Tag Archives: conservative

Which Thinkers on the Political Left Do You Most Respect?

Here’s how conservative scholar Steven F. Hayward responded to the question, which was asked by the Intercollegiate Review

Michael Sandel, who is a critic of the left from within the left; Robert Putnam, whose work tends to ratify a lot of conservative insights about social order; William Galston, one of the few liberal students of Allan Bloom who respects and engages conservative perspectives; and Alan Wolfe on occasion.

John Rawls deserves respect and serious reading, as he attempts to justify aggressive egalitarianism within the liberal tradition instead of tearing it down like Marx and today’s nihilist postmodern left. Even if his premises and major steps are wrong, he is the key thinker for much leftist thought today, though I find that few leftists have read him carefully.

Finally, Cass Sunstein is the most sophisticated political-legal thinker on the left, and he is dangerous precisely because he can synthesize conservative thinkers like F. A. Hayek into his leftist agenda. I used to enjoy the prose style and unusual arguments of the late Murray Kempton. He was the left’s closest equivalent to William F. Buckley Jr., and some of his old columns are worth reading.

Obama’s Win Is An Indictment of Higher Education

This morning in the Weekly Standard, Fred Barnes summed
up
one condition of the Republican Party:

“What’s their problem? In Senate races, it’s bad candidates:
old hacks (Wisconsin), young hacks (Florida), youngsters (Ohio), Tea Party
types who can’t talk about abortion sensibly (Missouri, Indiana), retreads
(Virginia), lousy campaigners (North Dakota) and Washington veterans
(Michigan). Losers all.

“And those are just the Senate contests decided
yesterday.  In 2010, it was similar.  Republicans threw away two of
their best chances to gain seats, choosing pathetically incapable candidates in
Nevada and Delaware.” 

Indeed, conservative and libertarian teachers, writers, and
intellectuals have to wonder why the candidates they have to choose from are
precisely that, “pathetically incapable” mouthpieces who can’t talk about
controversial issues such as abortion sensibly. 

Here’s one reason why: those politicians didn’t study any
conservative thinkers in college.  When they talk, they say nothing that
suggests they have read much serious discourse on the right side of the
spectrum from Burke to Charles Murray.  Leftists have their nostrums down
pat (against racism, sexism, imperialism, economic inequality . . .), and
however dated and predictable those utterances are, liberal politicians stick
to the point and press it again and again.  Again, one reason is that they
received ample helpings of liberalism in freshman English, history, any
“studies course,” sociology, etc., reading some Marx, Foucault, Dewey, Malcolm
X, a bit of feminism here and multiculturalism there.  In school, those
future conservative politicians likely rejected those texts, but they didn’t
plunge into the other side’s corpus

It shows in the absence of depth in so many Republican
candidates.  When you hear them speak, nothing in the tradition comes
through–no Franklin on work ethic, Madison-Hamilton-Jay on power, Emerson on
self-reliance, Hawthorne on Federal employment, Thoreau on Big Government,
Booker T. Washington on individual responsibility, Willa Cather on the pioneer
spirit, and Hayek on social engineering.  This is a fatal deficiency, and
it neglects one of the strengths of conservatism (superiority in the battle of
ideas).  Worse, when conservatives don’t have the tradition in their
background, when they lose elections, they tend to look forward by examining
their relationship to the electorate instead of their relationship to first
principles and values.  Conservative candidates don’t need more political
calculation that competes with liberalism, but rather more intellectual heft
that presents a better alternative to liberalism.

It won’t happen in college, so maybe organizations such as
the Manhattan Institute should run two-week seminars for office-seekers. 
Not policy-making or campaign strategy sessions, but short courses in
conservative words and ideas.  Have them read Franklin‘s Autobiography, Washington’s
Up from Slavery, and Cather’s O Pioneers!  Let them know,
too, that while we all await the Second Coming of Ronald Reagan, one way Reagan
thrived in politics is by withdrawing for a time and reading Hayek and Friedman
carefully, soberly, far from the madding crowd.

Iowa and the Groupthink Academy

That certain quarters of the academy–humanities
departments, most social sciences departments, and many graduate programs
(social work, education, and to a lesser extent law)–are ideologically
imbalanced is not news. A decision in an Iowa court, however, exposed the
difficulty in addressing the problem.

The case, which received extensive coverage in the Des Moines Register and attracted some
notice in the national press, involved Teresa Wagner, who in 2006 applied for a
vacancy at the University of Iowa Law School. (She then applied for adjunct jobs
between 2007 and 2009.) Wagner had served as a part-time instructor before that
time, was invited for an interview for the tenure-track job but didn’t receive
it, and then didn’t get any of the adjunct positions, either. (It’s odd indeed
for a candidate considered qualified enough to be a finalist for a tenure-track
job to, in turn, be deemed unqualified for an adjunct’s position.) Wagner
believed that her outspoken activism on social issues and her affiliation with
some very conservative groups, notably the Family Research Council, motivated
the opposition to her candidacy. Wagner then sued the dean of the law school.

