Friday, March 12, 2004

But if the personal is political? 

My good friend and reader Ross the Bagelman was the first to send me John Miller's piece in this morning's WSJ on conservatives in the classroom. Other than adding St. Lawrence University to the list of schools where leftist faculty think it's fine to bash conservatives, Miller treads on familiar ground. Steven Horwitz at L&P points out that his own experience with this faculty member has been positive. Steve writes:
In a 200-level class on the sociology of development last fall, he assigned a piece of mine defending free trade and then gave me a full 90 minutes of class to talk about it, with him present. It was a very civil and productive class. Is it possible to be an angry name-calling hater of college republican fascists in your blog, yet be open-minded enough to invite the opposition to class and treat conservative or libertarian students fairly? Good question. Interestingly, in the wake of some faculty email exchange on this incident in which I called attention to the faculty member having invited me to class, I now have two more invitations from leftist faculty to do guest lectures. I think this is a good thing, but I have jokingly suggested to my dean that I need to renegotiate my teaching load!
Steve's experience is similar to mine; just the other night someone wrote to me and said in effect "You're much nicer in person than in email or your blog." Which I think was a compliment but I'm not sure. I get invitations from some people to talk in their classes too, and they in mine when I have a place where a leftist would fit. I did a panel on WTO with two well-known leftists a couple of days ago, and I thought it was very educational for those who attended.

What's telling in Steve's story, though, is that faculty who hear that "there's a reasonable conservative/libertarian on campus" jump at the chance to bring them into the classroom. It reminds me of a good Jewish friend who applied for a job at a Southern school: they insisted that he meet the only other person in town they knew was Jewish. Are reasonable cons/libs being used as tokens, to ward off the accusation of intellectual bigotry? I don't know; I think it's telling that when there's a need on a campus for a con/lib view on things, very few people other than me show up to speak.

Miller writes,

But haven't liberals been telling us for years that the personal is political and ideology is everywhere? My own experience suggests that the liberals may have a point--and that their prejudices can't be checked at the schoolhouse door. To take a single example: About 15 years ago I endured a psychology course at the University of Michigan. One of the lectures focused on racism. My professor announced that it takes several forms, starting with the KKK variety. She said another strain is called "symbolic racism," which involves opposition to government programs meant to improve the status of blacks and Hispanics. So if you think racial-preference policies aren't a great idea, you're a "symbolic racist."

Today this is basically the official position of the American Psychological Association. Students who question it can't win, because speaking up is an admission of guilt.
And I think that extends to faculty as well, which explains to me the "silence of the lambs" we hear on the discussion list at SCSU when the latest teach-in against Xism is held.