• Fascinating personal reflections by Prof. Jean Yarbrough: “How I Became a Conservative”

    Jean Yarbrough, a distinguished political philosopher at Bowdoin College, describes her personal and intellectual journey in a brief, engaging campus talk, published here.

    She entered college in the mid-1960s a liberal Democrat, from a “blue collar/middle class” neighborhood on Long Island, the first generation in her family to attend university.

    In those heady days on campus, she moved left and eventually joined the Students for a Democratic Society, the most prominent leftist group of the era.

    In graduate school, though, she began to rethink her views as she grappled with truly great books.

    “Having wasted my undergraduate years protesting,” she said the first peg of her conservatism developed when she began studying the “great texts” in her graduate program at the New School for Social Research in New York City. “I read great books, and these books changed my life. They made me think more seriously about the world around me.” . . .

    The books she read during this period pushed her to carefully consider the importance of natural rights, constitutional government, statesmanship, and virtue — its role in society and how it can be cultivated.

    She goes on to discuss her changing views about foreign policy, marriage-motherhood-and-feminism, religion, and economics. It’s thoughtful, candid, and accessible.

    At a time when students at so many schools refuse to hear alternative views, it’s wonderful to see Prof. Yarbrough given a respectful hearing on her campus and a chance to engage students with serious, often-difficult and controversial ideas. That’s what higher education should be about.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦

    As an addendum, Prof. Yarbrough includes some of her favorite books on politics. A specialist in American political thought, she knows the field well and has written highly-regarded books on Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt. Her list is worth pondering–and pursuing.

    • Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War
    • Plato, Apology, Republic, Gorgias, Symposium, Laws
    • Aristotle, Politics, Rhetoric, and Nicomachean Ethics
    • Locke, Second Treatise of Government
    • Rousseau, Second Discourse, Emile
    • Tocqueville, Democracy in America
    • Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil
    • The Federalist Papers
    • Abraham Lincoln’s writings
    • Hannah Arendt, On Revolution and The Human Condition
    • Leo Strauss, Natural Right and History and his Selected Essays
    • Harvey Mansfield, Taming the Prince
    • Harry Jaffa, Crisis of the House Divided

    Comment: If you read these books–and only these–you would have an unsurpassed education in political thought.

  • A WONDERFUL video on the value of free speech at universities

    The University of Chicago doesn’t hide its defense of free speech and open discourse in the footnotes. It puts free speech front and center, in a video directed at all students thinking of applying to the University. It states our university values forthrightly, explains why they matter, and shows that we have held them since the university was founded, sometimes against rich and powerful opposition.

    What’s amazing–and disheartening–is that these same values are not adopted by every college and university. What’s their principled objection to diversity of thought and free speech?

    A few may have such principled objections, based on their notions of “social justice.” They know what is socially just; they know what is not; and they know the whole topic is just too important to debate. So, they reason, agree with us or at least have the courtesy to keep quiet.

    DePaul is like that. It took away the students’ chalk last year after someone had the temerity to write “Trump 2016” on a sidewalk. This Catholic school banned a poster, “Unborn Lives Matter,” for fear it would upset black students. There’s more robust debate on the back of a cereal box.

    But most university administrators have no principled objections to free speech. They just go with the flow, unwilling to face the opposition from students and faculty that would greet them if they urged a hearing for unpopular viewpoints.

    The poster boy for this invertebrate position is Peter Salovey, president of Yale. It’s bad enough he fails to defend free speech. He goes further, patting himself on the back for supporting the First Amendment. “Lux et Veritas” may be the university motto, but only if the lux is environmentally-friendly and the veritas is approved by local truth squad. Otherwise, not so much.

    Salovey’s stance is similar to most college administrators. They simply do what successful career bureaucrats always do: protect their positions and that of their institutions from any controversy. That may keep the campus quiet, but is that really the highest goal of education?

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦

    I’m reluctant to post too much about my own university, despite my great admiration for its intellectual traditions and commitment to free speech.

    It seems too much like preening.

    (CAVEAT: Even at Chicago, there are some departments and centers that fall well short of the aspiration of diverse viewpoints. They are the same ones that rot and stink in the sun on all campuses.

    There are also student groups that are happy to stomp out speech with which they disagree. The misnamed “Students for Justice in Palestine” leads this vile pack, as they do on many campuses. They show no signs of accepting John Locke’s 1689 “Letter Concerning on Toleration,” or the Enlightenment ideals that build upon it and serve as this country’s foundation.

