Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

The left university and its successors

James Piereson--about whom more here--offers a nice and concise summary account of higher education in America, from the first colleges through the "liberal university" and the "left university." What he’d like to see is this:

These developments represent just the leading edge of a growing movement to challenge the practices of the left university. The purpose of such efforts is not to give representation to conservatives on an equal footing with other campus interest groups. Intellectual pluralism, the search for truth, and respect for the heritage of free institutions are neither conservative nor left-liberal ideals. Jefferson, indeed, understood these ideals to be at the heart of the university, and central to his vision of a "republic of letters"; Humboldt, too, saw his liberal university as the means of carrying forward the principles of liberty, free inquiry, and the unimpeded search for truth. The effort to restore these ideals on campus is thus something that both conservatives and liberals should applaud. The left university should not be replaced by the right university. It should be replaced by the real university, dedicated to liberal education and higher learning.

As usual, Piereson encourages us not to focus exclusively on politics and policy, and not to respond to ideology with more ideology. The strength of traditional approaches to higher education is the manner in which people of varying political orientations can find a common ground in the mutual exploration of our humanity. To that end, I would commend
this organization to his attention.

Discussions - 4 Comments

Jim Sleeper’s restrospective on Bloom’s Closing in the NYRB a while back made a similar point, particularly with respect to the Horowitz types. Seems like a good argument to me.

I posted a comment on Sleeper and Bloom here. Sleeper’s use of Bloom is driven by his own political/pedagogical agenda, which is not obviously all that "open-minded."

How will this come about?

The article seems to imply good will, and a capacity for seeing beyond their own ideology, on the part of the liberal establishment in academe. Does it make a case for this? Is the date perhaps later than some of us think?

Part of the universities’ mission is to educate the young in a controlled setting. This cannot be done without taking certain implicit positions on the nature of man and the good life. In this respect, and in this respect alone, we need conservative universities rather than "real" universities.

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