Winning a lawsuit for an adverse hiring decision is all
but impossible. (The contrast here is to an adverse tenure decision, where the
odds are long but not insurmountable.) The university can always claim that,
whatever the apparent strengths of the plaintiff, there simply was another,
more qualified, candidate for the position, and that privacy/personnel rules
prevent a thorough airing of the matter. Given the inherently subjective nature
of the hiring process, that line of argument almost always carries the day, to
such an extent that few lawsuits alleging bias in the hiring process even make
it to trial.

The Wagner case, however, was unusual, in that she was
able to present an e-mail from the law school’s associate dean–dubbed a
“smoking gun” document by her attorney–in which the associate dean wrote, “Frankly,
one thing that worries me is that some people may be opposed to Teresa serving in
any role in part at least because they so despise her politics (and especially
her activism about it). I hate to think that is the case, and I don’t actually
think that, but I’m worried that I may be missing something.”

The law school dean unsurprisingly denied Wagner’s claim
of ideological bias, and instead rested on an assertion that Wagner had flubbed
an interview question by saying she’d refuse to teach a course required for the
position. But the law school’s position was weakened by its inability to
produce any contemporaneous references to this alleged flubbing (the notes from
other faculty seemed to praise, not disparage, Wagner’s performance). And a
videotape of Wagner’s interview that Wagner’s critics promised would prove their
case was conveniently erased.

Continue reading Iowa and the Groupthink Academy

The Ultimate Victory of Liberal Bias

The Daily Texan has reported that a conservative student group at University of Texas-Austin has inaugurated a “watch list” containing the names of professors who “politicize the classroom” and squash “dissenting opinion.”  The chapter of Young Conservatives of Texas describes the list as an information resource, providing information on wayward instructors before students sign up for their classes and regret being stuck in them for a semester of illiberal education.  

An earlier version of the Watch List that appeared in Spring 2007 cast a wider net and placed professors on the list without any hard evidence of abuse of students.  This time, the project focuses on tyrannical behavior.  As of two weeks ago, the head of the local chapter stated he had received “eight or nine names” but that he wouldn’t release them, perhaps because he hadn’t reviewed the validity of the claims.  The group is careful not to cite any professors who openly espouse a political position but allow opposition. 

The Huffington Post picked up the story a few days ago and hosted a forum on the issue, but it’s hard to find any other notice of the case.  Searches of “University of Texas Watch List” at the Chronicle of Higher Education and www.insidehighered.com produced no stories, and on the Texas campus there isn’t any evidence of subsequent discussions or events.   

Compare this to the vehement criticism David Horowitz faced ten years ago when he initiated concrete proposals to root out liberal bias.  Back then, critics hurled denunciation and indignation at Horowitz in many different fora. This time, however, the effort to monitor misbehaving instructors doesn’t even raise the quick and easy charge of McCarthyism.

Most professors realize that the liberal-bias movement doesn’t threaten them at all. In fact, many colleges have learned how to benefit from their right-wing students. Numerous campuses, such as Brown, UCLA, and Princeton, have allowed of the formation conservative or libertarian centers. As a result, development offices are finding that conservative alumni are more willing to donate. They will grant space to alternative viewpoints in order to let the dominant system proceed as before.  There’s no doubt the centers have benefited the students. But conservative faculty groups and conservative student activists barely touch left-leaning faculty and administrators.  

In other words, the liberal-bias movement succeeded and it failed.  It succeeded in overcoming the reflexive condemnation of biased professors, earning conservative and libertarian ideas some legitimacy in the academic square.  No longer can a faculty speak of conservative/libertarian thinkers and ideas as prima facie stupid.  But it failed to dent the prevailing left-liberal ideology of identity politics, diversity, and statism.  The worst tendencies continue, but in the administrative offices rather than the classroom. If the liberal-bias movement had really succeeded, the diversiphile network on campus would have shrunk, not expanded.

One wonders if the cannier left-liberals among the faculty and administration welcome scattered attacks on the professors for bias, as it gives them another reason to pay lip service to “academic freedom.”  Meanwhile, the real work of liberal-bias spreads in the bureaucracy, where students can’t see it happening.

Six Organizations Every Conservative College Student Should Know

To the student tired of politically correct speech, whose soul longs for the free pursuit of truth, take heart! There are support networks that bring together like-minded students around conferences, seminars, reading groups, scholarships, and grants. Take a look at a sampling below.

