Conservative Undergraduates at Liberal Colleges, Cont'd

Glenn Ricketts

As we noted here recently, IHE ran this piece about a new book whose title is indicative of its novelty: Becoming Right: How Campuses Shape Young ConservativesIf you’re wondering how exactly conservative students might be “shaped” by the often overwhelmingly liberal environment so prevalent in the American academy, this late arrival to the article's comments thread describes how that can happen: 

I was a student at a small, private, very left-leaning college in Southern California. I had an old George Bush sticker on my car's rear window from the 2000 election, and someone smashed it out with a baseball bat. When I told people about what happened, they said, "Well, you should know better than to put a George Bush sticker on your window here," or "You did what?! You kind of deserved it, then!" Some [nominally liberal] students had their SUVs vandalized for being not "eco-friendly" enough. Even though it was not really my nature, because there were only three avowed conservatives in my class, I was drawn into debates constantly. I don't regret it, because I had to honestly analyze my beliefs, do a lot of research, learn the art of civilized debate, and hone my arguments. It was exhausting, but I think in the end it is the liberal students who lose out in overwhelmingly liberal atmospheres, because they are never truly challenged in that way. 

I also feel like they miss out because they come into their political adulthood having only met one or two Republicans (and sometimes none at all). They don't see Republicans as real people, (neighbors, friends) and the only descriptions that they ever hear of conservative views and why people hold them has come from fellow Democrats. It becomes more difficult to demonize Republicans (or Democrats, or gay people, or any group of people) once you have a few that you consider friends.   

This probably wouldn’t work for all self –identified conservatives since, to borrow a phrase, they’re in what’s literally a “hostile environment.”   But for those who are steady in their intellectual bearings, and who’ve got the right mix of gumption and social adroitness, the experience can apparently be a good one, from which they emerge stronger, wiser and savvier.  Too bad, as I noted before,  that the liberal majority will simply become more smugly complacent, intellectually flaccid, and provincial.

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