Bizarre Attacks on Conservatives

Watch out! Conservative ideas might subject you and your family to thuggish home invasions. Even more creepy, conservative ideas might get you erased from your own personal history. As we observe American conservatism from the outside here at ILYBYGTH, we’ve noticed the steady stream of conservative complaints about persecution. Today’s crop of victim alerts, though, rises to a new level of weirdness.

As one sophisticated and good-looking regular reader of I Love You but You’re Going to Hell (SAGLRROILYBYGTH) noted recently, conservatives are not the only ones to emphasize their own status as victims. Patrick asked,

Who doesn’t emphasize their own victimhood these days? Perhaps the question should be why doing so has become an American tradition. One way of looking at it is to point out that we are an optimistic bunch, perpetually hopeful that if we consistently expose unfairness and hypocrisy, we will help solve the problem by raising awareness of it. Why else would the news always be so depressing?

It makes intuitive sense that every side in our tumultuous culture wars would complain loudly about their own suffering. It is the same dynamic as any family squabble. Victims get justice. Aggressors get punished, at least in theory.

Bubbling up from the conservative commentariat this morning we find two new claims to victimhood. In Wisconsin, we hear, conservative activists have been subjected to jackbooted attacks. And one high school has taken steps to erase its memory of one of its conservative graduates.

First, to Wisconsin: David French’s exposé of hardball culture-war politics tells the story of mild-mannered conservative families subjected to brutal attack. In the aftermath of Wisconsin’s Act 10, conservatives have been targeted as part of a concerted campaign to embarrass and humiliate them. In short, according to French, Milwaukee District Attorney John Chisholm pushed a “John Doe” investigation of Wisconsin conservatives.

In this kind of investigation, proceedings are kept secret. Investigators have wide latitude to seize relevant documents. As a result, conservative activists had their homes invaded by terrifying police agents. Doors were pounded on. Floors were stomped on. Children were shaken out of bed. Neighbors gathered and gaped. Conservatives were threatened. Computers and phones were seized. Dogs barked.

As French put it, “For select conservative families across five counties, this was the terrifying moment — the moment they felt at the mercy of a truly malevolent state.”

These raids turned at least one Wisconsin conservative into an outlaw, in her imagination at least. As she explains,

I used to support the police, to believe they were here to protect us. Now, when I see an officer, I’ll cross the street. I’m afraid of them. I know what they’re capable of.


Conservatives targeted for home invasions precisely because of their conservative activism. Police used as intimidation agents, to harass and intimidate political activists. All bluster aside, these are profoundly disturbing charges.

Even more bizarre, though, is the story coming from a Baltimore high school. Ryan T. Anderson, an outspoken opponent of gay marriage, was first lauded, then removed, from his high school’s Facebook page.

Anderson had been the subject of a front-page story in the Washington Post. The article called Anderson a “fresh voice” for traditional marriage.

At first, according to a story in the Heritage Foundation’s Daily Signal, Anderson’s high school posted news of this alumni success on its Facebook page. Later, the school took down the post. Why? In the words of school head Matt Micciche,

I can understand why the belief that Mr. Anderson’s views were being endorsed by the school would be deeply troubling to some members of our community. The nature of these views goes beyond the realm of abstract political ideology and calls into question the fitness of same-sex families to raise children and the right of gay and lesbian citizens to marry the person they love. While Mr. Anderson undoubtedly has the right to express such views, by posting this article we created legitimate confusion as to whether or not they were being validated by the school.

Maybe it is less scary to be removed from Facebook than to have one’s house broken into by aggressive police, but the implications of this Baltimore story are, IMHO, more sinister.

We're proud of our alumni!  Oh,

We’re proud of our alumni! Oh, wait…no.

By removing notice of the significant conservative accomplishments of Anderson, his alma mater, in effect, suggested that conservatism is somehow shady, illegitimate, disreputable . . . even shameful.

