or thinker) within
departments.33 Conservative impossibility critics accept the argument that bias cannot
be eliminated in classrooms, departments, or universities and therefore claims of
academic neutrality are a sham.34
The conservative view embraces the impossibility critics argument and push
academic balanced ideological points-of-view in place of academic neutrality in
33 See David Horowitz. The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America, (xxxiii-
xxxiv) Many in the sciences also see a large radical movement, see. A House Built On Sand: Exposing
Post-Modern Myths of Science.
34 A study done in humanities departments revealed that the majority of professors in liberal art fields
identified themselves as liberal. For more in depth discussion of these conservative views I recommend
Jim Black Nelson. Freefall of the American University: How Our Colleges are Corrupting the Minds
and Morals of the New Generation.
26


pedagogy. This theory which I will call a balance theory of education is offered as an
alternative to neutrality and could be argued to be a better alternative to a neutrality
process. The balance theory requires that the university employ proportional or equal
numbers of professors and schedule speakers from various ideological perspectives in
order to cancel out the biases in the university, i.e., ideological affirmative action.
This balance allows students to hear all sides of an issue and make up their own
minds rather than receive radical indoctrination.35
This argument for balance has serious problems however. First, it is difficult
to determine how many professors should be hired in order to provide balance within
a field, e.g., how should professorial ideological differences be hired for?36 Should
schools hire equal amounts of conservative and liberal professors based upon
population statistics? What constitutes a valid ideological difference? If there is a
shift in statistical leanings, should professors be fired on the basis of statistical shifts?
How should disagreements within a field be weighed in order to determine hiring
practices? What if professors are liberal in some areas and conservative in others?
Such problems make the balance theory even more problematic than neutrality
models both in theory and in application.
35 Rosen, Mike. Biased Cultural Thinking," Editorial. Rocky Mountain News, May 2006. This
argument has been advanced elsewhere in conservative circles, though it is often misattributed to
David Horowitz who disagrees with academic balance arguments. (Indoctrination U )
36 Robert L. Simon writes concerning this dilemma in his essay, "Affirmative Action and the
University: Faculty Appointment and Preferential Treatment, Affirmative Action and the University:
A Philosophical Inquiry. (48-93)
27


Since partisan advocates can argue that neutrality is always in bad faith
because neutrality is humanly unachievable, academic honesty is intractably in a
deadlock with academic neutrality. In response to this argument, disempowered
positions within and without the university then find a basis for arguing ideological
representation thus creating a conflict in which only political power can resolve the
problem. The result is an intractable situation in which advocates for partisanship
withdraw any possible basis for negotiating neutrality models, leaving advocates of
neutrality with no way of engaging in a meaningful and progressive dialogue.
This deadlock between neutrality advocates and partisan advocates has led
David Horowitz and others to conclude that neutrality simply cannot be persuasively
argued to partisans, and that legislation of an Academic Bill of Rights is the only
alternative. If enacted, the university would lose a good portion of its autonomy by
becoming answerable to state government. The states right to infringe upon
academic freedom in order to maintain neutrality has potentially serious
consequences for academic freedom of speech and inquiry; the state would have a
basis for pressuring the university to dismiss professors on perceived threats of
indoctrination.
This interference is, in some sense, justified since the problem is that
neutrality in the classroom, as laid out in the AAUP guidelines, was a condition for
academic freedom in the first place in order to alleviate public concerns of 37
37 The Academic Bill of Rights, Indoctrination U. (128-132)
28


indoctrination.38 If neutrality is not possible, the state can void the agreement of
political non-interference and intervene in the universitys business. Rather than
allow indoctrination to occur by a particular political group, the state intervenes and
loss of freedom is an acceptable option in order to fight against student
indoctrination.39 If the understood condition of neutrality, which is necessary for
academic freedom, is nullified then action taken by outside sources is justified by the
impossibility arguments.
Thus the case for the Academic Bill of Rights is, in some sense, justified.
The autonomy of many universities is at stake as such measures have passed in
several legislatures and is seriously deliberated in other state legislatures around the
country. (Horowitz, Indoctrination U. 115-128) It is clear that any model of neutrality
must resolve the problem of academic honesty by making a professors held beliefs
irrelevant to a neutrality system. If neutrality is a goal-oriented process, the particular
beliefs of a professor are not relevant, the process is honestly engaged in and thus the
choice of either honesty or neutrality is no longer unsolvable. Thus neutrality as
action is necessary to make a progressive discussion on how to achieve the stipulated
condition of neutrality.40
38 See Chapter 1 page 4.
39 Whether or not there is a political orthodoxy is irrelevant; the state can intervene in order to prevent
a perceived orthodoxy from occurring should the impossibility critique negate neutrality.
40 Critics may point out that I have not addressed the motives of those who use neutrality to hide their
prejudiced agendas. These particular accusations are ad hominem fallacies and the fallacy of guilt by
association. That some who argue for neutrality are driven by bad faith does not address their actual
argument for neutrality.
29


The Impossibility Critique and Counter-Point Neutrality
Since the stance taken in critical neutrality is impossible, the question is why
the proposed model of neutralitys self-corrective process should be accepted by
impossibility critics over other alternatives, e.g. counter-point neutrality. As shown,
the balance models process is an impractical and severely flawed theory. Why
should the critical discursive process of neutrality be considered over the process of
Socratic teaching proposed by Nussbaum? As will be shown, the counter-point
systems possible implementation is actually a balance theory model which has
already been shown to be a less desirable system than the proposed model of
academic neutrality as a process of critical discursive action.
As this section will show, the impossibility critique can also be leveled against
Nussbaums methodology for Socratic inquiry (what I have called counter-point
neutrality). As Nussbaum writes, concerning the requirements for Socratic inquiry
to occur:
... If education is understood in the Socratic way, as an eliciting of the souls
own activity, it is natural to conclude, as Socrates concludes, that education
must be very personal. It must be concerned with the actual situation of the
pupil, with the current state of the pupils knowledge and beliefs, with the
obstacles between that pupil and the attainment of self-scrutiny and
intellectual freedom. Socrates therefore questions people one by one. The
30


Stoics, concerned with the broad extension of education to all, are not always
able to do this. But they insist that individualized education is always, in
principle, the goal. (Cultivating Humanity 32)
Thus neutrality requires a form of one-on-one teaching to be effective which, as
Nussbaum admits, in a public university with thousands of students is impractical
since it requires a professor biased in the opposite direction of the student.41 (67-84)
In order for any workable system to accommodate counter-point neutrality, the
Socratic method must be practiced in a more generalized setting in which some
background alternatives are presented in order to make students defend their own
backgrounds and thus examine their beliefs in a critical manner with individualized
education, in principle, the goal." (32)
Nussbaum is aware of the impractical nature of full counter-balance
neutrality. She suggests in Cultivating Humanity that a minimum fulfillment that
would give some degree of counter-point neutrality would be simply a requirement to
take a course or two about a culture other than ones own and to learn another
language; even better would be to incorporate multi-cultural perspectives solidly
within disciplines.42 A simple awareness of other cultures and backgrounds than ones
own is all Nussbaum is asking to produce thinkers who can better understand cultures
41 The necessity of the presenting alternative views is, if the impossibility critique against critical
neutrality is true, that the offering of the alternative view be biased in that direction.
42 The argument for transformation of disciplines towards a more multi-cultural view opens Nussbaum
to the critique of standards which will be addressed later.
31


other than their own so that they can, in turn, better understand and deal with others in
the globalizing interactive world. This should not pose a practical obstacle and allow
some portion of counter-point neutrality.
At this point, Nussbaums Socratic method of teaching must be separated
from the theory of counter-point neutrality. The problem then presented is a system in
which counter-points must be given to students from various backgrounds in an
honest and convincing fashion in all topics where there are cultural, gender, or
alternative lifestyle differences. This again comes back to the problem of an
ideological affirmative action program which is based upon criteria of being both
multicultural and able to accommodate changing student populations. Thus counter-
point neutrality, should the impossibility critics be correct, becomes an ideological
affirmative action system with its own set of problems both in theory and in practice.
Conclusions
Impossibility critics believe that neutral stances of any kind are false gods that
must be broken by academic honesty. Impossibility critics from the left argue that
neutrality is a disguise for subversive ideologies to spread to the classroom. When
enforced neutrality is discussed, neutrality becomes a tool for forcing all professors to
be dishonest by making them pretend to be what they are not, i.e., neutral.
Impossibility critics from the right believe that bias is inevitable and balance is the
only satisfactory possibility.
32


The underlying point of all these critiques is that neutrality is an unachievable
state that no individual or group could take. Any response to these critiques, urging,
for example, weaker neutrality or some small compromise, does little to alleviate the
concerns these critics have, which is that dishonesty becomes a requirement of
education. There is no neutrality alternative," in education. There is only naturally
ingrained bias, a balance system of partisanship that is theoretically flawed and
practically impossible to implement, and is the only sort of compromise which can
prevent indoctrination. To adequately respond to the concerns of these critics, one
must show how a professor, discipline, or university can take an honest and neutral
stance.
The model of neutrality which is being developed here, will not assume a
static state of neutrality will exist, but rather that neutrality will be continuously
emerging, a process. This process will not require any sort of political or religious
affirmative action, but only that the results of the neutral system will be inter-
subjectively analyzed in order to account for bias and group-think. Based upon this
measureable outcome, corrective changes can be made to achieve the goal of student
autonomy, and thus fulfill the condition for academic freedom without requiring that
dishonesty become a required part of the education process.
33


