The refrain is nearly constant: We need to have a “national conversation” about this, a “dialogue” about that, a “thoughtful exchange of ideas” about some other thing.
Race is often the issue at hand, although it’s not too much of a stretch to say that we’ve discussed little else for decades. Talk about “beating a dead horse”: That particular equine is long dead, and we’re pummeling the corpse into the dirt.
Has all of this dialogue done any good? It often seems as if we’re ripping the scab from an old wound for no apparent reason.
But let’s assume that those who insist on all of these conversations have good intentions, and are sincerely interested in an exchange of ideas, rather than simply browbeating and ostracizing those who disagree. Let’s assume that they’re interested in solutions regarding not only race, but also “climate change,” health care, education reform, immigration, and so on.
If so, then there obviously needs to be a forum in which multiple points along the ideological spectrum are represented. A symposium composed entirely of progressives — or entirely of conservatives — is a monologue; not a dialogue.
Such a conversation will be deprived of ideological diversity, and, as leftists are fond of assuring us, “Diversity is our strength.” With that in mind, let us turn to the university campus.
A few years ago, The Washington Times reported that liberal professors outnumber conservative professors at major universities by a ratio of nearly 12-to-1. Last year, Inside Higher Ed reported the results of a survey of 900 college and university administrators: 66% of respondents self-identified as liberal; only 5% as conservative. Cass Sunstein, writing for Bloomberg, reports that, in the political science field at the nation’s 51 highest-ranking schools, conservatives are outnumbered by liberals, 8-1.
If diversity is our strength, the nation’s universities must be quite feeble. There can be no “exchange of ideas” when every speaker resides in the same insular bubble of groupthink. Conformity rules.
But on campus, they like it that way. When university spokespersons speak of diversity, they refer only to the superficial variety; intellectual or philosophical diversity is heresy.
Consider a recent example from Chapel Hill, where some members of the faculty are “concerned” that the school might launch a “program for conservative studies.” It’s called the “Program of Civic Virtue and Civil Discourse.” Such an entity would, of course, threaten the left’s absolute domination of the campus.
When liberals express “concern,” monuments are defaced or eradicated, street and school names are changed, speech codes are compiled and enforced — even county fairs are assailed. Or, as we see in this case, unorthodox ideas are snuffed out. And, not coincidentally, so is the prospect of a rigorous exchange of ideas on campus.
The editors of The Charlotte Observer are also “concerned.” They are afraid the new center might “promote conservative thought” (good heavens, no!) rather than address “the tenor and lack of substance in public discourse.” But opposing the presence of different ideas guarantees a lack of substance.
The new program, they write, “has the suspicious appearance of a conservative in sheep’s clothing.”
Are we to believe, then, the laughable notion that there are no liberal programs at UNC in sheep’s clothing?
The Observer’s editors find it “worrisome” that “faculty experts in the program’s content matter” have not been consulted. It would be interesting to find out to what extent those “faculty experts” are familiar with the works of, say, Edmund Burke and Russell Kirk — two giants of conservative thought. I’m “concerned” about that.
Like it or not, a dialogue requires more than one voice.