Saturday, December 06, 2003


Not Without My Daughter

I've received some very nice well-wishes via email over the last day or so, thanks mainly to the link to my blog posted by Erin O'Connor, to whom I am extremely grateful.

One email in particular was of interest, and actually inspired me to include a link in the sidebar to Amazon's page for the book Choosing the Right College.

This reader writes:

It's been 30 years since college, and since it was mostly engineering or science I rarely saw the raving lunatics. But I have sent two daughters to college and one came back so far left that she is currently a lobbyist for FCNL in DC (this is after getting a math engineering degree). Where would she be if she took poly sci?

What parents and students alike need to understand is that far too many in academia reason using the following syllogism:

(A) The job of a university instructor is to enlighten students and broaden their minds.
(B) "Liberal" thinking is the mark of an enlightened and broadened mind.
Therefore, the job of a university instructor is to instruct students in "liberal" thinking.

There are some problems with this syllogism. First off, although the syllogism may be valid, reasoning is not sound--the second premise is flawed, and for two reasons. The first reason is that the word liberal has undergone a dramatic transformation on the college campus since the 1960s. Liberalism is no longer classical liberalism, but radical leftism. But it is presented as classical liberalism--i.e., open-mindedness. So we have equivocation in the second premise, because liberal means one thing to a large portion of the population, but something altogether different when coming from the mouths of most members of the academy.

The second problem is that even classically liberal thinkers are not necessarily possessed of enlightened and broadened minds. There are certainly times when a conservative position is the mark of an enlightened and broadened mind, as most of the laws commonly accepted by all but those on the fringes of society demonstrate.

One would think that in the hallowed halls of higher learning, that such sloppy logic would never survive, but it actually flourishes. I have many colleagues who not only subscribe to this logic, but make it a deliberate point to try and rid their students of any vestiges of conservative or even moderate thinking that may have been instilled in them by their parents. Given that most of my immediate colleagues are graduate students, this is not surprising. Many of them are chronologically very close to their own teenage/young adult rebellious phase, and hope to inspire their students to follow in their footsteps, rejecting the traditional values of their parents in favor of the radical values of the youth culture to which they have subscribed.

And, since many professors are still reliving their own rebellious years--since academia doesn't require that one really take on the responsibilities of adulthood--it's not as if undergraduates are being discouraged from their rather mindless rebellion by the professors they encounter when they start taking upper-division courses. Often they are simply taught new ways in which to express their rebellious tendencies.

If I were a parent sending my child off to college, I would first make sure to pick a four-year college where there were no graduate students. This would not only insure that someone with a Ph.D. was teaching my child in every class, but it would keep my child's mind away from the radical notions that too many graduate students have embraced. Also, having taught at a number of institutions, I have found that where there are no graduate students, the professors actually seem to grow up a little more than they do where they are surrounded by graduate students whom they feel they need to impress with their radicalness.

Finally, if your daughter had taken poly sci, maybe she would be a little wiser in her politics than she is having picked up her politics from her peers and from professors who have no business pontificating on politics when it isn't even their field. That's not to say that poly sci isn't ridiculously left; but maybe she would have encountered some conservative or moderate political ideas as she was forced to master the material.

The reader closes the email by asking

Anyway great blog. Anything I can do to help wake up the masses to what 'higher education' (scare quotes intentional) is all about?

Yes. Tell anyone and everyone about your experiences. Be as thorough in explaining them as possible, and be certain to provide concrete examples of what you're talking about. Perhaps when these stories have reached a critical mass (a nod of the head to Erin O'Connor), the preponderance of the evidence will necessitate that something be done.

We are obviously in the midst of a conservative swing in this country. While I do not agree with everything the conservatives would like to do (I would not, for example, send my child to Bob Jones University, because I'm not in favor of that kind of brainwashing, either), it is possible that part of this swing will include taking notice of what this country's universities have turned into.

But we need to be vocal in our dissent.

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