I did my undergrad at AEI...

Check out this troubling piece from David Brooks in the International Herald Tribune, discussing the 'discrimination' which conservative academics are subject to, and Stanley Fish's response in the Chronicle of Higher Ed. Sometimes the only way out are institutions like AEI, Cato, and Heritage, Brooks says, where conservative intellectuals can escape a life of silent shame.

This is getting ridiculous. Do we really believe that a hack political operation like AEI, built a few decades ago by right wing impresarios to add fuel to beltway infighting is on the level with the world's preeminent institutions of learning? Do we really think that because AEI researchers' talking points aren't passing scholarly muster that the whole institution of higher learning is corrupt and false? That truth is on the side of the thinly veiled research wing of a major party and its supporters, as opposed to the institutions produced by hundreds of years of critical thought? Sure, that makes sense.

The process of developing and vetting scholarly thought is very complicated and requires a lifetime of commitment, and therefore is rather obscure to the majority of citizens. Some clever 'wingers realized that if you're not so worried about convincing your scholarly peers, but instead are targeting a mass audience for political instead of academic ends, it's pretty easy to just label the whole thing a leftist sham. Once outside the ivory tower, you can affix the label of truth to whatever politically convenient conclusion you like.

The right wing assault on the integrity of higher education has greater implications, however. Declaring a comprehensive political ideology does not translate into a seat at the academic table. In universities, we strive to create a sphere insulated from political interests where the work of knowledge can advance without pressure from the day to day calculus of power. The preservation of spaces like this in a liberal democracy are essential to its health, and that means respecting the standards which they develop organically. When right wingers play politics with the academic world, exerting their considerable media and political pressure on life within the university and dictating which systems of belief and which standards of evidence higher learning should take up by appealing to "fairness," they are chipping away at the very foundations of one of the nation's most valuable institutions.


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