Saturday, April 23, 2005

Intellectual diversity on faculties, or, how to produce South Park Conservatives (off-topic)

It occurs to me, in this papal election season, that the Catholic college of cardinals has greater intellectual and ideological diversity than my faculty does. And this, I'm afraid, is the dismal norm at faculties across America.

In the meantime, at my daughter's hoighty-toighty fancy private school, the February black history month listing of prominent African-Americans in the Bush administration listed, of course, Colin Powell - but somehow managed to leave out [that Republican war-monger? it's the only reason I can think of - could they really just have forgotten her?] Condaleeza Rice. And when my daughter wanted to do her project on Rice, she was gently encouraged (in that passive aggressive, of course, dear, do whatever you think best [naturally I won't think any less of you or grade you down] tone of voice that American kids from an earlier and earlier age understand as the PC-threat and which is primarily responsible for producing South Park Conservatives in generationally record numbers) to think of someone else - Shirley Chisholm, in this case, a perfectly worthy possibility, but not if it's because you think Condi Rice is unworthy. The kid is, so to speak, sticking to her guns, and we'll see what grade she gets on the project.

PC teachers and professors who practice this form of passive aggression are too politically self-absorbed in onanistic congratulation to understand the levels of contempt that their students, even in elementary school, have for their manipulativeness. And one of the unattractive results is that it makes it harder for me, as a small-c conservative, to teach my daughter both that there is value in arguments that liberals make and that if you look beyond PC liberal teachers and professors, sometimes they even make them - the reason being that in this form of passive aggressive, PC manipulation, liberals don't make arguments, they simply manipulate from a position of power - if you don't believe x and accept it as doctrine without argument, you are simply a bad person.

The entirely justified resentment this produces makes it difficult to understand that there are, obviously, arguments on behalf of liberal positions - and not infrequently not only good but persuasive. What's weird - and seems frankly, suspiciously unbelievable to my kid - is that I have to make the arguments on behalf of liberals that liberals themselves can't be bothered to make, at least not when in control of the intelligentsia culture of universities and elite private schools wherein she resides. She is coming to believe - thanks not to conservatism but thanks rather to the liberal PCness of her education - that liberalism consists of unchallengeable dogmas while conservatism consists of arguments and matters genuinely up for discussion. This is intellectually flattering to a conservative like me, but of course simply untrue nonsense, on both sides of that equation, liberal and conservative. Yet it is a powerful perception she has acquired - thanks to the progressivist closemindedness of the education she is receiving.

Update, Saturday, April 23, 2005: Put another way - and liberal intellectuals, professors and teachers, take careful note - my daughter is gradually becoming a conservative because her experience with you is teaching her that to articulate conservatism is (as you folks like to put it, with that insufferable sense of intellectual and moral monopoly) to speak truth to power. Your institutional power, your professor and teacher power, your power over grades, your establishment power; you made the long march through the institutions of learning, but apart from tenure, I'm not sure what it got you, as I don't think it's captured the next couple of generations. I don't like the moral absolutism of the truth to power mantra - I don't like it when liberals do it, I don't like it when conservatives do it, not in what should be the ordinary course of political and policy argument, but that's the moral sensibility you're giving my kid. Congratulations.

(See my earlier post on this subject, here.)

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