Conservatives' Rational Contempt for Academics
Time's Joe Klein is on a road trip across America, filing stories
from various locations as he goes. Yesterday he filed one from East
Lansing, MI in which he sat down with a group of academics from Michigan
The discussion starts out exactly as you'd
expect it to if you've ever read any of Joe Klein's columns. His concern
is what to do about American's waning respect for academia. There's the
obligatory attack on Republicans, whose views on science are
"indefensible." But to Klein's credit, he allows the discussion to range
in a direction he may not have anticipated:
Tom Bird, a retired member of the MSU Education faculty made the
best point of all: “...There were a lot of very smart people in the College of
Education who thought about things in a certain way–many of them were
very left. They were dismayed by the sort of people we had as students.
We got a lot of kids from the suburbs, and many of them have a
Republican sensibility. Some of the teachers actually had contempt for
the people they taught–and the students, of course, sensed it.
“The students would hear a pretty strident left-Democratic message
from their professors and they’d cover up. They’d give the teachers what
they wanted to hear in order to survive,” he said, instead of
challenging them, starting a real conversation and actually learning
something. And then the students grew up, went out and became citizens.
“I think,” said Bird, who was, by the way, a strong Obama supporter,
“that a lot of Americans are showing the intellectuals the same contempt
that they were shown as students.”
There was a moment of silent reflection around the table. These
academics were, clearly, rigorous rather than reflexive–and they had
just heard an argument that rang a little bit too true for comfort.
would just add that it's not just the disrespect they were shown as
students but the ongoing disrespect they are shown, as adults, as the
earlier portion of Klein's piece demonstrates. This MSU professor is
really on to something, but after the moment of silence passes I suspect
Klein and most of his readers will go right back to bashing those damn,
irrational right-wingers. Inter-partisan enlightenment is a fleeting
thing in an election year.