Wednesday, November 5, 2008

It's been a slow education

I peruse The National Review's Corner every now and again for a larf (and sometimes to just scare myself; it's like riding a roller coaster) and came across this gem:
Preliminary indications are that the youth vote (ages 18-29) was way up: an increase of somewhere over 2.2 million (maybe way over) from 2004 (a year in which it was very high), and as much as 13% over 2000. The Left's dominance of the academy is now having a material impact on electoral politics.
Because, you know, even though I can barely get my students to read what I assign and form cogent thoughts, I definitely have the ability to brainwash them so they vote the way I do.

Looks like we should get ready for a renewed assault on our academic freedom from the right within the next few years. And just as I developed a way to work the liberal, socialist agenda into my lectures on Descartes. Fuck.


Update: A few commenters point us in the following direction. Thanks for the ammunition and keep up the fight against these zombie lies.


Anonymous said...

You have to read the New York Times article with documented evidence to the contrary:

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

Clearly, anybody who thinks we actually have enough influence to change the political views of our students has never spent much time with them.

Perhaps political conservatives ought to look at themselves and the world they created to see why the young folks are liberal.

Alias Smith and Jones said...

I assume that you were peeking at the NR for a "lark" and not a "larf".

Maybe I'm just unfamiliar with the new, hep-cat slang.

Anonymous said...

An assault without a guns, ammunition, or tanks, of course. You're talking as if the Republicans still have the White House and Congress, and the Senate. Keep up with the times, man. Any other "assault" is just called the war of ideas. That's good for democracy.

Anonymous said...

Apparently they haven't read this study:

Anonymous said...

Maybe they should look at the evidence:

Sisyphus said...


I heart STBJD, but I still miss PGS --- where has he gotten to?

Anonymous said...

Looks like the November JFP is up in PDF form, if you change the URL.

Soon-to-be Jaded Dissertator said...

Anons. who gave links:

Thanks, friend of PJMB RM pointed me in that direction too.

Alias Smith and Jones:

I meant 'larf', as in 'laugh'. Check the urban dictionary.

Anon. 4:54:

I'm up with the times, don't worry. I didn't mean to imply that I think it's going to come out of the government. It's not and in the recent past it really hasn't.

But, I do think it'll come from the usual right-wing sources, e.g., Davide Horowitz acolytes, College Republicans who seemingly take their marching orders from sites like NRO.

Don't fool yourself. These people are not interested in a war of ideas. They're interested in silencing the left and if they see academia as an arm of the left, you can be sure that they're going to renew their attacks.

Perhaps, I'm just blowing things out of proportion, and I probably am. It was one blog post. But, look, if there's one blog post already a day after the election about the left and academia, more will probably follow. And far from being a war of ideas that's beneficial, these attacks actually create an environment hostile to real and productive discussion.

Anonymous said...

Can we have a "funniest email from a student" thread? Or a "funniest line in a paper" thread? I need a good laugh.

bjk said...

The new mode of attack, if you want to call it that, is Western Civ institutes and programs, often funded from outside, like the program at Princeton with Robert George or at UofT with Thomas Pangle. As far as it's just an attempt to expand conventional liberal arts/western civ classes, it can only benefit, imo. The left should welcome constructive conservative attempts to influence curricula, or else the philosophy department will go the way of the classics department, and you'll all be teaching "critical thinking" to communications majors.

Anonymous said...

Any other "assault" is just called the war of ideas. That's good for democracy.

I hope you're having a larf. David Horowitz. Consider yourself counterexampled.

Anonymous said...

Of course, the formation of cogent thoughts isn't necessary to get people to affirm certain creeds, political views, or to repeat certain dogmas, or to fill in the bubbles in an election. The criticism being raised doesn't require that teachers are actually getting students to form coherent, well-formed, comprehensive ideologies.

Anonymous said...

the new jfp sucks.

Anonymous said...

I agree the Horowitz-type stuff is demagoguery and not conducive to productive discussion. It also plays the exclusion/victim card shamelessly while castigating "postmodernism" in academia.

Still, whether or not there's a direct influence on students' views, it's certainly significant that actual conservative political thought is not even on the radar of most of academia. The fact that the usual response is "What actual conservative political thought?" only confirms the point.

Think about this: if you're a conservative-leaning college student who wants to get into politics in and out of the classroom, where do you go in the university to learn political theory? If most of the best scholarship and classes take liberal presuppositions for granted, then the fact that they aren't directly indoctrinating people is beside the point (my point, that is, not the aforementioned demagoguery). Of course conservatives should be willing and eager to learn about the best liberal political theory and philosophy, but the point is that it's usually just taken for granted that there isn't an intellectually serious alternative. And of all people, readers of this blog should realize that academia is not an ideal meritocracy. Certain things get entrenched, and it begs the question just to hold that there's no intellectual value to things that aren't typically taught or written about in academia.

