Top critical review
"Bully Pulpit" Teaching Exposed Albeit Through Cherry-Picked Data.
Reviewed in the United States on March 19, 2009
After reading "One-Party Classroom," I came away with mixed feelings. First, I agree very much with the book's objective and message: too often, universities and professors are failing to do the job of teaching students how to think and to think, and instead are teaching them what to think. Whether from a leftward or rightward angle - they would bother me the same - college professors are supposed to be professionals who educate rather than indoctrinate.
But does "One-Party Classroom" demonstrate that this is a widespread phenomenon? Not really. Each chapter profiles one of twelve selected universities and points out (via a list) several of its more leftward courses - those which prseent its subject strictly from a left-wing vantage point (complete with one-sided reading lists).
The problem, though, with picking 12 universities' classes to analyize and scrutinize is that the "sample size" is too small to prove a trend. It is as faulty as the medical study arguing that since 12 people experienced pain relief by hoemopathy, that must mean that homeopathy will work for everyone. Horowitz and Laksin's methods simply leave too much room for cherry picking (how many universities did they NOT profile? Why? How many courses did they NOT scrutinize? Why?)
I am certainly not suggesting either that the trend of leftward "bully pulpit" teaching does not happen. Several books have been written detailing the phenomenon quite well. And Horowitz and Laksin do a good job showing how absolutely irresponsible the courses they profile are (especially the ones pretending to be introductory survey couress that end up having non-representative reading lists and ideological agendas). If college professors are to be placed in positions of responsibility in order that they can teach young people how to think, then the professors profiled in this book should be put on notice that they are not living up to this ideal.
So, while I like the points that this book raises and think that the authors addres real concerns, I think that their "laundry list" style makes their case very weak and open to accusations of cherry picking data. (It also gets repititious as many of these universities' courses are very similar, so reading each course profile becomes redundant.)
I would suggest that the interested reader first read Stanley Fish's "Save the World on Your Own Time." Fish's book is a very non-ideological evaluation of the dangers in bringing political stances into the classroom. Fish describes what the liberal arts university course should look like, where professors use balanced reading lists and expose students to ideas (rather than endorse any). Fish first; then Horowitz.