Wednesday, July 23, 2008

How Liberal is the University?

In the previous post, I noted procedures now in place at Penn State and Temple for students to report liberal bias in the classroom. If, in fact, there is discrimination based upon someone's point of view--one that they can present in the class, be challenged on, but be evaluated on how they present it rather than the view itself--then there is, indeed, a problem.

For a long time, the university in America has been regarded as one of the last bastions of liberalism or progressive thought (from one point of view) or as a hold-out of liberalism left over from the 60s but really having no connection with the rest of society (from another point of view). Although, I should note that the structure or organization of the university is amazingly conservative--a hold-out from the middle ages! Divisions in to the current form of departments is a hold-over from the nineteenth-century, and, in fact, may need to be revised.

Yet, the NYTimes and the Chronicle this past month have issued articles (the latter clearly relies upon the former) discussing a potential shift currently occurring in the university in America, as professors who spent their formative years in the 60s and 70s are now retiring. In this generational shift, what will be the result? Both articles suggest the university as a whole will move to the middle. If so, will there be grievance procedures put in place to protect students from indoctrination in being middle of the road?


Anonymous said...

It is not unusual for a person to move towards the middle of the road as he/she gains an understanding of both sides of the issue.

Jared Calaway said...

Perhaps, or at least, when only two sides of an issue are presented. We often tend to think in terms of binaries: it is either this or that (or a synthesis of the two--the middle of the road). But, in fact, most problems and issues have more than two sides. I tend to dislike the terminology of "liberal" and "conservative" because they preserve this false sense of only two options. It prevents us from thinking creatively. All too often, what we label as "conservative" and "liberal" are amazingly close to one another when one tries to think of a full range of possibilities.