Monday, April 11, 2005

Depoliticizing Academia

In Sunday's Washington Post, educational consultant Steven Roy Goodman analyzes the backlash against the growing politicization of academia:

Colleges have long been hotbeds of political agitation, of course. But where it was once students who did the acting out, as they spread their intellectual and philosophical wings, now the professors and administrators are more likely to be playing politics -- and more and more Americans with college-age kids are getting fed up with it. In 18 years of in-the-trenches experience counseling kids on their college choices, I've never seen the unhappiness as widespread as it is today. If colleges don't tone down the politics, and figure out how to control ballooning costs, they run the risk of turning off enough American consumers that many campuses could marginalize themselves right out of existence.

Colleges are having an ever-harder time making what they do comprehensible to the families footing the bills. I counsel families of all political stripes -- liberal, conservative and in-between -- and varied income levels, but they all agree on one thing: the overly politicized atmosphere on campuses is distracting colleges from providing a solid education to our young people.

As Goodman points out, it is not the presence of politics per se that is causing this alienation. Ideally, political discourse on campus should be just another manifestation of the free exchange of ideas. The problem, rather, is the stultifying atmosphere of political correctness and ideological orthodoxy that permeates most colleges and universities. This is a natural consequence of the overwhelming liberal and leftist dominance of academic faculty positions, and the resulting sense of groupthink and utter contempt for any right-of-center viewpoints. Until genuine intellectual diversity comes to academia, this situation will only get worse. Colleges and universites that are bastions of one-party orthodoxy serve the interests of no one, regardless of political persuasion.


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