Anonymous said...

I agree with BJK; it makes sense that conservatism, since it currently suffers from woeful intellectual underdevelopment, should get some fora in which it can be articulated to the point at which a constructive engagement is possible. That's much healthier than the insider-outsider antagonism a la Horowitz, and more realistic than thinking that good conservative thought can gain entry "on the merits" into the academic conversation. Sometimes principles are sufficiently different that it takes some time developing each view before the two sides can engage productively.

That's why I don't get the people who object to having Hoover-type institutions founded at their schools. We're used to the idea of having special institutes and programs for excluded or underdeveloped approaches, like Gender studies, women's studies, Africana studies, etc etc, and we recognize the value of letting those approaches develop to the point where they can stand on their own two feet. Why is that not applicable to conservatism?

Anonymous said...

New JFP isn't encouraging. I think I've picked up two new positions to apply for, and I'm not certain that they weren't advertised previously. Good to see that USF has canceled its TT search and is now looking for a visiting chair instead.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you just suck as a teacher, STBJD. I'm totally brainwashing the little bastards. I will steal your children, conservative America!

Anonymous said...

Obvs I'm trying to turn my students into a brigade of pinko-feminist-vegetarians of complicated sexuality. But the folks over at Pharyngula keep insisting that playing Dungeons and Dragons is necessary to be a true threat to the "real America".

Two questions for PJMBers: (1) Do I really have to take up D&D? I already have a lot on my plate and I've never understood its appeal. (2) If I don't play D&D or a similar game, is there something else I should be doing to effectively corrupt America's youth?

Anonymous said...


Thomas Pangle is in U of T's Political Science program, where he inculcates throngs of cerebral grad students with the tenets of Straussian thought, preparing them to dominate the world of academe. Watch out might run into some political theorists who have read everything by Thucydides and Plato, and can tell you (tongue in cheek) why philosophers (read white upper-class educated males) should rule!

Anonymous said...

That's why I don't get the people who object to having Hoover-type institutions founded at their schools. We're used to the idea of having special institutes and programs for excluded or underdeveloped approaches, like Gender studies, women's studies, Africana studies, etc etc, and we recognize the value of letting those approaches develop to the point where they can stand on their own two feet. Why is that not applicable to conservatism?

I'm not sure I follow this. My school is getting the Bush think tank. Here's why I'm opposed to it. There's pretty good reason to think the crap they'll put out is intellectually dishonest. Unlike the work that is coming out of universities, it isn't subject to the critical standards of peer review and it isn't the result of inquiry that aims at being objective and dispassionate. They want to be associated with a university precisely because the work that comes from the university passes through these review processes and is supposed to be written by a community of scholars. I don't see a ton of difference between setting up a Bush think tank and setting up a think tank for 'scientists' paid by the tobacco lobby to associate with a university and disseminate the findings of their 'underdeveloped' approaches to smoking and cancer.

The approach pursued by the Bush think tank was excluded because it lost. It can't fight fair in fights about ideas, so it tries to bend the rules, getting a hearing without earning it.

If you think that conservatives have to rely on external funding to set up think tanks on college campuses, that's either because you think there's some vast conspiracy or you just don't think that conservatives can put forward ideas that pass muster. Which is it? I take it that the difference between a partisan think tank and the disciplines you mention is that these disciplines have their own subject matters. Partisan think tanks address a subject matter addressed already by academics without being held to the standards that academics are held to or aspiring to hold to those standards. That's why they ought to be kept away from campuses. (I don't want to comment directly on The Hoover Institute, it may well be governed differently than the wanna-be Hoover institute Bush is setting up at SMU.)

Anonymous said...

"the new jfp sucks."

Indeed: why would anyone advertise the same position in 179, 179W, AND 180? What are the chances that a potential applicant missed the ad TWICE?

Time for that searchable database of job ads -- really.

Anonymous said...

Anon. 4:12

"If you think that conservatives have to rely on external funding to set up think tanks on college campuses, that's either because you think there's some vast conspiracy or you just don't think that conservatives can put forward ideas that pass muster. Which is it?"

