My post of a few days back, "What it's like to be a conservative professor," sparked some of the most touching emails I've ever received. I had no idea what a chord the piece would strike with people across the country. Even more touching was how many people had to look me up on the internet to get my email address.
I wanted to clarify a few things about the piece, in case people took away the wrong idea:
- 1. It is still good to thank military people for their service. Some folks got the impression that I am ashamed of having served in the Army. Far from it. My main thought was that it would be nice for conservatives, who have traditionally shown gratitude to the armed forces, to see how much such gratitude might help conservative academics struggling in a profession that is still hostile to them.
- 2. Disciplines matter. I am in English, where there are many fewer conservatives than fields like Economics or Business. Nevertheless, it is in English and other writing-intensive disciplines that conservatives need most to answer the call of duty. Almost all colleges require students to take writing classes offered through humanities departments, and these can have a lasting impact on the way students view the world. Without more conservative instructors in those positions, our movement will be at a long-lasting, possibly lethal disadvantage against the left.
- 3. The response from conservatives showed me that the right is open to diplomatic criticism. As a movement, the right has emphasized national defense but hasn't been as diligent about the important war for the hearts and minds of people at home. Soldiers are heroes, but we must learn to see principled teachers as heroes as well, fighting more ambiguous enemies and having to rely on fewer and less reliable allies. The war soldiers fight will determine how people in other countries live in decades to come. The war teachers fight, however, will determine how America looks tomorrow.
- 4. Elitism will remain our biggest trap. We've seen how the left has fostered a self-defeating obsession with Ivy-League crème-de-la-crème-erie, and it has played a big role in producing limousine liberals detached from reality who make terrible decisions once they gain power in government, banking, and the media. The right is not immune to elitism, however, as I've noticed over the years. We rely on Stanford and Harvard professors to speak for us. We have followed too closely Russell Kirk's notion in The Conservative Mind from Burke to Eliot that Harvard would be the lodestar for conservative thought. So too we took too seriously Allan Bloom's opening in Closing of the American Mind in which he stated outright that he only cared about saving the critical thinking skills of the top 30 schools in the US. In reality, the shopkeepers and petty bourgeois tradesmen who put Margaret Thatcher in power in the UK exist in a parallel form in the US, and they are not going to Harvard or even Berkeley. They are at state schools where teaching is more important than research. Conservatives must not overlook universities like mine - CSU Northridge - where there are veterans, home-schooled evangelicals, recent immigrants from socially conservative countries like South Korea and the Philippines. These will be the lifeblood of the next right that rises.
If the next right never rises, it's game over for conservatives. Word to the wise. But thank you so much, all of you who wrote in to express your support, and please keep in touch. Conservative scholars united can never be defeated.