Mocking Kids into Liberalism, One Student at a Time

I enjoyed reading Dennis Prager’s piece this morning, “Conservative Parents, Leftist Kids.” In my experience working with college students across the country, it’s striking how little conservative parents prepare their kids for the emotional — rather than intellectual — challenge of life as a conservative, especially in education. The noted Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias is fond of observing that in the battle of ideas, stigma tends to beat dogma. In other words, derision and scorn trump expressions of belief.  He’s exactly right.

The idea of college as mounting a comprehensive intellectual challenge to conservatism, especially conservative Christianity, is largely outdated. The modern college isn’t a terribly intellectual place, featuring dumbed-down courses, far more time spent partying than studying, and legions of stressed-out adjuncts and graduate students (rather than the classic liberal intellect seen in movies and television) doing most of the actual teaching. In other words, when it comes to the life of the mind, there’s not much to most contemporary universities.

What’s actually there, however, is a toxic combination of decadence and scorn – the relentless labeling of conservatives (again, especially Christian conservatives) as bigots, haters, and idiots. Liberal students and professors who have no more knowledge of public policy or political philosophy than your average pile of dirt feel a bulletproof sense of intellectual, moral, and indeed even spiritual superiority over their conservative peers — and can relentlessly express that superiority. At the same time — for kids just as subject to temptation as anyone else — the considerable decadence of college life has its own appeals.

I try to prepare my own kids not only for the intellectual challenges of our liberal culture (such as they are) but also for the moral and spiritual challenge from those who will view them as evil and stupid merely for their religious, cultural, and political beliefs. There is no good deed they can do that will cause the truly unreflective portions of the Left to like or respect them in any way, and the respect or affection of such people should not be their goal.

These are hard lessons for kids to learn and apply — much harder to learn than the arguments or ideas behind conservatism — and there’s no formula for getting it right. I do know, however, that though we can stuff kids’ heads full of knowledge about our values, unless we instill the moral courage to live those values in the face of exclusion and scorn, we will fail, and our children — and nation — will suffer the consequences.

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  • RustbeltRick

    As an evangelical who happily toils at a secular university, I can tell you that this blog post is the most negative, unrealistic caricature of a college campus that I’ve ever seen. It represents the crazed fever dream of the fearful cultural conservative. It tells you the whole place is teeming with liberalism, when in fact (at your typical large, diverse school) the College of Business is extremely conservative and pro-free market, the College of Health is filled with nice Christian kids who want to be nurses and physical therapists and avoid politics, and the College of Engineering is filled with kids who would rather tinker with robots and computers than go to keggers. There are lefty kids and profs in the Art department, but even those people are nice, and worthy of our kindness. But wow, overall, this piece is absurdly mean-spirited and dripping with contempt. No wonder conservatives have a generational gap, when they use this kind of rhetoric.

  • Nancy French

    Dear RustBelt,

    My husband David has a pretty realistic view of college campuses, because he also taught at one as well. (In his case, at Cornell Law School in Ithaca, New York.)

  • RustbeltRick

    It must not have gone well, judging by his statements in this column.

  • Nancy French

    No, he actually enjoyed it!

  • Jerry Lynch

    It would seem to make such broad and sweeping statements about all of university life in America, one would have to have made a massive research project or relied on one from competent and trusted researchers. As the article does not mention such a project, makes no reference whatsoever to any solid evidence to support the indictment against our entire upper educational system and all its students and faculty, it is just another hate and fear mongering piece from the Right to stir up the base.
    My college and masters program experience was nothing like what is said here, which does not lead me to say all campuses are like mine. To claim one’s personal experience at one university, given the strong indication of confirmation bias, is hardly appropriate to make such slanderous and inflammatory pronouncements. This is not very Christian.

  • RustbeltRick

    So its the OTHER schools that are “a toxic combination of decadence and scorn”?

  • Lee

    Part of helping kids prepare for the real world is to get them to think about different ideas. A faith that does not allow one to question is not a good faith. People should examine WHY they believe as they do. That does not necessarlly lead to liberalism, in fact having thought about one’s position can make one’s beliefs stronger.

    One thing though that puzzles me about your diatribe is that students have the choice as to what classes to take, so it is not likely that they are going to be attacked by professors for their faith. The only classes I would think that would lead to that would be evolutionary science and philosophy classes.

    Your assertion that most colleges are “party schools” is pretty insulting to say the least. There are plenty of good schools. If what you said were true then it is baffling as to why you would endorse a college education at all.

    The whole tone of this article seems to be an overprotectiveness of young adults, who are going to be exposed to different ideas whether in school or in life experience. Teaching them that the world is scary is not a good thing. Are your beliefs fear-driven or faith-driven? The answer to that question will determine the kind of adults your children will become.

  • ahermit

    Ah yes, the modern college, kids these days with their hair and clothes and their boojy-woojy music, why nostalgia was so much better back in my day….(the hermit wanders off muttering and shaking his fist at the sky…)

  • wister

    Why on earth does the author assume that his children must think and believe as he does? Why is that even desirable?