Friday, May 12, 2006

University of Peking, Northfield Campus

I was just watching some program on CNN (I didn't recognize the show while watching, but I surmise it was Glenn Beck). Anyway, he was harping on the college liberalism talking point with a guest from the Hudson Institute. It's incredible how divorced from reality these folks are. I listen, half incredulous, half appalled, in a vain effort to find something in these tirades that speaks to my actual experience. After all, I go to the famously liberal Carleton College. And while I'm certainly not a conservative, I do hold certain beliefs that challenge the mythical academic orthodoxy, like supporting the Iraq war and advocating increased conservative presence on campus. Yet aside from a few scattered incidents, what's amazing is how geniune the commitment to free engagement and open dialogue has been here.

Alas, reality has long since abandoned those who are waging a war on the American educational system. Beck's interlocutor actually compared the "indoctrination" one finds in a typical American college to what one would find at the University of Peking in communist China. Are they for real? Mr. Beck said that liberal professors want a free flow of ideas, so long as the topic is pornography or abortion. I don't think I ever have had an assignment pertaining to abortion, and the only time I've read on pornography was in Feminist Theory, where we examined Catherine MacKinnon's claim that it was a civil rights violation against women. Damn those liberals, corrupting American culture with their strident opposition to pornography! I'm sorry, but if a Zionist hawk who wrote his final paper urging feminist theorists to support more American military interventions abroad can get an "A" from a professor with a UCLA Ph.D specializing in women's roles in Arab liberation movements (and if this same professor offered to give me advice in trying to get one of my other papers published), then I'm not too worried about bias effecting my learning experience.

Beck offered (I assume half-satirically) a "pledge" that college age students could make to their parents. It consists of three parts (I'm paraphrasing from memory):
1) I will be a barrier between liberal ideals and truth.

2) If I am tempted to "the dark side" I will discuss things for at least an hour with my parents.

3) If after an hour I still disagree with my parents, then I will proudly assert my independence with the understanding that they will no longer pay for my tuition.

Gosh, what a contrast! I mean, I'm sure seeing a commitment to free inquiry and open minds present in that pledge that's missing from contemporary academia. Disagree with your parents, get your tuition cut off! That's the way to foster that independent spirit!

I've urged that Carleton attempt to provide more balance in its political alignment, if only to make debates more interesting. And there will always be horror stories that make the news. But folks like Beck are simply talking non-sense in how they portray the general contemporary college climate. Things aren't nearly as bad as they make them out to be. And I honestly think that nearly anyone who actually is present in a mainstream college or university will attest to that.


Dyre42 said...

Glenn Beck is a Limbaugh wannabe. His show's been on a week and and he's already ran so far to the right since the first episode that I won't watch. I'm certain that the intent is to be inflammatory solely to snag conservative viewers to CNN from Fox.

Jon Swift said...

I'm afraid this post is entirely too reasonable for the Internet. In fact, I detect a disturbing amount of rationality in many of your posts. Did you not get the memo on proper blogging?

The probligo said...

I think that you have just explained why I thought there was something wrong with Auckland Uni.

My son did his degree and diploma there and is now a strong supporter of the far right NZ political party.

Dr. Virago said...

Hi. I came here by way of The Green Knight, who linked to you. I just wanted to thank you for a voice of reason from an *actual* college student. When we professors say the same kind of reasonable things the Horowitzes and Horowitz-wannabes insist we're only protecting our turf. We need more voices from the students to end this ideological war. In fact, since much of the rhetoric about colleges indoctrinating students is deeply and offensively patronizing of students (as if they can't think for themselves and are passive blank slates) you'd think more students, even conservative ones, would be up in arms about their infantilization.

Anyway, thanks. You rock. (Yes, very professor-like of me to say "you rock." :) )

Anonymous said...

David you can't speak more truth.

Even attending University in the supposedly "ultra-liberal" city of Montreal, CA I find the balance of ideas on campus to be... well in balance. As chair of exhibition debates for the McGill Debating Union I think I can proudly say that in our 7 public events last year we had a strong mix of individuals from a variety of political persuasions.

Our debating Union, while probably more moderate and slightly more conservative than the rest of campus bosts both the presidents of "Green Party McGill" and "Conservative McGill"

thefreefood said...

Don't be silly David, Carleton is the epitome of censorship and closed-mindedness.

The ISI Guide to Colleges (written by some of the same folks) really puts this to rest. They say something to the effect of "the fact that Carleton doesn't have a speech code obviously means that dissenting viewpoints are intimidated into submission." Never mind the fact that they rail against schools that actually have speech codes with equal fervor.

I also liked the part where they pick out 'frivolous' classes. Classes like Environmental Ethics, which I recall being on the list. You know, because ethics are only the pillar of Western thought when no one talks about their real-world application.

Silly Carleton. Its a wonder they aggregate students' blog posts uncensored.