By Lisa Autz
Photo courtesy of George Serdechny.
Teachers have a history of being a powerful authority over the young, malleable minds of their students. The idea that such figures in the classroom could be seen as “dangerous” sheds light on that power.
David Horowitz, a known conservative writer and anti-leftist, made clear his negative perspective on how university academics are molding the youth’s intellectual development in a manner that could be worrisome for our country’s future.
In 2006, Horowitz published a book, The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America. He has since been stirring up a controversy for those laid out in his text. His grand list targets the wicked liberal professors of America that, through their works and lectures, are asking people to question preconceived notions commonly held by the mainstream media and look at things from an alternative perspective.
Horowitz asserts himself as a guiding light for the far right extremists that are adamantly fearful of left-wing professors shaping students to see terrorists in a positive light and planting seeds of anti-American hatred. However, his malicious intent in creating this list of astute academics has actually turned into an ironic pitch of professors dissenting the common narrative for more peace and compassion.
BTR spoke with professor Warren Haffar, the Dean of International Affairs and former Director of the International Peace and Conflict Resolution Program at Arcadia University. Haffar discovered he was placed on the list back in 2006 and actually felt pleased to be among the likes of professors Howard Zinn and Sam Richards.
“First of all I looked at the company I was in and was quite proud of that,” explains Haffar.
Prior to his appointment at Arcadia University, Haffar served as program officer at the Project on Ethnic Relations, an NGO that conducts programs of high-level intervention. He also serves as a neutral mediator to prevent ethnic conflict in Central and Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and the former Soviet Union.
Haffar’s experience extends to mediation of environmental disputes, along with research and publication on the sources of environmental conflict, sustainable development strategies in post-conflict societies, and research methods into conflict analysis.
Horowitz’s book places many professors that are involved in international peace relations in a light of extreme leftism. Haffar, for example, is described as a believer that, “Osama bin Laden should be a negotiating partner” and that the aim of his program “is to indoctrinate students in a left-wing understanding of international conflicts grounded in the unswervingly anti-military certitude”.
“It feels as if they… did a sweep of anyone that was in a peace program,” claims Haffar. “Everything I was saying, pulled out of context for those to tell a story with a broad brush.”
Shortly after the publication of the book, many professors listed in the text were willing to come together to make a stand against it. However, after such initial reactions, many felt that Horowitz’s reasoning did not warrant much attention at all.
Haffar brings up that Horowitz’s book came at a time in American history when the heart of patriotism was being tested after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Many peace conflict professors in general were not speaking out, Haffar confesses.
“The basic narrative I was trying to suggest is that, in a time when feelings were pretty raw, we should ask the question well, why did this [9/11 event] happen?,” says Haffar.
He suggests asking questions like, ”how can we look at the role the United States plays in the world?” and “how can we make bolder moves to provide a vision for the future not based on war?”
Haffar was not alone in this bold dissenting view during a time of much calamity. Professors like Sam Richards and Mark LeVine sought to bring Middle Eastern perspectives into the classrooms of American colleges.
Their placement on the list was seen as a disappointment to the public discourse on a vital issue of international relations.
Mark LeVine put forth his stance in a 2006 article for MotherJones.com:
“There is a larger issue here, which is the professional wrestling-ization of American politics and culture that they [the professors] reflect… The mainstream media–and at base, American culture–prefers Jerry Springer and professional wrestling-style confrontation to actual attempts at reconciliation, and America is the poorer for it.”
Haffar attests that the framing of his words placed in the book were dramatized for the effect of fitting a specific narrative.
“All I was trying to say was that war is a lousy way to solve a problem,” he assesses. “If the goal is to make us safer, we know now that the wars don’t make us safer and if you have a fuller understanding, we can be smarter and use our money towards international development and uplifting moderate voices.”
The unveiling result of The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America was that the political and cultural discussion became endangered to a “us-versus-them” dialogue. Arguably, the true danger lies in the dismantling of a larger notion and functioning of college acting as a place for both free speech and elevation from commonly held beliefs.