Skip to comments.Swimming Upstream: The Life of a Conservative Professor in Academia
Posted on 10/06/2009 10:48:35 AM PDT by rhema
I have been a faculty member at a major State University for 40 years. Several years after my arrival, I voted for George McGovern. Eight years later, I voted for Ronald Reagan. In those eight years, my family and I experienced several traumas that caused me to reevaluate -- and ultimately, drastically alter -- the political, cultural and economic axioms that had governed my life.
Within months of buying my first home in an excellent neighborhood, within walking distance to the University and, most importantly, located in a district with an outstanding local public elementary school, my five year old son was forcibly bussed to an inferior school, many miles away, in a horrible neighborhood in order to satisfy the utopian vision of a myopic federal judge. This betrayal of my fundamental rights was undoubtedly the greatest shock to my political psyche.
Another was a Sabbatical year spent living and working in Jerusalem, during which time the UN issued time the infamous "Zionism is racism" resolution. I was able to observe firsthand that the standard propaganda about Israel and Zionism that was promulgated in America and elsewhere -- almost exclusively by those on the Left that I had formerly supported -- was nothing more than bald-faced, hateful lies. This and other events in the 1970s caused me to rethink everything that I had taken for granted since adolescence about how the world worked.
I emerged from the exercise as an enthusiastic conservative. Thus I was no longer your average faculty member who adhered to the liberal party line, but instead one of a tiny cadre who completely disagreed with the leftist mentality that dominated the thought of campus faculty and administrators.
The overwhelmingly liberal atmosphere on campus is well known. In the one place in society at which there should be diversity of thought, exploration of conflicting ideas and a propensity to challenge conventional wisdom, we have instead a mind-numbing conformity of opinion and a complete unwillingness to entertain any thought or idea that deviates from the accepted truth. That conformity encompasses:
*The legitimacy of virtually any program that promotes the interests of minority and female faculty, staff and students, even if the program is blatantly racist or sexist -- justified by a belief that America's past unjust treatment of blacks, American Indians and Japanese-Americans, and its unfair treatment of women render such discrimination necessary and lawful.
*A multicultural mentality, which preaches that America's Eurocentric, white, Christian heritage is responsible for colonialism, imperialism, racism and sexism, and that its replacement by a culture that "celebrates diversity" will transform the US into a more just and humane society.
*A distrust of free markets and democratic capitalism, and its severe limitation in favor of a centralized, government-controlled economy that will redistribute the wealth of America more fairly.
*A denigration of religious belief and its replacement by the "worship" of secular humanism, with mindless environmentalism occupying a central place in the new religion.
Not being in sync with any of this, how did I cope? Not so well, actually. First of all, it took me a long time to recognize and accept that the university atmosphere I knew as a student was gone. Initially, I was too busy pursuing my career and building my academic resume to notice what a fish out of water I had become.
My epiphany came about 20 years ago at the inauguration of a new campus president. In his acceptance speech, he said many things that seemed bizarre to me, but the comment I recall most vividly was his insistence that he would create a world-class university by building "excellence through diversity." His point seemed to be that by substantially increasing the number of minority and female faculty, staff and students (and consequently decreasing the number of white males), this would of necessity make us a great university.
I always thought that the best way to build a great university was to attract the brightest, most innovative and productive faculty and students -- regardless of their hue -- but I realized at that moment, as the applause for his idea rained down, how out of step I was.
What did I do? To my eternal shame, I ducked. Oh initially, during a painful, but relatively brief period, I contested the new campus consensus. People quickly, but politely, informed me that my ideas were retrograde and that I would be well advised to get with the program. In fact, I was passed over for an administrative position I coveted and for which I was far more qualified than the individual selected. Realizing that my resistance was damaging my reputation on campus, I more or less clammed up and spent more than a decade trying to ignore the poisonous atmosphere.
This less than noble strategy proved effective and eventually I achieved a high administrative position in which I adhered to policies and shepherded programs that were diametrically opposed to my fundamental beliefs. For years I tended to my bleeding tongue because I was constantly biting it during meetings to prevent myself from blurting out my true feelings about the bigoted ideas that constituted the consensus of the folks at the table.
But as I began to near retirement, I decided there was no point in maintaining my forced silence any longer. As I had 15 years earlier, I unburdened myself and let fly my misgivings about the liberal campus hegemony. What happened this time? Here come three novel observations:
1. To my surprise, my "retrograde" conservative opinions were not met with calumny or derision, but rather with smiles and amusement. "Oh, that's just Ron being Ron," it was said. I wasn't viewed as a threat to the campus philosophy, but rather as some kind of queer duck to be tolerated at best, ignored at worst. This was certainly more pleasant for me than being told to shut up and get your head straight as I anticipated. But it was also incredibly frustrating that colleagues didn't take me seriously. The impression I had was that they felt there was no reason to take my ideas seriously because I was so obviously wrong that no right-thinking person could be swayed by my arguments.