I don’t say this as an endorsement of Anderson’s ideas. Nor do I claim to understand the intricacies of Wisconsin’s culture-war politics. For those of us trying to understand conservatism and the culture wars, though, both these stories raise important questions:

  • Is it legitimate to oppose same-sex marriage?
  • Do conservatives have a claim to victimhood?
  • Do these strange stories offer proof that conservative thinkers and activists have been uniquely and unfairly persecuted?

From the Archives: To Educate a Fundamentalist

What do fundamentalists learn in school? As I continue my research into evangelical higher education this week at the Moody Bible Institute archives, I’ve found a couple of clues about what went on in fundamentalist classrooms.

It is always one of the trickiest things for historians to pry behind the classroom door. We can study the institutional goings-on at schools. We can look at the paper trail of rules, curriculum changes, textbook decisions, and the like. But it is extremely difficult to discover what real students really did.

Thanks to the voluminous collections at MBI, I’ve found some hints of what fundamentalist learning looked like. One scrapbook collection from the early 1940s includes assignments and study guides. For example, this student turned in eighteen assignments from a book on missions. (The first fourteen were on time, the last four late. What happened during those last weeks?) The assignment was clear: Students were to read the book The Progress of World-Wide Missions, by Robert H. Glover. They were to write answers to a series of questions posed by the instructor.IMG_1938[1]

For this student, at least, the process was one of regurgitating facts and opinions from the book. She did not offer any of her own thoughts on the subject, nor did that seem to be encouraged.

This student also left behind her set of study guides about Biblical dispensations. The theology taught at MBI hinged on dispensational premillennialism. Bible history (and future) was divided into a series of periods, or dispensations. In each dispensation, God ruled according to dispensationally appropriate guidelines. In order to make sense of the Bible, according to this system, it was necessary to understand the various dispensations at work.IMG_1954[1]

It seems fair to assume that these study guides were meant to provide students with help memorizing the details of each dispensation. When students had memorized these facts forward and backward, they could presumably read the Bible correctly. This system was the key to “rightly dividing the Word of Truth.” Without it, students and their future missionary targets could end up with woefully misleading interpretations of Scripture.

From the Archives: Good GPA, Good SATs, “Well-Rounded,” and…

How did fundamentalist colleges select their students? Despite my hilarious title this morning, until World War II admissions were not usually based on standardized test scores or high-school grades and activities. During my research this week at the Moody Bible Institute, I found one example of admission standards from 1930 that tells us a lot.

Sometime between World War I & World War II, American colleges and universities developed standard admissions procedures. Until then, students could take an examination to prove they were prepared. Some colleges worked out deals with local high schools to admit all their graduates. Plus, colleges often admitted many students who were not adequately prepared, then sent them to the school’s preparatory department.

In the 1920s, as Roger Geiger argues in his new book, colleges such as Yale and Princeton devised standardized tests. Not to offer an equal playing field, but to test for those qualities polished by the kinds of prep schools fancy families preferred. In fact, one intended consequence of these tests was to give schools some justification for turning down new numbers of qualified Jewish applicants.

Fundamentalist colleges and Bible institutes had different standards. At many fundamentalist colleges, students from any religious background were welcome, as long as they observed the lifestyle rules and attended mandatory religious services.

At Moody Bible Institute, on the other hand, incoming students had to prove they were on board with the school’s fundamentalist theology. Until the 1940s, new students did not have to prove they had completed high school. But they had to offer solid proof that they were invested in the school’s soul-winning ambition.

Each applicant in the 1920s and 1930s had to offer three references. Those folks were asked to fill out a four-page reference form. Some of the questions were fairly ho-hum: How long have you known the applicant? Is the applicant strong intellectually? But others were unique to this kind of conservative evangelical institution: “Has he to your knowledge ever backslidden? If so, when, and what were the circumstances?” “Has he a genuine love for souls?” “Is he discreet in his conduct toward women?” “Has he any doctrinal, or other peculiarities that would unfit him for Christian work?”