    Even with these gaps and missteps, Chicago’s values in principle and in practice are far better than at places like Swarthmore, Yale, or Berkeley, where free speech and discordant views go to die. They are buried in unmarked graves, unmourned by students who fritter away hard-won constitutional freedoms so they can signal their higher virtue.)

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦

    This University of Chicago video is exactly what all schools should be saying to their prospective students. The punchline comes in the first 3 minutes, but the whole 10 minutes are worth watching.

    Kudos to the university’s faculty and administrators who put free speech and diversity of ideas front and center. Kudos to the Dean of the College and the admissions department for underscoring these principled commitments.

    Kudos, too, for adopting the informal motto: 

    Audiatur et Altera Pars: Listen Even to the Other Side.

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Saturday, April 15

    Topics and articles chosen with care. Linked articles in bold purple

     North Korea displays new missiles but holds off another nuclear test (Washington Post)

    Comment: The situation is incredibly dangerous. North Korea’s leader is not only bellicose. He may well be mentally unstable. No one is sure.

    South Korea’s capital and largest city, Seoul, is very close to the DMZ, and very vulnerable to attack–including a nuclear attack by Pyongyang.

    China could put the squeeze on North Korea, but that does not mean it has control over the Kim regime’s actions. Beijing knows that China’s population is also threatened by North Korean weapons and that the two countries have a complicated, sometimes fraught history.

    My hunch is that Beijing would prefer to engineer a change of leadership that is friendly to China, less bellicose, and willing to pursue a Chinese-style market opening. But trying to achieve that is very risky.

     Good news on free speech at one college, Wichita State They tried hard to do the wrong thing, but they eventually got it right.

    An embattled student group at Wichita State University is finally free to engage in on-campus activism as a registered student organization. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court of the Wichita State University Student Government overturned the Student Government Association’s unconstitutional decision to deny recognition to Young Americans for Liberty, a libertarian student group, because of the group’s belief in First Amendment principles. –FIRE, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education

    Comment: If you support free speech and don’t already know about FIRE, you’ll be happy to learn about it. It is truly even-handed, defending right and left alike.

     Related Story: Meanwhile, at Wellesley, a very selective liberal arts college, the student newspaper writes:

    Wellesley is certainly not a place for racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, transphobia or any other type of discriminatory speech. Shutting down rhetoric that undermines the existence and rights of others is not a violation of free speech; it is hate speech. (The Wellesley News via HotAir)

    These students actually say that the “Founding Fathers” (a phrase that must stick in their craw) “put free speech in the Constitution as a way to protect the disenfranchised . . . [and] suppressed, not to protect a free-for-all where anything is acceptable, no matter how hateful and damaging.”

    Comment: The First Amendment does not mean “anything is acceptable.” As everyone knows, you cannot yell fire falsely in a crowded theater. Nor can you take a bullhorn and wake up the whole neighborhood at 3 am with your rendition of “I did it my way.” There are, in other words, some legal restrictions on the time, place, and conditions for speech. There are legal remedies for “damaging” speech, if it is false and defamatory (and perhaps known to be false when uttered).

    But for Wellesley students to actually defend their speech suppression as being true to the First Amendment is either disingenuous or historically clueless. Either way, it is wrong. 

     Two data-driven opinion pieces on wealth disparities between blacks and whites with college degrees

    Comment: The disparity is troubling and thoughtful, open-minded discussion is valuable.

    Going back to the previous two stories: this kind of discussion is much harder to have on campuses where everyone walks on eggshells, fearing a wrong word might offend.

     How deep is the Clinton camp’s denial?

    Well, Hillary’s communications director, Jennifer Palmieri, told a Yale audience “Ukraine and the horrible ISIS beheadings” were “sort of manufactured press stories” (Daily Caller)

    There were the obvious crazy things happening like the website melting down, Ukraine, and the horrible ISIS beheadings; these sort of manufactured press stories that hopefully you all have forgotten about. –Daily Caller

    Comment: Those manufactured stories were nothing compared to that fake moon landing.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Many thanks to Christopher Buckley for the Wellesley story

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Saturday, March 11

    Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
    Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆ Comment: The Trump presidency will be in deep trouble if it cannot pass a repeal-and-replace bill.

    Right now, the White House and Congressional leadership face real problems from the right in House (which doesn’t want to keep Obamacare’s big subsidies to the poor, locking in an entitlement) and centrist Republicans in the Senate (who fear they cannot be reelected in moderate states if they repeal these subsidies). Think: small fairway with a water hazard on the right and thick bushes on the left.