2. My second observation is that I was not the only one failing to make waves. In fact, there were no waves whatsoever. There was no debate, no controversy; just the calm serenity of a campus at peace with its almost universally accepted mind set. I attribute this to three things. First, of course, anyone raising an objection was viewed, as I was, as hopelessly out of it and worthy only of being ignored. This has a chilling effect, perhaps even more effective than derision. Second, I suspect that those who believed as I did were still in lockdown mode -- for the same reasons as I was over the years. And third, I believe the liberal brainwash has been so effective on campus -- and in the national educational system in general -- that many in the liberal majority can't even fathom that there is anyone who doubts the legitimacy of their point of view.
3. My final observation is the following. The liberal hegemony exists in many quarters of the country beside academia -- e.g., the mainstream media, major foundations, law schools and the trail lawyers they produce, public school teachers, the Democratic Party, even big corporations. But none of these can maintain the atmosphere as effortlessly as campus profs and administrators. Politicians encounter opposition from their constituents; the media from its readers, listeners and viewers; trail lawyers from their clients; and corporations from their stockholders and consumers. But the educational establishment-both higher and lower-encounters little resistance. The students are ignorant, the parents are cowed, and Boards of Regents are cowardly. The ivory tower is alive and well in America and the intellectual product it presents is completely one-sided. What a tragedy for our nation and especially for its youth.
Conserative: A liberal who got mugged.
Rush just mentioned this article on his show.
There’s always gotta be one.
“To my surprise, my “retrograde” conservative opinions were not met with calumny or derision, but rather with smiles and amusement.”
Sounds like Bullshit. When I was younger I worked in a liberal school and it was brutal. I hated their stupid half assed ideas (taking thirteen year old girls to get abortions without parental notification, in 1993 was the one that had me finally quitting) and there were some memorable shouting matches. Faculty meetings were a war between three or four of us and the fifty or so of them.
And I KNOW this was true all over academia.
Gramsci rules. You know the consequences. Don’t you?
Were these “septic tanks of learning” dispanded, the only faculty who could get future employment would be in the science and engineering departments.
As for the rest, they would have to memorize, “Would you like to supersize that order, sir?”
"And third, I believe the liberal brainwash has been so effective on campus -- and in the national educational system in general -- that many in the liberal majority can't even fathom that there is anyone who doubts the legitimacy of their point of view."
That is one of the scariest.
When they don't even know they have been brainwashed.
....he forgot to mention the Academy’s deep seated hatred of the military...at least in the liberal arts depts.
It seems to me that the regulative idea that we heirs of the Enlightenment, we Socratists, most frequently use to criticize the conduct of various conversational partners is that of needing education in order to outgrow their primitive fear, hatreds, and superstitions . . . It is a concept which I, like most Americans who teach humanities or social science in colleges and universities, invoke when we try to arrange things so that students who enter as bigoted, homophobic, religious fundamentalists will leave college with views more like our own . . .
The fundamentalist parents of our fundamentalist students think that the entire American liberal establishment is engaged in a conspiracy. The parents have a point. Their point is that we liberal teachers no more feel in a symmetrical communication situation when we talk with bigots than do kindergarten teachers talking with their students . . .
When we American college teachers encounter religious fundamentalists, we do not consider the possibility of reformulating our own practices of justification so as to give more weight to the authority of the Christian scriptures. Instead, we do our best to convince these students of the benefits of secularization.
We assign first-person accounts of growing up homosexual to our homophobic students for the same reasons that German schoolteachers in the postwar period assigned The Diary of Anne Frank. . .
You have to be educated in order to be . . . a participant in our conversation . . .
So we are going to go right on trying to discredit you in the eyes of your children, trying to strip your fundamentalist religious community of dignity, trying to make your views seem silly rather than discussable.
We are not so inclusivist as to tolerate intolerance such as yours . . . I dont see anything herrschaftsfrei [domination free] about my handling of my fundamentalist students.
Rather, I think those students are lucky to find themselves under the benevolent Herrschaft [domination] of people like me, and to have escaped the grip of their frightening, vicious, dangerous parents . . .
I am just as provincial and contextualist as the Nazi teachers who made their students read Der Stürmer; the only difference is that I serve a better cause.
-Universality and Truth, in Robert B. Brandom (ed.), Rorty and his Critics (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000), pp. 21-2.
That's SOP in any large company these days. We hear and read this crap on a daily basis at my job.
"Diversity" actually has NO benefits, and has huge detriments.
Bump for posterity.
I saw a movie once where a dictator assumed control and shot all the college professors- This struck me as odd at the time, and the movie itself did not explain why- but now I can see it.
that was 10 years ago... that is HIS point
today you would be treated as a senile old coot
oops 16 years
Write them a memo telling them instead of ‘excellence through diversity’ they promote ‘excellence through hiring the best and brightest based on the content of their character- not the color of their skin’?
I think you might actually see their brain skid to a halt in their skull
“oops 16 years”
Age? No....my point is that it hasn’t gotten any better, that it is insane to think that the treatment is benign now...I think he’s deluded...look at what happens when conservatives show up on campus to speak...they get creamed, sometimes literally...cripes, you don’t need to be a sociologist to figure out that he is not the outspoken guy he thinks he is...
