By Greg Reed
I have come to believe that, of all the students that attend Haverford, I and fellow conservatives are benefiting more than others from the political environment. I know it may be a strange claim to make, but I believe it is true. When people approach me about my political views in the context of my attendance of Haverford, more often than not they attempt to express some level of understanding and sympathy for what, in their minds, must be a pretty terrible time. What they fail to realize, however, is that living in an environment in which I am not surrounded by people who hold similar beliefs has proved to be a tremendously educational and invigorating experience.
I have always felt that there is nothing better for the mind than being in an environment where there exists a difference of opinion. Engaging in debates with people of contrasting viewpoints is, at the most, a chance to learn something new and, at the very least, a chance to prove yourself right. My time at Haverford has provided me with both experiences. Yet despite the positive effects of being open-minded to new ideas (let us not forget the beautiful compromise that is democracy), there are those at Haverford who would rather not hear the opposing viewpoints.
This close-mindedness has been expressed most recently on the GO Boards. This week, someone added a new thread to the bottomless archives of the infamous GO Boards entitled, “Conservative Professors.” On this thread, a student suggested the benefits of having at least one conservative professor on campus. I was particularly happy to see such an idea suggested, especially by someone who hasn’t already been lumped into the category of “one of them” and subsequently ignored. For two years I have been arguing for a greater diversity of opinion on campus, yet strangely few seemed to see any merit in such diversity, especially amongst our professors. There have been mixed responses to the post, but it is alarming how many individuals actually argued that a professor with a conservative ideology does not belong at Haverford, that there is no need for such a professor, there is no value in conservative ideology, or the least offensive argument, that a professor with a conservative ideology would not change much about the political atmosphere of Haverford.
How does someone argue that diversity of opinion is not valuable? Why is it so easy for some individuals to actually write off a political ideology that is so wide and broad that any number of individuals, including Dave Langlieb, could be included in it? Last time I checked, over the past thirty years, the Great Society has failed to reduce poverty below ten percent, welfare has resembled slavery more than a liberating social program for those unfortunate individuals who need it, and despite Social Security’s imminent bankruptcy, Democrats have proposed no plans to save it or the aging population of this country. Yet you don’t see me or my fellow conservatives writing off all of liberalism. Just as we have benefited from the difference of opinion that exists in the student body and the professors of Haverford, so too would liberal students benefit from a conservative-minded professor, who would, at the very least, allow you to know your enemy better.
But it is more than simply an issue of diversity of opinion on campus. The issue of having a professor, one single professor, who professes some form of a conservative ideology, drives to the heart of the meaning behind educational institutions. Educational institutions are meant as a place for young and old minds alike to receive a fair, unbiased education in the commitment to developing one’s own opinion and cultivating the mind. Professors, teachers and academics should not be seen merely as fountains of knowledge, but as counselors in the development of individuals. They should provide guidance and support for those students finding their way through education. They should not try to manipulate the minds of students according to their political or religious leanings. Instead, they should challenge students to discover what they believe is the truth in pushing students to look beyond the opinions of others and the propaganda they are exposed to in day to day life.
The classroom is not a soap box. It is a place for developing minds to explore the subject matter. It is no place for a professor to express his or her political beliefs in a manner which interferes with the development of a student’s own thoughts or, even worse, create an atmosphere where ideological diversity is unwelcome.
The “liberal” in liberal arts does not stand for a specific political ideology, but for the balanced and well-rounded education one is supposed to receive at such an institution, and this is what we should expect from Haverford.