Conservatives should speak up at liberal universities

Published 10:29 am Monday, August 29, 2011

“Why are all my professors so liberal?”

My grandson asked me this after his first year in a prestigious private university. As I did to him, I say this to those from Austin who now begin college: Anticipate experiencing college as more liberal than home; this is as it should be and it’s not all bad.

He told me they are liberal and working at being liberal. They are atheistic and secular. They are liberal in every area they can be. They are uniformly Democrat and the most liberal of Democrats. They are liberal not only in regard to religion and politics, but in economics and social issues. If there is a liberal position to take, they will take it.

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He finds it especially infuriating that the professors can spout off their atheism, but Christians aren’t allowed to say a word about their faith without being ridiculed.

People may not be as liberal as they appear, even when this is precisely what they want to be the appearance. Some students come with a wholesome, reasonable conservative perspective, not necessarily religious but a basic and general conservatism. They may go through the four years and come away as conservative or, sometimes, more so. Sometimes witnessing the unreasonable and radical liberalism found on most campuses, they may gain new appreciation for the conservative perspective and work harder at it. Yet, they may never express a word of this. So don’t presume upon silence.

Other students will speak up at first but then “learn” to shut up and remain silent until they leave. In surviving in class or even private discussion they may “go along” with what is said, nodding as if in agreement. They really do need to learn how others think, but then they begin to think this way. In trying to understand the liberal arguments, they become sucked into them. Eventually, they begin, not so much to believe but, accept them.

As to the faculty, especially the young instructors, they aren’t so different from the students. Just as there are freshman students, there are freshmen faculty. Imagine what it’s like just to have earned your Ph.D. and get your first teaching job. You find all the others in the department and even school are liberal. In fact, you muted your religious beliefs and moral convictions in order to get through the interview process, which consciously probed for such things as a weeding-out process. You are given one or two years to earn a tenure track and work toward tenure. You know that everyone who will make the decision to grant tenure is not only himself liberal but contemptuously dismissive of anyone who is not. If you ever make tenure, it will not be as a conservative. While it may not be necessary to become yourself liberal, it is certainly on the part of wisdom to mute your conservatism and smart to sound like a liberal.

Sometimes it will look as if other conservative students just don’t say so. This silence or pretense is not the method, but caution and carefulness are.

A liberal is one who recognizes oppressive and destructive factors in society and works to liberate from them. A conservative is one who recognizes enduring values and works to conserve them. There are, of course, radical liberals who presume everything demands liberation and everything must be changed. There are also radical conservatives who presume everything must be conserved and nothing can be changed. These are equally wrong, but wholesome liberalism and wholesome conservatism are both valid. Whether one is largely a liberal or largely a conservative depends upon the matter, the time, and the place.

You present your conservative position on practical matters with a focus on its pragmatic value. You want people to recognize this value first. In the process of doing so, you don’t reveal your source unnecessarily —not apologetically but with wholesome confidence.

For most of us from distinctly conservative homes and churches, it would be surprising if we didn’t find a secular campus more liberal than that to which we are accustomed. In some cases, this is good. Reasonable liberalism should benefit us. If it weren’t, I’m not sure how we would learn and grow.

When you attend a liberal school, you are there to learn everything there to learn, including liberal ideologies. You go as a student, not an evangelist. You are a learner and neither a teacher nor combatant. Your goal is not to convert but to survive and even thrive.

Ensure you understand liberalism before rejecting it; ensure you understand conservatism before advertising it. Don’t be academically intimidated or socially pressured. You decide how liberal or conservative you should grow to be.