Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

The “Discrediting Result”


Let me add my own voice to the chorus of praise for Mark Bauerlein’s essay.  I particularly liked this passage on the “discrediting result” of the lack of conservative voices in the academy:


The division of campus discourse from public discourse has a discrediting result. If a set of ideas and writings are missing in the classroom but present in the marketplace or government, we tend to explain them by their instrumental value. They owe their clout to their usefulness to business or politics, the reasoning goes, not to intellectual substance. If the university doesn’t put those works and ideas on the syllabus, they aren’t subject to the free analysis and contemplation that respectable works and ideas merit. When they crop up off campus, then, they seem to have no independent validity, no import separate from the interests they satisfy.

To this I would add that the lack of conservative voices in the academy also dangerously discredits the academy in the eyes of many Americans.  One of the great challenges of working to protect academic freedom is persuading conservatives that the academy represents a vitally important front in the culture war.  The overwhelming (and sometimes comical) leftism of faculties and administrators has led many people to merely roll their eyes at academic follies as if they represent nothing more than an amusing sideshow.  It is almost as if the success in creating competing institutions (such as think tanks like Heritage, CATO, and AEI) has lulled even some conservatives into believing that they have neutralized the academy’s malignant effect on American culture.  Thus, they underestimate its continuing profound influence over the minds of its students.  

We may not take seriously the ideas presented in your typical university history, English, or political science class, but millions of students do.  As will the millions of students who follow the current classes, and the millions who follow them.  Conservatives may find themselves laughing at the academy even as a the cultural tidal waves washes our ideas into irrelevance.


Sign up for free NRO e-mails today:

Subscribe to National Review