Here's a premise that many conservative thinkers worry about on a regular basis: Academia is overloaded with liberal professors and researchers who force their left-wing views onto susceptible students. As the New York Times noted the other day, the American Enterprise Institute's Michael Barone had weighed in recently about the “liberal thugocracy” and questioning whether the left was getting its direction from liberals on college campuses.
Not to worry, the Times article suggested. Recent studies from several groups of researchers show that any liberal indoctrination doesn't seem to be taking hold. One professor, A. Lee Fritschler of George Mason University told the Times that if that has been the aim of the academic left, “they've done a pretty bad job.”
Fritschler and a co-author of a book on the supposed closed-mind phenomena appear to have reached the same conclusion as that of many parents: you can hardly change the mind of anyone over 15. That certainly mirrors our experience, at least anecdotally.
As Matthew Woessner and April Kelly-Woessner put it in their research, “There is no evidence that an instructor's views instigate political change among students,” the Times went on.
Perhaps so. But the Times also notes another concern of conservatives that liberals ought to share: the possibility that fewer ideas spanning the ideological spectrum are being shared on campus.
And there is another concern – that fewer courses once regarded as part of the liberal arts curriculum are being taught – particularly in history, civics and literature. It's not so much that liberal professors aren't teaching conservative ideas, as it is that colleges aren't offering the kinds of courses that once were regarded as mainstays of our understanding of the American experience and our fundamental social contract.
After an invigorating national election that engaged millions of Americans who never before paid attention to politics, it's worth reflecting on the value of teaching, and learning, how we got from where we started just a few hundred years ago to this point in our history.
If we fail to understand our past and the clash of ideas that transformed this democracy from one saturated with slavery to one with a black man elected to the White House, we may have real trouble fashioning our future.