    The House Freedom Caucus expresses principled opposition to entitlement expansion. Basically, they want repeal without replace. The members are all in safe districts that Trump won, so the members may be reluctant to oppose a president popular among their voters. It’s hard to know if these members can be pressured by Speaker Ryan and the White House to sell out their principles.

    The moderate Senators are harder to pressure because they fear a wrong vote could cost them their seats. In the past, they could be coaxed by side-payments. That’s what Pres. Obama did with the “Cornhusker Kickback” and “Louisiana Purchase.” Those backfired and they won’t work this time.

    This is sausage-making at its bloodiest. It’s not even clear the pig is dead yet.

     Michael Flynn, former NSC adviser, was paid to represent Turkish interests during the Trump campaign  (New York Times)

    Comment: Although Turkey is a NATO member and the lobbying work was not illegal, it is stunning that he did not register as a “foreign agent” contemporaneously (he is only doing so now) and that the Trump vetting team didn’t catch this advance. He can’t say he forgot. The check was for $500k. It is a very good thing he’s already gone. 

     Top Democrats’ tech aide, now under criminal investigation, had access to their private emails, including DNC emails  The details are here. (Daily Caller)

    Imran Awan — the lead suspect in a criminal probe into breaches of House of Representatives information security systems — possessed the password to an iPad used by then-Democratic National Committee Chairperson Debbie Wasserman Schultz when DNC emails were given to WikiLeaks. . . .

    The FBI requested access to the DNC’s server to find out who was responsible, but the DNC refused, FBI Director James Comey said, according to The Hill.

    Politico reported that New York Rep. Gregory “Meeks and, to a larger extent, Wasserman Schultz, are said to have a friendly personal relationship with Awan and his wife, according to multiple sources.”

    House authorities set their sights on the Awans while investigating the existence of a secret server that was funneling congressional data off-site.

    They also suspect Imran of stealing money and equipment. –Daily Caller

     Good News on Free Speech: Univ. of Chicago proposes ‘free speech deans’ to prevent disruptive conduct (Campus Reform)

    The University of Chicago could soon implement new policies that would severely limit “those engaged in disruptive conduct” from preventing “others from speaking or being heard.”

    A recently-released faculty committee report also suggests establishing “free speech deans-on-call” trained to “deal with disruptive conduct” in order to ensure students are not prevented from expressing themselves on campus. –Anthony Gockowski at Campus Reform

     

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  • A Ray of Hope for Free Speech at Middlebury, after the Mob

    Linked articles are in bold purple

    But opposition to Middlebury’s free-speech movement shows where the opposition lies at most universities

     There is good news for open discourse at Middlebury College after the despicable violence that prevented Charles Murray from speaking and injured Prof. Allison Stanger.

     Prominent faculty there have circulated a petition for free speech and garnered lots of signatures. 

    Parini and Callanan, the distinguished scholars who have headed up this effort, deserve high praise for it.

    At the bottom of this blog post, I quote the exemplary principles they lay out.

     Let’s go beyond praising the free-speech petition and use the signatures to show where support free speech comes from and where the opposition lies.

     So far, 63 faculty members have signed on. More might join in the next few days.

     They come from a broad variety of departments–but not all

    In fact, it is worthwhile to examine the departmental affiliations of who signed up for free speech and, on the other side, those who signed the counter-petition (prior to the speech), demanding Murray stay away and then sliming him with false allegations about his views and scholarly findings.

    Most (but not all) of Allison Stanger’s colleagues in political science signed the pro-free speech petition, as did she. That’s not surprising. She was, of course, injured in the riots, and some of her friends and colleagues undoubtedly wanted to show solidarity with her.

    Parini’s colleagues in English and American Literature signed in larger numbers than most departments. Support from literature departments would not happen at most universities. That it did at Middlebury may reflect the kind of department Parini helped build or simply his colleagues’ friendship.

    Who signed the petition beyond faculty in Political Science and Literature? The bulk were in the “hard social sciences” (Economics, Psychology), History, Russian, Math, Chemistry, Geology, and, surprisingly, Religion.

    (By “hard social sciences,” I mean those, like economics and psychology, that aspire to be sciences, emphasize large data bases, mathematical models, and empirical testing of causal models. Fields like anthropology and history certainly use data, but they are generally more interested in the actors’ mentalities, intentions, and meanings. Thus, “hard” does not mean difficult, and “soft” does not mean squishy.)

