02 April 2009

Victor Davis Hanson On The Ugly

"Uglier still is what is going on in universities. Higher education in the humanities has devolved into a sort of indoctrination/reeducation camp, on the following apologia: the corporation, the family, the church, the military, the government are illiberal. So in our precious, rare chance to have the nation’s youth for a brief four years, we the professoriate have to offset, balance, offer an antithesis to these dominant conservative cultures. So, presto, we cannot be biased since we the anointed are the corrective to the bias." ~ Victor Davis Hanson

(Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College, where he teaches each fall semester courses in military history and classical culture.)


brboyd said...

Colleges are supposed to be teaching kids HOW to think and not WHAT to think! "Woe be unto him who causes these little ones to stumble". That says it all.

cenantua said...

Gee, that's a pretty weird statement when you consider the fact that the depth of the officer corps of the US military actually comes from these so-called "re-education camps." I wonder how Hanson explains that.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

I don't know. I'll ask him. Being at Stanford, he is in the "belly of the beast" so to speak. Obviously, he's philosophically conservative so his worldview would be at odds (generally) with much of academia.

You would know much better than I but I would have to assume that the majority of the officer corps would come from the ranks of schools like West Point, VMI, the Citadel, Annapolis, etc. Is there any validity to that assumption or am I way off base?

cenantua said...

Actually, the numbers commissioned annually through ROTC programs at non-military schools exceeds the number from military schools. I don't remember the stats, but I'm pretty certain of this, plus I remember it being emphasized in my time in Army ROTC programs at both Western Carolina University and East Carolina University. Every university I have attended beyond that, to include ODU, William & Mary, and JMU, have ROTC programs and its obvious seeing the cadets around campus. Then, of course, you have a large number who are commissioned from the enlisted ranks, but many of them still go through the halls of non-military universities to land a degree before commissioning as well.

So, I'm really not sure where Hanson is coming from on this idea of academe teaching the illiberal stuff about all of this. From his words, you'd almost start to see this culture of anti-military that was around in the 70s and cadets would be dropping out of ROTC programs like flies. Yet, at least in my experience, I haven't seen this and I would think I would be rather quick to detect it being around the military in some form or fashion for over 40 years. On top of that, I don't encounter problems myself going through academe saying I'm a veteran. So, unless he offers some strong evidence that cadets are struggling amidst some sea of discrimination in the classroom and are struggling to make it through all of the "indoctrination/reeducation" in order to "cope" with the responsibilities that they face as future officers, "I ain't buyin' it."

Sort of like his ideas about academians force-feeding ideology about the church being illiberal as well. If Hanson is so right in his assessment, then I suppose I should tell one of my favorite professors, who is literally my mentor in my field of study right now, to cease and desist in conducting an online Bible study as it doesn't fit into Hanson's definition.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Thanks Robert. That's interesting about your professor. Of course, (And I don't want to get into a religion debate here) there are liberal views in theology as well. Just because someone teaches the Bible, or attends a church, does not mean their theological views aren't "liberal."

James F. Epperson said...

It is trendy in conservative circles to complain about liberal domination on campus, but I have to wonder if things would be appreciably different if the ideological shoes were on different feet.

Look, I spent 25 years in academia, in a subject (mathematics) most of you would say should be immune to this sort of thing. But it is not. I have seen heated arguments over the "best" way to prove arcane results, and heated debates over how to teach. The issue is not Liberal vs. Conservative, it's Mine vs. Yours, i.e., anyone with a vested stake in a set of ideas, be they mathematical, historical, medical, or whatever, is going to defend those ideas with great (and sometimes excess) passion when they are challenged. That's the way people are. It is unfortunate that this kind of thing might filter into hiring decisions or grant decisions, but as long as the people involved are fallible humans it is going to be tough to prevent. The way to "beat" the problem is with an odd combination of stubborn persistence and Christian "turning of the cheek." I've seen these work in practice.

What ISTM many conservatives are complaining about is that their ideas are not being adopted. Then you need to make a better case for them! Quit complaining, and get to work on that!

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

"It is trendy in conservative circles to complain about liberal domination on campus"

It is also fact. We've had that debate here before, so I'm not going to rehash all the old arguments. Anyone wanting to revisit that can simply search the blog.

Brboyd said...

Im shocked. Those that say this isnt happening obviously have forgotten about Ward Churchill. Also you must be overlooking all the people who now at "activist" to their self descriptions. I have yet to meet a plumber activist though. I have recently seen a list of colleges that are the most left leaning. Sorry to say I dont have a link to it.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...


Professor Hanson just emailed me the following response to your inquiry:

"Two key points: (1), I think very few of the current officer corps, who are taking courses in universities, are seeking degrees in literature and the humanities, where the most egregious examples of political correctness are found; (2) that said, I think I receive on average about a letter per month from officers who currently are in various MA and PhD programs (far more commonly in history, government, international relations, or political science) who remark on the indoctrination they find, and how careful they must navigate to find the right professor to advise their graduate thesis work. That one can still find a minority of disinterested professors in history or political science with whom to work with does not nullify the more general thesis that one should not have to be so careful-that all professors should welcome dissent, be open to views of all sorts, and should not make known their own political beliefs in such a way that makes students uncomfortable or fear that dissent earns repercussions."

James F. Epperson said...

"Those that say this isn't happening obviously have forgotten about Ward Churchill."

Two points:

1) Ward Churchill is one man on one campus. His existence, by itself, is hardly evidence of anything beyond his own idiocy.

2) My point was not that "liberal domination" might not exist. My point was that it was not the result of some evil plot, but the natural consequence of people standing up for "their" ideas. If we had "conservative domination" it would be just as bad, only in a different direction.

James F. Epperson said...

" 'It is trendy in conservative circles to complain about liberal domination on campus'

It is also fact. We've had that debate here before, so I'm not going to rehash all the old arguments."

Richard, this almost sounds like the kind of thing you are complaining about. I challenged your "thesis" by suggesting it is simply ordinary human behavior, and rather than make any response of substance, you dismissed my idea as though it had no merit. How is this any different from what you have been complaining about?

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

There are hundreds of Ward Churchhills, he just made the news.

"the natural consequence of people standing up for "their" ideas."

Yes, those ideas being statist/socialist utopia nonsense.

I equate conservatism, in the broad sense, with liberty, freedom, and morality. That's a good thing.

I'm not dismissing it. We've had that same discussion here very recently and I don't have the time or the interest to rehash the same issues every other week.

James F. Epperson said...

"Yes, those ideas being statist/socialist utopia nonsense."

Well, it is nonsense to you. I doubt it is nonsense to them.

Thank you for proving my point.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

If you say so James, but I doubt your point was proved to anyone other than yourself.

cenantua said...

In response to the response, all I can see is that I haven't seen what he is talking about in my time in history programs from 1984-88, 1994-95, and 2005-2007.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

They are probably intimidated by your imposing and commanding presence.