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November 14, 2006



Hmm... my alma mater is pretty liberal, but I didn't feel like the best students were conservative, as would follow if they were rebelling.

OTOH, as a student, perhaps I didn't mark it.


Back when I was in high school, wearing my "Bush '04" stickers was pretty amusing. Many of my teachers were liberal, but they were rather cool about it. I even yelled, "VOTE BUSH!" to my English teacher and all he said was, "Hey! That's bad grammar!" with a smile. My high school newspaper advisor was a lesbian (and I was firmly anti-gay marriage), so it was interesting dicussing certain political topics with her. We're still good friends, and I'm still a social conservative. I just don't get in everyone's face about it anymore - at least not in public and with stickers. I might have worn that Tommy Girl shirt though. Cute!


Your comments on developmental disabilities and retardation are a bit offensive, especially being that they are used to insult fans of a particular author...

But I did agree with this part: "Seeing poverty and despair as the result of individual decisions rather than as the result of massive social forces allows the young conservative from a poor background to create an immensely flattering personal narrative: in his or her own mind, he or she becomes the "special one", clever and brave and ambitious enough to transcend the self-created, self-reinforced adversity that grips everyone else in the family and culture."

If you appear to have pulled yourself up by your bootstraps, giving validity to the theory allows you to implictly commend yourself for your accomplishments. Admitting that larger social forces are to blame for success or lack of it takes power away from the individual's acts


While you may think it, I hope you don't actually tell your students "Bless your heart. You're right where you oughta be." In my experience, condescension is the last thing a serious young intellectual--of whatever political inclination--wants.

The Chief

Not exactly the larger point to this post, but I have to respond to this...

"Those who have ought to share with those who don't, and I still believe that government is best prepared to serve as the primary instrument through which that sharing takes place."

The government doesn't "share" anything. The government takes from a position of power, a power ultimately backed up by the power to arrest, imprison, execute. I know of lots of people who would love to share more with charities of their own choosing--including the charities that begin at home--instead of being "forced to share" (a contradictory phrase if ever there were one) with people they don't know, and whose lifestyles may well have at least contributed to their poverty to begin with.



Last week’s election was not a rejection of conservative principles so much, as it was a rejection of corrupt, complacent and incompetent government. The Democrats who won or who ran competitive races sounded more like Ronald Reagan than Lyndon Johnson. This election does not show that voters have abandoned their belief in limited government; it shows that the Republican Party has abandoned them. These results represent the total failure of big government Republicanism. The Republican Party now has an opportunity to rediscover its identity as a party for limited government, free enterprise and individual responsibility. Most Americans still believe in these ideals, which reflect not merely the spirit of 1994, or the Reagan Revolution, but the vision of our founders.


An "earnest, passionate," slightly older "right-winger" conservative :-)


The interesting thing is that conservatism tends to be situational (except for religous conservatism), meaning that conservatives over here would come accross as liberal compared withconservatives over there (and religous conservatives over here are often quite big on government intervention in things like child poverty and abuse which means they ally with our centre-left government on some things).


I think this post gets the daily award for the most pompous, condescending, out-to-lunch crap I've read so far. But just today. You're going to have to work harder to win the weekly award.


When I was in high school, I was a fervent social and economic conservative. I was thoroughly convinced that everything that happens to people is a result of their own good or bad choices, and that abortion was killing babies. (I never read Ayn Rand though, couldn't get through the first chapter.)

One of the guidance counselors was a fairly liberal fellow, and he used to argue with me sometimes. Now, the main reason I was so conservative was because my parents were (and are) very conservative, and I knew that back then, but I also believed that I had other good reasons to back up my beliefs. Maybe I did. In college all those conservative views stopped making so much sense. I went back to visit my high school a couple of years ago, and went to see the counselor. I think this was right after the 04 election, and he said I must be very happy. I told him I'd had a change of heart in the last 10 years, and he seemed surprised. I think he thought I was one of those people who would rather be stubbornly wrong than change my mind and be right.


The thing is that, obviously, the notion of conservativism being somehow countercultural or rebellious within the larger context of American society is just ridiculous. Your students' notion that they are showing mettle in being Republican is pretty naive. Makes me think of this cartoon (note: may require you to click through an ad).


This is a sign, mind you, of developmental disability. When you're 19, you are permitted to find the Fountainhead inspiring and brilliant. If you still find it so when you're 39, instead of seeing it correctly as turgid, overwrought garbage, then you are experiencing some form of mild intellectual retardation.

Oh man. Wait until the Randian libertarians find you. You think the ranty MRA's cause problems? Whew.

Well put, Hugo. Plus, it made me laugh. Of course, I feel the same way about the Bible...


Jeff, I have found that of all the various political and philosophical points of view on the great spectrum, none rub me as badly as do the Randians. Give me a totalitarian, a Christian Reconstructionist, an anarchist, any day over the Randians. And I've read Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged, and the rest of that nasty, nasty stuff. It's a blind spot, I suppose -- it's the closest to a genuinely evil philosophical position I know.

But no thread drift here... ;-)


I am careful with my "bless your hearts"; I use them with students I know well and whom I trust will take it in a loving spirit. At the same time, I think that our emotional development and our politics are linked. We grow and change over time in a number of ways, and if it's condescending to suggest that one's ideas are a function of where one is developmentally, then I happily plead guilty to being a condescending lout.

M Light

My grandfather was an immigrant construction worker and a firm union man who thought that FDR was the best thing that ever happened to this country. My father, while starting out a Democrat, eventually became a Republican. In that way, your students remind me of him. However, the hostility that you see in your students towards their ethnicity and class is unfamiliar to me since my father was always proud to be Finnish-American.

