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The delicate constitution of conservative academics


is on full display in this ridiculous piece in the Chronicle of Higher Ed. What is it with Classics professors?

He starts off with a little whining about he was given a low passing grade for ignoring the instructions on an assignment and turning in anti-science propaganda instead:

During an “Introduction to Political Science” class, for example, I was required to write paper on how to solve global warming. My paper suggested that perhaps there was no reason to, since the scientific evidence was inconclusive. I got a D.

Of course, it could be pointed out that we can talk about responding to problems even if the cause or extent of the problem isn’t entirely known, but that would have required a little effort on top of parroting talking points. But never mind.

Our professor puts his thin skin and paranoia on full display a bit further on, penning what may be the stupidest thing published so far on the plight of conservatives in academia:

I first suspected that when I drove my Minnesota-seasoned ’91 Honda Accord wagon — sans bumper stickers — into the Volvo-Subaru showroom that is our college’s faculty lot.

Sporting “Peace” and “Support Our Troops: Bring Them Home!” and “Kerry-Edwards” bumper stickers, the rustless Volvos and Subarus exuded a clear semiotics of inclusion and exclusion, boldly proclaiming in unison: “Here we are enlightened thinkers; here we drive academic cars; here we vote Democrat — or Green. We belong; you don’t.”

To paraphrase Freud, sometimes a Volvo isn’t just a Volvo.

I’ve always thought that conservative critics of university culture may have had a bit of a point about speech codes and such. But it’s awfully hard to take them seriously when they whine so petulantly about feeling sad and excluded by the non-inclusive cars of their colleagues. (The irony is even richer in this piece, since one of the evils of liberal hegemony reported earlier was that he was ostensibly punished for not using inclusive language (ie, gender-neutral pronouns) as an undergraduate). Inclusivity is a concern in parking lots, not language.

Sometimes this sort of nonsense is defended as a “hoisted on their own petard” manouver against the liberal mavens of inclusivity. Setting aside for the moment whether this sort of thing is remotely comparable (hint: it’s not), it’s worth point out that this discursive line of reasoning (which John Holbo has cleverly diagnosed as Poetic Justice as Fairness) is more appropriate for people inordinately amused by their own cleverness, rather than those who want to make a serious point about a real problem.

I found this article via Orin Kerr at Volokh, who has similar fun with this nonsense. (He found it via instahack, who gives it a seemingly approving link). This suggests an important divide between those who are serious about libertarianism (most of the crew at Volokh fits the bill here most of the time) and those cling to the label as misdirection for their increasing and creepy authoritarian tendencies (instahack would have to be the leader of this movement, but Bush-supporting “libertarians” almost all find themselves going down this road.

Because the point is this: the conservative critique of academia suggests no solution that shouldn’t terrify libertarians. Horowitz’s academic bill of rights? Affirmative action on ideological grounds? A ban on extemporaneous political speech in faculty meetings? The classroom? These are not ideas anyone who makes even the most timid, partial claim to a libertarian identity can justify flirting with.

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