  1. The Intercollegiate Studies Institute inspires students to discover, embrace, and advance the principles and virtues that make America free and prosperous. ISI-supported Reading Groups receive free books and help in bringing speakers to campus, while the Collegiate Network supports liberty-minded student newspapers and campus publications. The ISI Honors Program brings 50 undergraduates to an all-expenses-paid week-long conference and numerous colloquia, offers free books and resources, and pairs each Honors Fellow with an academic mentor. ISI also offers grants and fellowships to graduate students and sponsors essay contests.
  2. The Foundation for Economic Education‘s mission is to offer the most consistent case for the “first principles” of freedom: the sanctity of private property, individual liberty, the rule of law, the free market, and the moral superiority of individual choice and responsibility over coercion. FEE hosts seminars for both high-school and undergraduate students (most expenses paid), and FEE’s online library provides video and audio lectures.
  3. The Institute for Humane Studies seeks to advance liberty by supporting undergraduate and graduate students who are interested in individual freedom. While the institute is based at George Mason University, registration is free and open to all students. Each year, IHS awards over $750,000 in scholarships, in addition to sponsoring seminars and fellowships for graduate students and outstanding juniors and seniors. With the Koch Foundation, IHS also offers paid internships in journalism and public policy.
  4. Hertog Political Studies Program, held in D.C., is a six-week seminar investigating political theory and public policy, with a subsequent two-week fellowship that delves deeper into a particular topic. Each session is guided by an academic scholar or policy expert. Students receive a stipend to cover all expenses.
  5. The Publius Fellowship, sponsored by the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy, is awarded yearly to college seniors, recent graduates, and graduate students pursuing careers in politics, scholarship, or journalism. For two weeks, Publius Fellows meet to read and discuss great works of political philosophy. The fellowship includes a stipend, travel expenses, and housing.
  6. FIRE (the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) seeks to defend and sustain individual rights at America’s colleges and universities, including freedom of speech, legal equality, due process, religious liberty, and sanctity of conscience. FIRE works with college administrators to ensure that school policies protect and do not violate individual rights, using media campaigns and, when necessary, legal means. Through FIRE’s website, students can submit reports on violations of individual freedom.

College Insurrection

Today Professor William Jacobson (of Legal Insurrection fame) launched College Insurrection, a new website devoted to higher education. The site, according to Professor Jacobson, will help “conservative/libertarian students…find out what is going on with like-minded students on other campuses, and understand that they are the many, not the few, no matter what they are told.” 

Given our mutual interests, we look forward to working with CI. You should check it out.

Misunderstanding Intellectual Diversity

imber.jpg

When
critics of higher education complain about a lack of “intellectual diversity,”
mostly what they deplore is the shortage of conservative professors. But there
is much more at stake than that.

Consider
climate change:  As I write this, parts
of the nation have endured sweltering heat, serious drought, and treacherous
storms, at one point leaving millions of people without electricity for
days.  The invocation of “climate change”
as the “cause” of more violent and extreme weather, worse forest fires and
flooding, indeed, of a host of calamities, has been used to assign culpability
to the whole human race, mimicking what irritates defenders of evolution about
the claimants of creation science, that debunking evolutionary theory is an
underhanded way of insinuating religious belief and its claims about the fallen
state of humanity.

It
turns out the wholesale secular embrace of science insinuates its own range of
pious beliefs.  Climate theory pretends
both to the throne of reason and to public policies dictated as if they were
royal decrees.  To question a royal
decree in this case is construed as treason again reason.  But how did reason come to rely more on a
consensus of belief than skepticism about such grand causal claims?  Unlike creation science, the advocates of
social engineering who believe that science is equivalent to policy intimidate
all doubters.  The absence of intellectual
diversity is detrimental to public policy debate, not to mention how the
stranglehold of environmentalism in colleges and universities also steers any
debate toward predetermined conclusions. 
Here the challenge becomes disentangling the science of climate change
from the policies that should follow from that science.

Continue reading Misunderstanding Intellectual Diversity

A Modest Proposal to Promote Intellectual Diversity

Weissberg essay.jpegAs one who has spent
nearly four decades in the academy, let me confirm what outsiders often
suspect: the left has almost a complete headlock on the publication of serious
(peer reviewed) research in journals and scholarly books. It is not that
heretical ideas are forever buried. They can be expressed in popular magazines,
op-eds and, think tank publications and especially, on blogs. Nevertheless, and
this is critical, these off-campus writings do not count for tenure or
promotion. A successful academic career at a top school requires publishing in
disciplinary outlets and with scant exception these outlets filter out those
who reject the PC orthodoxies.