However, regarding the rest of your post, I'd like to suggest that your profession and workplace are part of the "problem" (if you want to view it as such). The whole emphasis in higher education is individualistic. Even for those who don't seem to reject their ethnicity or background, what does that matter in the classroom? What matters in the classroom is individual performance. Those who focus on that the most are going to come out ahead. It's the way the system is set up. In modern-day academia, communal action will get you nowhere - not academically* (And I emphasize "modern-day" - the academic changes resulting from 60's activism are decades old at this point). You may get some sort of affirmative action, ethnic scholarships, or ethnic student unions, but in the classroom, it's only your individual achievement that counts.

*Case in point - unionizing graduate students? That one dies a quick death every time it raises its head - even though the days of the traditional mentoring academy are long over.


I find it interesting that liberal minded individuals will use novels, films, and other forms of expression to be legit when they carry an anti-conservative, anti-war, and pro socialistic message. However, it is "retardation" when an author like Ayn Rand provides a contrasting point of view. A point of view that should not be considered according to Hugo.


"I am careful with my "bless your hearts"; I use them with students I know well and whom I trust will take it in a loving spirit. At the same time, I think that our emotional development and our politics are linked. We grow and change over time in a number of ways, and if it's condescending to suggest that one's ideas are a function of where one is developmentally, then I happily plead guilty to being a condescending lout."

I think there's an important difference between saying that a person's ideas are related to his or her social and emotional development, and that they're entirely a function of psychology. Similarly, I'm more comfortable saying "your positions seem to make sense for you right now, and I see that I'm not going to win this argument" than "you're right where you oughta be." The second feels intellectually dismissive to me in a way that the first does not.

(I've wanted to be treated as someone whose ideas are worth taking seriously since I learned to speak, and even in adulthood I'm oversensitive about anything that might be construed as condescension from older men. So I'm well aware that I'm projecting my own anxieties onto your students here. Still, I know that I loved talking politics with older teachers and mentors in high school and college--and that a "bless your heart" from someone with whom I was engaged in serious argument would have made me angry beyond words.)


Kate, gosh, I guess you'd have to know me in person to hear how "Bless your heart" would come from me in that context. I really don't think most of my students feel patronized.

(Of course, in Southern California, most folks don't say "Aw, bless your heart"; its slightly derogatory insinuation is lost on most people out here.)


Amen on Ayn Rand, but I think the prevalence of divorce (the majority of college students are from homes in which parents are divorced or never-married) is an important shaping factor that you have overlooked.

Mr. Bad

There's a wonderful saying that's been around a long time, that I'm mighty fond of, and I believe it applies perfectly here: "If you're not liberal when you're younger you don't have a heart, and if you're not conservative when you're older you don't have a brain."

Hugo, what you observe in your students tells me that apparently, unlike you, they have managed to mature as they've grown older and thus understand things like personal responsibility, the benefits of hard work, etc. In general career academics (i.e., ones who have never done anything else than hang out in the academy with the kids) are notorious for experiencing arrested development and thus are stuck emotionally and maturity-wise in their lit school years. From my experience the exception to this tends to be those academics who enter the system after a significant time in the 'real world,' and not surprisingly, they tend to be conservatives (when they can afford to be "out" vis-a-vis the pervasive political correctness in academia these days).

Hugo, what I get from this missive is that you need to get out into the real world at least for a little while and get a life. Try doing some real work instead of women's studies navel-gazing; perhaps then you'd appreciate the value of real work a bit more. It sounds like your conservative students have a lot better grasp on the real world than you do, probably because they had to sling hash or wait tables - or do some other equally crappy job - just to get by in high school and/or college.

However, this post has made me decide that I most definitely need to read Ayn Rand again; anything that you loathe so completely has got to be really good!


So if Hugo says he hates the Holocaust you're going to assume that was a good idea too? Heil Hitler! That's a brilliant plan.


Mr. Bad--

Speaking as a liberal who has had to do 'real work' (as you call it), I'd say that you will *love* Ayn Rand.


I agree with Mr. Bad above, but would extend it a bit: All of this is the kind of stuff I sat around talking about late night in dorms in college anyway. While majoring in a subject where I also learned something real.

You can get all of this from message boards and reading - in fact, you can get a broad grasp of all sides of the issue instead of hearing people who are literally brainwashed and indoctrinated on one side of things.

Even more disturbing is the fact that tax dollars go towards these subjects ("gender studies").


Mr Bad

That saying often applies because society has trended more liberal in the mean time (not quite so many conservatives opose voting for women these days).


Mr. Bad- As someone training to make my career as an academic, I find it exceedingly condescending (and all too common) when anyone suggests that academics don't understand the "real world" (WTF is the real world? people under 18 are told they don't live in the real world, now academics, who else can we add to this list?). Most academics have spent time working in non-academic jobs at some point, and funny enough, there is not a huge difference. Everyone still has to deal with office politics, following certain 'rules of the game', working hard to try and earn promotions. Out of curiosity, just what makes the "real world" so different than employment at a university (and please don't resort to the tenure strawman).


"(WTF is the real world? people under 18 are told they don't live in the real world, now academics, who else can we add to this list?)"


That pretty much covers the list. Maybe you could add cosmonauts who spend months on a space station, hermits on a desert island and housewives lolling on the couch watching Oprah.

The problem is that you are being provided with an artificial environment - and in the case of gender studies, it's due to spineless university administrators who would rather spend the tax dollars than have feminists protest against them. It's certainly not related to any need for it in the real world. If you haven't experienced the real world, then you are not going to understand the concept. Just like a person under 18 may not understand certain concepts about the world that adults understand and deal with.

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