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In November, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni published a report documenting comments made by individuals on college campuses regarding the events related to Sept. 11 and subsequent military action in Afghanistan. The 30-page report is subtly entitled, “Defending Civilization: How Our Universities are Failing America and What Can Be Done About it.”
A momentary pause for official ACTA background information. The ACTA is referred to as “a conservative nonprofit group devoted to curbing liberal tendencies in academia” by The New York Times in a Nov. 24, story about the aforementioned report. I’m not so sure the term “conservative” is fair to groups such as the Heritage Foundation, The National Rifle Association or American Enterprise Institute. I actually prefer the ACTA mission statement: “ACTA is a nonprofit educational organization committed to academic freedom, excellence and accountability on college and university campuses. It supports programs and policies that encourage high academic standards, strong curricula and the free exchange of ideas.”
What is not to love about a mission statement concluding with a statement supporting the free exchange of ideas? I love freely exchanging my ideas: in print, on the street, in a boat, with a goat, even in the classroom, and that is a problem for the ACTA–a big problem.
The November report focuses on various unpatriotic comments (I still prefer the term “counter-American”) made by students, faculty and suspicious individuals on college campuses around the United States. The comments were made in various locations: teach-ins, student rallies and, most dangerously of all, college newspapers. Secret message to the underground: Bolsheviks can still breed in the bathrooms of college newspapers around America; continue infiltration program codename: Lefty Lucy.
The ACTA is available for reading (and downloading) at http://www.goacta.org/Reports/defciv.pdf free free of charge. Make sure and RIGHT justify the pages; if the text strays to the LEFT, the kids become confused. I strongly encourage everyone who reads my column to look over the report. Please join me in bearing witness to the unique and inspirational text as it freely exchanges ideas. I am not kidding.
Three parts of the report stand out to me, although the entire document is a gem:
First, there’s the opening quote by Chairwoman emeritus of the ACTA Lynne Cheney (biographical note: her husband is busy running the country). According to an assistant in Cheney’s office, Mrs. Cheney has yet to actually read the ACTA report.
Second, there’s the following quote from the report on page four: “Rarely did professors publicly mention heroism, rarely did they discuss the difference between good and evil, the nature of Western political order or the virtue of a free society. Indeed, the message of much of academe was clear: BLAME AMERICA FIRST.” I usually begin blaming American cowardice during the third step of my argument about the barbarity of Western civilization as understood through Friedrich Nietzsche’s “On the Genealogy of Morals” every M-W-F with my undergraduate students. The indoctrination is not quite complete, but I believe my secret agenda will soon consume their addled brains.
Third, there are the 12 pages of comments made by people on college campuses, out of context and without printing the speaker’s name. Apparently, printing the speaker’s university affiliation and academic department is just enough to dance around libel laws in America. Too bad the ACTA is apparently afraid to follow through in their critique by actually naming people. I say they should bring the noise and encourage the resumption of the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings.
For the record, and I really mean it, I love the report. I want people to read it, and I would encourage dramatic reenactments of both the unnamed speakers making their comments and the editors of the ACTA spending hours, hours, smoking counter-Americans out of their campus cubbyholes by locating dangerous statements.
The reason I find the report so refreshing is I finally know other sane people still live in America (I was becoming concerned). The report is also extremely useful because now I know where the other sane, critical thinking people are located across the country. Without even asking for a thank you, the ACTA has saved me countless hours of reading college newspapers (a terrifying proposition in itself) and produced a list I can easily download onto my hard drive.
My only complaint with the ACTA document, and I really take issue with this oversight, is nothing I have written for the Daily since Sept. 11 was printed in the report.
Not a word.
None of my counter-American, unpatriotic, bed-wetting, red-green-yellow, ultra-liberal, lefty-left columns got mentioned. I know I have said far more inflammatory (and, I will add, better argued) points than the people in the ACTA report. But no, neither I, nor any other Daily columnist, made the ACTA list. I encourage readers to do a key-word search for “Minnesota” in the report; the whole state got skipped.
Like not receiving an invitation to a childhood friend’s fancy birthday party, some exclusions hurt more than others. I have spent a great deal of time since November attempting to ascertain what I did wrong. If the e-mail messages I receive from my critics are any gauge, I am the most irresponsible, willy-nilly-nelly lefty, “dangerous” (that word was really used once to describe my writing in an e-mail) columnist in America.
In the hopes of rectifying the situation, I sent an e-mail to the main ACTA headquarters in Washington, DC explaining the report’s oversight in not listing any out of context, unattributed lines from my previous columns. I also sent Web links for the columns with the message to guarantee a thorough background check. Sadly, I have not heard back from ACTA, and my request to be listed in the report, I fear, has not been fulfilled.
So dearest readers, I have a modest proposal: a call to action I think all digesters of my column (lovers and haters alike) can enjoy. I want everyone who can spare a moment to send a message to the ACTA at firstname.lastname@example.org requesting I be listed in the report. Really lay the rhetoric thick: how I am a detriment to the minds of young people everywhere, a menace, an aberration, a Ph.D. student in cultural studies and comparative literature. Note to readers: The ACTA strongly dislikes my academic department.
In fact, for the truly time-strapped, here is a form letter for copying and/or cutting and pasting when read on-line:
Dear American Council of Trustees and Alumni,
John Troyer is a real menace to the free exchange of ideas at the University of Minnesota campus. His bi-weekly column propagates lies, unpatriotic behavior and intellectual mediocrity. In a recent column he went so far as to suggest people “disobey” authority figures as a new form of leftist activism. He’s a jerk, a complete kneebiter. Do good Americans everywhere a favor and add him to the “Defending Civilization: How Our Universities are Failing America and What Can Be Done About It” report.
God Bless America,
[You Name Here]
My only request is that people send me a copy of the message so I can document the letters to build a case for my inclusion in the ACTA report. If my campaign is successful, I will autograph and distribute copies of the ACTA report with my unattributed, out of context comments to all letter senders.