Learning in liberals’ la-la land

By Jacob Vial

During my freshman year I took what I had heard was the easiest science course on campus. I expected to learn about gravity, force, electricity and other physics subjects. Instead, I listened to my Swanlund chair professor spend half of the class telling me why I shouldn’t vote to re-elect George W. Bush in next week’s presidential election. As I listened to her opinions of the Iraq war, I actually got a little excited. Maybe today we’ll learn the physics behind modern weaponry. If that’s her segue into this exciting topic I’ll forget her offsubject rants and misuse of academic freedom. Bombs are cool. No such luck. Is this going to be on the final?

Today’s universities are not friendly to the conservative student. We can count on having instructors who share vastly different political views and we look forward to readings that often enforce their own ideology. Most dismiss our ideas as close-minded, archaic or non-progressive. The worst are those who never even ask for dissent. Conservative students are forced into our own culture of silence, fearful of repercussions in the form of lowered grades or public ridicule. I can’t count the number of paper topics I have shied away from, choosing easily agreed upon, less controversial issues along my supposed quest for knowledge.

Though on the surface it seems counterintuitive, the failures of our universities to provide a classic liberal education have led the system to become unwelcoming towards our views. The late University of Chicago philosophy professor Allan Bloom, notes this trend in his 1987 book, “The Closing of the American Mind.” Today’s professors are students of the 1960s, an era that saw many course requirements dropped in an effort to allow educational exploration. Rather than learn the history and philosophy behind their subjects, they blindly studied cultures, sociology and multiculturalism. Bloom argues that exposure to classic texts and their impact on democratic and philosophical progressions of western civilization were lost.

My freshman year began with my physics teachers’ rant. It ended with an A+ in physics, a subject I have little interest in and struggle to grasp. My passion has always been public speaking and debate (I was State High School Debate Champion in 2004.) Yet my freshman year I didn’t get an A in Speech Communications 101. It turns out my TA hadn’t read the Constitution and chose to argue with me in the margins of my speech outlines.

My welcome message from the University was that you’ll do well in subjects that require no reasoning, but your reasoning doesn’t align with ours. When it comes to our education system there truly has been a closing of minds. This is clear now as I sit in the classroom. I’m never exposed to any theory or history behind the ideas I am taught. In the minds of today’s professors often the only explanation needed is “Marx said it” without providing the necessary historical context of his arguments. Since coming to the University, I’ve been required to read such greats as “Political Topographies of the African State” and “A Hope in the Unseen” instead of argubably more important works like Plato’s “Republic” or Hobbe’s “Leviathan.”

Arthur Bloom was right when he wrote “Openness used to be the virtue that permitted us to seek the good by using reason. It now means accepting everything and denying reason’s power.” Conservative students aren’t blindly callous or anti-progressive. We’ve used the power of reason to arrive at important conclusions about ourselves and our government.

When given natural rights, individuals can help themselves. Individuals and private organizations serve the public better than government. Western civilization has produced desirable economic and political ideals. We did not arrive at these conclusions by having them force-fed to us by our teachers. Rather, we used the power of reason and openness to arrive at our principles.

Today’s classrooms are simply not open to reason. Liberal ideas are indoctrinated into the very educational system we must navigate. Individuals can’t help themselves. Affirmative action admittance systems are necessary. Western civilization is evil. It seems that the higher education system today doesn’t encourage the exploration of the philosophy behind its questionable arguments.

Their message is to just read this book about the struggles of the lower middle class. Should you let your feelings and your professor’s opinion tell you what you’re supposed to learn or would you rather have your reason and historical knowledge be your guide?