CHAPTER 3
THE STANDARDS CRITIQUE
The impossibility critique revealed how stance-based neutrality was an
undesirable system. The standards critique will show that a process of neutrality
needs to present both or all sides of an issue to make an informed choice and that
inter-subjective corrective action is the best answer.43 It will become evident that
Nusbaums systematic process of counter-point neutrality is an undesirable model of
neutrality insofar as it rests on an assumption that there is a valid point to counter. If
the assumption of a valid point that can be countered is wrong, it will reveal how
Nussbaums system of counter-point neutrality is not a viable neutrality model in
education and that teaching the students held point is necessary.
The standards critique is the argument that academic neutrality requires that
the various sides of a controversy must all be treated as equally valid positions.
Standards critics also charge that academic neutrality requires an equivocation of
great works of one culture or gender with great works of others. In other words,
academic neutrality is viewed as a type of relativism; all art, literature, political
systems, histories, etc., may be different yet are somehow equal; all questions are
43 Inter-subjective objectivity is what Jurgen Habermas calls quasi-transcendentalism. This system,
like the scientific method, is where the results of teaching can be evaluated by different individual to
determine bias and eliminate it. This is covered in detail in chapter seven.
34


equally good, and all values are equally legitimate. This system provides a platform
for questionable scholarship and less opportunity for learning the classics. This
charge that neutrality provides and illegitimate egalitarian function and thus is the
antithesis of good scholarship and intellectual excellence.
Neutrality harms intellectual excellence because a professor who teaches in a
neutral fashion must present, and sometimes focus on presenting the other side(s) in
a legitimizing or biased fashion. This means that the professor presents the literary
quality of Shakespeare with the literary quality of Rigoberta Menchu as equally good
when they are not.44 Regardless of how politically correct it may be to say so, it is
argued, there simply are not equivalent products of greatness to the Western canon in
other cultures or genders. A good education it is argued, is concerned primarily with
the best that has been thought and said, and that this will exclude a large portion of
the human experience." (Kimball, Roger Tenured Radicals 60) Therefore academic
neutrality is blindness to excellence and is subversive to great education.
Standards advocates have raised their concerns loudest with the assault on the
canon or the great books curriculum. This controversy surrounds the introduction
into the curriculum of texts from other cultures which are perceived to be inferior to
the great books that used to be taught in universities.45 The argument is that great
97 This evaluation of I. Rigoberta Menchu is made by Dinesh DSouza in Illiberal Education as an
example of bad literary work; whether or not this is the case is certainly debatable. On a related note:it
is important to standards critics that only the best of what has been said and thought be taught.
35


literary works such as Milton's Paradise Lost are being replaced in literature classes
by works that are not as literarily excellent, such as L Rigoberta Menchu.
Allan Bloom, in The Closing of the American Mind, voices concern that
teaching cultural relativism will result in a nihilism and lack of depth in the
university. Rather than students having their cultural traditions enhanced and enriched
by learning other cultural works, students are alienated from their cultures
achievements. Bloom does not view this break as necessarily bad, but he argues that
we have replaced the flawed Western canon and its respective European culture with
no culture at all. Many critics who share Blooms concern over the erosion of the
canon by multiculturalism and post-modernism believe that neutrality is a tool by
which texts that are neither scholarly nor great are replacing the great works of
literature and philosophy and thus eroding culture from education per se.
The general response to Allan Blooms concern is that he is Eurocentric and
only judges excellence by Western standards. Nussbaum levels this charge and calls
this cultural-centered tendency normative chauvinism because other cultures are
judged by Western standards. Bloom, Nussbaum argues, views cultural examination
as cultural relativism rather than as critique. Examining other cultures is a way of 45
45 This nostalgic view of these great books is not historically based on any sort of solid tradition. Laura
M. Purdy writes in Politics and the College Curriculum (In Neutrality and the Academic Ethic 236-
264) that the great books of today were not always so in the universities. For example, there was
controversy in the 18th century whether Homer should be taught in addition to the New Testament for
teaching Greek. (239) Historical amnesia aside, the exclusion of texts in the pastwhich are now
included-does not necessarily mean that the controversial texts of today are therefore legitimate
inclusions.
36


determining what is irrational within our culture and what part of our culture we
should keep. (Cultivating Humanity 132)
Bloom is aware that his viewpoint is Eurocentric. In fact, he points out that
the way in which we examine other cultures is Eurocentric. In Western universities, it
is typical to view other cultures as similar and equal to our own. Other cultures do not
hold the value of multiculturalism and examination of other cultures in a similarly
tolerant fashion.46 Western critical inquiry is the method with which we engage in
multicultural examination. Should Eurocentric critical inquiry become relative and
replaced by other traditions and their methods of inquiry, the very basis of engaging
in tolerant multicultural examination is undermined.
Bloom is not against the study of other cultures. He is, in fact, concerned that
a lack of respect and in-depth understanding of Western culture will translate into a
lack of respect and in-depth understanding of any culture. The result of diluting
Western scholarship with more and more works of inferior non-Westem scholarship
will not be a multicultural enrichment of a new and improved scholarship, but rather,
Bloom argues, a Eurocentric nihilism that undermines the goals of education itself.
Bloom believes that transmission of the Western canonhowever flawed it may be
is the only way to save education and allow multicultural exchange to occur. (334-
335)
46 It is argued by thinkers who agree with Bloom that fundamentalist cultures do not view Western
culture with tolerance. (See Richard Dawkins. The God Delusion, and David Horowitz. Unholy
Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left.
37


Nussbaum disagrees with Bloom that nihilism would be the outcome of
multicultural inclusion. Nussbaum argues that the Great Books curriculum is
limiting and short-circuits the ability of students to think for themselves. As
Nussbaum writes:
Books are not alive. At best, they are reminders of what excellent thinking
is like, but they certainly cannot think. Often, however, so great is their
prestige that they actually lull pupils into forgetfulness of the activity of mind
that is educations real goal, teaching them to be passively reliant on the
written word.
Thus Nussbaum is arguing that the great texts of our culture discourage critical
thought about our culture and other cultures, which is just as bad as nihilism. She is
not arguing that texts must be banned, rather that: [BJooks when used in education,
must be used in such ways as to discourage this sort of reverence and passivity.
(Cultivating Humanity 34) For example, texts should be used to challenge students'
ways of thinking about their culture rather than re-enforcing it. She continues: The
conclusion, once again, is that books, though valuable as reminders of arguing, can be
harmful if used as authorities. (34) She argues that conservatives who lobby for the
Western canon are really concerned over the erosion of tradition and lack of respect
for Western culture. Socratic inquiry is not actively trying to destroy culture, but
38


rather to justify its good practices and clean up its bad ones, thus Great Books
advocates serve as an obstacle to education.
Bloom would agree with Nussbaum that book learning can serve as an
obstacle to free thinking and cannot be substituted for great education. But Bloom
argues that the Great Books curriculum is the only way to come to appreciate and
evaluate alternatives.47As Bloom writes:
The liberally educated person is one who is able to resist the easy and
preferred answers, not because he is obstinate, but because he knows others
worthy of consideration. Although it is foolish to believe that book learning is
anything like the whole of education, it is always necessary, particularly in
ages when there is a poverty of living examples of the possible high human
types. And book learning is most of what a teacher can give properly
administered in an atmosphere in which its relation to life is plausible. Life
will happen to his students. The most he can hope is that what he might give
will inform life. (The Closing of the American Mind 21 ~)
47 Dinesh DSouza shows how other cultures do not approach other groups with the tolerance of
Western culture and all attempts to include other cultures should proceed with caution lest they teach
the uglier side that is endemic in many other cultures. At the same time, those using other cultures to
teach diversity should make sure that they do not engage in a form of Orientalism as defined by
Edward Said, and paint other cultures the way they would like them to be. See DSouzas Illiberal
Education (59-93)
39


Thus, Bloom feels it necessary to make the mind open to evaluating and
understanding alternatives to lifestyles other than his/her own; that the student must
come to understand the Western tradition of critical inquiry which Bloom hopes will
inform life." This informed individual can then examine other cultures in a manner
that does not undercut this ability to consider alternatives rather than accept the easy
and preferred answers. In this way one can see that Bloom is arguing for the pre-
conditions of open-minded critical examination of other cultures and traditions by
way of the Great Books curriculum. Counter-point neutrality stands at odds with
the standards argument insofar as it promotes an inclusion of what Allen Bloom
would consider to be antithetical to a good education where one can learn to fully
AO
appreciate the other side of arguments.
Nussbaum might push back against this argument by pointing out that the
Socratic Inquiry program is only asking to have students take a class or two in other
cultures, not that they should fully replace the canon with other texts.48 49 The challenge
to the canon is not that great texts should be excluded, only that others should be
added. It is not as if Nussbaum is arguing for a radical change such as replacing
48 Critical Neutrality is not as problematic for standards critics insofar as critical neutrality argues that
whatever the focus of the course and material in it, controversy should be examined within a critical
light concerning the topic at hand. Unlike counter-point neutrality, critical neutrality does not dictate
what the focus of the course is, only that the way an issue is approached in the course is done so in a
neutral fashion. This is not to say that those who hold the standards critic embrace critical neutrality,
but most standards critics who reject it do so on the grounds of the impossibility critique.
49 Nussbaum asks that a few classes be a minimum change, but the ideal Socratic education would
bring diversity to every course. (295-296)
40


Milton or Shakespeare with radical thinkers, or have students learn nothing of their
culture and only be immersed in other cultures.50
While Nussbaums suggestions for adding a few classes and requiring a
student to take a class about another culture or many cultures would probably be
beneficial, the theory of counter-point neutrality extends beyond the narrow scope of
a few required courses. Ideally counter-point neutrality would be used in teaching
every course in order to pursue a form of neutrality that entails active learning on the
part of the students while fulfilling the requirement of the A.A.U.P. Guidelines to
protect academic freedom.51 Bloom would be concerned that the Socratic education
proposed by Nussbaum, while beneficial in exposing students to other cultures and
readying them for the world they will live in, nonetheless poses a threat to tolerance
of other cultures as well as not imparting the value of their own.
The question then is whether or not counter-point neutrality will produce an
active, learning student, ready to go out into the diverse world and prepared to fit into
a place of different cultures, alternative lifestyles, and dealing with the opposite sex?
Or is it the case that the Socratic Method of teaching actually challenges a students
background in the learning of another background or backgrounds? Does it really
give students a different perspective from which to examine their own values?
50 While Nussbaum does not argue this, several other thinkers have. See Kors and Silvergate. The
Shadow University.
51 There are arguments that cultural difference is a factor in every discipline and every course. In
Noretta Koertges essay, The Problem of Scientific Literacy, she discusses arguments for Post-
Modern Menstrual Math; the idea of gender and cultural relativism extends into every element of
education. (A House Built on Sand. 260-264)
41


