Colleges: Why conservatives give them an ‘F’
Republicans have become reactionary on so many issues, said Danny Westneat in The Seattle Times, and now “the Right is coming after college.” A new Pew Research Center poll finds that by a stunning 58-36 percent margin, Republicans and Republican-leaning independents believe colleges and universities “have a net negative effect on the country.” (By contrast, 72 percent of Democrats and Democratic leaners view college favorably.) It’s been widely known at least since the 1960s “the ivory tower leans left.” So what suddenly convinced conservatives academia is a threat to society? “The echo chamber, that’s what.” Fox News, Breitbart, and other right-wing outlets relentlessly flog protests and other “leftist college outrages,” real and invented, and insist that science and the pursuit of knowledge are all part of a conspiracy of liberal elites. Yes, campus protesters often go too far. But that’s not reason enough to write off the world’s finest university system.
Don’t blame right-wing media, said Megan McArdle in Bloomberg.com. Blame the angry campus liberals who have protected their “safe spaces” by threatening conservative speakers like Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos and staging “increasingly raucous protests that eventually turned to violence.” For decades conservative parents tolerated academia’s leftist bias, said Joe Simonson in NationalReview.com. The implicit bargain was that their children would be trained for life as “productive members of the labor force.” But today, academic standards have eroded, and ritzy liberal arts colleges are more like spas. Students “indoor rock-climb in the morning, enjoy a freshly prepared vegan meal at lunch,” pontificate about gender and race in the afternoon, and “drink heavily and indulge in soft drugs at night.”
Even liberals should acknowledge that “higher education in America is a mess,” said Will Bunch in the Philadelphia Daily News. It’s increasingly difficult to get a job without a diploma, yet prestigious colleges are “completely unaffordable, not to mention hard to get into if you don’t come from the right ZIP code or the right parents.” In this insular world, students are taught there is only one right way to think. For the sake of the country, we need to make college more accessible to kids from Rust Belt row houses and Southern farms, and to “encourage a greater exchange of ideas.” Maybe then Americans will stop seeing the system as rigged, and “our politics will grow less bitter and angry.” ■