Conservatives' Rational Contempt for Academics

Conservatives' Rational Contempt for Academics

Time’s Joe Klein is on a road trip across America, filing storiesfrom various locations as he goes. Yesterday he filed one from EastLansing, MI in which he sat down with a group of academics from MichiganState University.

The discussion starts out exactly as you’dexpect it to if you’ve ever read any of Joe Klein’s columns. His concernis what to do about American’s waning respect for academia. There’s theobligatory attack on Republicans, whose views on science arein a direction he may not have anticipated:

Tom Bird, a retired member of the MSU Education faculty made thebest point of all: “…There were a lot of very smart people in the College ofEducation who thought about things in a certain way-many of them werevery 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 aRepublican sensibility. Some of the teachers actually had contempt forthe people they taught-and the students, of course, sensed it.

“The students would hear a pretty strident left-Democratic messagefrom their professors and they’d cover up. They’d give the teachers whatthey wanted to hear in order to survive,” he said, instead ofchallenging them, starting a real conversation and actually learningsomething. And then the students grew up, went out and became citizens.that they were shown as students.”

There was a moment of silent reflection around the table. Theseacademics were, clearly, rigorous rather than reflexive-and they hadjust heard an argument that rang a little bit too true for comfort.

Iwould just add that it’s not just the disrespect they were shown asstudents but the ongoing disrespect they are shown, as adults, as theearlier portion of Klein’s piece demonstrates. This MSU professor isreally on to something, but after the moment of silence passes I suspectKlein and most of his readers will go right back to bashing those damn,irrational right-wingers. Inter-partisan enlightenment is a fleetingthing in an election year.