Posted on | March 1, 2013 | 30 Comments
What has been well-known for years is now official policy: Conservatives need not apply at Harvard University.
This is really full-circle Back to the Future stuff, because the American conservative movement can be said to have properly begun in 1951 with the publication of William F. Buckley Jr.’s God and Man at Yale, which exposed in detail for the first time the Ivy League elite’s embrace of collectivism and abandonment of the Judeo-Christian tradition.
Today’s near-totalitarian hegemony of the Left in academia began as toleration (under the rubric of “academic freedom,” an attitude Buckley rightly described as a “superstition”) of what were then the unpopular beliefs of a marginal fringe of atheists, socialists and other disgruntled misfits. The liberal fetish of “tolerance” made elite campuses a soft target for radicals in the 1960s, and radicalism became dominant in subsequent decades as Marxists undertook The Long March through the institutions.
While the Left had invoked “academic freedom” to defend themselves in the early years of the Cold War, however, this “tolerance” has been systematically denied to opponents of the Left now that the erstwhile dissenters are firmly ensconced as the regnant arbiters of orthodoxy. In 1987, Allan Bloom surveyed the encroaching nihilism in The Closing of the American Mind and, by 1991, Dinesh D’Souza was able to describe political correctness as a ubiquitous campus phenomenon in Illiberal Education.
Now the staff of the Harvard Crimson sniffs that the university’s critics are attempting “to curry favor with the more anti-intellectual members of our body politic” – i.e., anyone who is critical of Harvard is anti-intellectual, Q.E.D.
There has been a trickle-down effect from the radical takeover of elite academia, in large part because graduate schools of the humanities and social sciences are producing more Tenured Radicals than the faculty of elite universities can employ. Thus, we find Professor Erik Loomis, eminent expert on the gay sex lives of anarchist lumberjacks, struggling to survive on a pittance as an untenured assistant at the University of Rhode Island.
This trickle-down radicalism first came to my attention when Orit Sklar and Ruth Malhotra were forced to sue Georgia Tech to protect their First Amendment rights against a totalitarian “speech code” regime.
Georgia Tech! Radical gays and militant Muslims bullying a Christian and a Jew at Georgia Tech?
My uncle attended Georgia Tech. Being a native Atlantan, I had trouble imagining this engineering school that UGA alum Lewis Grizzard always jokingly called the “North Avenue Trade School” — perhaps most famous for its proximity to The Varisity drive-in – could have been taken over by political correctness. Yet here were Orit and Ruth being terrorized by campus radicals for refusing to accept the administration’s Orwellian speech-code policies. What we have witnessed in American intellectual life the past half-century is a top-down revolution that seeks to impose on the nation a homogeneity of opinion, calling to mind one of Buckley’s cogent observations:
“In the hands of a skillful indoctrinator, the average student not only thinks what the indoctrinator wants him to think . . . but is altogether positive that he has arrived at his position by independent intellectual exertion. This man is outraged by the suggestion that he is the flesh-and-blood tribute to the success of his indoctrinators.”
– William F. Buckley Jr., Up From Liberalism (1959)
Faced with the iron grip of radicalism on the country’s most prestigious institutions, we see that the cherished tolerance of “academic freedom” Buckley so long ago described has been replaced by its exact opposite, as prophesied by Marxist academic Herbert Marcuse in 1965:
Liberating tolerance, then, would mean intolerance against movements from the Right and toleration of movements from the Left.
Thus, whereas Ortega y Gassett in 1932 had warned of The Revolt of the Masses, we are instead today confronted by the result of what Christopher Lasch in 1996 described as The Revolt of the Elites. David French, the Harvard-educated attorney who defended the rights of Orit Sklar and Ruth Malhotra, reflects on the current situation:
[T]he idea that conservatives who attend Harvard have some kind of “dread of academia” is similarly amusing. No, my conservative classmates and I attended Harvard in large part because we were seeking an academic challenge, because we wanted to experience life at allegedly the best academic institution in the world. We did not bring anti-intellectualism to Harvard; anti-intellectualism was inflicted on us. . . .
While there were some bad days, I simply refuse to believe that we conservatives should abandon an almost 400-year-old American institution – arguably the most important academic institution in the world – to one side of the political, cultural, and religious debate.
Who has abandoned whom, David? Isn’t this rather like chastising Israelis for not supporting Hamas? Could Harvard — which purged Larry Summers as too “conservative” for its tastes — be any more explicit in its hostility to dissent?
Why should conservative parents spend $52,650 a year to send their children to be indoctrinated by the Marxist faculty of Harvard, when they could instead send their children to Hillsdale College for $21,390 a year? For that matter, if bright young people have sufficient confidence in their own ability that they don’t insecurely crave the imprimatur of elite credentials, why not just save all that private tuition money and attend a state university?
It’s hard to imagine anyone dreams of boasting that their child attended Harvard, alma mater of the Unabomber.
(By the way, the pharisaical editors of the Harvard Crimson might notice that I’ve cited the titles of a few books. Anyone care to bet that none of the fanatical ignoramuses have ever read any of those books? Also, just for good measure, permit me to recommend The Higher Education Bubble, by some guy who went to Yale Law.)
Update (Smitty): welcome, Instapundit readers!