Academic politics is the most vicious and bitter form of politics, because the stakes are so low.
–quipped Columbia University political science professor Wallace S. Sayre (well before Henry Kissinger).
Allen Guelzo argues, however, that those stakes, which include the opportunity to form the background assumptions and fundamental perspective of society’s educated elite, may not really be so petty after all.
The conservative revolution was supposed to be a revolution. It has not been. It has been an insurgency. And while that insurgency captured a vast swath of open territory, it failed utterly to capture the key citadels of American culture, beginning with American higher education.
The academic left likes to complain about how the conservative onslaught forced it to “retreat” to the ivory tower – but without acknowledging that the ivory tower had become the Gibraltar of American life. For better or worse, an undergraduate degree has become the prerequisite for entry into middle-class life. Academics control the narrow neck through which America’s managers, writers, thinkers, bankers, politicians, and executives must pass, and that passage has acquired an atmosphere, no matter how self-pityingly the academic left likes to deny it, in which Left assumptions are set as the default positions
The academic Left is correct when it pooh-poohs the idea that it conducts a massive ideological de-programming; but then again, it does not need to. It has merely to nudge the standard deviation of the politics of the future ruling class a few clicks to the left for conservatism to seem abnormal. Conservatives made the disastrous mistake of assuming that if they abandoned those tedious and expensive plans to lay siege to the university, they would be free to move on to the larger and more easily-annexed plains of government and finance. They were wrong. Governments change, finances crash, but the faculty is forever.
Hat tip to the News Junkie.