HOUSE BILL NO. 525:Intellectual Diversity in Higher Education Act

Roger Koopman, a representative in the Montana State Legislature, introduced a bill this session entitled “AN ACT ENCOURAGING INTELLECTUAL DIVERSITY IN THE UNIVERSITY SYSTEM; URGING UNITS OF THE UNIVERSITY SYSTEM TO PROVIDE AN ANNUAL REPORT; PROVIDING A ROLE FOR THE EDUCATION AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT INTERIM COMMITTEE; AMENDING SECTION 5-5-224, MCA; AND PROVIDING AN EFFECTIVE DATE.” I read the bill and I think that it is not a good idea. It is too vague and adds another unnecessary burden on the system. It is a mostly symbolic gesture and does not have any meat to it.

I am generally against an academic bill of rights, at least how it is usually phrased, because the very idea illustrates a misunderstanding of how higher learning works. Studies which investigate political leanings of professors generally show that more professors are democrats. Conservatives often complain that this is especially true in the humanities, like anthropology. They look at the data and say that this is wrong and biased. With some caveats I give them that. But, they don’t try to understand why this is true. My guess is that people who are more interested in business, more interested in being productive members of society(for various values of productive) don’t want to go into those areas of study because they seem pointless to them.

I realize that that is a pretty big generalization but I think that there is some truth in it. So, I think that using bills like this one to try to get more conservative views into all places of the university system miss the point. What would be a better tactic, and I think that some conservative schools of thought are already doing this, is to show that the humanities can be valuable from the conservative perspective. The only way to get more conservative views into anthropology and the like is to make highschool students more interested in the fields. I think that that would be beneficial for humanities studies as a whole to have more people working on them with different ideas.

The problem I see though, is that radicals-on both sides-often eschew logical thinking in exchange for arguments that support their ideas semantically but have no foundation. Some of these people have a contempt for fact. That is politics, winning and defeating the opponent is more important than respecting reality.

But I digress.

The Bill

  • does not accomplish anything important
  • does not change anything directly
  • is vague in its purpose
  • puts a burden on the university system to
    • write a yearly report
    • and possibly create new policies
  • adds a burden to the education and local government interim committee to have hearings on intellectual diversity
  • puts a burden(cost) on the university system, without providing funding to offset it
  • creates a new political football in the form of an annual report

It seems to me that the purpose of this bill is to see if further changes could be pushed through to limit expression of opinions on university campus’. I think that some of the complaints people have about the system now might be valid, but the path this bill begins is not the best possible solution.

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