    Who refused to sign? There were zero signatures from the following departments and minors:

    African American Studies, African Studies, American Studies, Arabic, Comparative Literature, Dance, Education Studies, French, Gender, Sexuality, & Feminist Studies, Global Health , Greek, Hebrew-Classical, Hebrew-Modern, International and Global Studies, International Politics and Economics, Latin, Linguistics , Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, Physical Education, Physics, South Asian Studies , Spanish and Portuguese, Studio Art, and Theatre

    That is based on the stated affiliations of the signatories, compared to Middlebury’s official list of its departments and majors. It is possible, of course, that some signatories have “affiliate appointments” in these departments or that the departments have no exclusive faculty of their own.

    The data show

    • Supporters of free speech come disproportionately from the physical sciences, “hard” social sciences, and, to a lesser extent, the biosciences.
    • Opposition comes from the Humanities, Arts, and softer social sciences. Because social justice.

    That distribution reflects my own experience across multiple universities (but is not based on systematic data).

    On nearly every campus, the staunchest opponents are professors of gender, sexuality, women’s studies, race, Native American studies, education, and social work, all highly-politicized bastions of the left. American Studies is now essentially the same and so are most literature departments. (Middlebury is an outlier.)

    They always lead the opposition to free speech. Because social justice.

    If students don’t agree with the dominant political ideology of these departments, they leave or never enter in the first place. (It is snarky but true to add that students don’t enter them if they are thinking about building skills for future employers. My point is that they are not building skills for open-minded, critical thinking, either.)

    These departments never hire professors who vary from the party line. Never.

    Here, for example, are the three full-time faculty in Middlebury’s gender studies program. All three signed the “Keep Murray Away” petition. NONE signed the free speech petition. That is anecdotal, of course, but it is repeated on campus after campus. You would be hard fixed to find professors of Gender Studies, Sexuality, Race Studies, Education, or Social Work who take a strong position in favor of free speech. And they are pretty thin on the ground in theater or comparative literature. All think it would permit “oppressive” speech that hurts the weak, poor, and vulnerable. 

    At Brandeis, for instance, the same department–to a person–opposed having Hirsi Ali come to campus even though she had already been invited and even though Ms. Ali is the single most important voice for women’s rights in the Muslim world. They and like-minded faculty got the spineless administration to cave in and rescind the invitation. (FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, has a summary of the episode here.)

    The dominant ideology of departments like these is:

    • America is an exploitative country and a malevolent force in the world;
    • Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren on the right track but too willing to compromise, too willing to work within “the system”
    • America and our college campuses are composed of two main groups: the oppressed and the privileged. Our departments stand with the oppressed. They are simultaneously powerful and vulnerable, needing “safe spaces” to express their views unchallenged. A space is unsafe not because of any physical threat but because certain views (or even the presence of certain people) can produce psychic injury.
    • As professors are activists, inside the classroom and outside. Our teaching is explicitly designed to improve the situation of the oppressed and to assign blame to the oppressors.
    • Designated oppressors should feel guilty and can partially absolve themselves by following our movement, not by leading or questioning it.

    Put differently: February is “Black History Month” only because it is the shortest month.

    Their viewpoint is summarized in Bernie Sanders’ angry rejection of the idea that America is a compassionate country. His fury is brief and telling.

     Turning to the brighter side:

    ⇒ The Middlebury Principles are excellent.

    It is hard to see why all faculty and students don’t endorse them enthusiastically.

    That they do not is the tragedy of our time on campus.

    Here are the principles, quoted directly:

    • Genuine higher learning is possible only where free, reasoned, and civil speech and discussion are respected.
    • Only through the contest of clashing viewpoints do we have any hope of replacing mere opinion with knowledge.
    • The incivility and coarseness that characterize so much of American politics and culture cannot justify a response of incivility and coarseness on the college campus.
    • The impossibility of attaining a perfectly egalitarian sphere of free discourse can never justify efforts to silence speech and debate.
    • Exposure to controversial points of view does not constitute violence.
    • Students have the right to challenge and to protest non-disruptively the views of their professors and guest speakers.
    • A protest that prevents campus speakers from communicating with their audience is a coercive act.
    • No group of professors or students has the right to act as final arbiter of the opinions that students may entertain.
    • No group of professors or students has the right to determine for the entire community that a question is closed for discussion.
    • The purpose of college is not to make faculty or students comfortable in their opinions and prejudices.
    • The purpose of education is not the promotion of any particular political or social agenda.
    • The primary purpose of higher education is the cultivation of the mind, thus allowing for intelligence to do the hard work of assimilating and sorting information and drawing rational conclusions.
    • A good education produces modesty with respect to our own intellectual powers and opinions as well as openness to considering contrary views.
    • All our students possess the strength, in head and in heart, to consider and evaluate challenging opinions from every quarter. –Middlebury Principles

    Comment: It is hard to improve on that as a principled defense of free speech on campus.