I argue for Bloom; many students are ignorant of their cultural heritage, which
is part of the reason they go to university. But in a counter-point system, the students
may not learn about their own backgrounds in as much depth as they learn about
others. They may not gain a new appreciation ofor any skills for defending-their
own backgrounds. The arguments for the students heritage, if presented in the way
that other heritages are presented, could create the basis for defending other choices.
But if students do not have adequate understanding or even knowledge of the
equivalent arguments of their own backgrounds, counter-point teaching does not
challenge students to defend their own background. Instead it will likely only give a
S9
basis with which students will reject their backgrounds.
Conclusions
Standards critics are concerned that neutrality provides the mechanism to
attack Western culture. These critics look to such writings as Robert Paul-Wolff s
The Myth of the Neutral University, in which Wolff argues that neutrality is a
cover for radical agendas and causes from which to launch a politically motivated
attack on Western scholarship. As Wolff writes in his conclusion: 52
52 e.g. Some students with only implicit knowledge of their liberal background may be able to do no
better than cite arguments of a poorly thought out liberal thinker, whose arguments cannot stand
critical examination by stronger conservative thinkers. Such examination of alternatives is shooting
fish in a barrel. Rejection of ingrained and poorly understood values is the likely outcome rather than
actual critique of ones background in counter-point neutrality.
42


It is a bitter pill to swallow, but the fact is that they [radicals] benefit more
than any other segment of the university community from the fiction of
institutional neutrality. For the present, therefore, I would strongly urge both
students and professors to hide behind the slogans lehrfreiheif and
lemfreiheit, and give up the attempt to politicize the campus. If this advice
is too cautious to satisfy their revolutionary longings they may look on the
universities as those protected base camps which, Mao Tse-tung tells us, are
the foundations of a successful protracted guerrilla campaign. (Neutrality and
the Academic Ethic 108)
Writing about the university as a protected base camp, or as foundations for
guerrilla campaigns reinforces the concerns of standards critics that neutrality
serves as a basis to attack education rather than better serve its purposes.
The result of this critique is that counter-point neutrality fails to deliver on
the promise of autonomous choice. Students, not understanding why and where they
are situated in their culture, country, and viewpoint are not in a position to really be
jolted into the ability to make choices about what they will accept and reject in their
views and beliefs. It stands that the instructor must be able to teach more than one
side of an issue. The result is that the professor cannot only hold another view with
which to challenge the student, but must also understand the system in which the
43


student was situated, which is another strike against the already undesirable balance
system.
Thus academic neutrality as a process of critical discursive action entails that
students will come to learn what is great in their cultures. Ideally they will be able to
make autonomous choices as to what they want to accept or reject in their own
culture. Neutrality as a process of critical discursive action does not assume that the
student holds a particular point that can be countered and then can be defended by the
student. Since teaching both point and counter-point on a topic or in a discipline is
necessary, it must be the case that a neutral process is subjective. As the impossibility
critique shows, it is also the case that neutrality can not be objective. Neutrality as a
process of critical discursive action argues for a self-corrective system aimed at
reducing or eliminating bias through inter-subjective objectivity. In this way the new
proposed process of neutrality is the better alternative to Nussbaums counter-point
neutrality.
44


CHAPTER 4
THE MORAL CRITIQUE
The standards critique demonstrates the necessity of making sure that what is
important to good education is not eroded by passive neutrality stances or actively
pushed out by a counter-point process so that well informed choice is possible. The
moral critique will show why a neutrality system has to have the element of
demonstrable critical exclusion. While the standards critique was primarily
concerned with active processes which attacked the curriculum and resulted in
preventing student autonomy, the moral critique is more concerned with passive
systems where immoral positions are not attacked. In other words, this critique will
demonstrate why the new process of neutrality needs to incorporate Simons critical
neutrality to its active function.
Similar to the standards critique is an argument concerning neutrality and
academic morality. This argument is that teaching from a neutral stance will not
distinguish between right and wrong or good and evil. Neutrality makes room in the
university for positions that are immoral, and equates such positions a priori to moral
positions. The university must be a place of teaching the students to have a proper
moral compass and a neutral setting is corruptive to that goal. The moral critique is
45


similar to the standards critique insofar as both critiques express concern that
academic neutrality is antithetical to a proper education.
Moral critics are concerned that academic neutrality leads to moral neutrality
which, in turn, allows pseudo-theories like holocaust denial, conspiracy theory, or
creation science to be taught in the university as legitimate fields of study.53 Pseudo-
theorists use any acknowledgement of their theories as a basis for positing their
legitimacy; when their positions are included in the university setting, they will argue
that their perspective has been rightly acknowledged as being the other side.
Censoring these positions and not even giving them the satisfaction of an answer to
their charges relegates them to their proper place as irrational, spiteful nonsense.54
Other ethical critics of neutrality are concerned that if racism, sexism, or
homophobia is allowed forum and can be taught within the university under the
protection of neutrality and academic freedom, they might subvert the mission of the
academy to allow equal access for all in education as well as allow bigotry to exist
unaddressed by the university.55 Once racial or religious tensions rise in a student
population, the mission of the university to provide an environment where learning
53 Pseudo-scholarship preys upon uneducated minds using falsehoods, deception, slander and
sometimes hatred, peer pressure, and fallacies leading to indoctrination.
54 Claims of legitimacy are made by virtue that their arguments are even responded to by skeptics. See
Michael Shermer. (Why People Believe Weird Things. 136)
55 Racism, sexism, and homophobia are charged, ambiguous accusations which can make censoring
them difficult, e.g., one might argue that women are rational and use logic to solve problems and are
not that different from men, and be called a sexist by those who argue that women do not use white
male constructs of reason and logic and use emotion and intuition. For more on the ambiguity of
discrimination see The Shadow University 9-49;, for more on the feminist controversy see Who Stole
Feminism? (137-254)
46


can occur safely is jeopardized. Minority students and those who have minority
positions will be afraid to state their positions in classrooms and in lecture halls.
Clearly the university must take a position that is not neutral with respect to hate
speech and non-physical hostility in and out of the educational mission.56
Steve M. Cahn in Saints and Scamps argues that all positions are entitled to be
expressed on campus (including within classrooms or lecture halls and thus relevant
to academic neutrality). Immoral positions may be offensive, but there is a greater
danger to the university when it censors positions. As Cahn writes:
[N]o one at the university, whether professors, students, or invited
guests, should ever be prevented from stating beliefs. No matter how
noxious some opinions may be, the greater danger lies in stifling them.
When one persons opinion is silenced, no one elses may be uttered in
safety. (5-6)
The argument implied by Cahn concerning moral neutrality is that the university
cannot suspend academic freedom due to the students or faculty holding morally
reprehensible opinions and behaviors because to do so compromises the universitys
56 Universities are justified in taking action against disruptive activities (in and of themselves
disruptive such as a violent riot which damages people and property). However if the event is not
disruptive in and of itself (e.g., a controversial speaker) but the response is disruptive, the disruptive
response authorizes the universitys intervention, which presents obstacles to education. For a more in
depth analysis of this topic see Sidney Hook. Academic Freedom and Academic Anarchy.
47


mission of free inquiry. Since moral lines cannot be enforced without greater damage,
attempts to silence "noxious" opinions jeopardize the expression of unpopular and
minority views.
However correct Cahn may be about the danger to freedom of speech in
education, moral critics of neutrality will not be impressed by his warning that
academic freedom is jeopardized. Moral critics would respond to Cahn that minority
and unpopular positions will be in just as much danger of their positions being stifled,
if not more so, should the university protect hate speech. An atmosphere in which
immorality and positions of hatred are protected on the campus and therefore in the
classroom, will create a dangerous environment in which minorities within the
university censor themselves out of fear of retaliation.57 As Cass R. Sunstein writes
in Democracy and the Problem of Free Speech, some sort of moral position must be
taken against hate speech and immoral positions within the university for the sake of
academic freedom. As Sunstein writes:
[A] university might regulate hate speech, narrowly defined, as simply a part
of its general class of restrictions on speech that is incompatible with the
educational mission. On this approach there would be no restriction directed
against hate speech no campus speech code but a general, suitably
57 Some would argue that the university implicitly condones racist and sexist speech when it fails to act
against them. Simon points out that this argument is problematic because it assumes that failing to take
one side means that the university must be taking the other side. See Neutrality and the Academic
Ethic. 14.
48


defined requirement of decency and civility, and this requirement would
regulate hate speech as well as other forms of abuse. (203) 58
Sunstein is arguing that the university cannot be neutral to decency and civility,"
terms which Sunnstein uses ambiguously. Thus academic neutrality towards offensive
positions undermines the original goal of neutrality in the first place, namely to allow
for free pursuit of inquiry within the university, an environment which is now
hindered by hate and fear.
Counter-point Neutrality and the Moral Critique
Nussbaum responds to the charges against moral neutrality with regard to
academic freedom by stating that enemies of Socratic inquiry should not be
concerned about critical inquiry and comparison of certain values with other values. It
should not be a serious problem to ask positions to defend themselves within the
realm of argument. (Cultivating Humanity 37) She compares these concerns with
Aristophanes' accusation that Socrates' think-academy would instruct his pupils how
to beat their fathers. As Nussbaum writes:
Readers are given the picture of a monolithic, highly politicized elite who are
attempting to enforce a politically correct view of human life, subverting
58 Sunsteins argument that the university is-and should be more restrictive of speech-which he writes
about on page 199, is problematic insofar as the university is the place where various unpopular
positions should be allowed and be shielded from popular pressure.
49


