Zipline Conservative

October 25, 2008

Liberal Group Think in Academia (The Common Assumption…Intellectual Lockstep…Excellent Read)

“The first protocol of academic society might be called the Common Assumption. The assumption is that all the strangers in the room at professional gatherings are liberals. Liberalism at humanities meetings serves the same purpose that scientific method does at science assemblies. It provides a base of accord. The Assumption proves correct often enough for it to join other forms of trust that enable collegial events. A fellowship is intimated, and members may speak their minds without worrying about justifying basic beliefs or curbing emotions.

The Common Assumption usually pans out and passes unnoticed — except for those who don’t share it, to whom it is an overt fact of professional life. Yet usually even they remain quiet in the face of the Common Assumption. There is no joy in breaking up fellow feeling, and the awkward pause that accompanies the moment when someone comes out of the conservative closet marks a quarantine that only the institutionally secure are willing to endure.

Sometimes, however, the Assumption steps over the line into arrogance, as when at a dinner a job candidate volunteered her description of a certain “racist, sexist, and homophobic” organization, and I admitted that I belonged to it. Or when two postdocs from Germany at a nearby university stopped by my office to talk about American literature. As they sat down and I commented on how quiet things were on the day before Thanksgiving, one muttered, “Yes, we call it American Genocide Day.”

Such episodes reveal the argumentative hazards of the Assumption. Apart from the ill-mannered righteousness, academics with too much confidence in their audience utter debatable propositions as received wisdom.”


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