Dear Commons Community,
New York Times columnist, Joe Bruni, has a piece today commenting on whether colleges need to come to grips with the way thinking among many Americans has shifted to the right especially as evidenced by Donald Trump’s election. In “Too Many Colleges Flunk Trump 101”, he suggests that there is a slow movement in the academy recognizing that it wasn’t the case that “…the only people who voted for Trump have missing front teeth.” Here is an excerpt.
“Even before Trump’s election, there was swelling discussion about the ideological uniformity of many colleges, where the left holds bold and sometimes imperious sway.
In 2013 the University of Colorado, Boulder, welcomed its first “visiting scholar in conservative thought,” a teaching position created to bring someone from the right to the school each year. In 2015 Jonathan Haidt, a justly celebrated social psychologist at New York University, helped to found the Heterodox Academy, an organization that promotes intellectual diversity in higher education.
And a growing number of educators have been wondering aloud if there should be “affirmative action” for conservative professors, given the hugely disproportionate percentage of liberal faculty in the humanities and social sciences. They often conclude that outright preferences are a bad idea but that creating an extra position in, say, military history rather than gender studies would probably up the odds of adding a Republican to the lineup.
Trump’s election at once imperiled and emboldened this movement. To some college administrators and instructors, it was proof that the barbarians were at the gate and that students needed safe spaces more than ever. Understanding what happened on Nov. 8 was less important than fighting furiously against it.
“The idea that the only people who voted for Trump have missing front teeth is really so extraordinary, and yet I think that’s largely what people in the academy think,” said Jean Yarbrough, a conservative professor of political science at Bowdoin College who voted for him herself. These faculty members, she added, consider 2016 “an illegitimate election, so they’re not worried about their being out of touch with America.”
Bruni goes on to mention some academicians are taking steps to recognize that diversity of sociopolitical views may be beneficial for their campuses. He concludes:
“I’m not suggesting that colleges normalize Trump, validate everyone who backed him or make room for the viciously bigoted sentiments he often stoked. But there’s inquisitive, constructive territory short of that.
And colleges should be places where we learn to persuade people not to take paths that we consider dangerous instead of simply gaping and yelling at them. That requires putting them and their ideas into the mix. Too many schools are flunking that assignment.”
Bruni has a point that more of us in the academia need to consider.