Mark Bauerlein, a professor of English at Emory University and director of research for the National Endowment for the Arts, has an outstanding op-ed in the latest issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education. Alas, only subscribers can access the on-line version, but it’s worth trying to track down a paper copy just to have a look at it. Entitled "Liberal Group-Think is Anti-Intellectual," it is a stinging critique of the culture of left-wing orthodoxy that exists at most college campuses today. There are just too many good passages for me to list here, at least without running afoul of copyright laws, but here are a couple of gems:
Liberal orthodoxy is not just a political outlook; it’s a professional one. Rarely is its content discussed. The ordinary evolution of opinion -- expounding your beliefs in conversation, testing them in debate, reading books that confirm or refute them -- is lacking, and what should remain arguable settles into surety. With so many in harmony, and with those who agree joined also in a guild membership, liberal beliefs become academic manners. It’s social life in a professional world, and its patterns are worth describing.
The problem is that the simple trappings of deliberation make academics think that they’ve reached an opinion through reasoned debate -- instead of, in part, through an irrational social dynamic. The opinion takes on the status of a norm. Extreme views appear to be logical extensions of principles that everyone more or less shares, and extremists gain a larger influence than their numbers merit. If participants left the enclave, their beliefs would moderate, and they would be more open to the beliefs of others. But with the conferences, quarterlies, and committee meetings suffused with extreme positions, they’re stuck with abiding by the convictions of their most passionate brethren.