One referee offered a telling answer to this last question on an application from 1930. Is the applicant theologically peculiar? “No, he is a fundamentalist.”



In 1930, to this referring pastor at least, being a “fundamentalist” meant eschewing any of the heterodox theological options available. Fundamentalists in this era worried not only about secularism and atheism, but also about close theological cousins that might lure away earnest believers. As I argued in my first book, in the 1920s fundamentalism struggled to define itself against such conservative near neighbors as Seventh-day Adventism, Christian Science, or Pentecostalism.

The theological reefs and snares included some terms that have been lost to time. In the 1920s, fundamentalists worried about “Bullingerism” and “Russellism” among their ranks. The danger was not only that such students would not embrace the school’s mission. The stark danger was that such attractive theological ideas could spread like wildfire among the student body.

Schools such as MBI worked hard to be sure each incoming student was free from such spiritual contagion, just as they tried to be sure incoming students were free from tuberculosis and smallpox.

The Other School Reformers

Binghamtonians!  Are you busy next Tuesday nite?  You are now!

The place to be...

The place to be…

Come on down to RiverRead Books at 6:30 for a talk about my new book, The Other School Reformers. I’ll be sharing some of the questions that I’ve been wrestling with for the past decade or so, including the following things that keep me up at night:

  • What has it meant to be “conservative” about education?
  • Are our schools “conservative?” “Progressive?”
  • Why do conservatives love high-stakes testing?  Creationism? “Patriotic” education?
  • Should public schools teach “traditional” values?  Which ones?
  • And more!

Academic Freedom vs. Creation College

nnu crusaders

President Alexander’s Last Crusade?

What is a college president to do? At conservative religious colleges, leaders are in a real pickle. Hosting faculty with unpopular beliefs could lead to a loss of tuition dollars. Getting rid of them could lead to charges of dictatorial ambition. At Northwest Nazarene University in Idaho, President David Alexander fired Thomas Jay Oord. Now Alexander has to deal with the consequences.

First, some background. According to Christianity Today, Alexander’s administration claims that the firing was due to financial straits. Professor Oord taught theology for a decade at the college and had earned a reputation for teaching evolution and “open theology.”

The faculty senate at NNU has protested the administration’s move. The school’s financial future is rosy, according to the faculty. Oord’s firing, they say, is more about reputation than budget.

As at many other conservative religious colleges, that reputation can be difficult to protect. As we’ve discussed in these pages, college leaders face intense pressure to remain orthodox. Parents and alumni control the pursestrings. Such folks can be ferocious defenders of traditional values.

School leaders are forced not only to keep teaching orthodox, but to avoid any appearance of liberalism. If a professor like Oord becomes well known for favoring theistic evolution, it can tarnish the creationist reputation of a college. Parents will send their creationist children elsewhere. Alumni will keep their money.

From the Archives: What’s a Popular Fundamentalist to Do?

It’s not easy being the king. During my digging yesterday in the Moody Bible Institute archives, I came across a plaintive letter that typified the social difficulties some fundamentalists have experienced in higher education.

Help...I'm popular!

Help…I’m popular!

Here’s the background: An alumnus wrote to President James M. Gray in 1930, asking for advice. This former MBI student had moved on to George Washington University after his preparatory time at the Institute. MBI, the student reported, had prepared him for life in the secular academy. As he told President Gray,

During my first year here at the school I encountered much by way of modernism, so called, especially in such departments as history and natural science. While none of the teaching has perturbed me, yet the atmosphere is not nearly so buoyant as that at Moody.

So far, so good. One of the primary goals of Bible institutes has been to prepare students to enter secular higher education. Once inoculated against secularism and liberalism by one or two years of Bible study, the thinking went, students could go to regular colleges and learn to be productive Christian members of society.

