Thursday, 8 March 2007

The Academic Echo Chamber

I honestly don’t understand why progressives want college campuses to be progressive sites. I thrive on disagreement. My idea of hell is being limited in my conversations to fellow conservatives. On the Internet, for example, I read more by progressives than by conservatives. I do this by choice, not because I have to. I want to understand how the other side thinks. I want to see what reasons they can marshal for their beliefs. Progressives might say that they welcome conservative voices on campus. Don’t believe them. They prefer like-minded souls. They love having their ideas and values reflected back to them. Do you suppose progressives prefer this because they’re unsure of the meritoriousness of their ideas and values? Here is an interesting column by Cathy Young. The key paragraphs come near the end:

What is difficult either to deny or to quantify is that, especially at the more prestigious colleges and universities, the social climate fosters a strong presumption of liberal like-mindedness and a marginalization of dissent. Being left of center is the norm, and it is freely assumed that other people around you, be they students or faculty members, will share in your joy at the Democratic victories in Congress or your dismay at the passage of a ballot initiative prohibiting racial preferences in college admissions. This can translate into not only a chilly climate for conservatives but in some cases outright hostility.

If a student doesn’t subscribe to the campus orthodoxy, the likely effect is not to convert her but to alienate her from intellectual life. Others learn only about a narrow range of ideas. One woman, a Ph.D. student in the social sciences at a Midwestern university, told me recently that when she started reading conservative, libertarian, or otherwise heretical blogs, “it was a whole perspective I had never been exposed to before in anything other than caricature.”

When that’s the norm, the harm is less to dissenters than to the life of the mind. It’s not good for any group of people to spend a lot of time listening only to like-minded others. It is especially bad for a profession whose lifeblood is the exchange of ideas.

If nothing else, progressives should care enough about their students to want them to be exposed to a wide range of ideas and values. It’s students who get shortchanged by the progressive domination of academia.

A Fatal Liability

Will Bill Clinton sink his wife’s presidential candidacy? William Greider thinks so. See here.

Addendum: In case you haven’t had your political fix for the day, here is George Will’s column about conservatism.

Science and Religion

This fall, I teach a graduate seminar entitled “The Moral and Political Philosophy of Thomas Hobbes.” My next seminar, a year or so later,¬†will be on science and religion. See here for a taste of what it will cover.


Here is Daniel Henninger’s column about the presidency.

Best of the Web Today


From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

In the opinion of many, I. Lewis Libby Jr. is taking the rap for his higher-ups in their effort to mislead the American public about the reasons chosen by the administration to justify the invasion of Iraq (which could have been justified on numerous grounds).

If his conviction is not reversed on appeal, I wonder if Mr. Libby will spend any time in jail for his actions, which undermined the very foundations of our system of government.

In an ideal world, President Bush would go on the record to say that he will not pardon Mr. Libby in contrast to the pardons issued by his father, the first President Bush, and President Ronald Reagan for various people who placed political loyalty above legality and, though convicted of crimes, received special treatment.

If President Bush will not go on the record to say that he will not pardon Mr. Libby, it will show that the higher one is in any hierarchy or the better connected, the less likely he will be held accountable, irrespective of motives.

Congress and the press should not be silent on such a fundamental matter.

Ethan S. Burger
Washington, March 7, 2007

Note from KBJ: I seem to recall a president between George Herbert Walker Bush and George Walker Bush. I also seem to recall that this president pardoned a great many people on his way out the door in January 2001. I wonder why the letter writer didn’t mention any of this. Oh wait, I know: The letter writer is blinded by partisanship. Principle has nothing to do with it.


It’s not enough for the New York Times to try to impose its progressive vision on the United States. Now it’s trying to impose its vision on Nigeria. Nigerians should tell the Times to butt out.

A Year Ago