     My own op-ed on these issues, focusing on the 3 steps needed to restore free speech at universities, is here at Real Clear Politics

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    Update and Correction: “Social Sciences” removed from list of Middlebury Departments without a signatory. It is a division, not a department, and many social scientists did sign.

    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Thanks for suggesting this article:
    ◆ Tom Elia
    for sending me The American Interest piece

    ◆ Greg Piper of The College Fix for the correction.

  • A wonderful presentation about my old friend, Vincent Wang, now Dean of Humanities and Sciences at Ithaca College

    Vincent is one of the finest teachers, scholars, and administrators working in higher education today.

    A proud native of Taiwan, a long-time American citizen, and a PhD from the University of Chicago, where he worked with my late, beloved colleague Tang Tsou.

    Vincent was recently recruited from the University of Richmond to his new position in Ithaca.

    Here is a brief interview with Vincent, giving a sense of what it is like to work with good students in a liberal-arts setting.

  • US-Israel Academic Collaboration Rises Dramatically

    ◆ Israel is most visible on college campuses when it is being blackballed. But there is quiet pushback from serious scholars.

    The anti-Israel movement is known at “BDS,” which stands for “Boycott, Divest, and Sanction” Israel.

    It means boycotting not only Israeli products, but severing cooperation with Israeli universities and the faculty who teach there. The goal is to delegitimate the Jewish state, and it is pushed non-stop by Palestinian students and their allies among activist Muslims and student leftists.

    ◆ Comment: BDS has largely failed. The movement has garnered plenty of attention, but it has failed in its more ambitious goals, at least in the US. (In Europe, the picture is grimmer. Anti-Israeli sentiments and full-blown anti-Semitism have risen to toxic levels, on both left and right.)

    In the US, the BDS movement has gained some traction among left-wing students and faculty in the humanities and some social sciences, as well as Muslim activists. These groups constantly harrass pro-Israel students, demonstrating whenever there is an “evil Zionist speaker,” a benign Israeli birthday celebration, and so forth. Beyond that, the movement has accomplished little. They embrace defeat and futility as marks of honor. Every spring on college campuses across America, they hold “Israel Apartheid Week” and attempt to build broader opposition to Israel.

    They are not gaining much support beyond the committed left and self-proclaimed Social Justice Vigilantes.

    • No universities or corporations have agreed to boycott investments in Israel.
    • Corporate investments in Israel are very strong, especially in the high-tech areas where Israel is a global leader.
    • Many universities have also increased their collaboration with Israeli counterparts.

    ◆ Beneath the surface, there are also important signs of rising civic and academic cooperation between the US and Israel. A recent report shows a dramatic rise in collaboration between US and Israeli scholars, particularly in biomedicine and the physical sciences. (Times of Israel) The study, led by Dr. Daphne Getz, looked at academic papers with co-authors from both Israel and the US.

    The highest number of joint U.S.-Israel publications are in the field of Medicine, followed by Physics and Astronomy, Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology, Computer Sciences, Mathematics, Engineering, Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, Social Sciences, Material Sciences and Earth and Planetary Sciences. –study by Dr. Daphne Getz of the Samuel Neaman Institute

    There is also extensive cooperation in information technology and cyber-security, fields where Israeli scientists are among the world’s leaders.

    The study also shows a 78% increase in the number of American students attending Israeli universities between 2004 and 2014.

    The leading Israeli research universities are

    • Technion: Israel Institute of Technology
    • Hebrew University of Jerusalem
    • Weizmann Institute of Science
    • Tel Aviv University
    • Bar-Ilan University
    • University of Haifa

    Comment: The rising numbers of research collaborations and international co-authorships reflect the strength of Israeli academic institutions and much lower costs of communicating among co-authors around the world. They also show that street demonstrations by aggressive anti-Israel activists mask a rising connection among serious scholars.

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    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Ron Hassner
     for the news item

    detective-cartoon-see-something-say-something-no-caption-201px

    ◆ Send interesting stories to
    Charles (dot) Lipson at Gmail (dot) com