Sunday, June 08, 2008

"Conservative Studies" at Colorado

Via this post by Neo-Neocon, I learned that the University of Colorado has announced plans to endow a chair in "Conservative Studies" in order to foster intellectual diversity on campus. An article from the May 13 Wall Street Journal offers some details. These quotes from two CU students help explain why the university administration is pursuing such a course:

Jack Roldan, vice chair of the College Republicans, has felt the lopsided politics keenly during his four years studying international affairs. He longed for a conservative mentor, and says he graduated last week with many questions left unanswered: When is military intervention necessary? Why does the GOP focus so much on economic policy? And what's up with the neo-cons?

"There's a lot more about what I'm about that I'd like to know," Mr. Roldan says.

Other students don't have much sympathy. They love Boulder precisely because of its liberal swagger.

Sophomore Marissa Malouff sees the campus as a sort of re-education camp. Sheltered rich kids from out-of-state might come for the snowboarding, but while they're here they get dunked in a simmering pot of left-wing idealism. And that, in her view, is how it should be.

"They need to learn about social problems and poverty and the type of things liberal professors are likely to talk about," says Ms. Malouff, a Democrat.

(Emphasis added-DD)

Talking about social problems and poverty is all well and good. As long as that discussion also includes critiques of "liberal" approaches to those issues and students are allowed to study both sides and reach their own conclusions. Unfortunately, I doubt that is what Ms. Malouff had in mind.

This gets at the heart of the problem. It is not just that ultraliberals and leftists overwhelmingly dominate academic faculty positions on most campuses: it is that they have exploited this situation in order to turn their campuses into ideological boot camps. CU professor Crispin Sartwell, who is not a conservative, described the consequences in a May 29 piece for the Los Angeles Times. Conservative librarians will find many of his points familiar:

Academic consensus is a particularly irritating variety of groupthink. First of all, the fact that everyone agrees and everyone has a doctorate leads to the occasionally explicit idea that all intelligent people think the same thing -- that no one could disagree with, say, Obama-ism, without being an idiot. This attitude is continually expressed, for example, in attacks on presidents Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush, not for their political positions but for their grades and IQs.

That the American professoriate is near-unanimous for Barack Obama is a problem on many levels, but certainly pedagogically. Ideological uniformity does a disservice to students and makes a mockery of the pious commitment of these professors simply to convey knowledge. Also, the claims of the professoriate to intellectual independence and academic freedom, supposedly nurtured by tenure, are thrown into question by the unanimity. Professors are as herd-like in their opinions as other groups that demographers like to identify -- "working-class white men," for example. Indeed, surely more so.

That's partly just a result of the charming human tendency to nod along with whomever is sitting next to you. But it's also the predictable result of the fact that a professor has been educated, often for a decade or more, by the very institutions that harbor this unanimity. Every new generation of professors has been steeped in an atmosphere in which the authorities all agree and in which they associate agreement with intelligence -- and with degrees, jobs, tenure and so on. If you've been taught that conservatives are evil idiots, then conservatism itself justifies a decision not to hire or tenure one. Every new leftist minted by graduate programs is an act of self-praise, a confirmation of the intelligence of the professors.

That this smog of consensus is incompatible with the supposedly high-minded educational mission of colleges and universities is obvious. Yet higher education is at least as dedicated to the reproduction of Obama-ism as it is to conveying information. But academics are massively self-deceived about this, which makes it all the more disgusting and effective.

(Emphasis added-DD)

Thus, as Neo-Neocon pointed out in her comments, does the Left's stranglehold on academia become a self-perpetuating phenomenon. Just as the leftist domination of librarianship has likewise begun to perpetuate itself.

As far as the proposal for a "Conservative Studies" chair, I agree with the critics who say that it smacks of tokenism. Frankly, such a move is a mere gesture that will do little to change the underlying environment of ideological conformity at CU.


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