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.