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Politics on Campuses

Reader comment on item: Harvard Loves Jihad

Submitted by Elizabeth Sachs (United States), Jun 24, 2002 at 10:10

If politics of political correctness are still what they were on Leftist and "Progressive" campuses as they were when I got my doctorate from UW-Madison in 1993, then they're thoroughly entrenched, and will not be easy to counteract, even when they sponsor (hopefully not very often, in the main?) something as deadly as Jihad.

I noticed many things about political correctness and badly-taught Socialist theory when I was at Madison, which make for a horrible brew. They're as follows:

1. Socialism as a theory and political structure is often badly, or at least variously, taught. Academic freedom means that professors can say pretty much what they want to say in classes, and students are often so culturally illiterate that they don't know enough to object. The "free flow of ideas" is a good thing on campuses, but only when it is apprehended by a critical audience. This critical audience doesn't usually exist, because

2. Not only are students often culturally illiterate, but they are contrained within institutionalized straight-jackets of Bad Leftist thinking, and gone-awry applications of affirmative action. (Sorry to sound reactionary, but Madison made me that way). Professors who are not aggressively politically correct are not hired. Often they aren't hired anyway, unless they profess or represent "historically disenfranchised or under-represented" populations in some assertive way. This is often the convenient drum they beat to win their onerous battles for tenure. Political correctness has become THE pipeline, in too many cases, toward hiring, and tenure. Were not most universities' budgets so stupidly constrained, hiring and retention might be more liberal, wide-ranging and fair. But it's not.

3. Criticism of bad ideology meets too often with charges of "Old-fashioned hegemonistic thinking." If one criticizes, say, the shallow and biased tripe dished out at a conference on "Multiculturalism and Transnationalism," which is the sort of conference that most-readily gets supported at universities, at least in the humanities, then one is categorized with wizened and crabby curmudgeons like Alan Bloom and others. One might receive the sotto voce congratulations of many who feel the same, at the cash bar after panels, but one will not be published, or hired, or befriended in a public way, very easily.

Personally, I think it's a miracle that more John Walkers do not already exist. The fact that many undergraduates do not immediately run off to join the Taliban to fight "arrogant, hegemonistic, mistaken, fat-and-destructive Uncle Sam is a testament to the relative un-salability, in a literal sense, of much of the ideology that many universities tout. "Unsalable," that is, except to professors themselves.

Not to be contradictory, but I'd also say "Don't blame the professors, because the buck can't stop with them." Professors usually aren't paid very much. If they get hired full-time at all, it is only after a bruising and seemingly-endless journey-person status as beaten-up graduate students, and starving adjunct workers. They will NOT, easily, compromise their hard-won security (IF you can count "security" to mean a ~40K salary start in an expensive metropolitan area) by flying banners of truth in the face of political correctness.

University presidents, administrators in high positions: these are ones who can make a real difference, and lead the charge against what's run amok in higher education.

My Two Cents

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