I reject the dichotomy. It doesn't take a "vast conspiracy" to rule out the acceptance of ideas that might turn out to be important or valid or whatever. Just look at the history of any discipline. Certain ideas aren't taken seriously during a certain time period, but then become part of respectable academic discourse in that discipline, either because somebody brilliant comes along and articulates some approach that had been thought worthless or unworkable (or that hadn't even been entertained at all), or because the presuppositions of the discipline change for one reason or another and something which had seemed unserious is recognized as perfectly plausible. One glance at, say, metaethics during the twentieth century will confirm this.
Another example, almost too easy: continental philosophy. One doesn't have to believe in a vast analytic conspiracy to think that lots of continental stuff would be rejected as gobbledy-gook by Analysis. Nevertheless lots of people would say its perfectly reasonable for some departments, or cohorts within departments, to take a continental approach. And here one can't avoid the point by saying there's just a difference of subject matter. That may be true to an extent, but there's definite overlap in subject matter between Continental and analytic philosophy.
I don't think there's an in-principle reason conservatives can't present ideas that "past muster," but if your presuppositions are different enough it's not just a question of putting the ideas out there. Scholarship doesn't work that way; one typically has to engage the conversation in the literature, and that usually means accepting a certain amount of shared starting-points. You can't sufficiently delimit your topic if you have to clarify your differences with everything that's been written on the topic for the past 70 years. IF you're super brilliant you can write a huge book doing so, but even in that case it probably won't be taken seriously until you can get some of your students to work out the details, fleshing out points, etc. If, on the other hand, you are writing within a group of scholars that takes your approach seriously without requiring you initially to justify yourself against the prevailing literature, then you can develop a body of work that does, as a whole, engage that literature. That's what I meant by saying that such an institution would let conservative thought develop enough to stand on its own two feet.
I don't know any of the details of the institute at your school; it may very well be a cynical hack job for all I know. In which case, I salute you for your opposition.

Anonymous said...

Following up: It's a perfectly familiar scenario in academia for two different and perhaps incompatible approaches to the same subject matter to be accepted as respectable ways of being a scholar, usually in different departments or programs. (Imperfect) example: philosophy of science and SSK-type history of science. There was an ideal of a unified discipline of HPS, but eventually philosophy of science decided it wasn't worth it to argue this stuff and went on about its business. The opposing side didn't completely die, but it migrated elsewhere in the university. Not a perfect example, since arguably the SSK stuff and its spawn is just tripe, but the point is this: it's often not worthwhile to constantly duke it out over foundational issues in one and the same field. It's like Kuhn's "normal science" - a certain amount of consensus, at least on what the questions are, is required to make possible the bite-sized puzzle-solving that most of us do to get published. (The Gettier paper wouldn't have made a lick of sense to people if certain things about the structure of concepts weren't presupposed. And you can't make all the presuppositions explicit at once.) Where there's serious enough disagreement, the two camps will for the most part stop talking to each other, at least enough so that they can develop their own internal questions and pursue topics on their own terms. That's not to say the argument is over, but that some institutional separation or distance crops up, whether it be the formation of a new journal or a new department or whatever. I think it's perfectly plausible to take that sort of line on conservative political thought.

bjk said...

So conservatives are fine if they work on Rawls on the Gettier problem, huh? As long as they work on narrow problems based on shared premises? So conservatives are fine, as long as they're not conservatives! That's very generous.

mr. zero said...

I get very tired of hearing conservatives whine about how they've been discriminated against. I doubt that there's a vast, left-wing conspiracy keeping them out of academia, but if there were, I still don't see why it would matter that much. After all, until recently, this conspiracy has had a very difficult time keeping them out of government, where they have actually done real damage. Between 1994 and 2006, conservatives controlled 4 1/2 seats on the Supreme Court, both houses of Congress, and after 2000, the Presidency. That's the entire Federal Government for a long period of time.

In that time, we've seen the government shut down because Bill Clinton wouldn't let Newt Gingrich ride in Air Force One; the 9/11 terrorist attacks; the pointless and disastrous war in Iraq; the inept and disastrous response to Hurricane Katrina; and the collapse of the financial system. Now that the tide of public opinion is turning against them, they have the gall to suggest that it's because there are not enough conservative college teachers?

Puh-lease. Give me a break.

Anonymous said...

Could someone post the link to the November JFP?

Anonymous said...

It's not rocket science, Anon 9:57. You just manually change the URL.

Anonymous said...

Where's that real good conservative thought that can't make it on its own into academia? Links? Articles? Books? Definite descriptions? Help. Look, we've already made room for Robert George's crap, we really need to lose valuable parking space to set up entire think tanks for less bright versions of him?

Here's what my guess is. My conservative students don't want to work like I work. Maybe they are non-representative, but they just don't have the values I do. I work my ass off for no money. They want to work their asses off for money. Make academic life the kind of life that they want, and we'll have some real competition.

mr zero said...

