What Was at Stake in the David Horowitz Freedom Center's Battle for Arizona
No child should have to go through what adult conservatives have had to endure.
Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism
Who would want to oppose a code of ethics for K-12 teachers telling them not to “segregate students according to race”?
The answer is the media.
When State Rep. Mark Finchem in Arizona proposed HB 2002, a code of ethics for educators that included a ban on segregation, he was targeted with media hit pieces accusing him of extremism.
Since his bill had some similarities to the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s K-12 code of ethics, the media attacked a code of ethics opposing racial segregation with smears accusing Horowitz of racism.
Brenna Bailey of the Arizona Daily Star called David Horowitz, a “white extremist”. Bailey was smearing a Jewish civil rights activist as a “white extremist” for opposing racial segregation.
"Is it too much to ask of our elected officials NOT to copy a so-called ethics code for teachers from an operation with racist overtones?" EJ Montini at the Arizona Republic bleated.
"It is not difficult to figure out where Horwitz is coming from," Montini wrote.
David Horowitz has written countless books, pamphlets, editorials and articles laying out his views. Meanwhile the activists misrepresenting his views can’t even bother getting his name right.
The Freedom Center fought back with an op-ed in the Arizona Daily Star, but not before our name had been dragged through the dirt in an attempt to falsely smear Rep. Finchem and stop HB 2002.
Columnist Tim Steller of the Arizona Daily Star claimed that HB 2002 is part of an attack on "Arizona liberals". But the bill never mentions any political ideology. Instead it expects teachers of all ideological orientations to refrain from “engaging in political, ideological or religious advocacy in their classrooms”.
A code of ethics for educators can only be an attack on leftists if they are the ones abusing children by twisting lessons into opportunities for indoctrination. The accusation serves as its own guilty admission.
The Arizona smear campaign is typical of how local politics is being hijacked by national blacklists. The blacklist in Arizona was derived from the scam artists at the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The SPLC’s blacklist is as notorious for its false claims, misstatements and smears as for its ubiquity. The SPLC blacklist has listed a bar sign and individuals (including myself) as hate groups. It put the entire town of Amana, Iowa on its hate map because an internet troll had proposed holding a racist meeting in a bookstore. It was forced to pay out $3.3 million after libeling a Muslim as an anti-Muslim extremist.
But the SPLC blacklist continues to be widely used, not because it’s accurate, but because it’s useful.
In Arizona, the media didn’t have to bother finding rational grounds to oppose HB 2002, which, in addition to tossing out racial segregation and scapegoating in the classroom, also prohibits teachers from endorsing candidates, bills and measures, and asks them to teach both sides of political issues.
Making arguments for segregation and against political indoctrination of children might have been awkward. It was easier to misleadingly link Rep. Finchem to David Horowitz and then to use the SPLC’s blacklist to accuse anyone who opposes classroom segregation and child indoctrination of racism.
David Horowitz and the Freedom Center are proud to have popularized the idea that students at every educational level have the right to be free of indoctrination and the right to be graded based on the quality of their work, and not on their level of agreement with the political views of their professor.
Their advocacy for student civil rights has provided inspiration to state lawmakers across the country.
This is no different than the way that many civil rights groups operate by laying out a policy framework and inspiring political change by local activists, organizations and legislators willing to tackle a problem.
And the leftist response hasn’t been reasoned debate, but blacklists and dirty tricks.
What happened in Arizona is happening all over America. Debate is shut down with blacklists. The blacklists are sloppy smears, but they save the leftist radicals from having to listen both sides.
That is the purpose of a blacklist.
HB 2002 asked educators to teach both sides of political issues. Its radical opponents responded by using smears to argue that the other side should not be heard from. That’s the exact mindset that is the problem. Classrooms have been hijacked by radicals who believe that every issue only has one side. Their side. And the other side is deplatformed, banned and blacklisted from ever being heard.
Every issue is polarized into the familiar dichotomy of perpetrators and victims. Open inquiry is sacrificed on the altar of social justice. The blacklist is upheld as a safe space for victims of injustice. The targets of the blacklist are dismissed as not only wrong, but wicked. They must be stopped at any cost.
This mindset got its start on college campuses where dissenting speakers were met with shouts, bomb threats and even physical violence. A rash of fake hate crimes was used to kickstart a panic over bigotry on college campuses. Administrators allowed bias response teams to create climates of political terror. Free speech by college students was smothered in a blanket of official and unofficial intimidation.
The David Horowitz Freedom Center had been ahead of its time in debuting the Academic Bill of Rights over fifteen years ago. As David Horowitz saw the battleground shifting from college campuses to the K-12 level, a new call to protect the classrooms of K-12 students from the cultural revolution was launched. And that call was also met with the same blacklists and smear campaigns all over again.
Both the Academic Bill of Rights and the K-12 code of ethics present stark choices between blacklists and open debates. They ask parents and legislators to decide whether they want the next generation to be able to engage with ideas, or to reflexively ignore, purge and shout down anyone they don’t like.
Radical teachers who replace debate with blacklists in the classroom don’t just teach students bad political and civic habits, but also bad social habits. The inability of many millennials to deal with criticism in the workplace, and to meet criticism with political attacks, can be traced back to how they were socialized in the classroom to treat any disagreement as unacceptable and dangerous.
The David Horowitz Freedom Center has never called for barring political ideas from the classroom. That is a false statement repeatedly made by blacklisters who want classrooms to include only one point of view. The Center believes that a free society is built on the ability to see different points of view. The blacklisters believe that any point of view other than their own ought to be blacklisted from public life.
The blacklist has become the defining engine of politics.
“For more than a decade, I myself have been at the top of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s hate lists,” David Horowitz wrote of his experience being blacklisted.
But you don’t have to be David Horowitz to be blacklisted. Every conservative sooner or later will experience the force of the blacklist. And even children in the classroom will feel it too.
That’s why the Freedom Center has made fighting for the civil rights of students in classrooms across the country into its signature issue. No child should have to go through what Horowitz and many conservatives have had to endure as adults. The freedom of their minds is worth fighting for.
The K-12 code of ethics is being blacklisted, but it’s also the best defense against the blacklist.