December 12, 2016

NICHOLAS KRISTOF: The Dangers Of Echo Chambers On Campus:

After Donald Trump’s election, some universities echoed with primal howls. Faculty members canceled classes for weeping, terrified students who asked: How could this possibly be happening?

I share apprehensions about President-elect Trump, but I also fear the reaction was evidence of how insular universities have become. When students inhabit liberal bubbles, they’re not learning much about their own country. To be fully educated, students should encounter not only Plato, but also Republicans.

We liberals are adept at pointing out the hypocrisies of Trump, but we should also address our own hypocrisy in terrain we govern, such as most universities: Too often, we embrace diversity of all kinds except for ideological. Repeated studies have found that about 10 percent of professors in the social sciences or the humanities are Republicans.

We champion tolerance, except for conservatives and evangelical Christians. We want to be inclusive of people who don’t look like us — so long as they think like us.

I fear that liberal outrage at Trump’s presidency will exacerbate the problem of liberal echo chambers, by creating a more hostile environment for conservatives and evangelicals. Already, the lack of ideological diversity on campuses is a disservice to the students and to liberalism itself, with liberalism collapsing on some campuses into self-parody.


Related thoughts from Jonathan Adler: “I would suggest taking ideological and viewpoint diversity more seriously is also in the more immediate self-interest of academic institutions, state schools in particular. As events in Wisconsin show, state legislatures are taking a harder look at the financial support they provide universities. I would not be surprised if the Trump administration or Congress considers this question as well. If universities are so ideologically insular and unrepresentative, they might ask, why are they worthy of government support? Why should taxpayers in red states pay to support ideological islands of blue? Economic arguments about the value of education only go so far.”


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