The bumper stickers of Berserkeley
Late this summer, as I walked through the streets of Berkeley, California, I decided to start counting American flags. After a five-mile jaunt, I counted a grand total of one.
That’s right. Five miles. One flag.
I did not count bumper stickers, but there were literally hundreds of these, almost all of them angry. If I could generalize the lot of them, it would go something like this: “Lives will be saved if we spay or neuter not just sundry small animals but also imperialist America and racist Israel.” This, by the way, was the $500,000-and-up part of Berkeley, the one where the administrators and high-end faculty live.
Should Ingram’s readers care? Yes, absolutely. You could easily read into those bumper stickers one very good reason why the bi-state economy sputters when it could be kicking butt. The unhappy fact is that Berkeley professors are no more daft than professors at the average state university.
Midwesterners, however, have a much higher level of horse sense than their west coast peers, and they expect the same from their professorate. When they don’t see it, they tend not to support their state universities or even the private ones. And, alas, nothing drives the economy the way a university can, especially an ambitious research university.
Imbalance at the center
In a simple but clever survey, The American Enterprise Institute recently deduced faculty sympathies at colleges across the country by comparing Green and Democrat voter registrations on the one hand (left) to Libertarian and Republican on the other (right). It will not surprise anyone that some 89% of Berkeley faculty vote left of center.
Although the survey did not cover any schools in the bi-state area, the results for comparable Big 12 Universities suggest a hard leftward tilt well beyond Berkeley. Consider, for instance, the University of Texas in Austin. 87% of its surveyed faculty vote left of center despite the fact that less than 40% of the state’s electorate voted left of center in the defining 2000 election.
A better example is our neighbor to the west, Colorado. In the 2000 election, 53% of Colorado citizens voted to the right, slightly more than Missouri and slightly less than Kansas. All three states went for Bush.
The professors at the University of Colorado in Boulder likely did not even know anyone who voted for Bush. 116 of those surveyed registered on the left. Four registered on the right. That is correct, 97% of the surveyed faculty vote left of center. In Colorado’s Political Science Department the numbers skewed to the left17 to 2. In history, it was 25 to 1. In English, it was 37 to 0.
There’s nothing—well, almost nothing—inherently wrong in voting Democratic. A week after my Berkeley stroll, for instance, I did a comparable survey in my sister’s Democrat-leaning New Jersey suburb, and I counted roughly 150 flags in the same area.
But when there is no opposition, the more excitable elements on campus grow strident and tend to steamroller their linguini-kneed colleagues into silence and passive conformity. Working without much in the way of internal restraint, these folks then produce “research” that pleases their peers but that strikes ordinary people as absurd if not downright seditious.
Last year, for instance, while the University of Missouri was struggling for its very life at the hands of the legislature, a UMKC professor made a major league splash for an article in The Journal of Homosexuality defending pedophilia. I know the prof. He’s not a bad guy. It’s just that he works in a guardrail-free environment that lists to port where it’s damn easy to slide overboard. He also knew that he could count on the university faculty and administration to come noisily to his rescue, which they did. Lest anyone deceive him or herself, the public and the legislature did notice.
The current “It Boy” of economic development, Richard Florida, would not have disapproved. The overly influential Carnegie Mellon professor has made “tolerance” and “diversity” the surprising new buzzwords of the development community. For him, Berkeley would represent something of a model city in its ability to attract the “creative class.” These young hipsters, Florida argues, attract the businesses that need such progressive, creative people to flourish.
“Diversity” was also the buzzword at the Supreme Court this summer. As the deciding vote in a closely watched Supreme Court decision, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor argued that “diversity” at the University of Michigan’s law school or elsewhere is “a compelling state interest.” To break down stereotypes and achieve a comfortable level of diversity, O’Connor contended that the university should strive to achieve a “critical mass” of students from specified groups.
So far, so good. The problem is that when Florida talks about diversity, he’s talking largely about sexual orientation. When O’Connor talks diversity, she’s talking exclusively about race. Neither is talking about philosophical diversity, religious diversity, or diversity of ideas.
As a consequence, Florida’s model cities and O’Connor’s model campuses emerge in reality as mindlessly intolerant hotbeds of deadly dull groupthink. Witness Berkeley. Its denizens are so busy congratulating themselves for looking unique or romancing unusually that they have failed to notice how hostilely they view people who don’t see the world quite as they do.
Case in point: A local university hired a friend of mine as an assistant professor largely because she was Hispanic. When, however, her predictably leftist colleagues discovered that she derived her influences from the rich Latin American tradition of Catholic conservatism they were horrified. They just wanted someone who looked different. This young professor has concluded that the only way she can get tenure is to keep her opinions to herself for the next few years. What makes her unusual on the contemporary campus is that she got hired at all.
The bi-state breakout
Here is how it happens.
Missouri and Kansas universities choose to think long term. They decide to make this the one area in America where students and faculty of all faiths, of all philosophies, and of all political cultures can feel comfortable on campus. In fact, they decide to take “affirmative action” to accelerate the process of achieving “critical mass”—and the beauty is that they can do so without flouting the constitution.
The citizens and their elected representatives are heartened by the trends on campus and begin to support their universities enthusiastically. The legislatures authorize new research facilities in the Kansas City area.
The universities, in turn, create a uniquely wide and diverse pool of talent to staff those facilities and create new ones, not just the itinerant, hip-a-go-go singles of Richard Florida’s imagination, but serious, sensible young people who see the virtue in having children and the value of Kansas City as a place to have them.
Florida ’s singles may create lots of things, but one thing that they create little of is new life. A generation down the road, they will grow surly and self-absorbed and, when not spaying their pets or pasting stickers on their bumpers, will spend their time passing one eco-happy, no-growth measure after another. In the process, they will drive just about every business from their all too “green” pastures save for the organic food stores and the head shops. Witness California today.
Meanwhile, a fruitful, flourishing, multiplying Kansas City will go forth and welcome these new businesses and new people with open arms, and will not bitch when folks choose to build homes with three car garages in places like Peculiar.
I’m ready. Anyone need a new dean?
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