Collegiate Conservatism & Thoughts on and Tips for Combating an Editorialized Education (First up: Thoughts)
The political environment in which we currently reside is truly rather depressing. When one cannot utter a conservative principle without enduring a self-righteous lecture on morals, there is a serious socio-cultural issue at hand.
Upon further consideration, it is apparent the educational institutions of the country are of no help either. College graduates tending to identify as “liberals” are in an increasing majority, according to a PEW Research study by Rob Suls titled “Educational Divide in vote preferences . . .” The change runs averse to the ever-increasing demand for generalizable skills out of college, especially as the job market is morphed by globalization and automation (see The Arch Conservative Weekly Podcast’s inaugural episode for more on the issue). Ultimately, the university system seems to be failing at endowing students with the ability to think critically in regard to the political realm.
Truthfully, and unfortunately in some ways as well, “A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine” so says Thomas Jefferson. With certain Leftist intelligentsia assuming that they can engineer society, inevitably by way of expanding the government, the support of the electorate is the only thing standing in their way. And, as government swells, so too does the burden on individual liberty bore by society, most often felt by that 49 percent. When the majority feel it permissible to expand this burden, however, swelling ensues. The most brilliant counter to mob rule, however, is enlightenment through education.
Regrettably, though, formal education in the United States is becoming too inauspicious an institution to truly provoke enough thought to combat this dangerous notion. This notion, that government is the medium through which all of society’s problems must be solved, is one that has spelled, and still does spell, doom for any nation. The ignorance of this always-evident truth with which so many graduate from college is in contradiction to the objective of an education (and the ultimate reason for declaring education a right in many countries): to endow the populous with the ability to succeed in life and—as an extension of success in life—move them toward a greater understanding of nuances in the world and its history and institutions. Were the implications of such topics being thoroughly taught, included in syllabi, and consequently realized by students, there would be more graduates of a moderate or conservative viewpoint than currently exist.
Alas, much of the discussion on campuses today tends to stay within the narrow confines of what the government has yet to do, rather than analyzing the history and implications of the “progress” it has already made. Furthermore, to opine from a conservative standpoint often yields only backlash instead of a much-deserved discussion and consideration.
For example, one need not look further than an advertisement for The Arch Conservative’s annual event, in which we promoted Karin Agness Lips’s lecture on the merits of conservative feminism, a response to the advertisement read, in part, as follows:
“Conservative ideals (by nature of holding onto historical expectations of gender) limit the freedom in choices women can make in their lives and the positions of power they can fill. This is no more obvious than how our presidential election turned out.”
The poster’s objective was, in effect, this: To shut out a vast group of conservative women, to discredit a movement based on the election of one man (one, I might add, of whom truly thoughtful conservatives were and are extremely wary, to say the least). What’s more, critics even to discounted the right of a woman to address feminism simply because said woman is a “well-off” and “white” (as another disgruntled audience member suggested at the event). These are tragic indicators of what modern feminism has become, as Karin Agness explains in more detail in her Forbes piece about speaking at UGA for The Arch Conservative.
And as we saw, all that those on the Left need is a mention of these two entirely paradoxical words: “feminism” and “conservative,” in order to unleash their frustration with the world. No questions need be asked, no consideration need be given to the qualifications of the speaker nor to her accomplishments. No, only a dense display of emotion is required to give reason to these hecklers on the Left. All that is required is a mention of conservatism in combination with feminism to put a definitive end to their discussion.
Such is the brilliance of the Left, that they can drive intelligent and thoughtful students to illiberal tendencies fueled by the movement’s utter delusion.
To echo something that Karin Agness Lips mentioned her lecture, see “The Life of Julia” from former President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign, wherein “Julia’s” success and happiness in life is defined entirely by her relationship with the government and neither by her individual choices nor by her personal relationships or growth. This is not at all to say that there are not plenty changes to be made within the government to allow the opportunities for all to flourish, but rather that not every change should be one that concentrates power in the hands of the political elite (always at the expense of personal liberty). Of course, Lips’s lamentations were met by an audience intent only on slander.
Tips for Combating an Editorialized Education
At any rate, rather than droning on and continuing to lament the drawbacks of a two-party system in the modern age of self-indulgence and perverse ideas about the purpose of and place for government, I would like to offer advice on ways that one may educate oneself on both sides of an issue. Because it is only then, through self-initiated education, that a person may begin to appreciate the depth of the issues at hand.
First, indulge in outside reading. Truly, there is not a single piece of advice that could be of more use than to educate yourself in addition to those readings given in your college syllabi and in your generally uninformative news reading. Too often do these two sources give one carefully calculated and selected information. To hesitantly act in the defense of news media, there simply is no way to encompass all the information and perspectives on any given topic while remaining entertaining enough to sustain their current profit margins.
Second, diversify your sources. Watch YouTube videos of Thomas Sowell, Friedrich Hayek, or Milton Friedman debating Keynesian economists. Discover Podcasts from the likes of the always objective and perceptive editors of National Review (a model for The Arch Conservative’s Weekly Podcast, no doubt). Download a text-to-speech app or extension that allows you to breeze through transcripts of William F. Buckley’s essays and speeches.
Third, find a conservative acquaintance and, rather than apprehending his or her ideas, come to an understanding of their motivations. In other words, do not dismiss people because they have an ideological bend that you impulsively find repugnant. Challenge each other by listening to one another’s articulations. From personal experience as well as common logic, the broadening of your base of knowledge that will inevitably follow such action will prove invariably priceless.
To that last point, if Bernie Sanders could legitimately argue the issues without erroneously (and without significant enough data) conflating capitalism with racism and oppression, he might have been taken more seriously. Then again, his platform may not have been so appealing when placed against a legitimate test of time, history, and logic.
This advice transcends all ideologies, backgrounds, and political preferences and would serve to reward anyone in compliance with the knowledge, skills, and understanding that many, including myself for a time, lack.
I choose to end my article with neither condescension nor attacks on the intentions of any activist, but rather with a plea to those who sit on both sides of the aisle who perhaps lack solidity—either in their own beliefs or in their confidence—to discover the best arguments on the other side. Without such knowledge, true political discourse will be forever unachievable. But understand also, dear reader, that the side of the aisle with which my respected colleagues and I most identify boasts more merit and greater intellectual tradition than any person whose heart skips a beat at the word “conservative” would ever care to admit. And thus, I encourage all to look into its scholars, authors, historians, writers, columnists, economists, and thinkers. For all opinions are not of equal footing.
When I hear of someone on the Left claim to have read one of Bill Buckley’s essays, I am imbued with a sense of elation, as I assume that I will be able to respectfully discuss the complex issues of the modern world. And complex they are indeed. After all, if there were a simple answer, there would have been a consensus long ago. The way toward the remedies of society, as ever, will result from discussing rather than an excluding ideas.
This article appears under a similar name in and is adapted from the Summer 2017 edition of The Arch Conservative in print.
— Nick Geeslin is Editor-in-Chief of The Arch Conservative.