Continue reading A Modest Proposal to Promote Intellectual Diversity

A Survival Guide for the Right in Leftist Academia

Back in 2010, University of Illinois, Chicago, Professor and former
Weatherman radical Bill Ayers gave a presentation on Public Pedagogy at the
American Education Research Association annual meeting. Ayers, then a member of
AERA’s governing board, made the claim that he, Bill Ayers, was really not a
terrorist. Ten of the first 11 sentences in the talk abstract were in the first
person singular, before Bill Ayers switched gears to say that really, any
violence Bill Ayers might have encouraged merely came in response to the evils
of the U.S. government.   

Continue reading A Survival Guide for the Right in Leftist Academia

The Hunt for Conservative and Liberal Genes

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Based on “new findings involving behavioral genetics,” reports the Chronicle of Higher Education,
a growing clump of contemporary social scientists agrees with Gilbert
and Sullivan that both liberals and conservatives (but especially
conservatives) are the product of nature, although they seem to find
nature’s production of conservatives more tragic than comic.

Swimming upstream against the strong current of conventional campus
wisdom holding that just about everything controversial –race, sexual
preference, IQ, gender identity and even gender itself — is “socially
constructed,” these behavioral geneticists believe that political
differences are not caused primarily by conflicting ideologies or moral
visions but instead are deeply rooted in the psyche and even the genes.
As one of these scholars put it, “The differences between political left
and right are now being recognized as ‘very deep and psychological,
such that they connect with very basic personality tendencies that don’t
really have anything in particular to do with politics.'” One estimate
“showed that as much as 40 percent of a person’s political orientation
can be explained by genes.”

Continue reading The Hunt for Conservative and Liberal Genes

Left Bias on Campus Proven–Now What?

It wasn’t so long ago that the infrequent charge of liberal bias on college campuses was met with mockery and disdain. The allegations go all the way back to William F. Buckley’s God and Man at Yale (1951) and Russell Kirk’s Academic Freedom: An Essay in Definition (1955), neither of which earned the authors anything but distaste from professors. With Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind (1987) and David Horowitz’ initial efforts on the Academic Bill of Rights (recounted here), the hostility level rose, but people still denied the fact of bias, for instance, citing the business school as a hive of free market ideology.

Continue reading Left Bias on Campus Proven–Now What?

The Coming Decline of the Academic Left

indoctrination.jpgIt is no secret that what passes for an education at most of the nation’s colleges and universities is suspiciously akin to indoctrination. An asterisk: With the exception of a few areas–specifically, climate and the environment, certain fields within biology and medicine, history of science and the interaction between science and public policy–the rot that infects the rest of academia has been averted in science and engineering schools. A student who seeks a higher education in the unsullied areas of science and engineering can obtain truly the finest technical education that can be found on our planet at innumerable universities throughout the United States.

But when surveying the remaining disciplines in academia, as well as
the administrative structures that direct the nation’s academic
enterprise, one can say that today’s students are subject there to an
unsubtle, mind-numbing, conformist indoctrination. Numerous polls
conducted in humanities and social sciences departments–at elite, state and minor universities–reveal a stunning skew between liberals
and conservatives at least as distorted as 90%-10%. The inherent bias
spills over into classroom presentations, selection of curricula, and
grading. Moreover, it has been thus for at least two generations.

Continue reading The Coming Decline of the Academic Left

Two Views: Allan Bloom and Pop Culture

Posted by Mark Judge and Emily Esfahani Smith

Cross-posted from the Daily Caller and Acculturated.com.

Mark Judge: How Bloom Killed Conservatism

Almost 25 years ago, a catastrophe befell American conservatism. University of Chicago professor Allan Bloom wrote about rock and roll.

His words came in the book “The Closing of the America Mind,” which was published in 1987 and became a bestseller and cultural touchstone. Most of “The Closing of the American Mind” is brilliant, a careful and poetically delightful assessment of the takeover of academia and American culture by Marxism and nihilism. Its upcoming 25th anniversary should get it a new round of attention.

Sadly, Bloom included rock and roll in his critique. In doing so, he 1) embraced Marxism, 2) failed to recognize one of the 20th century’s great art forms, 3) banished conservatives to a cultural wilderness from which they have yet to emerge, and 4) made it seem like the right doesn’t care about the soul.

Continue reading Two Views: Allan Bloom and Pop Culture

Andrew Breitbart: Tweeting Evangelist For Conservatism

Breitbart.jpgThe last time I had dinner with Andrew Breitbart we talked
about the 2012 elections. He had just forced Rep. Anthony Weiner, the liberal
congressmen caught tweeting pictures of his nether parts, from office in
disgrace. Brooklyn, for the first time since Calvin
Coolidge, had elected a Republican to replace Weiner. But Andrew wanted more.
He wanted Barack Obama–and I was going to help him do just that. There will be
more on this, of course–just as he promised at the Conservative Political
Action Conference last month–but Andrew wouldn’t want me to ruin the surprise.

