The servant of politics

September 25, 1992

"Neither individuals nor societies flourish when truth becomes the servant of politics."

Thus writeth Lynne V. Cheney, chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, in a document released yesterday that purports to describe "the state of the humanities in higher education."

It does little of the sort.

Rather, Ms. Cheney's "report" to Congress is a compilation of the charges leveled recently by conservatives at the nation's left-leaning professoriate, which we are to believe is hell-bent on imposing liberal "political correctness" on thousands of impressionable young adults. Under this onslaught of political teaching, Ms. Cheney says, truth and objectivity become illusional and academic standards are trampled.

Readers of the recent spate of books from conservative academics will recognize many of the examples cited by Ms. Cheney: the professor, for example, who works in the Ivy League because "I have access to the minds of the children of the ruling class."

The examples -- see today's Other Voices page -- are outrageous; they'll make good headlines, and many of them are no doubt accurate (though taken out of context).

Absent are any examples of conservatives riding roughshod over the nation's campuses. Absent is any analysis of the "state of humanities" beyond Ms. Cheney's charges that liberals are enforcing their brand of orthodoxy in the classroom. Indeed, careless readers might infer from this document that the breakdown in academic standards that plagues the nation is solely the fault of "political correctness."

That is why the above quotation, which Ms. Cheney chose to decorate the cover folder of her work, is supremely ironic. Ms. Cheney, political appointee, wife of a cabinet member and speaker at the Republican National Convention, uses taxpayers' funds to issue a political treatise six weeks before the presidential election.

It makes one wonder who is employing the truth in the service of politics.

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