Out the the dozen people in my HR Dept., only one is a white male. And he’s a flaming homosexual.
The stranglehold that the Left has on Academia is well-documented but solutions to the problem seem elusive. Considering that the Left has numerous ideological litmus tests that candidates trying to swim up the academic ladder must pass in order to gain positions of influence, and those who fail the idological litmus tests are routinely passed over for promotion, what do you suppose will make our Universities places that we can be proud of once again?
The ‘problem’ of the concentration camps in WW2 was solved by killing the enemy, destroying the camps and freeing the prisoners, and then building anew upon the failed wreckage. We can’t very well kill academic Leftists (My understanding is that prison food is not so nice, nor are the social opportunities there) and so I’m wondering what specific plan might be possible for the goal of returning our once-grand academic institutions to their former glory and ending this cancerous cycle of Leftist indoctrination?
The Second Coming is the only solution I see, of course they think that already happened, so......
This guy is a coward and a phony who wants to have things both ways. I’ve come across plenty of people just like him throughout my career. They enforce leftist programs to help their careers and stab stand up guys in the back when it is to their advantage. Then they pretend they are really honorable and principled when it doesn’t matter anymore. This guy is a joke.
Give me a stand up guy who will stick up for his friends and his principles over these tongue biting careerists any day.
He says that defending his island of reason in a sea of progressive a$$holes is the best debate training he could ever get.
A possibility is for Every conservative who has the ability and circumstances to gain a PhD and start hiding until tenure in academia.
It seemed every 4th person at BASF had a PhD.
A possibility is for Every conservative who has the ability and circumstances to gain a PhD and start hiding until tenure in academia.
Universities and colleges are a breeding ground for mindlessness and Communism. The former is necessary to advance the lattr. We should start screaming about these f*cking Commies and denounce them and make their pathetic little twisted lives miserable.
I think that if anyone has the time to engage in such activity in college, they are not studying anything important.
For later read.
During my college days I knew more than a few lib profs in my major who privately exhibited distaste for the prevailing p.c. atmosphere that is killing or has killed free speech and thought in academia. But they have to go along or be ostracized. Just like the dissident party members in “1984”, any academicians who publicly disagree will find their careers and promotions in jeopardy.
Politics is important regardless of your discipline. When it determines who is in your program, it is very important.
I was a history major, and I came to the same conclusion as you did that the subject is worthwhile, the classes were a waste of time. Stuck it out got my degree and now I’m done with it!
The dead don’t know they are dead.....So they are the undead. Liberal Zombies
ping if no one has done it yet
I heard Rush talk about this, but hadn't caught the context.
I agree on the business about little anger or debate ("that's just Ron being Ron"), and found it absolutely utterly useless to try and take part in any faculty "governance," such as the academic senate, committees, even the university speaker's committee. You are one voice in a dozen, never win a vote, and waste a phenomenal amount of time. Better to let the libs waste their time.
Instead, where I have put my energy is in three areas: 1) Teaching. My classes are always full, and no matter what the "curriculum" or university changes have been over the years, I teach them exactly as I wish, with nothing watered down and no liberal lies. Milton Friedman, Paul Johnson, Tom Sowell, Rush Limbaugh, Walter Williams, Frederich von Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, George Gilder, and Charles Murray are all mentioned frequently and discussed in detail when applicable. When Western Civ was perverted into a sort of "world" history, I continued to teach Western Civ.
(My teaching evaluations are among the highest in the department and occasionally, yes, I hit perfection in the eyes of the students. Rarely does so much as a single class ever fall below the department average---maybe three times in the last 10 years).
2) Research and writing. About a decade ago I decided to quit writing for other academics, despite good success (having published in almost every top journal, including the Journal of Southern History, Pacific Historical Review, and Business History Review, and having a half-dozen academic books that were, surprisingly, well-reviewed. Instead, I moved into trade publication where I could reach parents, make an end-run around textbook committees and required books, and get on media outlets to hit the broader public with these history messages. The result has been more than surprising. Just last week our book, A Patriot's History of the United States went over 50,000 sold and 72,000 in print.
3) Guerrilla tactics. We have brought in "independent" speakers, including Victor Davis Hanson, shown films such as "Obsession," and in other ways fought a guerrilla war within the university. When they catch on to one tactic, we do something else. When asked to chair committees, I only agree if it is understood that we go with the RIGHT answer, no matter how politically incorrect it might be.
Ironically, my "internal" judgments on university-level policies (whether this idea is good, or that program is beneficial) are often, if not always, proven out. More than once in a meeting I've had a liberal department member nudge me with an elbow as if to say, "You were right about that one." Despite that, it never seems to keep my colleagues from engaging in self-destructive behavior, including policies that cost some of them their jobs, pay them lower wages, or whatever. All I can do is say, "I told you so."
In case you are curious and want more insight into your fellow conservative academic
This is his home page
He is a mathematician at U Maryland
He has a blog which is really his writings on TownHall.com-—>>>