Andrew was a showman who had something to show for himself.
He took on ACORN, corrupt congressmen of both parties, and Occupy Wall Street,
one tweet and one story at a time. He had only two speeds–“humor and righteous
indignation”–and I gladly got caught up in his vortex, writing for his sites
while still in college.

Continue reading Andrew Breitbart: Tweeting Evangelist For Conservatism

Campus Libertarianism up, Civic Commitment Down

One of the most mentioned findings in the annual UCLA survey of college freshmen is a decided trend toward more “liberal” political attitudes. The survey shows increased support for same-sex marriage (supported by 71.3% of students, representing a 6.4% increase since 2009); for a pro-choice position on abortion; for the legalization of marijuana; and a corresponding decrease in opposition to provision of public services to undocumented immigrants. One finding that seems at odds with the overall trend is support for national health care, which dropped nearly a point since 2010, and fourteen points since 2007.

As Mark Bauerlein rightly pointed out, the trends point not in a “liberal” direction, but rather one that is “libertarian,” with a strong stress upon being “individualists.” If there is one overwhelming conclusion that one can draw from this survey, today’s students are individualistic. As an article about the survey expressed, their dominant perspective is to “Live and Let Live (and Study).”

The study is striking for what it does not ask: while it asks about hot-button social issues ranging from same-sex marriage to abortion, it does not ask students very much about their views on the economy–something one would think in our current climate would be interesting to know (the survey claims that its findings should inform how issues should be framed in the upcoming Presidential election. If that is the case, why the avoidance of economic questions?).

My own more modest campus “survey” suggests that students are trending libertarian (what many would call “conservative”) in the economic sphere as well. In one class I teach at Georgetown, I assign students a short paper asking them to provide a “political autobiography.” I have been struck over the past several years at the increasing number of students who self-describe as “socially liberal and economically conservative.” Their political lexicon is fairly impoverished (doubtless with thanks to our political media), but what they in fact disclose is a growing embrace of a consistent ethic of libertarianism. If we take their fading support of national health care as a proxy for their view about government interference in the economy, then we can indeed conclude that today’s students demonstrate an overall disposition toward “live and let live,” in both the social and economic realms.

Toleration, Diversity and Me

This conclusion, I would submit, ought to be a source of deep concern for those who care about the future of the American polity.

The overarching emphasis in the highest echelons of society–among our “elites,” and especially those working at our public schools and universities, as well as in the media–has been upon the need for “toleration” and “diversity.” The underlying belief informing this widespread view is that a high level of toleration toward others will result in a decrease in social conflict, the cessation of the mistreatment of minorities and outsiders, and a more peaceful and hence prosperous society. This message has clearly been internalized by today’s students: among the worst possible sins one can commit is to be a “Hater”–or, in their parlance, to “H8.” To render judgments or critical views toward lifestyle decisions is to engage in an unacceptable form of prejudice; people should be allowed to behave in whatever way they wish, so long as no one is physically harmed (though, it should be noted, self-destructive behaviors such as smoking are now severely frowned upon–only 2% of the surveyed population today acknowledges being a smoker). In what possible way could one be disquieted by this seemingly praiseworthy disposition of toleration and acceptance of diversity?

What the data also demonstrates is a keen and intense emphasis on the self. Today’s students simultaneously urge toleration toward others, but also expect to be left alone. Their overarching emphasis upon individual achievement–particularly in the area of career advancement–suggests that the message of “toleration” and “diversity” seamlessly co-exists with a self-centered focus on material success and personal lifestyle autonomy. At risk is a cultivated belief in civic membership, a sense of shared fate and even forms of self-sacrifice.

One telling aspect of the survey has, to my knowledge, received no attention: while 72.3% state that the “chief benefit of college is to increase one’s earning power,” only 2% of current college graduates are enrolled in an ROTC or other military program. While likely career choices are fragmented among many possible choices (with the largest numbers of responses clustering around the choices of engineer, physician and business, together totaling 28%), only 1.5% responded that they foresaw a military career; 0.9% intended to enter government or public policy; and .1% stated an intention to become a member of the clergy. As many respondents indicated a likely future of unemployment (1.5%) as those willing to serve in the military!