Even when that plan worked, as with our 1930 letter-writer, it was not always easy. This MBI alumnus could handle the religious and intellectual challenges of life at a secular school. But it was harder to figure out the social ones. He did not know what to do about good friends who were not fundamentalists. As he asked President Gray,

What shall I do about amusements? I am somewhat popular with no small number here at the university and because of my having received, last year, an athletic scholarship I was invited to many fraternity functions. My friends at the school are they who dance, play bridge and while these amusements are out of the question for me, what about the identifying of myself with perfectly good fellows in fraternity? Will I be a better influence to remain out of them or, in entering them, abstain from the amusements and thereby make my Christian testimony conspicuous by the abstinence?

MBI Kind of Town…

What did you do after high school? Did you go to a “college?” Or was it a “university,” “institute,” a “normal school,” or maybe a “professional school?” For generations of ambitious Protestant missionaries, the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago has been the best-known institution of evangelical higher ed. So much so that MBI has clung to the “BI” name much longer than many other evangelical colleges.

DOWNtown funk...

DOWNtown funk…

I just rolled into Chi-town on the last of my research trips this year. As SAGLRROILYBYGTH are well aware, I’m working on a book about the history of evangelical higher ed. This year, I’ve traveled to Bob Jones University, Wheaton College, Biola University, Gordon College, and Liberty University.

MBI is last, but certainly not least. I’ve logged my share of time in these archives over the years, especially while working on my PhD dissertation and first book. MBI is not the oldest Bible Institute, but it has remained far and away the most influential.

For those outside of the orbit of evangelical culture, the primary goal of Bible institutes has been to provide quick and affordable education for missionaries. In order to serve effectively on the mission field, many evangelicals have believed, missionaries need a thorough knowledge of the Bible. In order to bring people to true salvation, missionaries need a proper knowledge, too.

Beginning in the late 1800s, Bible institutes popped up in American cities nationwide. Many of them attracted students without a lot of academic preparation. These students, after all, were not heading into the traditional professions, but rather heading out to spread the Gospel in every land. They did not need to know Latin and trigonometry, but rather only the Bible and maybe some basic medicine and language skills.

Over the decades, many of these Bible institutes turned into colleges or universities of one kind or another. This was part of the triple revolution in higher education that Roger Geiger describes in his new book, The History of American Higher Education. By 1940, Professor Geiger argues, the wild diversity of early institutions of higher education had become standardized, a recognizable modern system of American higher education.

In this system, no one went to college without first completing a high-school education. They looked forward to an education that would prepare them for specific professions. Colleges themselves closed their preparatory departments or split them off into stand-along high schools. Universities had shaken out into a relatively stable hierarchy of prestige and social influence. At the top were wealthy old schools such as Harvard and the University of Michigan. At these universities, undergraduate education rollicked along in a cloud of sports, fraternities, and social climbing, while the schools themselves fought viciously to increase their research footprint.

As this modern system regularized itself in the years after World War I, several types of institutions phased out. These evolutionary also-rans included many institutes of technology, proprietary medical or legal schools, “female institutes,” normal schools, and—though Professor Geiger doesn’t mention them—most of the Bible institutes.

These old-fashioned types of higher education did not disappear. Rather, most of them changed to offer the new standard bachelor’s degrees. Many of them built new dormitories and fielded sports teams. And most of them took their place in the competitive hierarchy that arched from Harvard down to Podunk State College & Grill.

A very few exceptions stood out from this winnowing process, at least symbolically. Some of the old-fashioned institutions of higher education had been so successful in the 1800s that they felt no need to change their names, even as they usually adopted some of the features of modern higher education. Most notably, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology never changed its name to call itself a “college” or a “university.” MIT began as one of a scramble of “institutes of technology” in the years surrounding the Civil War. Unlike today’s MIT, the early institutes did not focus on recognizably pure modern research. Instead, they mostly provided students with a more practical mechanical education meant for workers in industrial workshops.

