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irregular times logoThe Next Republican Purge:
Newt Gingrich Proposes Firing Dissident Professors

With the Republicans securely in control of the whole federal government, we're quickly finding out just how extreme the Republican elites can be. All the old conservative kooks are quickly climbing out from underneath their rocks to take advantage of their electoral victory last year. Prime among these red radical rock Republicans is Newt Gingrich, who most people remember for his efforts to shut down the federal government.

It's weird how the same guy who tried to destroy the federal government back in the 1990s is trying to expand the federal government's powers now that the Republicans are in control. Heck, Gingrich has suggested that he's likely to run for President of the United States in 2008. I guess the main lesson that Republican politicians have learned from the 2004 election is that the more extremist you are, the more support you'll get from Republican voters.

So, as part of his platform as a presidential candidate in 2008, Newt Gingrich has proposed eliminating tenure for university professors, and making their continued employment contingent upon support for Bush Administration policies. That's right - Gingrich is encouraging Congress to pass a law to fire professors for being "anti-American". No, I'm not making this up. It comes straight from the mouth of Gingrich, who has proposed a bill that tells professors "proof that you're anti-American is grounds for dismissal."

You see, for Republican elitists like Newt Gingrich, the most significant threat to American doesn't come from poverty, or ignorance, or violence, but from education. They attack public schools, passing unfunded mandates at the same time as they cut funding for essential educational programs. They slash funding for scientific research, and force scientists employed by the government to distort research findings in order to help out the Republican Party's corporate allies promote conservative Christian social programs. At every opportunity, they try to cram the curriculum full of junk science, and propose to replace instructional time with official school prayer time led by government employees.

Now Newt Gingrich is painting a bullseye on American colleges and universities, which make up the greatest system of higher education ever to exist on Earth. Gingrich is proposing doing away with the intellectual freedom of professors, and demanding that university lectures conform with the political ideology of the Republican Party.

Here's the point upon which Gingrich's proposal really falls apart: These are American professors that he is accusing of being anti-American. What would it take for an American professor to be really anti-American? Real anti-Americanism on the part of an established adult American would require some kind of masochistic self-hatred. The liberal professors that Gingrich hates are not anti-American. They talk about alternative ideas because they care very deeply about America, and believe that America is on the wrong path. They want America to achieve its great potential, but they disagree with Newt Gingrich about the best way to make that happen.

Of course, what Newt Gingrich is really proposing is not firing anti-American professors, but firing professors who dare to question the Republican nationalist vision for America. You see, radical Republicans like Gingrich equate opposition to the policies of the Republican government to being anti-American.

Sometimes, a few of these professors make provocative suggestions - but that's an essential part of the academic process. If America's professors are only allowed to say things that make the political majority happy, then our educational system will be transformed into a gigantic propaganda machine.

America's universities need the whole spectrum of thought. Sure, we have liberal-leaning colleges, but we also have powerful, extremist right-wing universities, like the Creationist Liberty University and racist Bob Jones University. It's telling that the more radical right-wing universities tend to have very poor academic reputations - because they encourage their professors and students to ignore whole areas of scientific knowledge and cultural expression. These universities don't serve their students well, but young Americans have the freedom to attend them, and this freedom ought to be preserved. What Gingrich wants to do is to turn every university and college in America into something like Liberty University or Bob Jones University, where college professors can only express provocative ideas if those ideas are in support of the Republicans' nationalist agenda.

The irony is that Gingrich used to whine about what he called "political correctness" on college campuses. Now, Gingrich is trying to put conservative Republican political correctness into federal law. This outrageous plan deserves to be identified for what it is: Fascism. Forcing universities to conform to the political will of the government has a shameful history in places like Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. We must not allow Republican operatives like Newt Gingrich, eager to expand their own power, to convert American institutions of higher learning into academies of political education, producing generations of young Americans with minds trained only in how to think in lock step.

Newt Gingrich seems to be basing his upcoming presidential campaign on the belief that the American people are hungry for censorship and a crackdown on dissent. Until November 2004, I would have said that his belief is far off base. Now, I'm not so sure. As long as we have sparkly distractions like American Idol, does the majority of Americans still really care about freedom of thought in education?

The reaction of the audience at The American Enterprise Institute, where Gingrich made his proposal is darkly informative of the likelihood that the American people will defend academic freedom from the Republicans' medieval agenda. When Gingrich was done making his proposal, the audience clapped, hard and long.

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