Increasing Earning Power

Contemporary liberals who significantly shape the views of today’s young (especially through the media – 50% of respondents indicated watching television more than 3 hours a day) believe that they are ushering in a future of toleration and “laissez-faire.” However, this attitude in fact buttresses the other overwhelming finding of the survey: that students today are “in it” for themselves. Their view of college is already determined before they enroll: the purpose of college is to increase their earning power. They are not in college to be liberally educated or to understand the “meaning of life.” They are not there to prepare for a life of responsible citizenship, parenthood and neighborliness. They are “capitalist tools,” people whose lives are dominated by professional ambition and bottom-line accounting.

Several disquieting questions should come to mind: what kinds of citizens will these people grow up to be? What kinds of parents and what kinds of neighbors? They will likely be willing to leave other people alone–but will they care about others? Will they love? Will they serve? Will they sacrifice? According Charles Murray in his recent book Coming Apart, it is the upper classes (which will be composed of the students in this survey) that have largely abandoned any idea of trusteeship and moral and civic responsibility toward those who have not won the meritocratic sweepstakes. The survey suggests that this divide will only deepen in coming years.

I fear that we are not ushering in a utopia of toleration and sensitivity, but one of indifference and self-absorption. Today’s young people have deeply absorbed the lessons that have been taught them by their elders. Do we truly think a civilization can persist when it teaches its young that the most important thing in life is indifference toward others and that the means to happiness is earning the most money?

Those Pesky Conservatives Just Aren’t Bright Enough

The law school at the University of Iowa, like so many
departments at so many institutions of higher learning, has a faculty that is
politically pretty much of one mind, with (as of 2007) 46 registered Democrats
and only one registered Republican. When instructor Teresa Wagner applied for a
professor’s post in her specialty, legal writing, she was warned more than once
that her incongruous political background – she is an outspoken conservative
and active in the right-to-life movement – would be likely to hurt her chances.
An associate dean, Jonathan Carlson, wrote to Dean Carolyn Jones in 2007:
“Frankly, one thing that worries me is that some people may be opposed to
Teresa serving in any role, in part at least because they so despise her
politics (and especially her activism about it). I hate to think that is the
case, and I don’t actually think it is, but I’m worried that I’m missing
something.”

Continue reading Those Pesky Conservatives Just Aren’t Bright Enough

No Time for Conservative Faculty

I’m totally baffled by the general looniness that seems to pop up when the liberal-left side talks about Republicans and the wealthy.  And it all “trickles down,” so that students parrot the same attitudes.  Today a student of mine from last year, who’s smart and nice, said in passing that the Tea Partiers are “racist.”  I said, “I don’t think so,” and he at once said, well, that’s what he’d learned in the press.  And he acknowledged that that was all he knew — the particular press he’s exposed to.

Continue reading No Time for Conservative Faculty

How Administrations Undermine Their Faculties

the fall of the faculty.jpgIt’s no secret that America’s colleges and universities have become bastions of political rectitude. This is often attributed to the left-liberal political orientation of the faculty. Typically, however, the administration, not the faculty, is the driving force behind efforts to promote campus diversity, to build multicultural programming and to regulate campus speech.  The president of the University of Rochester, for example, recently announced a 31-point “diversity plan” saying that diversity was a “fundamental value” of his university.

What accounts for the solicitude shown by university administrators for this progressive political agenda?  The chief reason is that a pitched battle for control of the university is under way, and by championing left-liberal causes administrators hope to bolster their own power

Ford and the Double Standard

The controversy over the Koch Foundation program at Florida State in which the Foundation has some input on hiring is so overdone that one is tempted to ignore it.  (Here’s a sample editorial from the Orlando Sentinel which quotes one anonymous observer as terming the program “shocking.”

At the same time, the double-standard is hard to take.  The money that left-leaning foundations have donated to universities in order to foster left-leaning initiatives dwarfs the money that Koch, Bradley, and other right-leaning foundations have donated, massively so, and their aims have been frankly ideological, though presented in putatively objective terms.

Consider the Ford Foundation and its support of “diversity” in higher education.  In 2003, Ford gave Rutgers University’s Institute for Women’s Leadership $346,000 “to examine faculty’s role in initiating and supporting programs to advance diversity in higher education policy and practice.”  It gave University of New Mexico $400,000 for “a consortium of minority serving Southwest universities to build knowledge and develop programs on diversity and institutional excellence.”  The National Council on Research on Women received $250,000 for “research on women’s leadership in higher education and its role in increasing racial and gender diversity.”  The Association of American Colleges and Universities got $113,000 for a “Diversity Digest” newsletter that would “identify and communicate new strategies for addressing campus diversity issues,” plus $225,000 to “explore how colleges and universities can connect diversity and academic excellence.”  San Francisco State’s Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism got $400,000 to “conduct programs to promote diversity in the news media and undertake a strategic planning process.”