As more and more students wanted to spend their tuition dollars at a “college” or “university” that took its place in the ever-more-rigid hierarchy after World War I, most of these “institutes of technology” turned themselves into “colleges” or “universities.”

Following a somewhat similar pattern, since 1940 most of the crop of Bible institutes that sprang up around the turn of the twentieth century turned themselves into “colleges” or “universities.” Biola University, for example, began its life as the Bible Institute of Los Angeles—BIOLA, get it? Gordon College, too, had its roots as the Boston Missionary Training School. As early Gordon President Nathan Wood remembered, the first name change—to Gordon College of Theology and Missions—resulted from student pressure.   Three class presidents, Wood recalled, requested

a change of name to one which would express the collegiate and theological work of the school. . . . It meant much to them as future Alumni.

To put it in terms Wood never used, the Gordon students recognized early the congealing patterns of modern American higher education. A “training school” did not convey the same prestige and professional opportunities as did a “college.”

For some stand-out schools, however, these rules did not apply. Moody Bible Institute was so well known among evangelicals its name sufficed to keep students coming. There was no need for it to change its name to acknowledge the changing environment of American higher education. Like MIT, MBI had created such a unique niche in higher education that it kept its old fashioned name and much of its old-fashioned structure. Also like MIT, MBI took on many of the features of modern higher education. Unlike in its early days, MBI now offers college degrees, not just Bible training.

Doubtless, I’ll find some evidence here in the archives about efforts over the years to change MBI’s name. Unlike smaller schools, however, MBI had the size needed to stand out as an island in the new seas of modern higher education.

Conservatives Win a Prize They No Longer Want

A new report about racial segregation in Connecticut’s schools raises a painful historical reminder for conservatives: Conservatives, both white and African American, often promoted school segregation as a central tenet of conservative ideology. These days, mainstream conservatives want to shed their historic legacy of racism. Ironically, that means that no conservative is claiming “credit” for the current resurgence of racial segregation in schools.

The report from Gary Orfield’s Civil Rights Project praises Connecticut’s schools. Unlike most states, Connecticut has made real progress in racial integration of schools. In other states, though, public schools are becoming more starkly segregated.

Sixty years ago, this would have been cause for conservative celebration. Though they don’t like to be reminded, conservatives embraced racial segregation back then as a central plank in the conservative platform. At National Review, for example, William F. Buckley Jr. took a stand in favor of continued white supremacy in the South.

As Neil McMillen made clear in his history of the White Citizens’ Councils, too, leading segregationists consistently tied their racist policies to the broader 1950s conservative movement. In his famous “Black Monday” speech, for example, Mississippi Circuit Court Judge Thomas Pickens Brady denounced the US Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board decision in both racist and anti-communist terms. Not only would school desegregation lead to “amalgamation” of the races, Brady charged, it was also part of a “socialistic” scheme to degrade southern traditions.

Back then, conservatism = segregationism

Back then, conservatism = segregationism

As McMillen tells us, southern segregationists often joined and led other leading conservative organizations. Georgia’s R. Carter Pittman, for example, not only led his local white supremacist Citizens’ Council, but also joined the John Birch Society, the Liberty Lobby, and Billy James Hargis’s Christian Crusade.

Many white segregation leaders in the 1950s embraced religious conservatism as well. The Citizens’ Councils denounced “pinkos in the pulpit” who had declared “private enterprise, rugged individualism, and conservatism in politics . . . equally un-Christian.”

The historical record is clear, if awkward. Though most mainstream conservative thinkers these days don’t like it, in the tumultuous 1950s and early 1960s “conservatism” was tightly bound up with white supremacy.

Even weirder from today’s perspective, many African-American conservatives in the 1950s also embraced continued school segregation. Obviously, they did so in different ways and in different organizations than did white conservatives. No African Americans joined the White Citizens’ Councils, for example. And no African-American conservatives embraced school segregation in the name of white supremacy. Rather, African-American leaders supported segregation in a cautious and strategic way and they abandoned segregation as soon as better options appeared possible.

