Phi Beta Cons

Comfortable Conservatives?

In the same article in which Jon A. Shields and Joshua M. Dunn Sr. try to debunk the idea that the American campus is unfriendly to conservatives, they admit that the academy has been pretty much taken over by politically progressive ideas. They even offer possible correctives, and cite Jonathan Haidt’s newly formed website Heterodox Academy as an example of the kinds of things that should be pursued in order to combat the takeover of leftwing ideology. (…)

How ironic. This is the gist of what Haidt said in an interview with John Leo: Thanks to progressive identity and victimization politics, some 70-75 percent of Americans are now in a protected victim group and beyond social science research and analysis. That is, they are victims who in no circumstances can be held responsible for any shortcomings in their behavior. The protected groups include women, blacks, LGBT individuals, Latinos, Native Americans, people with disabilities, and, added recently, Muslims. A sociologist is not permitted to say anything critical about these groups. “This is a disaster for social science,” asserts Haidt, “because social science is really hard to begin with,” and “now you have to try to explain social problems without saying anything that casts any blame on any member of a protected group. And not just moral blame, but causal blame. None of these groups can have done anything that led to their victimization or marginalization.”

The vocabulary of victimization has supplanted the moral dimension and made it impossible for universities to oppose student or faculty demands to suppress freedom of speech or freedom of academic inquiry. These “left-leaning institutions are cut off from any moral vocabulary that they could use to resist the forces of illiberalism,” says Haidt. “They’re so devoted to social justice, and they have accepted the rule that you can never, ever blame victims, so if a group of victims makes demands, you cannot argue back. You must accept the demands.” If all that doesn’t constitute an utter travesty of scholarship and an assault on free inquiry, I’d like to know what does.

Furthermore, Haidt declares that “the academic world in the humanities is a monoculture. The academic world in the social sciences is a monoculture,” except for economics. “Anthropology and sociology are the worst,” he says, “those fields seem to be really hostile and rejecting toward people who aren’t devoted to social justice,” that is, government engineered and enforced group equality of outcome. Haidt continues, “Anthro is completely lost. I mean, it’s really militant activists. They’ve taken the first step towards censoring Israel. They’re not going to have anything to do with Israeli scholars any more.” This brings in the “seventh victim group,” that is, the recently added Muslims.

In light of all that, how cheered should we be by the thought that some conservatives feel comfortable on American campuses when the pursuit of truth is so thoroughly and completely compromised? 


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