Continue reading Ford and the Double Standard

Conservatives Should Drop the Apology Demand

Some readers of Minding the Campus may have noticed the little fracas at University of Iowa between College Republicans and anthropology/women’s studies professor Ellen Lewin.  You can read about it in any of the many stories listed on this Google news page.

The details are simple.  UI College Republicans sent out a mass email, approved by the administration, inviting conservatives to “come out of the closet!” and join “Conservative Coming Out Week.”  Events will include an “Animal Rights Barbecue” and a “sick of being stressed” request for a doctor’s excuse to miss class (just as Wisconsin public employees did).

A little sophomoric, yes, and the parody of “coming out” was bound to rile a few of the “studies” professors, but the email comprised nothing beyond the usual undergraduate whimsy.  It had its effect, though.  Professor Lewin received the email and fired off a quick reply: “FUCK YOU REPUBLICANS.”  She signed her name, and it appeared above her position and address at Iowa, making her response not simply a private reply.

The email has circulated widely and been picked up as a news brief all over the country, from CBS to Fox News to the New York Daily News.  It has spice, certainly, and such a blunt case of vitriol nicely confirms what seems to many critics on the Right the prevailing attitude of the professors toward conservatives.

The publicity helps the College Republicans make the case of liberal bias, no doubt, but in their first reaction they made a mistake.  They took the customary route of demanding a public apology. (You can read all the relevant emails here.  The email request was made to the head of Lewin’s department, and it assumed a tone of indignation with references to Lewin’s “vulgarity,” her “Vile” and “Demonizing” statement, and her “aimless screams of attack.”

This is too much, and it mirrors the kind of delicate offense that goes with identity politics.  Lewin did offer an apology, and it contained precisely the contempt that goes with the grievance-oriented personality: “I apologize for any affront to anyone’s delicate sensibilities.”  No satisfaction there.  The College Republicans, and conservatives in general, would do better to eschew the injured-party role and instead laugh at such comments.  Publicize them, yes, and let Lewin and other hot-headed individuals reply again and again.  Use the replies as evidence of exactly the bigotry that you allege pervades the campus.  (Lewin’s further statements only made her position look worse.)  But don’t take an insult so seriously.  Don’t assume the thin-skinned role.  Other liberals who find such insults embarrassing or ridiculous will only appreciate you for shrugging them off.

Republicans Miss an Opportunity

In theory, conservatives and liberals should have an equal concern with the state of higher education in America today, because all involved in politics should want an informed citizenry. In practice, however, liberals tend to ignore higher-ed reform. The race/class/gender triumvirate that dominates the contemporary academy translates into African-Americans, unions, and feminists in the political realm–and these three groups are vital to the Democratic Party’s base. Among the Democrats, only the party’s (dwindling) band of strongly pro-Israel figures would have political cover to address the effects of the groupthink, “diversity” atmosphere on today’s college’s campuses.

This political reality leaves Republicans as the only party likely to seriously champion higher-ed reform. Conservatives, it would seem, have an additional incentive, since the overwhelmingly left-leaning nature of social sciences and humanities faculty has given rise to the not-implausible concern that conservative ideas get short shrift on campus.

While education issues played almost no role in the 2010 elections, the unprecedented Republican gains at the state level provided an opportunity for at least a few state legislatures to exercise their oversight roles and inquire into whether their state’s public colleges and universities were actually fulfilling their stated goals of training the next generation of citizens. Are the interests of all citizens best-served by the kind of racial preference admissions schemes on display in the Fisher case in Texas? Do trustees or administrators need to play a greater role in the personnel process, to provide some semblance of balance and to make sure important topics or fields aren’t simply excluded by the groupthink atmosphere within most college faculties? What sorts of protections will ensure that students who pay good money to get a college education actually receive value for their dollar, and that students’ rights are honored even by professors who, for ideological or pedagogical reasons, view many of their students with contempt?

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A Double Shock to Liberal Professors

haidt200.jpgSocial psychology has long been a haven for left-wing scholars. Jonathan Haidt, one of  the best known and most respected young social psychologists, has heaved two bombshells at his field–one indicting it for effectively excluding conservatives (he is a liberal) and the other for what he sees as a jaundiced and cult-like opposition to religion (he is an atheist).

Here he is on the treatment of conservatives:

I submit to you that the under-representation of conservatives in social psychology, by a factor of several hundred, is evidence that we are a tribal moral community that actively discourages conservatives from entering. … We should take our own rhetoric about the benefits of diversity seriously and apply it to ourselves. … Just imagine if we had a true diversity of perspectives in social psychology.  Imagine if conservative students felt free enough to challenge our dominant ideas, and bold enough to pull us out of our deepest ideological ruts. That is my vision for our bright  post-partisan future.