More complicated than we might think...

More complicated than we might think…

But as John Dittmer demonstrates in his careful history of the civil-rights saga in Mississippi, African-American leaders often preferred racially segregated schools, at least in the early 1950s. At that time, some leaders felt, segregated schools provided Mississippi’s African American population with a steady source of teaching jobs. Some African American leaders also believed that segregated schools offered a better option for African American students than hostile integrated ones.

These days, no one likes to be reminded of this history. African American conservatives largely got on board with anti-segregation campaigns. White conservatives, too, if a little later. But in the 1950s at least, conservatism meant racial segregationism.

And this leads us to our unusual current situation. If today’s public schools are reverting to racial segregation, as the Civil Rights Project documents, we might see this as a long-term victory for 1950s conservatism. Yet, since mainstream conservatives have since abjured their 1950s racist roots, there is no one around to celebrate this significant conservative “victory.”

Could It Work?

Conservatives love to threaten it. But could they pull it off? Business Insider looked recently at the nuts and bolts of what it would take for a conservative president to make good on his threat to eliminate the Education Department.

Rand Paul is the most recent candidate to threaten. As the sophisticated and good-looking regular readers of I Love You but You’re Going to Hell (SAGLRROILYBYGTH) are aware, my historical look at this question ran recently in the pages of Time Magazine. Conservative candidates since Reagan have pledged to eliminate Education. No president ever has.

What’s their beef? As Rand Paul explained in this 2010 speech, many conservatives assume that federal control increases the left’s culture-war power in schools.

The assumption—for electoral purposes at least—is that federal power means less local ability to say no. As Paul put it in 2010,

I would rather the local schools decide things. I don’t like the idea of somebody in Washington deciding that Susie has two mommies is an appropriate family situation and should be taught to my kindergartner at school. That’s what happens when we let things get to a federal level.

Business Insider asked law guru Laurence Tribe to explain the president’s power to make good on this threat. Obviously, Tribe explained, no president can simply eliminate a federal government department by fiat. But there are things presidents can do. They can encourage legislators to push legislation to that effect. And they can strangle government agencies by cutting funding.

In a 2012 budget proposal, Senator Paul suggested an 83% cut to the Education Department. Only the popular Pell Grant program would remain. Indeed, in that proposal to save $500 billion, Education took the biggest hit at $78 billion. The National Science Foundation would face big cuts, too, along with huge cuts (78%) to the Interior Department and the utter elimination of the Departments of Energy and Housing and Urban Development.

Paul’s bluster raises a new question, one I didn’t consider in my historical commentary. If so many conservatives threaten the Education Department, why don’t any of them actually get rid of it? As Catherine Lugg described in her history of Reagan’s early efforts, it is easier to malign the Education Department than it is to eliminate it.

Part of the reason might be seen in Senator Paul’s 2012 budget proposal. The Education Department hosts several extremely popular programs, including the Pell Grant program. Even conservatives like to win elections, and it is difficult to win when you take money away from voters. This is why we still have Social Security and Medicaid, in spite of conservative ideological disgust.

In any case, be ready for more. As the 2016 GOP contest gets rolling, the Education Department will be threatened, insulted, and demonized. The one thing it won’t be, it seems, is actually eliminated.

Schools of Social(ist) Work

America’s colleges and universities have become left-wing indoctrination factories. At least, that has long been a favorite conservative complaint. Today in the pages of the Weekly Standard we see another example of the “closing of the campus mind.” Why do so many conservatives seem to take such intense pleasure in the supposed leftist domination of American higher education?

Bearded weirdos...

