On the need for academic balance
Published: Monday, March 30, 2009
Updated: Monday, March 30, 2009 07:03
Colleges are liberal; everyone knows it. On a campus such as ours, posters advertising events from Amnesty International, Tufts Democrats and the LGBT community are ever-present fixtures on the library steps. Everyone assumes that if their professor has any political views, they'll be to the left. Even courses themselves frequently have liberal biases. Considering the general ideological imbalance of the culture in which we are immersed, is it any wonder that the average college student graduates with a decidedly leftward slant?
And yet, only occasionally do we, as students, examine whether this situation is appropriate, healthy and conducive to learning. After all, when we graduate, most of us will move into the "real world," into a country thoroughly divided between left and right. Spending four years on a campus with minimal exposure to the ideas and convictions of "the other half," are we truly prepared to be citizens — much less active citizens — at all? A student who has not adequately been exposed to opposing viewpoints is by definition uninformed, and the uninformed are rarely good citizens.
Indeed, the knee-jerk reaction of many students, when they encounter conservatives, is to dismiss them as ignorant and their ideas as unenlightened. Yet this "unenlightened" ideology counts the work of such luminaries as Edmund Burke, Thomas Jefferson and Leo Strauss as its forebears, and these "ignorant" people are doctors, lawyers and scientists; they may even be your neighbors, bosses or friends. But upon graduating from Tufts, many students are likely ill-prepared to relate to — much less respect and befriend — conservatives.
For a university that values diversity, conservative students and professors are a disproportionate minority. On our campus, unless you belong to Tufts Republicans or read The Primary Source, you might never encounter a conservative position defended in a positive light. One of my courses regularly assigned readings from The Huffington Post and Salon.com for homework. John W. Dean in "Conservatives Without Conscious" (2006) matter-of-factly informed me that as a conservative I was often "malicious, mean-spirited and disrespectful of even the basic codes of civility." Last year, according to the Federal Election Commission, Tufts faculty gave thousands of dollars to Democratic campaigns, but none at all was reportedly given to Republicans. If our faculty consisted exclusively of white males, the student body would be justly outraged. Yet the lack of true intellectual diversity hardly causes a stir among us.
Entire departments here at Tufts seem to hold liberal political values as central to their curricula. Peace and Justice Studies effectively requires students to support liberal social change. Its courses seem to openly encourage activism, statism and pacifism. Would a student who supports self-interested American military intervention, or who opposes the welfare state, fare well in a program that has a "Peace Cultures" requirement or whose "Justice" requirement teaches that wealth redistribution is just? Women's Studies requires majors to do "feminist research" and offers core courses like "Feminist Theologies" and "Feminist Philosophy." Would a non-feminist, or a pro-life student, find themselves comfortable in such a department? It would seem, then, that certain academic departments here at Tufts have an unspoken ideological requirement.
Thus, it seems that there is a gaping hole in the otherwise excellent education we receive here at Tufts, a nearly complete dearth of exposure to conservative thought. It has been a goal of Tufts Republicans to fill that void as best we can through dialogue and debate, and in service to that goal, we are bringing David Horowitz to speak tonight on the value of intellectual diversity on college campuses. His message about this growing problem in American academia is something that the student body owes itself to hear.
Michael Hawley is a sophomore majoring in political science. He is the president of Tufts Republicans.