traditional values and teaching students, in effect, to argue in favor of father-
beating. Socratic questioning is still on trial. Our debates over the curriculum
reveal the same nostalgia for a more obedient, more regimented time, the
same suspiciousness of new and independent thinking that find expression in
Aristophanes brilliant portrait. (2)
Assurances aside that the university is not teaching father-beating," the moral critics
of neutrality still are concerned that immorality is given legitimacy by allowing the
equivocation of moral positions.
A possible response to moral critics of neutrality is that censoring immoral
and offensive positions does not eliminate them, as has been demonstrated by
reprehensible student behavior and actions across the country.59 Students are wooed
by what is dangerous and different; censored positions relish the counter-culture
status that they are afforded by censorship.60 In this counter-culture, dangerous and
immoral positions are protected from the sunlight of reason and critique. Censoring
immoral and offensive positions is to take a quietist position with regard to them
insofar as counter-culture status is not challenged within the university. The wide-
spread and growing belief in holocaust denial, for example, in Canada and Europe,
59See DSouza. Illiberal Education. 126-127.
60 Conspiracy theorists and holocaust deniers point to the censorship of their positions as confirmation
of the legitimacy of their views. Why would they be censored unless what they said were true and
threatened those in power and the status quo? For more on this mentality see Shermer and Grobman.
Denying History (9-18)
50


and its near universal acceptance within many Arab states reveals that Western
censorship has been ineffective in stopping the spread and acceptance of immoral and
repulsive positions. They will be expressed either way; it is better that they be
publicly refuted rather than unchallenged61
This does not mean that holocaust denial can be taught as a legitimate course
in the university alongside a class in history in order to expose it to reason. Historical
denial, as pointed out by Michael Shermer and Alex Grobman, the authors of
Denying History, cannot be taught in history departments since it does not follow any
historical methodology. As they write concerning denial methodology:
Deniers are routinely unreliable in their selection of historical facts. They
often make outrageous claims. The claims are rarely verified by other sources,
and when they are these sources are often incestuous. Deniers almost never
attempt to disprove their claims [sic] and, instead, seek only confirmatory
evidence. They generally do not play by the agreed-upon rules of historical
scholarship, offer no alternative theory to account for the historical data, and
thus can muster no convergence of evidence for their nonexistent theory.
(251)
61 Skeptics argue that they can debunk the claims of deniers and that bringing them out into the open
does not pose the danger that they will become accepted.
51


Thus historical denial cannot be taught as a course in history since is does not follow
a rational historical method. It has no process of inquiry and is rather a dogma which
only seeks to substantiate its pre-conceived claims with baseless accusation and
cherry-picked evidence.
Nor can it be taught as a separate area of study within the university because
historical denial is, at its root, irrational. Conspiracy theories and historical denial can
be excluded from disciplinary status because they have no rational criteria for being a
field of inquiry. Historical denial and conspiracy theory are excluded from being
taught as legitimate theory without breaking the requirements of critical neutrality,
and are thus relegated to fields such as phrenology.
Holocaust denials irrationality (or any other deceitful pseudo-position) cannot
be established a priori but needs to be excluded from fields of study a posteriori. The
claims can and should be addressed in a rational backdrop and publicly refuted thus
demonstrating the basis of such exclusion and response to such positions. As John C.
Zimmerman shows in his book, Holocaust Denial: Demographics. Testimonies, and
AT
Ideologies, such evidence for exclusion can be presented in a critical setting. 62 63
62 The same is true with conspiracy theorists or vulgar racist and sexist positions that have no rational
basis for study or discipline. Unfortunately, this does not mean that they are not taught by professors
within universities. Clearly action should be taken against professors who abuse their position by
teaching, as scholarship, such points of view..
63 Zimmerman proves the holocaust had to have occurred using the evidence that holocaust deniers
accept and provides proof that denial has no rational methodology since its conclusions are not even
backed up by its own evidence. Popular Mechanics, Debunking 9/11 Myths shows how critical
argument can diffuse conspiracy theory claims. Michael Shermer and Joseph Ratzinger have shown
how intelligent design has no legitimate scientific basis for consideration as a rational discipline.
52


Advocates of critical neutrality can argue that in a place of critical inquiry,
immoral and dangerous claims are rendered toothless by rational critique. Therefore,
there will be no need for concern that academic freedom to learn pseudo-positions or
hateful viewpoints will create an environment not conducive to education because the
critical context protects viewpoints from intimidation without abandoning neutral
principles. Critical neutrality also provides a setting which can evaluate claims and
can lead to de-legitimizing invalid pseudo-scholarship that had been previously
afforded counter-culture status.
Conclusions
While pseudo-positions are excluded from becoming disciplines because of
their irrational methodologies and pose no danger of de-legitimizing scholarship, they
cannot be excluded from having a voice in classrooms because, as Cahn has written,
noxious opinions cannot be silencedonly refuted. Neutrality dictates that
universities do not take a stance against a position because such action would violate
the universitys requirement to remain neutral. So while these positions are not
silenced they are also not necessarily refuted. Moral critics of the university have a
right to be concerned about allowing such speech to be permitted on campuses
because, with the universitys silent stance, nothing is in place to ensure that the
necessary refutation occurs.64
64 In several universities, professors teach conspiracy theory and holocaust denial in their classrooms
because, while such positions can be refuted, no one does. (Horowitz, David. The Professors. 21,47-
49,103-107, 174-176)
53


Current academic neutrality models are deficient in addressing moral concerns
because, while tolerating immoral positions may be warranted, such positions must
still be addressed. In order to answer the charges against neutrality, neutrality
advocates must find a way to show that neutrality will allow any and all positions to
be voiced and ensure that those positions are also addressed. The current neutrality
models do not ensure that the university can refute hate speech and pseudo-positions.
It must simply hope other groups within the university will step forward and do the
job, an outcome that would not be acceptable to those who are concerned about the
moral development of the young. Thus it is the case that current academic neutrality
models are inadequate to answer the legitimate concerns of moral critics.
Neutrality can be critically exclusive when it comes to teaching immoral
positions, but in order to lead to student autonomy such positions cannot be left
unaddressed. Pseudo-scholarship and prejudice will present themselves as potentially
legitimate choices so long as they are not debunked. In all educational settings (guest
presenters, courses, or in class), critical exclusion cannot just exclude immorality
from being taught in classrooms legitimatelyit must go further and demonstrably
reject immorality. Thus the proposed model of neutrality as a process of critical
discursive action answers this concern.
It is in this way that neutrality as a process of critical discursive action
incorporates Simons critical neutrality with Nussbaums counter-point system. In the
same way that Nussbaums counter-point neutrality sought to make students question
54


their inculcated positions, critiquing immoral positions will cause students who hold
such reprehensible positions to evaluate them critically. Simons system of critical
exclusion makes sure that while the illegitimate positions are challenged and critically
examined, they cannot become legitimate topics and fields of study.
55


CHAPTER 5
THE URGENCY CRITIQUE
The moral critique revealed that an acceptable neutrality model needed to be
demonstrably critically exclusive. In other words, education needed to incorporate an
active critical element against bad scholarship in order to address the concerns of
moral critics. This chapter will show why neutrality needs to be not just demonstrably
critically exclusive, but also confrontationally discursive.
The urgency critique argues that contemporary crises in which action is
imperative should temporarily supersede academic neutrality. Perceived moral crises
such as Palestinian suffering require that debate and free inquiry be suspended in the
classroom. This ensures that action is not impeded by skeptical or politically
motivated stalling counter-arguments. National crises such as allowing arguments in
favor of enemies of the nation during warfare require that academic neutrality be
suspended so as not to comfort and support the foes of the universitys home nation.
Finally, environmental crises such as global warming or overpopulation cannot afford
stalling careful debate and examination which enable rationalizing wastefulness
resulting in worldwide catastrophe.
56


Neutrality and Palestinian Oppression
In 2002, a movement was started in the UK to boycott Israeli scholars,
researchers, research, and students; the movement was advocated by multiple
members of the university unions, alumni, professors, and administrators. (Tobin,
Weinberg, and Ferer, The Uncivil University, 176-180) The goal of the boycott was
to send a message to Israel that it must conform to the U.N. Resolutions filed against
it and until Israel complied. Israeli presence would not be acceptable in the university,
whether in economics or education. Academic freedom as well as neutrality on the
issue of the occupation would be suspended because action had to be taken to
pressure the state of Israel into compliance to end Palestinian suffering.65
While the university can tolerate various forms of speech on campus, it cannot
condone the speech of lecturers from other countries which act in gross violation of
human rights since to do so is to be complicit and quietist regarding such actions.
This action is similar to the divestment problem of South Africa in the 1980s, but
extends beyond the universitys economic policy and directly into scholarship and
education itself. Anti-Israel boycotting is controversial in its claims of the scope and
severity of Israeli action, but when there is a gross violation of human rights should
the university suspend learning about both sides of an issueand thus its academic
neutrality?
65 A boycott was passed in 2007 which banned Israeli lecturers at British universities as well as
cooperation with Israeli universities. (UK lecturers union back boycott of Israeli universities and
scholars, www.Israelinsider.com. May 2007)
57


