Horowitz is calling his new effort the “Adopt a Dissenting Book Campaign.” He is asking students to approach faculty members who endorse one side of a particular issue in their courses and to ask them to add a “dissenting” book that they recommend for the syllabus. If faculty members refuse, the plan is to go to deans, presidents and trustees to demand the inclusion of the new books.
The idea is that if a student is taking a course involving the Vietnam War and a professor assigns something like Neil Sheehan’s to A Bright Shining Lie, the student can insist that the professor also add something like Norman Podhoretz’s Why We Were in Vietnam. Because that’s exactly what college students are eager to do: read twice as many books.
ADBC is, one suspects, merely publicity for Horowitz’s own upcoming book, Reforming Our Universities, a history of Horowitz’s much derided campaign
against academic freedom for an Academic Bill of Rights.
Leaving aside Horowitz’s motivation, the trouble with this campaign is that, if serious, it’s extraordinarily impractical. Every book simply doesn’t have a corresponding volume of equal quality from the opposite political perspective. This is a recipe for needless, unproductive campus bickering.