MRCTV’s Dan Joseph recently walked around American University asking students how they defined the terms “conservative” and “progressive.” It didn’t go so well:
In fairness, I suspect the responses would have been very different if the interviews were conducted at an institution like, say, Hillsdale College -- and not American University. But generally speaking, these reactions -- remarkable for their uniformity of opinion -- are probably typical of how students think at institutions of higher learning in the United States today.
The general consensus? Conservatives want America to be a 1950s-esque patriarchal society where power is concentrated in the hands of the “one percent,” whereas progressives have “open views” and want to make things better for everyone. The implication, of course, as Joseph pointed out, is that conservatives are therefore actively not trying to make things better for everyone -- a complete distortion of American conservatism and what it stands for. Students repeatedly used the term “status quo,” avowing that conservatism, as an intellectual movement, is fundamentally "against moving the country forward." To back up their claims, students cited a number of hot-button issues -- gay marriage, abortion, and climate change, to name a few -- as evidence that conservatives really do subscribe to a “backwards” ideology. None of this is surprising, fair, or, for that matter, even true.
Students who attend decidedly liberal colleges are presumably going to view conservatives in a negative light. This caricature is reinforced by their professors and the content of their classes. In time, they will come to see conservatism as a powerful yet misguided movement that is inherently racist, bigoted, and “for the rich.” Not until conservatives seriously engage this audience of Americans -- by first and foremost visiting their colleges and universities -- will the status quo ever change.
Time to get to work.