Phi Beta Cons

Teaching Important

I’m glad to hear David and Anthony say that the propagandizing in today’s academy is a matter of great concern.  This is a welcome change from years of complacency in which the conservative line was, students see through it and no one is paying attention and it doesn’t matter to the larger society.  As if you could have generation after generation of students imbibing the nihilism of the present-day academy without an its having an effect on the larger society!  I always remember what Solzhenitsyn said about the younger generations of Russia preceding the Revolution and how they grew up mocking everything, setting the stage for what was to follow.  

While we’re praising Mark and his fine new essay, I wanted to mention something from his review of Michael Bérubé’s book that was very insightful.  Bérubé of course tries to argue that today’s academy evinces no liberal bias whatsoever and that the conservative critique is entirely unfair.  As an example, he mentions a student who called a certain essay question un-American just because, as Bérubé sees it, it rose out of criticism of America’s Founding.  Bérubé says, quite rightly, to an extent, that students should certainly be exposed to criticism of their country or else be “miseducated.”  But Mark exposes the liberal bias in the question while also making clear why the liberals are offended at charges of liberal bias.  They genuinely don’t see it because it is as the oxygen they breathe! 
Here is the essay question in question:  ”Analyze the U.S. constitution (original document), and show how its formulation excluded [the] majority of the people living in America at that time, and how it was dominated by America’s elite interest.”
Mark points out that the question is obviously slanted entirely toward the negatives of exploitation and hypocrisy, excludes the possibility of arguing otherwise, and completely bypasses the historic positive achievement of the Founding, the creation of a system of self-government built on natural rights that has served as an expanding model of freedom for so many.  Mark concludes:        

That Bérubé accepts such assignments as straightforward history goes a long way toward explaining why conservative criticisms appear unbalanced or cynical. The liberal outlook, especially regarding race and gender, has seeped into and saturated the curriculum so much that questioning it looks not like a new venture into the marketplace of ideas but like a violation of civility. This makes it almost impossible for conservative reformers in higher education to question, much less alter, the curriculum.  It’s a frustrating impasse. Liberal approaches to the curriculum are so embedded that conservative attacks look suspect on procedural grounds. Say that multiculturalism as commonly practiced is incompatible with the training of erudite students and you offend the other parties. Describe “diversity” as a coercive and illusory term that will be remembered as nothing but a curious example of the mores of the early twenty-first century and you become an unprofessional crank. The substance of your criticism is waylaid by its impropriety.

Still, there seems to be no alternative than to expose the falsehoods in current academic theorizing and to bring out the truth for more and more to see, even if this seems offensive, improper, and uncivil to the liberals.

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