Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Myth of Decline and Fall of US Colleges

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Myth of Decline and Fall of US Colleges

Article excerpt

A new mythology has arisen concerning the intellectual status of American colleges. That mythology - which has gone largely unchallenged - contends that the typical campus is heavily politicized, doctrinaire, obsessed with race and gender, and contemptuous of all things white and Western. To put it bluntly, that is not an accurate description of the reality of the university campus at which I've been teaching for more than 30 years, nor of the many other colleges and universities (large and small, public and private, religious and secular) where I've guest-lectured during this long period.

I happen to be male, white, conservative, and a known Republican, having taken leaves of absence to serve in the Nixon and Reagan administrations. I should be a natural target for the supposedly doctrinaire radicals who allegedly dominate the college scene these days. Sorry to disappoint the unprepared reader, but - without exception - I have never suffered pickets, insults, threats, or other actions that, to use an ancient phrase, would violate my academic freedom.

Quite to the contrary. On every campus I have visited, I have been treated with courtesy and given full and unhampered opportunity to present my views. If on occasion the questions are especially tough, that attests to my ability to keep the students awake! Far more important, in each campus - and particularly my own - I have encountered a wide variety of viewpoints among the faculty and the students. I may have been the "show" conservative when I joined the Washington University economics department in 1964, but today I have a great deal of intellectual company. Do we have some radical faculty on our campus? I should hope so. When I served as department head, I stressed the importance of our students encountering a wide variety of viewpoints and methodological positions in the course of their studies, and we recruited our faculty accordingly. Does our university house some doctrinaire professors and others opposed to the status quo? Undoubtedly, although they don't cluster at any one point in the political spectrum. As is customary these days, many colleges offer courses in nontraditional fields. …

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