Saturday, January 15, 2005

Rebellion on Campus: The 21st Century Version

Friday's Opinion Journal has a great essay by Brian C. Anderson on the new wave of unrest beginning to emerge on our nation's campuses. Not liberal or leftist protests, but conservative students rebelling against the stultifying, politically correct, left-of-center orthodoxy that dominates most American universities:

The protests shocked the mainstream press, but to close observers of America's college scene lately they came as no surprise. For decades, conservative critics have bemoaned academe's monolithically liberal culture. Parents, critics note, spend fortunes to send their kids to top colleges, and then watch helplessly as the schools cram them with a diet of politically correct leftism often wholly opposed to mom and dad's own values.

But the left's long dominion over the university--the last place on earth that lefty power would break up, conservatives believed--is showing its first signs of weakening. The change isn't coming from the schools' faculty lounges and administrative offices, of course. It's coming from self-organizing right-of-center students and several innovative outside groups working to bypass the academy's elite gatekeepers.

As Anderson notes, today's campus conservatives are hardly William F. Buckley clones. Many are fans of shows such as South Park, and have no real objection to gay marriage. As with myself, their main objection is to the ideological conformity that permeates academia and makes a mockery of intellectual freedom. Ironically, this atmosphere has increased the appeal of conservative views:

Conservative ideas take on even greater allure for students when the authorities say they're verboten. From pervasive campus political correctness--the unfree speech codes, obligatory diversity-sensitivity seminars and school-sponsored performances of "The Vagina Monologues'--to the professorate's near-uniform leftism, with faculty Democrats outnumbering Republicans by at least 7 to 1 (at Williams, it's 51 Dems to zero Republicans), everything aims to implant correct left-wing attitudes in student brains.

"There's a natural and healthy tendency among students to question the piety of their teachers," Penn history professor Alan Kors noted a few months back. "And for so long the pieties, dogmas and set of assumptions being taught on college campuses have been found on the far left." Says Daniel Flynn of the Leadership Institute, a nonprofit that trains young conservative activists: "The intention of many in academe is to evangelize left-wing ideas, but in effect what they're doing is often the opposite: piquing interest in the other side."

Overall, Anderson has written a long and fascinating essay, one that is well worth a read:

Right on Campus


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