Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Tempest at the Times

David Brooks has caused a stir among the fevered readers of the New York Times.

Since joining the editorial page this month as a featured columnist after the putsch of Howell Raines, each of Brooks’ provocatively conservative columns have been followed by a rooster tail of angry letters from indignant Grey Lady zombies who apparently have never been exposed to such undiluted heresy.

Case in point, Brooks’ column on Saturday dared to suggest that conservatives are lonely on college campuses because their faculties are so predominantly liberal.

Today the tide of outrage washes up on the Times Letters page.

Several writers are clearly not used to having their conventional wisdom questioned.

Paul Steinle, the distinguished associate professor of communications at Southern Oregon University somewhere in southern Oregon deploys his masterful communications skills to prove that conservatives are schtoopid:

“David Brooks wants to continue the conservative notion that academia is divided into two camps, liberal and conservative.

It's the old "us-them" configuration. It serves the needs of conservatives (and maybe liberals) who are seeking sympathy for their hardened intellectual arteries. But it is a naïve, simplistic and self-serving view of the world.

Mr. Brooks should dust out the cobwebs and let in the possibility of mixed emotions and mixed attitudes in a complex world. Try appreciating life (and society and politics) in its rich complexity.”

Actually Brooks isn’t saying that campus is divided between liberals and conservatives . . . he’s saying it’s dominated by liberals and devoid of conservatives. And Associate Professor Steinle demonstrates why.

Campuses are so intellectually sterile that a faculty member at a prestigious community college for lumberjacks in Oregon can argue without embarrassment that people who don’t think the way the learned ass. prof. does are not just ignorant, but self-servingly ignorant.

Yes, life must be so much more rich and complex for a second tier academic at a mediocre school who spends his time searching for deeper meaning in a field that examines press releases and TV sitcoms way up there in Ashland, Oregon where simplistic debates were silenced long ago.

Herbert Gans of Columbia actually is a professor of some repute albeit in the absurd field of Sociology. He adds his twenty-five cents to the Letters page:

“If conservative students have difficulty getting teaching jobs, why do so many appear every generation in economics, political science, many of the humanities as well as all over business and engineering schools?”

Surprisingly, Professor Gans did not end his huffy letter with the traditional “so there” that closes such arguments.

Gans appears to take issue with Brooks’ article in its entirety. Brooks is totally wrong. Campuses are not predominantly liberal. They are full of conservatives in every field. Gans even seems mildly annoyed by their profusion and persistence.

But I’ve saved the best for last.

Rich Allen, also of that great state of higher learning, Oregon, articulates precisely the sort of attitude that David Brooks was lamenting . . . that the entrenched elite on campus are so closed minded that they can’t even recognize differing points of view as intellectually valid.

David Brooks ("Lonely Campus Voices," column, Sept. 27) presents several reasons conservative professors are underrepresented in higher education.

One reason he did not mention is that the arguments for conservative positions might actually be less sound and less compatible with the breadth and depth of knowledge that the most prestigious educators are rightly expected to possess.

Of course there are no conservatives on campus because you can’t possibly be intelligent and conservative at the same time.

Glad to see that diversity nonesense on campus does not actually extend to rational thought.

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