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Reading Kant and Debating White Nationalists

cpac-2009.jpgThe many surveys backing up what those of us in the academy know only too well—that liberals vastly outnumber conservatives—are used to bolster the idealistic argument for “intellectual diversity.”
But a viewing of an incident at the recent CPAC conference and a video of a philosophy professor further confirmed my beliefs that it is not intellectual diversity that is needed as much as intellectual anything, and that that need is much more urgent than often recognized. The New Left began its onslaught on Western civilization through violent demands in the 1960s for the inherently anti-intellectual “studies” that replaced the traditional disciplines, like philosophy. The New Leftists and their intellectual descendents in the academy have just about succeeded in their mission of destroying the foundation of Western civilization: and that is reasoned inquiry. We see the outcome every day, in the nonsensical pontifications of tenured professors and inchoate expressions of our young people—even those involved in conservative politics.
Take for example an incident at CPAC with a group of young adults denouncing white nationalist Jamie Kelso captured on tape. They remind me so much of the college students I teach. Their reactions of disgust as Kelso’s aim becomes apparent indicate that their hearts are in the right place.

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Why the Times Article Hit Home

At first glance, John Tierney’s report in the New York Times on the liberal-conservative imbalance of faculty looks like just another account of a very familiar subject. But read it twice and you can see why it became one of the most talked-about articles on higher education in months. How did this happen? First, it appeared in the Times, an unusual outlet for reports on liberal domination of campuses and the third-class status of the few conservatives. Comments about this are generally breaking news to Times readers. Then too, in asking for a show of hands among a thousand social psychologists at an academic convention, Jonathan Haidt, a non-conservative professor, had the academics demonstrate their political imbalance themselves (three hands went up when he asked how many were conservatives). Writing on the Atlantic website, Megan McCardle offered the most likely reason why the Tierney article had such resonance: Haidt couched his comments on faculty imbalance in classic victim language of the left. He compared conservatives to closeted gays in the 1980s, afraid to talk about their unacceptable status and ever fearful of exposure. One academic, writing anonymously about a faculty conversation, told Instapundit that he had once carelessly mentioned the architecture in Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, and dreaded the possible cost of that revealing remark. McCardle added that an imbalance in numbers, usually taken as a sure sign of bias when women, gays and minorities are being discussed, means nothing to the left when the minority is conservatives. When liberals begin explaining the scarcity of conservative professors, she wrote, they “sound suspiciously like some old reactionary explaining that blacks don’t really want to go into management because they’re much happier without all the responsibility…. In other words, it’s not our fault that they’re not worthy.” Ouch.

No Labels = No Thinking, and No Fighting for Principles Either

no%20labels.bmpWhat a different scene at Columbia University in the last month of 2010 from the glory days of the 1960s, when student radicals took over the campus! On December 13th, mild-mannered students with pleasant smiles nodded in agreement with establishment politicians and political strategists at the “No Labels” conference. As political analysts have pointed out, the repeated pleading for “bipartisanship” and for moving not “left or right” but “forward” was an attempt to obscure the losing message of Democrats and nervous Republicans in the 2010 elections.
But the phrases of “moving forward” and “compromise” were refrains in a song familiar to more than 300 college students from across the country gathered on campus. At the microphone, these students demonstrated their docile acceptance of the “no labels” pedagogy of “consensus-building,” “conflict resolution,” and “civil discourse.” When explaining “why” they were there, they echoed the words of the organizers and said they were tired of “hyper-partisanship.” Then they “pledged” to “speak out against this hyper-partisanship” because “a win for one party is not necessarily a loss for another party.” Sometimes making their statements with the timorous inflection of a question mark at the end, they raised—for some observers, at least– the issue of intellectual decline, and spiritual and psychological decline as well.
Like many of my college students, these students displayed a reluctance to declare anyone–or any idea–a “winner.” The notion of there being a losing side, whether in wiffle ball or a mock UN debate, has in effect been outlawed over the last few decades. In part this numb recessiveness is the work of campus “mommies,” freshman composition teachers who instruct their classes to shy away from assertion and real debate.
Freshman composition was once known for teaching young adults how to defend a conviction with logic and evidence. Feminists saw the inherently competitive nature of this enterprise, and sought to replace it with the “maternal presence in the classroom,” an Orwellian term in circulation at the University of Georgia in the 1990s, where I taught as a graduate teaching assistant. At the time, the English department, known as the last hold-out from the pernicious influence of the various schools of postmodernism, was being taken over by feminists who sought to root out the patriarchy in all its manifestations—including the freshman essay. The “maternal presence” trickled down into our annual fall orientation sessions where we were directed to implement the new strategies as “facilitators.”

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