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A Brief Note on the National Association of Scholars’ Argus Project

national association of scholars

I am an unapologetic member of the National Association of Scholars, an organization that, in its own words:

“… is higher education’s most vigilant watchdog. We stand for intellectual integrity in the curriculum, in the classroom, and across the campus—and we respond when colleges and universities fall short of the mark. We uphold the principle of individual merit and oppose racial, gender, and other group preferences. And we regard the Western intellectual heritage as the indispensable foundation of American higher education.”

The NAS recently announced The Argus Project:

PRINCETON, NJThe National Association of Scholars has announced the opening of its “Argus project,” an initiative that calls for volunteers to help keep watch over American colleges and universities.
The project is named for the creature in Greek mythology whose body was covered with eyes. “Like Argus, who always had his eyes open, the NAS needs to have a steady, open-eyed watch on colleges around the country,” said Ashley Thorne, NAS director of communications. “To do that, we are asking volunteers to essentially be our eyes on different campuses. We hope to attract thoughtful, attentive people reporting on what they’ve witnessed to be our lookouts over academe.”
And, as Mr. Leef points out on PhiBetaCons, the lefties are seething after InsideHigherEd wrote a piece about the Project.

Relax, kids.

FIRE, the Foundation for Inividual Rights in Education, lauds the initiative – as they should. Professor Dorn didn’t get that thrill up his leg, though:

Twice this month I’ve agreed with National Association of Scholars head Peter Wood, but when NAS organizes what looks like a Horowitzian ideological witchhunt, they’ve lost my sympathy. I’m also at a loss to understand why the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s blog applauded NAS. There’s a pretty large gulf between FIRE’s support of and education around individual rights, on the one hand, and NAS’s engaging in an ideologically one-sided hunt for people to complain about college campuses, on the other.

One can only assume that his post was so short because that glass of cranberry wine in one hand prevented him from typing a full response [sticking a pinky out as you sip makes it even tougher].

The argument that the NAS is a Conservative, Rethuglican advocacy tank is a hollow one. The idea of The Argus Project, as I understand it, is simply observation of our campuses and classrooms and the documentation of abuses on all sides of the political spectrum. This is likely why FIRE supports the Project; after all, FIRE has handled many cases over the years for both liberals and conservatives. Political affilition has little bearing on one’s rights.

Dorn would do well to recognize that vigilance and observation are anything but a “witchhunt” – even if such honesty makes for a dull blog post. We can think of our average police department as “vigilant” without engaging in outright “persecution” of citizens, for example. The distinction between the two is an important one, and it’s a distinction that The Good Professor fails to make. The irony that ideology may have gotten in the way isn’t lost.

I e-mailed The Argus Project several months ago and offered to keep an eye on K-12 education issues that were relevant to higher education.

UPDATE, July 31:

FIRE has explained their position. Hopefully Professor Dorn and others know a little bit more about FIRE and the NAS now.

3 Responses to “A Brief Note on the National Association of Scholars’ Argus Project”

  1. Oh, me too, me too!! How can I get on the watchdog bandwagon for K-12?

  2. The Argus Project focuses on higher ed, so there really isn’t a bandwagon to jump on. I think there are certain situations that come up in K-12 that are relevant to the Project, though. We’ll see how it all develops.

  3. Bummer. Maybe we can build our own wagon?

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