Wartime Neutrality Suspension
Many conservative thinkers have argued that in times of war the university
must support the country which sponsors it. Allowing intellectual defenses of the
enemy on college campuses and in college classrooms is to give the enemy a way in
which to fight the propaganda element of the war on US soil. In today's age, there is a
conscious effort to fight a war more than in just a military capacity, but also to fight
propaganda wars. Academic neutrality allows the enemies propaganda to enter
unchecked, directly into the young and easily persuadable minds of the future.
Nazi Germany and Communist Russia used propaganda to motivate their
citizens to back their programs and wars and used various means to gain sympathy by
spreading propaganda to their enemies. In todays War on Terror, dropping leaflets
and spreading pro-American education are tactics employed by the U.S. government
to fight the propaganda used by the enemy government. It is then argued that
allowing the enemy a voice in academia constitutes treason against the government.
During a time of war, the university must suspend neutrality in teaching sides that
argue for the enemys position in order to maintain the freedoms that the university
enjoys.
Environmentalism
Environmental activists claim that argument alone does not motivate action
on issues in which human lifestyle is threatened. Environmentalist thinker Guy
Claxton writes that lifestyles which are destructive to the environment are like
58


addictions, and that even when faced with the overwhelming evidence that such an
anti-environmental lifestyle is a threat to the world, people will not change their
behavior. In fact, as Christopher Flavin argues, they will seek any way to avoid
change. (A Response, The Environmental Ethics & Policy Book 619-623). As
Claxton writes:
The foregoing discussion has tried to make clear that any espousal of
voluntary simplicity is doomed if it is overlaid on an embodied belief
system which is its antithetical. It follows that encouraging people to see
voluntary simplicity as a good idea, and offering them advice as to how to
put it to practice is a waste of time if, for the vast majority of the audience, the
underlying addiction is not treated. (Involuntary Simplicity: Changing
Dysfunctional Habits of Consumption Ibid., 647)
Thus simply presenting arguments in a forum is inadequate to break the addictions
which are behind environmentally destruction living. Rational forums do not bring
about voluntary simplicity," the required actions to avoid catastrophe. Rather, force
and action are necessary to stop the ongoing destruction of the environment, thus
involuntary simplicity."
The argumentthat argument alone cannot persuadeand that skeptics of
global catastrophe are resistant because they wish to protect their addictive lifestyles
59


when translated to the university setting, raises the question of whether or not a
neutral setting is enabling the addiction of luxurious and destructive lifestyles. The
neutral university should be a setting in which the best argument wins by virtue of its
reasoning alone, and as these concerned environmentalists point out, argument does
not often win when it comes to habits of addiction; only forced intervention works.
Thus the neutral university creates a setting which is complicit in environmental
destruction and a risk to the survival of the human race, and it rationally follows that
neutrality must be suspended in order to bring about the necessary and life saving
changes that will save the ecosystem and ensure that the environmentin which the
university is physically situatedcan exist.
***
Urgency critics are not debating whether neutrality is in itself good or bad.
Many of them may support neutrality in most situations, but in cases of global
catastrophe, Palestinian oppression, or times of war, it is the greater moral danger
which trumps neutrality and neutrality can justifiably be suspended due to pressing
crises. As an analogy, one can argue that there is no neutrality when a fire breaks out
in the classroom and the professor advocates the position that everyone in the
classroom must evacuate. This means that skeptical arguments to the effect that there
is no fire are overruled; academic neutrality is broken since the fire skeptics will not
have had forum to debate the merits of their position. It would be ridiculous for
anyone to get upset or claim that this abandonment of neutrality is unethical, rather
60


such taking sides is necessary for the safety of all in the classroom. And urgency
critics argue that the case is much more pressing when global catastrophe, human
rights, or crucial victory in war are on the line. In these situations, insisting on
academic neutrality is clearly as ridiculous as claiming that the university should
ensure that students hear the other side of the debate which argues that the fire does
not exist.
Urgency critics are unconvinced by arguments that making the university a
partisan entity will result in the university being at the mercy of political conflicts and
political force.66 The risk that the university will be attacked by partisan groups
should the university take a partisan stance is much less of a consequential evil than
the destruction of life on earth, complicity in human rights violations, or national
defeat. Partisanship is the lesser of two evils and fully justified by urgency critics in
such circumstances.
Perhaps one response to the urgency critique is that the other side can also
make a counter-urgency critique. In other words, those who disagree with a particular
partisan cause that uses the urgency critique can make a counter-urgency critique of
their own. For instance, global warming skeptics point out that if the case for global
warming is incorrect, some measures taken to prevent global warming could lead to
slowing or dropping standards in developing nations, the net effect of which could be
large scale suffering and starvation. These consequences, skeptics argue, must be
66 Simons consequentialist argument. (Neutrality and the Academic Ethic 34)
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absolutely necessary before action should be taken on global warming issues which
might have these negative effects.67 68
This argument is unconvincing to environmental advocates who believe that
the better argument has already prevailed in rational discussion and that the addictive
nature of current lifestyles is the obstacle to change. Robert L. Simon would point out
to environmental advocates that it was rational discussion that led them to break with
their previously addictive lifestyles by questioning positions and weighing
£ Q
evidence. The only way to admit that one has a problem is to be persuaded that one
has a problem through rational means. If the argument for global warming is not
persuasive enough, critically neutral forums should not be abandoned to achieve the
desired ends, rather stronger arguments for global disaster should be presented.
Insofar as urgency critics have not put forward a strong enough argument to
win the debate over global warming, and many have not even engaged in serious
discussion of the matter with global warming skeptics, the precedent that can be set
by suspending a neutral setting for an urgent cause without strong enough argument
would allow other urgency critiques to make their case for suspension of neutrality.69
For instance, anti-abortion claims could argue that until strong enough evidence is
67 This argument is made in several places by Skeptics, most prominently in Bjorn Lombergs'
environmental crises analysis in his book, The Skeptical Environmentalist, and his anthology, Global
Crises, Global Solutions. Starvation and suffering are possible should third world development be
stopped to save the environment.
68 E-mail from Prof. Simon, Oct 2006.
69 Winning is a matter of determining the strongest position based upon the power of its argument
alone, this is not arbitrary criteria. I will not go into what constitutes this determination but further
discussion on what the basis of winning is can be found in Habermas. Moral Consciousness and
Communicative Action.
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presented that fetuses are not human beings, all debate and action over abortion
should be suspended for the sake of saving (possible) lives.70
Sufficient refutation of enemy propaganda or strong enough arguments to
persuade all reasonable people to abstain from attending a lecture or involving
themselves with a university in another country in which accusations of human rights
violations are demonstrated must be made and cannot be superseded by perceived
unresponsiveness to urgency critics' claims. A critically neutral setting is the only
place in which change can take place and those who are so persuaded of their
concerns must present the evidence in a forum where its validity can be proven. If
situations are as critical as urgency critics claim they are, then the evidence should be
self-evident to any rational human being, and superseding of neutrality is never
justified.
Deciding which urgent claims require suspension of neutrality and which do
not requires a setting in which examination of urgent claims can be weighed and
evaluated against competing skeptical claims. This setting needs to be critically
neutral so that the strongest claims for suspension can be heard fairly as well as
counter-argument by opponents. Thus, it can be argued, neutrality is required for
urgency critiques to be properly weighed and decided upon. Therefore urgency
70 A multitude of other advocacy groups that argue urgency can make their case strongly that culture is
addictive and that their claim needs to be exempt of a rational setting until the danger has passed.
Clearly, other grounds must be made for neutrality to be suspended. The case of the professor taking
the position that fire has broken out in the classroom is a case where the evidence is overwhelming that
it would be regarded as fact by the accepted methodology of any legitimate field of inquiry. (Save
perhaps for a course on Cartesian doubt).
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critiques presuppose a required neutral setting in which urgency critics made their
informed decision to take a side. Neutrality advocates can point out that the most
appropriate setting for such decision making is the university.
Conclusions of the Urgency Critique
Despite the underlying problems and irrationality of suspension of neutrality
for urgent issues, urgency critics will not be persuaded by these arguments to abandon
their belief that neutrality should be suspended. Many of them will continue to act as
partisans for their particular cause because slow action is still an unacceptable result
of current academic neutrality models. Enforcing neutrality will not solve the problem
as many partisan advocates can stack the arguments in the classroom, within
disciplines, or on the university setting in ways that ensure their desired outcome.
Once a problem has become so evident to an individual, no argument that promotes
any delay in action can be justified to them.
Urgency critics have a point that must be conceded however: while neutrality
is important to establish the legitimacy of a claim, neutrality does not have a way to
bring rational thinkers to examine the arguments and bring about change.71 Having a
place for the evidence of a claim to exist and compete with other claims does not
necessarily result in appropriate critical examination, permitting rationally-minded
individuals to take the necessary steps in a timely fashion. A situation in which action
71 That this has occurred in the past does not mean that neutrality brings this about, and in some cases,
such as banning products using CFCs, action occurred by suspending neutrality, (See Bjorn Lomberg.
The Skeptical Environmentalist) or the recent banning of genetically altered foods in Nigeria.
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may be urgent and proponents are ready to argue the case, must still be able to have
its case heard quickly and effectively. While superseding critical neutrality may be
incorrect, this still does not solve the problem of inaction and ignorance of situations
in which action is critical. The academic neutral setting should not just be a forum
where the best argument can win, but a place in which arguments will necessarily
occur so that best one will win.
Neutrality as a process of critical discursive action addresses this need by
being actively confrontational. The standards critique has shown that students need to
learn both point and counter-point. The morality critique has shown why some points
need to be excluded, and the urgency critique shows how conflict needs to be
addressed. Unless issues of urgent controversy and the skeptics can be put to the test
in a timely fashion, any neutrality model will be unacceptable to address urgency
critics concerns.
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CHAPTER 6
THE SURPL US INDOCTRINA TION CRITIQUE
The impossibility critique demonstrated why neutrality could not be a stance
or a rational position. The final critique demonstrates why neutrality in education
requires a critical inter-subjectivity which actively critiques positions which are
taught rather than presenting both sides in just a confrontational method. The urgency
critique demonstrated that confrontation in a timely fashion was important to
presenting options to students, but surplus indoctrination critics have a point in
noting that in a debate the dominant position has an advantage in being already
accepted. While the standards critique reveals why it is the case that the inculcated
values of a student should be matured and that they should have an informed
understanding of where they come from, the surplus indoctrination critique shows
that the surplus of power behind inculcated positions needs to be addressed. This
means that the positions which are presented to students are the best arguments, and
that the unforced force of the best argument, the power of an argument by its
reasoning alone, is what provides the basis of autonomous choice.
Surplus indoctrination is the weight that ideas gain based upon their
temporal/historical circumstances, also known as meta-arguments. Specifically, the
argument is that indoctrination in the past has resulted in giving dominant ideologies
66


