“Politically correct” is this year’s catch phrase, and before Christmas it will be as stale as the new miniskirt or yesterday’s George Will. Always willing to outdo themselves in gullibility, decent Americans are routinely writing letters to the editor or calling up Rush Limbaugh to protest the infamy of thought control on the nation’s campuses. Even though the platitudes of Allan Bloom, Roger Kimball, and Dinesh D’Souza keep popping up in all the fashionable places, no one—certainly no one in the conservative press corps—has the least suspicion of what is going on.
As Frank Brownlow makes all too clear in this issue, the corruption of academic life is not a new story. Sometime after the First World War universities moved quickly to abolish requirements, lower standards, and introduce bogus disciplines like home economics, social work, and physical education. Foreign languages and philology were replaced with soft courses in literary interpretation, and by the 1960’s students were taking for credit courses in mystery novels and world literature surveys taught by professors who had learned none of the necessary languages.
I spent twenty years hanging around colleges and universities, first as student and then as professor. I have never regretted my departure. With a few distinguished exceptions, my teachers and colleagues were dullwitted, lazy, and militantly anti-intellectual. The brighter students catch on early, and in my last year of full-time teaching, one of them asked me—as politely as he could—if a grown man didn’t have something better to do with his life than pander to students and hang around with losers, by which he meant my colleagues.
The problems of higher education today are not the fault of Marxists, feminists, or minority scholars. Most faculty members are ignorant boors, and the radicals are no exception, but there are intelligent feminists and incompetent conservatives. As I once tried to explain to a chapter of the National Association of Scholars, their task was to de-politicize, not to repoliticize the academy, and every time they hired or promoted a colleague on the basis of politics, they were augmenting the enemy’s strength. Better a wise Turk than a, foolish Christian.
But the crusade against political correctness proceeds on the opposite principle, and instead of seeking to reform our institutions of higher learning many disgruntled liberals and their lite-conservative allies wish only to replace the leftist hegemony with the centrist liberal hegemony that ruled the academic roost until the end of the 1960’s.