Binder on “Becoming Right” at College

Since long before William F. Buckley published his enfant-terrible critique of rampant secularism and slouching liberalism at Yale, conservative intellectuals and activists have attacked the culture of American higher education.  As I argued in my 1920s book, such critiques have always been a central part of the educational culture wars.

A review of Amy Binder’s new book at Inside Higher Ed suggests that conservative worries about campus leftism may be misplaced, or at least oversimplified.

Binder, whose first book was a must-read study of creationism and afrocentrism, told the reviewer,  “I was really surprised at how university context makes a difference in how  students experience being conservative.”

Binder argues in her new book Becoming Right: How Campuses Shape Young Conservatives (Princeton University Press, 2013) that the type of school may have a bigger effect on young conservatives than most people have recognized.  Along with co-author Kate Wood, Binder studied conservative students at an “Eastern elite” university and a “Western flagship” school.  In the Eastern school, conservative students tended to adopt a conversational style of activism.  In the West, young conservatives got more combative.

In addition to the differences a campus can make, Binder & Wood find a much broader spectrum of student experience on “liberal” campuses than the traditional story suggests.  Some students even find themselves converted to conservatism by the liberal atmosphere.

One wonders what William F. Buckley would say.