Liberal Academics—Are They REALLY That Big Of A Deal?by Don on Sep. 02, 2009, under Uncategorized
A common complaint I hear in conservative circles: universities are WAY too liberal, and conservatives don’t feel comfortable being “themselves,” or expressing their true political feelings, in the classroom.
Personally, I don’t think that’s such a big deal—here’s why.
College is only a small sliver of your life, and SHOULD be just a small sliver of a lifetime of learning. Any impact from four to six (perhaps more?) years of classes taught by liberal ideologue professors should fade over time when compared to all the other books, articles, etc… you’ll read over the rest of your lifetime. Any ideologue teacher only has you captive for one or two semesters at most. You have the rest of your life to search out and study competing ideas and beliefs, and then come to your own conclusions.
Virtually all the high-quality, professional academics you’ll meet keep ideology out of the mainstream of their coursework. A lively disagreement between teacher and student never gets reflected in their gradebooks or your report card.
As for the real ideologues, most self-segregate into elective courses. News flash—if you take any class in a department whose name ends in the word “Studies,” be forewarned. Yes, speaking your conservative mind in one of these classes could easily be akin to a 19th-century cowboy sauntering solo and unarmed through the Chiricahuas.
BUT…you KNOW BEFOREHAND that many of these XXX Studies departments at universities are de facto hostile territory for outspoken conservatives. And—here’s what’s most important—most of the courses in these departments are electives. You don’t have to take them. If, however, those classes are mandatory, that’s another story. In that case…
Liberal academicians can’t be as punitive as they once could. Students can blog, call into talk radio and post videos on YouTube. Virtually every town in America has at least one conservative radio station. If your university—especially your public university or college—employs a teacher who bullies conservative students, you can get the word out. And, be reassured that plenty of voters will be unhappy at the thought of their tax dollars employing that ideologue.
Plus, there’s FIRE. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education defends conservative students who’ve been harassed by university faculty, administration and officially-sanctioned student groups. FIRE will go to court. Liberal ideologues in academia have taken notice. (http://www.myfire.org)
The craziest liberal professors often beclown themselves. Dinesh D’Souza relates this antecdote from his days at Dartmouth in his book Letters To A Young Conservative. An African American professor routinely spoke in “street” dialect and hip-hop slang while lecturing. A Dartmouth student recorded the professor’s speeches and reprinted them word-for-word in Dartmouth’s conservative newspaper. The professor attempted legal action, claiming he’d been libeled. To his, and the university’s, public embarrassment, someone had to explain to him that no one can be libeled by an accurate retelling of their own words. Needless to say, the professor came out on the losing end of that encounter.
Happily for we schadenfreude-loving conservatives, the foot-shooting didn’t end there. The professor’s wife was a French teacher at Dartmouth. She assigned her class to write a French-language assessment of the Dartmouth conservative paper. Most students knew the deal and wrote the scathing critiques that the French teacher obviously wanted to see. However, one naïve student wrote honestly that he liked the paper—and got a bad grade. Fortunately, that student was wise enough to go to the teacher’s supervisors and ask them what was wrong with his French. The administrators took one look at the assignment and realized that it was inappropriate thinking, not faulty French grammar, that was the problem. Guess who lost that encounter?
University leaderships don’t like to be embarrassed. I think it’s safe to say that the administration at the University of Colorado wishes that the brouhaha surrounding the statements of one of its employees, ethnic studies professor Ward Churchill, never happened. If one of your teachers goes Trotsky too often, eventually he may find himself feeling very lonely in the faculty lounge. (Unless it’s a XXX Studies lounge…in which case, conservative student, you should have known what you were getting into in the first place!!!)
Taking a class from someone who thinks you’re an Untouchable can be a great learning experience. Sometimes, in life, you have to tell the boss what they want to hear. If your boss’s viewpoints and reasoning methods are 180 degrees in opposition to yours, it can be hard figuring out what they want. Well, here’s a chance to practice. Think of the Chomsky acolyte on the podium as a future boss. What do they want? How can you shape and present arguments that will reach them? Remember…you’re not there to change the professor’s mind or defeat him in verbal battle. You’re there to benefit, in some way, from the class.
Be realistic about the grades you really need. The ultimate fear of any college student: the professor will give me a poor grade if he/she disagrees with me. Nowadays, though, in this age of FIRE and the Internet and FOX News, professors know that they’ll likely have to justify any grade that’s shockingly out of the norm. So, that Trotskyite on the podium who hates your guts for wearing that Ronald Reagan pin to class probably won’t give you a D. He might, however, give you a B- while the “right” thinking students get As.
If so…so what?
I’ve worked for a Fortune 500 consulting company for over a decade, and no one ever asked me for my GPA. They wanted to know what I majored in and where I graduated from. From my experience, if you take a challenging curriculum at a respected school and graduate with a B or high C average, that will check the education block with most employers. What will really make or break you, down the road, will be the work experiences you accumulate and the success you demonstrate in real-life situations, not the C+ you got from your Trotskyite Teaching Assistant in “Marxist and Maoist Perspectives on Sponge Bob Square Pants.”
So, my fellow conservatives, don’t fear the Trotskyites on campus. Avoid the vindictive ones, have fun with the silly ones, give them what they want at test time and never forget…it’s only four years. (Or five. Six?)