Cameron Hilditch, inspired by the Times Higher Education‘s World University Rankings for 2021, writes that conservatives should show more gratitude and less scorn for America’s elite higher education institutions. Having just graduated from No. 19 on the list, I agree with his larger point, but dissent from parts of his argument.
“There is hardly a single field in which American Exceptionalism and global dominance is in ruder health than in higher education,” Hilditch says, lamenting that “partisan politics” should not “prevent [conservatives] from acknowledging those areas in which America is uniquely great.” Absolutely, conservatives are reluctant to boast about America’s universities, which are unmatched across the globe. Much worse, we are sometimes too quick to fall prey to a culture of victimhood that manifests itself in irritable gestures such as Turning Point USA’s “Professor Watchlist,” and in the existence of an organization such as Turning Point USA.
That being said, Hilditch understates the scope and significance of the lack of ideological parity in American higher education when he asks “so what?” of universities’ “skew[ing] left.” They don’t skew left, they are dominated by the Left. At my alma mater, 99.5 percent of faculty donations were made to left-wing candidates and causes. Moreover, there is not a single faculty member in the Government Department who leans to the right. This political monoculture has serious consequences. On campus, it makes for a worse education, and even threatens the well-being of those who don’t subscribe to the prevailing orthodoxy. Downstream, it molds an elite class that can’t understand or tolerate conservatives, and that trains them to deem the Right’s political gains “illegitimate.”
Hilditch also points out that most people have developed a partisan identity before ever setting a foot on campus. This may be true, but research has shown that insular groups that share similar worldviews radicalize those groups’ individual members. In my experience, college turns RINOs into Blue Dogs, Blue Dogs into progressives, and progressives into socialists.
American conservatives could doubtlessly stand to be more proud of the nation’s peerless institutions of higher learning, but it is no crime to be clear-eyed about their deficiencies.