Oct 18 2010

Seeking truth in higher ed

Category: Uncategorizedharmonicminer @ 8:38 am

Truth, Not Ideological Balance

As the academy grows more stridently left wing, conservatives respond with calls for ideological affirmative action — for schools to hire more right-thinking faculty so students encounter intellectual diversity. This is a seductively alluring scheme, and thanks to wealthy donors, it is proliferating.

It is an ill-advised and ultimately anti-intellectual strategy, even in the unlikely event that it succeeds. The academy can not be, nor should it be, an intellectual version of Noah’s Ark. Sadly, this conservative version of “inclusion” mimics the Left’s subordination of truth to ideology.

The quest should be about insisting that whatever professors teach, content should be truthful, whether this truth is liberal, conservative, reactionary, or Marxist, whether the subject in English or sociology. After all, who wants conservative falsehoods to “balance” radical dishonesty? It is fantasy to insist that if students learn at 9 a.m. that 2+2=3 and at 11 a.m., 2+2=5, they will eat lunch knowing that 2+2=4.

The hunt to hire truth-seekers changes everything. Out with the ideological litmus tests; in with character and temperament. If a Marxist job candidate argues that Africa is poor owing to colonial exploitation, the sharp rejoinder should be, “Can you prove this?” Ditto for the conservative job seeker who insists that only capitalist free markets can solve Africa’s poverty.

Admittedly, abandoning ideological labels complicates life, and may even discourage donors from funding pet projects, but this is what the life of the mind is about.

I admit to having made the argument before that the leftists in higher education (including Christian higher ed) should include conservative, right leaning viewpoints just because they are there, for the sake of balance if nothing else.

But maybe that’s because my sights were set too low.  Of course, if this kind of skeptical search for evidence behind assertion became the norm in higher education of almost any stripe, a great many of the favored programs and initiatives so beloved of administrators and public relations people would have to be reconsidered.    So I’m not holding my breath about some new rebirth in higher education’s ability to be skeptical about itself, and, for now, I’ll settle just for a balance between right and left…  the eventual dialectic may take care of the rest, if that elusive balance is ever achieved.

I suppose the message to us all is this:  be sure you know the difference between what you actually know and what is just your PR.