Academia

How Reforms Evolve

Creationists push "bill of rights".

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When the conservative firebrand David Horowitz began thumping the tub for his Academic Bill of Rights, which would require professors to respect "a diversity of approaches to unsettled questions," he waged an energetic preemptive campaign against skeptics who worried that creationists, Holocaust deniers, flat earthers, and other fantasists might use such a law as a weapon. A student complaint about evolution instruction "is conceivable," Horowitz claimed in a Reason Online debate in 2003, "but under the Academic Bill of Rights it would be dismissed."

Maybe not. One of the first important efforts to pass legislation closely modeled on Horowitz's baby was made by a politician specifically opposed to the ascendance of Darwinian theory on campus. "Some professors say, 'Evolution is a fact. And if you don't like it, there's the door,'?" says Florida state Rep. Dennis Baxley (R-Ocala). Still bearing the scars of evolutionary teaching he endured in his days as a Florida State student, Baxley last spring introduced a bill that would prevent teachers from punishing students for professing beliefs with which teachers disagree, and advise professors to teach alternative "serious academic theories."

The bill got Baxley considerable attention–and mockery–at the national level. Horowitz lost no time urging Florida legislators to pass the bill, to no avail: The legislation died quietly in the Florida House.

Baxley, however, is undeterred. "I can lose in the courts. I can lose in the Legislature. But this isn't going away," he told a local paper. More than a dozen other states, as well as the U.S. Congress, are now considering similar bills. And not a moment too soon: Cold fusion, Andy Kaufman assassination theories, and the scandalously overlooked evidence that Jews are distributing poisoned orange juice in black neighborhoods have been ignored by the liberal college establishment for far too long.

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