William Irvine is a professor of philosophy at Wright State University. He is one of the most courageous and honest professors in the country. Recently, he wrote a column concerning Wright State’s decision to invite the Reverend Jeremiah Wright to speak on his campus. Although he disagrees with many of Reverend Wright’s views, he publicly welcomed him to the campus because he believes that a university should be a marketplace of ideas. That view alone makes Irvine exceptional among today’s professoriate.
Irvine calls out his university for being “curiously one-sided in the speakers it brings to campus.” He notes that liberal speakers are routinely invited and that ultra-liberal speakers including Wright and Angela Davis are occasionally invited. No one seems to think it strange that avowed communists and those with significant criminal backgrounds are paid to speak on campus at considerable expense to the taxpayer. But politically conservative speakers are scarce and in the case of John McCain and Sarah Palin pay for the privilege of using campus facilities.
William Irvine is the rare professor willing to confront his colleagues’ hypocrisy and to publicly quote their silly defenses of rigid ideological conformity. When he confronted another professor with the idea that the university should invite conservative speakers his colleague responded by asking “You mean someone like Glenn Beck?” This kind of reaction shows how off-center our universities have become. What educated person could consider Glen Beck to be more extreme than Angela Davis?
Another professor reacted to Irvine’s reasonable suggestion by saying that it wouldn’t be a good idea to bring any Holocaust deniers to campus. The statement is an odd one indeed. It suggests that most conservatives refuse to accept the Holocaust as fact. I think liberal supporters of abortion are today’s true Holocaust deniers.
Professor Irvine has discovered something I have also discovered about the liberal professoriate; namely, that they see no reason for debate. In their eyes, the debate is over on all the major issues of the day. Of course, in their eyes they won all the major debates. Now, the reward for winning these debates is that we can proceed into the implementation phase. Of course, professors rarely use the word “implementation.” They just mindlessly repeat the word “diversity” like catatonics in padded cells.
Professor Irvine has also discovered that suggestions of bringing people like Thomas Sowell to campus are met with one pretty serious problem: Most liberal professors have never heard of Thomas Sowell.
Many years ago I suggested that Sowell should be required reading for college students. The reaction was amazing. According to one of my left-leaning colleagues - one who actually knows who Thomas Sowell is - the students don’t need to read Sowell because they were raised in conservative homes where those ideas were regularly espoused.
Notice the intellectual sleight of hand my “liberal” colleague employed. His argument is against intellectual diversity. The $64,000 question: Why oppose intellectual diversity? The answer: Since parents do it for eighteen years it is only fair that professors be allowed to do it for four years.
Professor Irvine has accurately identified a big problem in saying that it is now possible for students to get a college “education” without ever encountering a conservative professor. But the problem is even bigger than that. Most professors now believe it is desirable for students to get a college “education” without ever encountering a conservative professor. Their idea of “liberal education” is nothing more than a poorly disguised war on conservatism. This anti-conservative mindset is so entrenched that one of my “liberal” colleagues wants to remove the entire Cameron School of Business from UNC-Wilmington (where I teach). He explicitly stated that a school of business has “no business at a liberal university.” Between his puerile and antiquated lectures on Marxism he denies the existence of any liberal bias. This is the personification of self-indulgence and anti-intellectualism.
Professor William Irvine says that we do not have a fair hearing of conservative views on campus but instead “liberal professors galore, who will be happy to tell you what they imagine the conservative viewpoint on various issues must be and why these viewpoints are wrongheaded.” This statement is bull’s-eye accurate. And his follow-up statement is brilliant: “This is a pale substitute for a genuine political debate, but it is, on many campuses, what students have to settle for.”
Good for him. This debate should remain focused on the shortchanged students. College is not becoming less expensive. But it is becoming less relevant.
The public challenge issued by Professor Irvine is one that every professor, conservative or liberal, should issue to his university. That challenge comes in two parts: 1) Hire at least a few conservative professors. (I’m open to this idea. What better way to remedy the historical oppression of conservatives!). 2) If you cannot stomach hiring conservative professors then at least hire some conservative speakers.
Of course, today’s “liberal” professor will agree to neither of those suggestions. He uses affirmative action to promote his self-esteem not to promote “a diversity of perspectives.” And he uses the word “diversity” only to hide his deep-seated intellectual insecurity.
Our universities are no longer committed to revealing the truth. They are committed to suppressing the truth. And among those truths is that tolerance is not the academy’s most enduring intellectual achievement. It is its most transparent moral weakness.