by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
[P]art of me still felt loyal to academia. I had written a long letter (which I still stand by) in defense of Anthony Esolen at Providence College, so I was feeling a little nostalgic for the old view of college as a place to learn about ideas and be exposed to many perspectives. I signed a petition defending one of these professors’ academic freedom.
The response to my comment on the petition was more of what has always made me abhor the left. Try to build bridges to them, and they punish you for it. The history of my disastrous attempt to engage Prof. Potter on the Chronicle of Higher Education is symptomatic of the left’s longstanding history of taking kind gestures from conservatives as a sign that such conservatives are weak. Rather than say, “Wow, what a great chance to speak across party lines,” lefties usually perceive an invitation to shame you publicly, using anything you say against you.
On the recent petition’s discussion threads, the gist was, “how dare you as a conservative defend a liberal’s academic freedom – as if you have some common cause here? You don’t deserve freedom. You are a bigot!”
One year ago, I would have called myself a staunch believer in academic freedom – a free speech purist. I was a tenured professor in California and appreciated the help extended to me by FIRE and other advocacy groups.
Now things look very different to me. … Academic freedom, I have come to believe, is not a virtue in its own right. The false view of it as an absolute good is an outgrowth of the United States’ corrupted tenure system. Tenure gives no protection to adjunct faculty who teach most classes, then handpicks a small number of people to tenure, who are usually chosen because they hold views favorable to their reviewers. …
… Liberal arts training is accomplishing nothing. Colleges have become a political racket whereby Democrats fork endless cash to tuition extortionists, and lousy scholars impart insane ideas to debt-strapped students who are made dysfunctional citizens in the process.