The guy who wrote the Bush torture memos has a job in academia.

Anonymous said...

Once again, Mr. Zero FTW!

JZ said...

The mere fact that so many people think that the Bush administration is "conservative" shows the total dominance of leftism in our culture. Bush advocates multiculturalism, open borders, human equality and universalism. No rightist would have advocated any of those things at any time from the French Revolution until about 1970. That alone is enough to make Bush a leftist, by any rational standard. Same goes for all so-called "conservatives" who share these beliefs. Yes, his leftist positions are combined with some flag waving and the occasional belch about "family" or whatever. But that's meaningless, just window dressing for the stupid base. What he actually stands for is in no way conservative.

On all the issues that actually matter, leftist positions rule. Think of what happened to Summers at Harvard when he made some mild, empirically plausible claims about sex inequalities. It was if he'd gone on television and talked about how much he likes raping retarded babies. When "equality" is the ruling idea of a society, that society is leftist.

The only question is whether you're a right-leftist, a center-leftist or a left-leftist. Generally politicians belong to one of the first two groups and academics belong to one of the second two. There are no conservatives in any position of power or influence anywhere in the western world. What do I mean by a "conservative"? For a start, someone who wants to conserve something concrete and particular, such as his own race, nation, culture or tradition. That means accepting all kinds of inequalities as pre-conditions for those goods. You guys have no idea what conservatism would be.

I can only imagine that you guys fail to see the dominance of leftism precisely because it is so completely dominant. A bit of anecdotal evidence. Almost every humanities course I ever took, whether in undergrad or in grad school, had an anti-white, anti-western and anti-male slant. In the readings, in the ideas discussed, in what was considered discussable.

You could quite easily do an entire degree - in Women's Studies, say - and read nothing but critiques of whites, western civ and men. (Sontag: "The white race is the cancer of human history", etc.) Where is the corresponding program for conservatives, in which one reads nothing but pro-white, pro-western and pro-masculine texts? It's not as if none exist, and it's not as if more couldn't be written today. But let me know what university offers a degree of that kind. Of course, it would be just as bad to have a conservative program as blinkered as Women's Studies. My point is that the mere fact that the one exists and is considered normal whereas the other doesn't and would be considered evil and insane is proof of how far to the left our whole society is.

mr zero said...


I guess I thought that the National Review people were conducting their discussion in the context of the current political environment within the United States. What passes for "conservative" in that environment would obviously seem pretty liberal to some Nazi, but who gives a shit? Did you think that the NRO people were complaining that nobody in academia wants to conserve the white race? Their complaint is, nobody in our (relatively) conservative club is in academia, and so the young people are all (relatively) liberal, and that's why we've gotten our asses handed to us in the past two (American federal) elections. Did you have something to add to that discussion? No? You just want to have a semantic argument about who the real "conservatives" are? Ok.

For the rest of you, here's a nice article from The Economist about the current anti-intellectual tenor of the GOP. Fair warning, though: they insist upon using the term 'conservative' to describe it.

J-Z said...

"Did you think that the NRO people were complaining that nobody in academia wants to conserve the white race?"

Of course not. They are radical leftists too, albeit on the right end of the radical left. There is no serious opposition to the radical left. If there were such a thing, it might deserve the name "conservatism". But this is not a semantic claim about who gets to be called a "conservative". It is a substantive claim about the vast tracts of moral and political and philosophical thought that have been systematically erased from our culture.

The fact that you think only "some Nazi" would be interested in the continued existence and well being of his own people is just the kind of thing I had in mind. You assume that there are only two options: be a radical leftist, which really means hating whites, the west and men, or be a Nazi. In other words: either you hate the basis of everything that gives your life value and (pardon the presumption) yourself, or you're the most evil thing there is. And where did this assumption come from? Might it have had anything to do with your education, from kindergarten to grad seminars? No, of course not. Only dumb hicks talk about leftist "bias". As the New York Times has proven, there is no such thing.

mr. zero said...

Hi J-Z,

The fact that you think that I think that only Nazis are interested in preserving the white race shows that you don't understand how examples work.

But you're right to point out that not everybody who hates whites is a Nazi. I apologize for seeming to paint you with that brush; I was being careless with my racists. You do seem to think that there's something wrong with not being in love with the white race, though. How do you feel about George Wallace?

As far as "the vast tracts of moral and political and philosophical thought that have been systematically erased from our culture," I say, good riddance. If the NRO is the Radical Left, I don't want to be Right.

mr. zero said...

whoops. There's a fuckup up there.