additional legitimacy because of past repression of competing ideologies. Neutrality
is not possible because arguments themselves do not exist in a void. For true
neutrality to occur, the surplus of indoctrination must be reversed. To borrow
phrasing style from Stanley Fish: you can only fight indoctrination with
indoctrination.72
The argument for surplus indoctrination originates from Herbert Marcuses
essay, Repressive Tolerance, in which he argues that the preconditions for tolerance
of others have not been met and that which is called tolerance is illusory. Tolerance
imposed prior to the proper preconditions is a "false tolerance," that maintains the
status quo. (A Critique of Pure Tolerance 104) In order to remove the surplus of
repression that society has built up prior to its declaration of tolerance, the historical
freedom of the dominant power needs to be reversed by a counter intolerance as
Marcuse writes:
Withdrawal of tolerance from regressive movements before they can
become active; intolerance even towards thought, opinion, and word,
and finally intolerance in the opposite direction, that is, toward the
self-styled conservatives, to the political Right these anti-democratic
notions respond to the actual development of the democratic society
which has destroyed the basis for universal tolerance. The conditions
72 Fishs actual comment is: You can only fight discrimination with discrimination. (Theres No
Such Thing as Free Speech 77)
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under which tolerance can again become a liberating and humanizing
force have still to be created. (100)
Marcuse calls this type of intolerance in the opposite direction a liberating
tolerance, that is justified in order to correct the wrongs of the past against oppressed
groups. Liberating tolerance requires the withdrawal of current abstract and
historically insensitive tolerance and requires an intolerance that corrects the
historically contingent strength of the dominant position. As Marcuse writes:
This means that the ways should not be blocked on which a subversive
majority could develop, and if they are blocked by organized
repression and indoctrination, their reopening may require apparently
undemocratic means. They would include the withdrawal of toleration
of speech and assembly from groups and movements which promote
aggressive policies, armament, chauvinism, discrimination on the
grounds of race and religion, or which oppose the extension of public
services, social security, medical care, etc. (100)
This liberating tolerance would need to be applied on an academic level in order to
wipe away the power of the victors that holds sway in the general attitudes and
prevailing outlooks of society in general. Thus Marcuse recommends:
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Moreover, the restoration of freedom of thought may necessitate new
and rigid restrictions on teachings and practices in the educational
institutions which, by their very methods and concepts, serve to
enclose the mind within the established universe of discourse and
behavior thereby precluding a priori a rational evaluation of the
alternatives. (100)
From this one can see that an abstract principle of neutrality comes in conflict with
the historical contingencies of a surplus of indoctrination which can only be
neutralized by reverse repression. Such action, it is argued, creates the preconditions
of a proper tolerance.
The argument of liberating tolerance is invoked to justify politically correct
codes and affirmative action programs. Politically correct codes such as prohibitions
against racial slurs for example, mean that derogatory names used against those who
were oppressed are forbidden, while those used against those who repressed are
permitted. (Fish 76) In affirmative action it means that candidates must be chosen to
right the wrongs done to their racial, gender, or cultural groups in the past by treating
such candidates as better because of their contingent historical past which oppressed
their opportunities in hiring. (Simon Affirmative Action and the University: Faculty
Appointment and Preferential Treatment 67-74)
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Stanley Fish argues a variation of this argument in his essay, You Can Only
Fight Discrimination with Discrimination, where he writes about affirmative action.
Fish writes that asymmetry of the past cannot be erased by symmetrical policies:
Anna Quindlan put it in the opening sentence of a column in the New York
Times (June 28, 1992), we must begin.. .with the fact that being called a
honky is not in the same league as being called a nigger. Those who blink
this fact [sic] and argue that insults directed at white males should be met with
the same disfavor and penalties as insults directed against minorities are
working, whether they know it or not, to preserve the lines of power and
cultural authority as they have existed in the past. By insisting that from now
on there shall be no discrimination, they leave in place the effect of the
discrimination that has been practiced for generations. You dont redress
discrimination simply by stopping it, for its legacy will live on in the form of
habits of thought and action now embedded in the fabric of society. Redress
requires active intervention, and active intervention will always be
discriminatory in some other direction. The choice is never between
discrimination and its opposite but between alternative forms of
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discrimination. You can only fight discrimination with discrimination.
(Theres No Such Thing as Free Speech 76-77) 73
These calls for fairness from now on in academic admissions and hiring practices
also can be extended to neutrality. Ideas do not exist in a vacuum and ideas that held
power in the past will also be embedded in the fabric of society"; the call for
academic neutrality is thus profoundly unfair.
Unlike Marcuse, Fish considers neutrality to be impossible. Historical balance
is the only fairness that can be hoped for in the form of alternative forms of
discrimination," and this balance can only be achieved when historical unfairness has
been corrected through indoctrinating measures. Thus, for Fish, there is no such thing
as a precondition for neutrality. Instead there are only constant back-and-forth battles
between sides seeking to balance the meta-arguments."74
Response
Marcuse is arguing that indoctrination is still occurring regardless of current
claims of neutral stances since neutrality only serves to keep the indoctrinating meta-
arguments strong and thus no real neutrality can exist. Simon argues that
indoctrination is a universal moral wrong because indoctrination uses people as
means rather than ends. So Marcuse would respond to Simon by arguing that current
neutrality is a sham that allows this universal wrong to continue and that a sort of
731 feel it is necessary to quote Fish at length because his argument is so concisely stated here.
74 A meta-argument is the contingencies and historical circumstance of an argument.
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liberal tolerance would be the only ethical response that could bring about a
situation in which people are not used as a means to an end.
It may be argued against Marcuse that the argument of surplus indoctrination
could be used by various oppressed groups to justify their correction of historical
circumstance. Far right wing groups could also feel that their arguments too suffer
from historical repression of the dominant position and that they should be given the
chance to correct the imbalance. How should these competing claims of surplus
indoctrination be handled? By what method can the proper position be given the
ability to balance out the historical imbalance that has occurred?
This, however, is no refutation of Marcuse. Just because others can demand
the right for historical correction does not mean that any one of them is deterred by
the others competing claims to correct the record. Those who argue the surplus
indoctrination critique can still argue that their concerns concerning the historical
establishment of the dominant arguments are not addressed by neutrality.
It seems that in order to achieve any sort of valid way in which the meta-
arguments behind doctrines can be addressed is to make sure that academic neutrality
is not passive in the face of power. As Simon argues concerning academic neutrality,
it must be critical and engage positions from the basic ground rules of critical inquiry.
But this argument is not good enough for surplus indoctrination critics because there
is not sufficient significant action taken in critical neutrality to address the concerns
of leveling meta-arguments of those with the surplus indoctrination critique.
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In order to make sure that the best argument rather than the strongest position
is what is placed as the option for an informed autonomous decision, the process of
neutrality needs to be inter-subjectively self-corrective. In other words, there must be
a way in which it is possible to evaluate what the best argument for a position is. In
order to apply this process to education, it needs to be the case that one can evaluate
whether or not the best argument has been presented.
This concern over the unwarranted power supporting dominant positions is
addressed in neutrality as a process of critical discursive action insofar as the process
of critical discourse sifts out what is the best argument and the process is subject to
whether or not the outcome of instruction (e.g., tests, papers, interviews, etc.) shows
that students understand the best arguments for the positions they are presented. The
students must make choices based upon the force of the arguments. In other words,
students need to be able to demonstrate that the positions they accept or reject are
based upon the best arguments for those positions and that their choice follows a line
of critical evaluation of those positions. Students need to be presented with the best
arguments and must be able to choose the positions they accept based upon the
strength of the argument, thus making autonomous choice with regard to what side
they may take in intellectual controversy.
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CHAPTER 7
WHAT IS WRONG WITH PARTISANSHIP?
In the previous chapters I have demonstrated how the proposed model of
neutrality can answer the concerns of neutrality critics. Nonetheless, the neutrality
model is presented as an alternative to partisanship but partisanship may still seem
like the better choice in education. If partisanship is a better alternative to neutrality
as a process of critical discursive action even though such a model provides an
answer to their concerns, it must be demonstrated why partisanship is not the better
choice.
In order to move towards a compromise between the various critics of
neutrality and those who advocate neutrality, one question must be considered: why
should the university, discipline, or professor, consider neutrality when partisan
models of teaching will better address their complaints? Since critiques of neutrality
have shown how current academic neutrality models are deficient in addressing the
concerns of those who argue against neutrality, what motivation do critics of
neutrality have to consider any dialogue or compromise?
Those who advocate neutrality have reason and motivation to compromise
with those who have concerns concerning neutralitys effectiveness with respect to
honesty, excellence, morality, quietism, and historical circumstances because
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neutrality is ineffective without broad cooperation within a university or discipline.
Professors who practice partisanship attempt to sway students in one direction, but
those professors who take neutral stances do not balance the actions of partisan
professors by persuading the other way. In other words, a few professors committed
to neutrality does not make a neutral university unless everyone commits to it. Thus,
those who advocate neutrality have good motivation and cause to seek dialogue and
compromise with those who take stances against neutrality.
Universities, disciplines, or professors who take partisan stances are not
derailed by the practice of neutrality. The partisan parties are only more motivated to
practice partisanship to ensure that the failings of neutrality are prevented, e.g.,
quietism or dishonesty. There is thus no reason or motivation that partisans would
engage in dialogue or compromise with those who advocate neutrality.
There are two current arguments put forward by Simon to persuade partisans
to embrace critical neutrality. The first is that partisanship uses students as a means
rather than an end in a way that is similar to using students for sexual favors and is
thus immoral. Students have a right to choose what position appeals the most to them
on a rational basis and indoctrination deprives them of that right. (Neutrality and the
Academic Ethic 24-25)
The second is that partisanship will result in the university being viewed by
external institutions as a partisan entity and treated as such. Once open to the forces
of partisan battle, the university may have its freedoms restricted should it become a
75


