HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE, INTELLECTUAL BUBBLE EDITION: Frank Bruni: Too Many Colleges Flunk Trump 101.
“The idea that the only people who voted for Trump have missing front teeth is really so extraordinary, and yet I think that’s largely what people in the academy think,” said Jean Yarbrough, a conservative professor of political science at Bowdoin College who voted for him herself. These faculty members, she added, consider 2016 “an illegitimate election, so they’re not worried about their being out of touch with America.”
But others are rightly concerned, and that includes parents. Inside Higher Ed published an article recently in which college-placement advisers said that some clients wanted to steer clear of certain elite schools — Yale and Brown were singled out — that struck them as overzealously progressive.
Lynn Morton, the president of Warren Wilson College, publicly expressed dissatisfaction with its reputation as a bohemian enclave and made an explicit appeal for conservative students.
Michael Roth, the president of Wesleyan University, wrote in The Wall Street Journal that “to create deeper intellectual and political diversity, we need an affirmative-action program for the full range of conservative ideas and traditions, because on too many of our campuses they seldom get the sustained, scholarly attention that they deserve.” He said that in addition to Wesleyan’s commitment to admitting at least 10 military veterans to every freshman class, it would welcome senior military officials as instructors and would tweak its curriculum to offer, for example, a course on the philosophical underpinnings of free enterprise.
For educators open to such changes, the election was both an illustration and a consequence of how polarized our country had become and how poorly Americans in separate cultural and ideological camps communicated with one another. And they aren’t content simply to put “Hillbilly Elegy” on the summer reading list for incoming students (which many colleges have done).
Hence the Inside Higher Ed survey’s discovery of a heightened interest in applicants whose demographic and geographic profiles dovetail with those of Trump voters. If colleges are serious about the educational benefits of diversity, the thinking goes, they need to factor in those students, and they can’t promote respectful, elevated debate if the campus is one big blissful love-in of like-minded liberals. Affluent teenagers from Brooklyn Heights, Brookline and Bethesda need to hear from evangelicals, from young men and women who did tours of duty in Afghanistan, from those whose relatives thrilled to Trump.
Well, if you take diversity seriously, you need to be diverse.