“It is impossible for those outside of literature departments to understand how weird such departments have become. You can see the evidence from without, but only within can you drink deep of our Stalinism Lite.” – Prof. Scott Herring, in Exiled.
Investigations of academia by David Horowitz, Bruce Bawer, and the California Association of Scholars have all pinpointed the massive shift to the left — and the corresponding decline in scholarly rigor and balance — that has occurred in the professoriate at North American universities. More such studies are needed, for the takeover of higher education has in many cases been almost entirely unimpeded and even unnoticed or denied — or made to seem natural and unintentional. Liberal academics, priding themselves on their tolerance, routinely downplay conservative concerns about bias, claiming that the leftist influence is exaggerated or has already passed its peak. Where leftist dominance is admitted, it is claimed to be the innocent result of career self-selection: liberals are, according to the common wisdom, more intellectually curious and creative than conservatives, and therefore naturally drawn to the academic life, just as conservatives — rule-bound and money-obsessed — are naturally drawn to business, police work, or engineering. If leftists do dominate, so the story goes, their presence is benign.
A new book edited by Mary Grabar paints a much darker picture of academic life, showcasing the overt and covert ways that conservative intellectuals are marginalized or excluded. In a series of witty and engrossing narrative essays with the deliciously cheeky title Exiled: Stories from Conservative and Moderate Professors Who Have Been Ridiculed, Ostracized, Marginalized, Demonized, and Frozen Out, the collection provides first-hand accounts of what happens to those who flout the protocols of correct belief or pursue research outside the parameters of approved scholarship. They are indeed “exiled,” if not from academia itself — though some are — then at least from the company of the blessed in their departments and research communities. The pains of such exile range from personal shunning to insurmountable career roadblocks, but worst of all, perhaps, to the recognition that propaganda is being disguised as knowledge in thousands of university classrooms.
The animating spirit behind this collection, Mary Grabar, is an academic and writer, contributor to various conservative journals and electronic forums (including PJ Media.com), and the bold, always-interesting creator of Dissident Prof Press and website. Her blog covers everything from the agenda of the Common Core public school curriculum to the conservative message in The Killing Fields and much else; she writes in an impassioned and no-nonsense style. Horrified by attempts to destroy the traditional literary canon and to remake English studies as an anti-Western (and anti-intellectual) project, she has become an indefatigable critic of progressivism in all its guises. Her introductory and concluding comments in Exiled, in which she denounces the takeover of the academy by thuggish ideologues and pinpoints their sloppy logic and faulty assumptions, are characteristically bracing and informative. The essays she has gathered form a compulsively readable collection illuminating how the leftist bias in academia manifests itself and why it matters.