Bearded weirdos…

In today’s Weekly Standard, Devorah Goldman shares her horror story from Hunter College’s School of Social Work. As a conservative, Ms. Goldman was asked politely not to participate in class discussions. She had to hold her tongue as she read anti-conservative textbooks. She had to hold her tongue as professors imposed racist, ideologically slanted ideas on her classes.

Goldman’s story of abysmally closed-minded universities seems to resonate among conservative intellectuals. As we’ve seen recently, some conservative academics have interpreted recent events as the death knell for conservative thinkers at mainstream universities. Elsewhere, critics have wondered if higher education as a whole has been irredeemably lost to true open-mindedness.

As a non-conservative who writes a lot about conservatism and education, these complaints raise two difficult questions for me.

  1. First, why do so many conservative thinkers seem to emphasize the leftism of colleges? That is, why do conservatives seem to take such bitter joy from an exaggerated assumption that they are no longer welcome in higher ed?
  2. Second, why don’t these conservative intellectuals recognize the long tradition of conservative laments about higher ed? In every case, it seems as if conservatives think higher ed has just recently switched over to the dark side.

Let’s take the second of these questions first. As Ms. Goldman’s story shows, every conservative complaint implies that the closing of the college mind is a recent phenomenon. But conservatives (and liberals, for that matter) have been protesting against the goings-on at mainstream colleges for almost a century.

In 1987, for example, Chicago’s Allan Bloom scored a surprise best-seller with his Closing of the American Mind. Bloom worried back then that universities had become nothing but indoctrination factories.

Even earlier, conservative godfather William F. Buckley Jr. began his long career with an indictment of the culture at his alma mater. In God and Man at Yale (1951), Buckley blasted the sneering secularism and lax morality of his school.

Some people think Buckley invented modern conservatism, but the same themes go way back. In the 1930s, for instance, Congressman Hamilton Fish excoriated leading schools as subversive breeding grounds for communists. Fish named names. Columbia, New York University, City College of New York, the University of Chicago, Wisconsin, Penn, and North Carolina, Fish charged in 1935, had become “honeycombed with Socialists, near Communists and Communists.” As I note in my new book, Fish and other anti-communist conservatives in the 1930s assumed that leading colleges had recently been hopelessly lost to left-wing collegiate cabals.

Back in the 1920s, too, religious conservatives warned each other that recent events had caused the loss of mainstream colleges. As I’m digging into in my current research, fundamentalists such as Bob Jones Sr. convinced themselves and anyone who would listen that 1920s trends had moved college into the enemy camp. Too many schools, Jones charged, attacked the faith of conservative students. As Jones put it,

I had just about as lief send a child to school in hell as to put him in one of those institutions. We are spending millions of dollars on education in this country, but if that is the kind of education we are going to have we would be better off without our universities and colleges.

In every case, each generation of conservative activist has implied that these lamentable changes were recent occurrences. In every case, conservatives suggest that higher ed “these days” has been taken over by left-wingers. If this is such a long and strong tradition among conservatives, why do they keep insisting it is a recent phenomenon?

And why do conservatives seem so eager to emphasize their own victimhood? I don’t doubt Goldman’s story. I can imagine that some teachers and some schools really do insist on an ideological conformity. But there are plenty of other schools that do not. Why don’t conservatives spend more mental energy trumpeting their own dominance of some forms of higher education?

Recently, for example, conservative academic extraordinaire Robert George praised his school’s new academic-freedom rule. Why don’t more conservative intellectuals join Professor George in proclaiming the continuing academic clout of conservative or conservative-friendly ideas?

Some might think that conservatism only dominates less-prestigious schools. Ms. Goldman, for example, would likely have had a very different experience at a less prominent school of social work. But as the case of Professor George makes clear, leading schools such as Chicago and Princeton have long served as congenial homes for conservative intellectuals.

Instead of tearing their hair and gnashing their teeth due to the supposed loss of higher education, why don’t conservative intellectuals celebrate their continuing influence at many leading colleges?


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