Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Brown University to offer conservatism class

Brown University is offering a new course this spring entitled, "Modern Conservatism in America: Conservative Thought in the 20th Century." The course was developed by a student trying to bring ideological balance to elite colleges and universities. In his words, such schools do not offer students views "outside of academia's leftist mainstream."

I get it: elite colleges and universities are full of leftists professors whose only purpose is the indoctrination of their students.  The point is clear enough.  But every time I hear this complaint, two questions pop into my head.

(1) If the professoriat is composed of left-wing academics, where are the bright conservative minds going instead?  Where are they?  Here is a guess: could it be Wall Street and private industry?

(2) If the complaint is correct, and colleges are in fact full of leftist professors and almost no others, it would appear that the students with a complaint would be the leftist students.  After all, shouldn't college be about personal growth and new experiences, about opening one's mind to new ideas, about seeing new things?  If a student comes to college only to validate her value system, she is clearly being cheated.

Note that this last point does not argue against a conservatism course.  What it argues, instead, is against the idea that conservative students are getting a raw deal.  The only way that notion makes any sense is if we think of our colleges and universities as sites for indoctrination, and if we think of our conservative students as weak minded and unable to think for themselves.  

I choose to give them a little more credit than that.

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