Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Is now the time? 

We've argued if the faculty are liberal, but it appears the groundswell of opinion is that the student body is becoming increasingly conservative. We've noted this earlier, but a new piece in The Economist goes further.
Why this upturn in conservatism? One reason is a healthy desire to tweak the noses of people in authority. America's academic establishment is so solidly liberal that Naderites easily outnumber Republicans. The leftists who seized control of the universities in the 1960s have imposed their world-view on the young with awesome enthusiasm, bowdlerising text-books of anything that might be considered sexist or racist, imposing draconian speech codes and inventing pseudo-subjects such as women's studies.
Combine this with 9/11 and the fact that Republicans right now are doing a good job of recruiting youth to their programs like College Republicans or YAF, add an enthusiastic leadership from people like the CRs' Scott Stewart, and the groundswell, argues The Economist, turns into a youthquake. But without a cause that pushes them into common cause, all that organizing has nowhere to go. CR and YR were around when I was a student in the late 1970s, but there wasn't much to hang your hat on: Nixon was disgraced, Ford had lost, Saigon had fallen and being anti-Communist was largely discredited. It took time to put new ideas in place. The Left, perhaps unwittingly, is giving rally points for the conservative movement on campus.

For example, Mark Steyn a couple of weeks ago wrote about the censorious treatment of anyone who discusses homosexuality in an unapproving way, from judicial nominee William Pryor to a teacher in British Columbia suspended for writing in a newspaper that homosexuality was not "something to be applauded". Steyn's money line:

He didn't say gays are evil. But he did say homosexuality wasn't something to be applauded. And, if we start letting people decide who they are and aren't going to applaud, there's no telling where it will end.
Sylvain Galineau at the Chicago Boyz comments on this:
There could be a debate. People might think for themselves and actually choose a different opinion. Now 'Think Different' is a fine campaign for Apple. But when it comes to some topics, this kind of attitude is beyond the pale.

... [D]isagreement is freedom. The freedom to disagree could also imply, for instance, the ability to offer commercial services for heterosexuals only, just like the myriad of travel agents catering to the gay and lesbian market. In practice, the former will get you a cease-and-desist letter from the ACLU, the latter praise for your tolerance, when it does not make you a "diversity" visionary.

At any point in time, such coercive enforcement of moral beliefs is also the hallmark of an entrenched establishment. And in universities, the media, Hollywood and many other corners of American society, liberals are now either the authority in power, or an influential force that relies on intellectual intimidation to push itself further. They censor, control, define and shape world views, compose and impose a proper vocabulary and generally silence and otherwise smear dissenters. Which makes you wonder when the generational ebb and flow will topple this particular establishment. In other words, when will the Left suffer its own counter-cultural revolution ?

Looking at the data on student attitudes and the aging of the Left, the time may be now.