threat to whomever wields political power over the university because the university
loses the basis of its protected right to academic freedom. Due to the immorality of
partisanship and consequence of the university being viewed as a partisan entity, the
advocates of partisanship should negotiate a compromise with neutrality. (Ibid. 35-
37)75
The problem with Simons arguments of morality and consequence is that
they are not persuasive in convincing an advocate of partisanship to negotiate any sort
of compromise. The Universalist argument that neutrality is unethical is irrelevant to
those who argue that consequences and other universal imperatives supersede the
imperative to not use students as means rather than ends. Thus higher moral needs
and consequence are more important than some abstract rule against using students,
which is inevitable anyway since many hold that all teaching is indoctrination.
The consequence of being viewed as a partisan entity is an acceptable risk to
those who advocate partisanship; in fact the university should not refrain from
fighting injustice, ignorance, or violence. It is admirable that the university should act
in a partisan manner and be viewed as such in the face of such conditions. There is
nothing moral in taking a neutral stance concerning warfare, racism, religion, or
oppression. The universitys job, as well any other decent actor and entity, should be
to take a stance against injustice.
75 Simon provides two other arguments for accepting neutrality: violating the canon of inquiry, and the
utilitarian argument for social value. These two arguments, while arguments for the virtue of
neutrality, have been addressed previously in the responses to the critiques.
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Backlash as a Negative Consequence of Indoctrination
I argue that there is a consequence of partisanship that has not been
considered by those who would reject Simons arguments. Partisanship has internal
consequences that should be considered before stonewalling any compromise.
Partisanship can result in a backlash that can threaten any partisan cause in a way that
neutrality cannot. In a fairly open society, students who are exposed to partisanship
on a significant scale, i.e., indoctrinated, will be sheltered from the opposing
positions, but if and when these students face disillusionment when their
indoctrinated beliefs face a coherent opposition they will feel betrayed.76 These
students have been used by a professor or group in the name of their cause and never
given the chance to consider any actual alternatives that may have been persuasive.
Resentment at being indoctrinated and used in the name of some cause is a
natural response by someone who has been betrayed. Those who once fought for the
cause of their indoctrination will become enemies both of the cause and against those
who indoctrinated them. Such enemies do not simply disagree with the partisan
position they once believed inthey are moved to attack it and try and protect others
from the abuse that they underwent. The consequence of this is that a noble cause or
76 A significant scale is relative to prior knowledge of students, e.g. students with backgrounds from
opposing points of view require more exposure to partisan practices and settings than those whose
backgrounds are from the particular point of view. Thus a student from a strong Christian background
needs less exposure to partisanship to be indoctrinated (or to continue indoctrination) than one from
another background. Clearly not everyone exposed to partisanship will become an indoctrinated drone,
but at some level anyone can be indoctrinated.
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belief will be viciously attacked should it indoctrinate its principles. Thus
indoctrination for a cause can create its enemies.77
The Catholic Church, a partisan entity, used people as a means rather than an
end in order to save their souls from eternal damnation. It has always been
comfortable with its stance on indoctrination. The Church is not swayed by
arguments about being viewed as partisan nor does it have any cause for abandoning
partisanship due to universal ethics principles.78 At Vatican II, the Church began to
part ways with indoctrinating methods and extreme partisan positions. The Church
ceased its policy of banning books and revoked the prohibitions it had set against
previous writings.79
The Catholic Church also revamped teaching practices such as punishing
questioning students and forcing obedience to Catholic traditions. It began to seek
dialogue and discussion with secularism and other religions and started teaching
alternative points of view in a less hostile fashion. Since the arguments against
partisanship put forward by Simon are ineffective against the Church what could
cause the Church to change its practices and move away from partisan methods to
spread its message?
77 The Academic Bill of Rights strong advocate David Horowitz is an example of such resentment,
read his autobiography Radical Son: A Generational Odvssev.
78 In a hierarchy of moral action, the Church has viewed it more important to save humans from eternal
damnation than to allow them choice and free inquiry.
79 While there are groups who seek to ban books from the public, these groups no longer have the
power of the Catholic Church behind them. (See the discussions in the anthology The Catholic Church
and Censorship. 57)
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The Catholic Church became aware at Vatican II that the methods it
employed, as a partisan institution, were not only ineffective in an open society and
world, but they had negative consequences. Censorship, indoctrination, and
unwillingness to engage in dialogue with other positions resulted in a backlash of
resentment against the Church and its cause. Some of those who had been
brainwashed and sent through the rigid Catholic school system became enemies of the
Church. A lot of Catholic influence in the world and over its constituents was lost
due in large part to the partisan methods and indoctrination it employed.
John Fischer writes in his essay, The Harm that Good People Do, that
groups that work to ban certain books or other material in the name of the Catholic
Church are hurting the cause of the Church more than they help. The Church now
recognizes that censorship is harmful to the cause in whose name they act. Censorship
is not only ineffective; it even damages those who seek to practice it even in the name
of good causes. (The Catholic Church and Censorship 157-203)
Partisanship entails advocating a position strongly and banning, badmouthing,
misrepresenting, or omitting viewpoints that they disagree with in pedagogy. An
individual who acts in this manner is not necessarily going to indoctrinate students or
cause any sort of backlash against their ideology. However it does not take very many 80
80 A great many ex-Catholics refer to themselves as recovering Catholics or as opposed to the
Catholic Church.
79


professors to indoctrinate students, a small group of teachers can thoroughly
indoctrinate students without any individual seeking to do so.81
A cause that a professor may band behind, promote, and seek to recruit others
may be a noble cause. The professor acts with the best of intentions to make a
difference in life, politics, society, etc. Yet despite these good intentions, the
professor can do more damage to the cause if he or she does not take a neutral stance
and setting.
Therefore, those who advocate neutrality are motivated by the need to
effectively create an open learning environment without the threat of indoctrination.
Partisan advocates should be motivated by the absolute and external consequential
arguments of Simon, as well as the presented internal consequences that the Catholic
Church faced. These arguments against indoctrination demonstrate not only that
indoctrination (and by extension partisanship) is immoral in how partisans use
students but that such action could lead to the loss of academic freedom. The final
argument demonstrates why the concerns of neutrality critics are not addressed by
partisanship. Thus the new model of neutrality will be shown to be the best option for
both advocates and critics of neutrality.
81 In many religious or rural communities, a few partisan teachers can indoctrinate many students. In
the universities, such a project takes more teachers to be effective, but is still a significant source of
concern.
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CHAPTER 8
NEJJRALITY AS A PROCESS OF CRITICAL DISCURSIVE ACTION82
The five critiques of neutrality as explicated in this paper have revealed many
flaws with academic neutrality which must be addressed for a serious progressive
dialogue to occur between partisan and neutrality advocates. The critiques of
partisanship as presented by Simon and myself have shown that partisanship is
inadequate to address the concerns that partisans raise, and that partisanship poses a
great threat to the universitys freedom. It is in everyones best interest to push for a
neutrality model which can temper the critiques categorized in this thesis.
The two current models of neutrality are Simons critical neutrality, and
Nussbaums counter-point neutrality. Critical neutrality is the adherence to the rules
of critical inquiry in which the university or professor are not neutral to the ground
rules of critical inquiry, but are neutral to the consequent results of the debate.
(Neutrality and the Academic Ethic 22) The university seeks to create a ground of
critical inquiry which does not interfere with one side of a debate or another. The
82 This theory is not a prescribed method, only a model upon which a method can be built. How the
process works in implementation, how to correct it, how to judge autonomous choice is a matter of
further discussion and dictation of policies. This model only gives a theory which can serve as a base
and consideration in forming university policy, departmental goals in hiring and in offering courses,
pedagogical methods and selections of material in a classroom
81


professor holds back his or her viewpoint and presents both sides of a controversy in
a critical light.
Nussbaums counter-point neutrality is a teaching method which aims to
shake the students from their complacently accepted backgrounds by presenting them
with alternatives and challenging them to defend the positions of their upbringings.
This method teaches the students critical thinking so that they can then make choices
for themselves. The university seeks to pursue an environment in which such counter-
point challenges occur.
The impossibility critique argues that neutrality in any form is dishonest and
humanly impossible. A professor cannot repress his or her point of view and teach
following the rules of critical inquiry anymore than he or she can stop breathing air. A
professors emotions are always present, and the point of view of the professor is
always slipping in and stacking the cards to favor his or her side in a controversy.
Teaching in this manner is dishonest and gives students a false impression that they
are really learning both sides of an argument when, in fact, they are learning only one
argument and one straw-man pseudo-argument. Nussbaums counter-point neutrality-
-which she proposed due to the impossibility that a professor could challenge various
student backgrounds in the classroom with a different perspective without being
biased in one direction or the othermeans that only a balancing system of ideology
is possible.
82


