Phi Beta Cons

The Brave Dissenters

George’s post links to his commentary on Daniel Klein’s studies of faculty politics and attitudes, and his final remarks are worth amplifying. He notes the prevailing explanation for why the humanities and social sciences tend way leftward: “by virtue of their courageous willingness to criticize the status quo.” George correctly notes that the Left is, precisely, the status quo on campus, but we can say more.

 

The truth is that academia is one of the most conformist zones in American life, and that timidity and cowardice among the professorate is rampant. The many years of graduate school coping with disrespectful undergraduates and indifferent professors wears them down. The job market forces them to moderate their opinions (as so measured by the academic consensus) and position themselves diplomatically in their chosen fields. The looming tenure meeting turns them into constant second-guessers.

 

The institution contains extraordinary protections for dissenting voices, but they are few and far between, and you better not exercise your academic freedom too broadly until you’re safe. At least that’s what everybody believes. Against the dreaded and disdained mainstream bourgeois society, they stand up brave and strong. But among themselves, they are hesitant and plotting. Reputation is everything. Yes, there are a few bullies out there, gruff and insistent, but most professors just want to get by, and they’re easily intimidated and led.

Most Popular

History

Thanksgiving Is Not a Lie

We live in a time of heedless iconoclasm, and so one of the country’s oldest traditions is under assault. Thanksgiving is increasingly portrayed as, at best, based on falsehoods and, at worst, a whitewash of genocide against Native Americans. The New York Times ran a piece the other day titled, “The ... Read More
History

Thanksgiving Is Not a Lie

We live in a time of heedless iconoclasm, and so one of the country’s oldest traditions is under assault. Thanksgiving is increasingly portrayed as, at best, based on falsehoods and, at worst, a whitewash of genocide against Native Americans. The New York Times ran a piece the other day titled, “The ... Read More
Culture

On Being Grateful

My mother always enjoyed making Thanksgiving dinner. She took a traditional Southern woman’s pride in being a good cook, following her mother’s recipes, and my family made a rare display of kindness by declining to inform her that she was a fairly dreadful cook, one whose kitchen alchemy on the electric range ... Read More
Culture

On Being Grateful

My mother always enjoyed making Thanksgiving dinner. She took a traditional Southern woman’s pride in being a good cook, following her mother’s recipes, and my family made a rare display of kindness by declining to inform her that she was a fairly dreadful cook, one whose kitchen alchemy on the electric range ... Read More
U.S.

Gratitude: What We Owe to Our Country

Editor’s Note: The following essay by National Review founder William F. Buckley comes from the first chapter of his 1990 book, Gratitude: Reflections on What We Owe to Our Country. I have always thought Anatole France’s story of the juggler to be one of enduring moral resonance. This is the arresting and ... Read More
U.S.

Gratitude: What We Owe to Our Country

Editor’s Note: The following essay by National Review founder William F. Buckley comes from the first chapter of his 1990 book, Gratitude: Reflections on What We Owe to Our Country. I have always thought Anatole France’s story of the juggler to be one of enduring moral resonance. This is the arresting and ... Read More