Multiple folks around the Internet have highlighted a remarkable column from progressive writer Nicholas Kristof. After observing on Facebook a conspicuous difficulty for would-be academics who are conservative, and being surprised by the viciousness of his “friends,” Kristof writes:
To me, the conversation illuminated primarily liberal arrogance — the implication that conservatives don’t have anything significant to add to the discussion. My Facebook followers have incredible compassion for war victims in South Sudan, for kids who have been trafficked, even for abused chickens, but no obvious empathy for conservative scholars facing discrimination.
The stakes involve not just fairness to conservatives or evangelical Christians, not just whether progressives will be true to their own values, not just the benefits that come from diversity (and diversity of thought is arguably among the most important kinds), but also the quality of education itself. When perspectives are unrepresented in discussions, when some kinds of thinkers aren’t at the table, classrooms become echo chambers rather than sounding boards — and we all lose.
Well, yes. Anybody who was a vocal conservative in a college classroom any time within at least the last quarter century knows what that echo chamber sounds like. Anecdotally, though, it seems as if things have gotten far worse; at least when I was a college upstart, the professors seemed to appreciate having a foil, and although some would notch down grades or demure from the writing of grad school recommendations, they at least gave the impression of mutual respect.
Those unwritten recommendations appear to have worked their magic, though, and all but emptied campuses of conservative professors precisely in areas in which having a diversity of worldviews is most important.
Kristof cites a study that seems to suggest that conservatives/Republicans engage in similarly biased behavior when it’s available, but such a finding should raise questions. After all, it’s entirely possible that liberals exclude conservatives in academic settings for malicious reasons while conservatives would (at least in an experimental setting) exclude liberals because they know their fellow conservatives need all the help they can get.
Until evidence suggests otherwise, I’m inclined to return, for an explanation, to the ideological insecurity I mentioned earlier today and add in the deliberate (if often subconscious) “march through the institutions.” This is how the Left has undermined a strong, culturally confident civilization: by infecting and overwhelming the institutions that allowed it to transmit its confidence and to build upon the virtues that gave it something to be confident about.