The standards critique argues that neutrality erodes academic rigor. Neutrality
introduces points of view which are inferior to an excellent education and pushes the
great books of the Western canon out of the curriculum by replacing them with
inferior material under the guise of multiculturalism. Standards critics would be
particularly upset with Nussbaums counter-point neutrality which, they argue,
creates a system for uninformed students to reject their backgrounds and become
either nihilists or indoctrinated with radical agendas. Standards critics see neutrality
as a cover for an assault on Western values rather than a desire to improve education.
The moral critique of neutrality is concerned that neutrality allows immoral
dogmas and intolerant hatred to exist unaddressed in the university. The university,
critics argue, is a place where students should receive a quality education and become
moral citizens. Critical neutrality introduces a setting in which immoral positions can
speak but not necessarily be refuted. Counter-point neutrality, it is worried, will give
legitimacy to such perspectives by making them an other side with no clear system
of refutation.
The urgency critique sees that neutrality is passive in the face of crises in
which action is imperative. Neutrality, it is argued, stalls action by allowing skeptical
and opposing viewpoints time-wasting arguments wasting precious time. Critical
neutrality only intervenes to give the other side time to delay action and thus must
be suspended for the sake of ending suffering, presenting solidarity in times of war, or
pushing action to occur which will save the planet. Counter-point neutrality teaches
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selfishly motivated skeptical arguments against urgency critics' causes and also only
delays the necessary action.
The surplus indoctrination critique argues that simply allowing all ideas and
positions to be heard and debated fairly from now on is false neutrality. It supports
the status quo because this form of tolerating neutrality does nothing to address the
meta-arguments which must be leveled for a true tolerance and neutrality to occur.
Simon and Nussbaum both serve in furthering this status quo by placing positions as
equals or alternatives to the status quo. Only an active oppression of the arguments of
power can create any sort of fair conditions.
In response to these arguments there are three critiques of partisanship. First,
that partisans use students as a means rather than as an end in fighting for their
causes. Second, partisans in the university will make the it appear to be a partisan
institution open for partisan attack. And finally, that indoctrination, intentional or not,
will create enemies of the partisan cause rather than furthering its goals.
Urgency and surplus indoctrination critics use students in order to further the
cause of their action without giving them any choice in the matter. The critics make
the student a pawn in their goal to prevent crises by never giving them the option to
consider whether or not they believe in the cause they are fighting for. Students in the
setting of liberal tolerance are pawns in building the mindset that surplus
indoctrination critics would like to create without concern about whether or not that
mindset is the one that the student would choose.
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Impossibility critics, standards critics, and moral critics seek to make the
university stand for their particular cause in education in seeking open partisanship,
adhering to a canon of scholarship, or orthodoxy of values. Impossibility critics do
not seek to make the university a vessel for any particular cause as the critique comes
from various points of view, nonetheless a large enough grouping of like-minded
professors can create a state where indoctrination can occur. Standards critics risk
alienating the university from contemporary culture and placing it in opposition to an
ever increasingly diverse and changing society. Moral critics, while acting in good
intention, can create an educational, political and scholarly orthodoxy which can be
perceived as a threat to the culture in which the university is situated; it can feed an
ever rising dangerous counter-culture. These effects may result in the loss of
autonomy and relevance of the university.
All the critiques run the risk of internal rebellions if they indoctrinate students.
Impossibility critics may, in the course of teaching their course honestly rather than
neutrally, harm their openly held point of view should students perceive themselves
as being treated as tools for the instructors cause. Standards critics can create an ever
increasingly exclusionary elitism which becomes perceived as a threat to other
cultures and causes. Moral critics may spark embracing of pseudo-theories which
they have left in a dangerous counter-culture. This leaves such arguments
unaddressed so that they may persuade young minds drawn to the taboo danger of
their theories seeing themselves as lied to about the existence of these other sides.
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Moral partisanship may also spark racial violence when imposed moral codes are
perceived as unjustified. Urgency critics, in stifling opposing positions, can result in
student resentment at being used for a cause they never had a chance to disagree with.
This in turn creates critics who question motives and embrace skeptical positions out
of caution and even vengeance. Finally, surplus indoctrination critics, in seeking to
censor and oppress the position of power, seem to suffer an amnesia that the power of
their positions grew out of a resentment of censorship and oppression. In seeking
what appears to be a hypocritical reverse intolerance will create a backlash against
their belief system which would far from serve their goals. Thus all of these critiques
face their undoing in pursuing partisanship, censorship, and indoctrination.
The result of these critiques and their responses is that action must be taken to
preserve the autonomy of the university and the rights of students. Action must also
be taken to prevent a dishonest, nihilistic, immoral, quietist, or oppressive academic
setting which also results in dampening of free inquiry. In order to solve this problem,
academic neutrality models must be restructured in such a way as to solve the
problem of inaction and bias without lowering moral or academic standards.
91 See Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action (57-76) in which Habermas lays down the
system of discourse ethics which roots impartiality (i.e. neutrality) in the structures of rational
argumentation. In a similar way, the system of neutrality as a process of critical discursive action seeks
to recreate neutrality as an interactive system rather than passive position seeking to produce objective
results rather than a system which can, but not necessarily, allow them to occur.
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At the root of all these neutrality models is the terminal diagnosis that the
neutrality stance taken by a collective or individual is unachievable and passive. The
impossibility critique charges that a neutral stance is a farce, whether as an individual
trying to keep back his or her bias, or a group trying to be fair. It is only alternative
forms of bias and discrimination. Human beings are always acting and cannot stop to
take a mythical middle ground, thus neutrality is not a stance which can be assumed.
The standards critique and moral critique charge that neutrality is a passive backdrop
and restrains academic morality and excellence while subversive and inferior
positions invade the university. The urgency and surplus indoctrination critiques
argue that neutrality is a basis for inaction, complacency, and enforces the status quo.
The basic problem that all of these critique pinpoint is that academic neutrality
is a stance, and it should not and cannot be. The neutral stance is an illusory middle
ground that does not exist on the battlefield of ideas and no one can or should stand
still in the crossfire. Unlike a nation far from the battleground of a war which can
refrain from acting, the university is a battleground of ideas and professors are in
always in the melee. Unlike the referee at a game, the professors are playing a game
which they are also callingand it is natural that anyone might doubt how fair such a
referee might be.
Nussbaums counter-point neutrality, with all of its deficiencies, is neutrality
as an action of confrontation rather than a taken stance. The professor is not neutral,
but challenges the student by presenting alternatives to their passively accepted
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beliefs, thus creating a forum where a student could learn to think critically. The
problem is, as the standards critique has shown, indoctrination can still occur insofar
as the students can still be indoctrinated because they do not understand the
perspective that they must defend. Nonetheless, Nussbaums counter-point neutrality
is an activity, not a passive stance. This element of counter-point neutrality should be
incorporated into a new neutrality model.
Simons critical neutrality presents the basis of rational rules to adhere to; and
critical exclusion, which can keep the worst elements of scholarship and immorality
from gaining legitimacy in the university, as well as transmitting knowledge and
future citizens. The problem is, as pointed out by the critiques of neutrality, is that
critical neutrality is not active enough to address critics' concerns. The elements of
critical exclusion, excluding bias, and preventing indoctrination however are essential
to any neutrality model.
The new neutral model should learn from the scientific process, which has a
mechanism for eliminating bias by requiring that an experiment can be replicated. A
scientist or group of scientists will perform a controlled experiment to prove or
disprove a theory and then publish their findings for the general public. Other
scientists can then check their findings and replicate experiments to determine
whether the theory is supported and thus check for bias. Clearly teaching is not a
controlled experiment which can be published and replicated to then eliminate
subjective biases. Despite any saying to the contrary, teaching is not a precise science.
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Nonetheless, there is a way in which the duplication of findings can apply to a
neutrality model.
The neutrality model that should be put forward as a new basis for discussion
is an internally corrective process of critical discursive action. In other words,
neutrality should not simply adhere to the rules of critical inquiry and maintain the
basic protocols of reason in debate. Rather neutrality, like counter-point neutrality,
should bring positions into the open and challenge their advocates to defend them in a
forum adhering to the rules of critical inquiry. In this way neutrality will not be a
passive stance, since it forces conflicts to occur, and yet will still not take sides in the
outcome of conflicts. It is students who then take the next step in making an un-
coerced decision of determining their beliefs based upon the results of confrontational
and active critical neutrality.
In creating a confrontational setting, the university can make active
determinations of critical exclusion in public and confrontational courses which put
controversial and pseudo-positions into a critical light and force them to justify their
claims according to the rules of rational inquiry. Insofar as a pseudo-methodology or
irrational belief system is publicly refuted, critical exclusion can occur in such a way
as to justify morals and standards of various disciplines and methodologies.
In order to eliminate bias and maintain student rights, neutrality must also be a
self-correcting process that endeavors to give a student the chance to make an
autonomous choice. By submitting the success or failure of neutrality to results, it can
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be determined through improvable student feedback systems such as polls, academic
papers, and exams how successful the university, department, or professor has been at
creating a setting for autonomous choice. Such results are then fed back in to the
confrontational process to adjust it, to argue more effectively for certain claims, or
rephrase the way a claim is put in order to make it more accessible.
Habermas system of discourse, ethics and inter-subjective impartiality is
where all coercion is removed save the unforced force of the best argument. A new
neutrality model should not just seek to remove the temporal-historical strength of
meta-arguments to establish the preconditions in which the unforced force of the best
argument can win. It should also incorporate a confrontational element of critical
inquiry so that the best argument will win, thus addressing the concerns of surplus
indoctrination critics.91 The neutrality model proposed seeks to produce the desired
outcome which previous neutrality models intended, i.e. autonomous student choice,
elimination of bias, and freedom from interference of the university by outside forces,
by replacing the debatable stance of neutrality with an active confrontational
discursive process which seeks the same goals. Thus neutrality loses its criticized
properties as a noun, i.e., stance and is replaced with more acceptable properties as a
verb, i.e., critical action.
Thus the university should ensure that various ideological, political, and
religious opinions are brought to bear on campus and that these positions are put on
the spot so that they must defend themselves. Therefore the university should seek to
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bring speakers and events to campus where they will be placed at a table of
confrontational critical discourse. The university should also push disciplines and
departments on the campus to provide ways in which various viewpoints are
confrontationally critically examined.92
Disciplines in the university should be informed by the process of neutrality.
They will provide a wide enough array of courses and give students adequate
knowledge in the areas of that discipline and conflicts within that discipline. Each
department might consider, for example, seeking to have at least one course that
focuses on confrontational examination of controversial and pseudo-positions within
that discipline. Thus, in a history department, at least one course could exist to
examine controversial historical methods such as political revisionism as well as
pseudo-positions such as conspiracy theory and historical denial in a confrontational
critical light. In this way critical exclusion is publicly justified and the charge of
inactivity is met while retaining the requirements of academic neutrality.
In the classroom, the professors opinion on a topic should be preferably be
private to minimize the possibility that the students will be persuaded by the fallacy
of authority. The professor should endeavor to practice counter-point neutrality in
their classroombut not against student biasesrather against the professors biases in
areas of conflict within the scope of the topic. He or she would create a forum
92 Within a reasonable and practical framework of course. The university probably will not be able to
afford to bring representatives from all positions or hold so much pressure on departments, but the
university should at least try to ensure that outside events are done in a critically confrontational
manner.
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