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The Shadow University

The Betrayal of Liberty on America's Campuses

by Alan Charles Kors and Harvey A. Silverglate
Book review Copyright © 1998 by Bert H. Hoff

 

Alan Charles Kors and Harvey A. Silverglate, The Shadow University The Betrayal of Liberty on America's Campuses (New York, NY: Free Press, 1998). Order on-line

 




Book cover
The Shadow University:
The Betrayal of Liberty on America's Campuses

by Alan Charles Kors
and Harvey A. Silverglate
Order on-line

This is a very frightening and very important book. It disabuses people of the notion that "political correctness" and indoctrination rather than freedom of thought are only at the fringe of the American university experience today. In my recent interview with Robert Bly about The Maiden King he talks about a little-known book by Walter Ong, mentor to Marshall McLuhan, called Fighting for Life: Contest, Sexuality, and Consciousness. Ong develops the idea that passionate debate was a hallmark of Tibetan lamasteries, medieval universities, and academic life before the 20th century. With the advent of state schools and enrollment of women, the idea goes, we developed the notion that college is for everyone and we should not "offend" the students. We should protect and shield them, and they should not feel isolated or defeated. This book documents compelling the destruction of academic freedom and freedom of speech that comes out of efforts not to "offend" people viewed as "marginalized."

It is compellingly and effectively written. When I started it I found I could not put it down. It opens with the maddening story of the "water buffalo" incident at the University of Pennsylvania. Behema is Hebrew slang for a thoughtless rowdy person, what Yeshiva boys called each other all the time and what the teachers and rabbis would call them when they misbehaved. Literally, it means "water buffalo." When black sorority sisters outside his dorm window wouldn't stop shouting and cutting up after midnight one night he yelled out his window "Shut up, you water buffalo!" And was charged with racial harassment, even though none of the blacks fighting racial prejudice had ever heard "water buffalo" as a racial slur. Only intense international exposure of this ludicrous travesty kept the university from trying, convicting and expelling him.

And the book convincingly demonstrates that this is not an aberration, but typical of the kinds of things going on on college campuses around the country today.

Rather than try to say more, I'll simply agree with the words of Harvard Law Professor Alan J. Dershowitz:

An eye-opening and well-documented exposť about what could happen to your children when they are sent to even the best colleges in the country. Kors and Silverglate demonstrate that when these colleges, purportedly devoted to liberal education, treat students in disciplinary proceedings, they make the notorious Star Chamber seem liberal in comparison. The Shadow University is a wake-up call for parents, students, and professors alike.
and Linda Chavez President, Center for Equal Opportunity, and former director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights:
Alan Charles Kors and Harvey A. Silverglate tell a chilling tale of university administrators turned Grand Inquisitors, of students and faculty stripped of their basic due process rights, of a freshman orientation system intended to indoctrinate and intimidate. They expose higher education's underbelly: the assault on liberty and true academic freedom (waged in the name of political correctness and group rights) that is occurring at so many of our nation's colleges and universities. Kors and Silverglate document precisely how inhospitable campuses are today to the pursuit of knowledge and the debate of ideas.

 


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