Thursday, March 24, 2005

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Balderdash

“Like many opinion givers, lawmakers, and American citizens, I am shocked and saddened by the forced starvation of a young, helpless woman who is being sentence to death simply because she cannot feed herself. Applying this standard, infants, Alzheimers patients, the elderly and infirmed would face a court ordered death.”

The quotation above from Joe Scarborough suggests that David Horowitz ought to be more concerned about indoctrination from the press than from college professors. I will not point out the lack of the past participle in “who is being sentence” or take notice of the unfortunate s at the end of Alzheimer (compare, say, with cancers patients). I am loath to suggest that elderly and infirmed is an unfortunate error. What is important is the absence of any logic in the statement. No court has sentenced Terri Schiavo to death. More important, no court has sentenced her to death simply because she cannot feed herself. Simply stated, there is much more she cannot do. She cannot ask to be fed; she cannot ask to die; she probably cannot feel pain or pleasure; she probably has little, if any, cognitive function. If Terri Schiavo could do any one of these things, we would not have been subjected to the legislative and legal circus of the past week.

Most astonishing, however, is the assertion that by applying “this standard,” infants, the elderly, the infirm, and Alzheimer patients would “face a court-ordered death.” Mr. Scarborough must surely know that this “analogy” is absurd. No connection could conceivably be established between Terri Schiavo and the persons he mentions. His comparison seeks to appeal to emotion rather than reason. It does not explain or clarify any point. Young mothers and fathers, by Scarborough’s statement, need to fear the courts, for at any moment, some judge will call them before him and order them to starve their infants or aged parents to death.

Despite David Horowitz’s claim that universities are overflowing with liberal professors indoctrinating students (a claim I flatly reject), those professors at least have credentials that are examined and evaluated. Those professors, whether liberal or conservative, have demonstrated competence and perhaps expertise in their fields. Professors are rarely granted tenure when they are appointed; it is a perquisite that they have to earn. It does not guarantee continued employment. A tenured professor may be terminated if he fails to teach his classes, demonstrates disregard for his students or the rules and standards of his college or university. He may also be released for any other number of reasons. Releasing a tenured professor is, however, difficult—but not impossible. The point is that we (okay, I am an emeritus professor) do have standards and professional codes of conduct. Most of us also have a personal ethic that generally makes the standards and codes unnecessary. I fear none of these kinds of standards apply to any of the media—conservative, moderate, or liberal these days. I am sick unto death almost with this false insistence on fairness and balance. If I taught, for example, a course in Shakespeare, by the media’s practices these days (and perhaps David Horowitz’s ideas about how a university ought to be run), I should be required to give equal time to the preposterous notions that Bacon or Marlowe authored the plays. Balderdash.