The vast majority of Americans believe that America’s war against Islamic terror is a moral one, that the Iraqi, Iranian and North Korean regimes are evil, and that Israel’s war for survival is a just war. They also believe that colleges should not have dormitories or graduation ceremonies segregated by race or ethnicity.
There is, however, one group of prominent Americans who, with a few exceptions, do not hold these moral assessments – college professors.
As far as most of us are concerned, the university is the most morally confused mainstream institution in America. It is also among the most unfree, with its authoritarian speech codes and political correctness. Most Americans agree with William F. Buckley’s famous comment that he would rather be governed by the first hundred names in the Cambridge phone book than by a hundred Harvard professors.
The question is, why? Why are the moral compasses of so many professors in the liberal arts and humanities – i.e., departments other than in the natural sciences and math – broken?
Having thought about this ever since the 1970s, when I attended graduate school in international affairs at Columbia University, I would like to offer six reasons:
First, college professors are rewarded no matter how incompetent they are. Once a professor is granted tenure, he or she can announce that all sex between a man and a woman is rape, that parents should have a period of time after their ill child is born to determine whether or not they should kill it, or that children do just as well when raised by two women or two men as when raised by a man and woman married to each other – and still be well-paid and respected by colleagues.
Second, professors live and work in an almost hermetically sealed ideological universe. As a radio talk-show host, I probably have to defend my ideas more often in a day than the average left-wing professor does in a semester. No wonder professors who write anti-American articles or letters to the editor often refuse my producer’s invitations to come on my show and defend their views – they almost never have to do so.
Third, they believe in moral relativism – one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, no culture is morally superior to any other – and increasingly even believe in the relativism of truth. For anyone who believes that nothing is objectively right or wrong or even true or false, moral clarity is impossible.
Fourth, they lack wisdom. Many professors have an immense amount of knowledge in their field, but few possess wisdom. For example, I am convinced that my grandmothers, who never went to high school, understood men better than the average woman who earns a doctorate in psychology – let alone in women’s studies, sociology or political science.
Fifth, they are alienated from the two main identities of other Americans: patriotism and religion. They regard patriotism and expressions of it such as flag waving as largely contemptible expressions of jingoism. And they regard religion – especially America’s foundational religions, Christianity and Judaism – as, at best, a crutch for the psychologically weak and, at worst, as the greatest source of evil.
Sixth, most professors believe that they are smarter than other Americans, and so they deeply resent the society that gives more power, money and fame to businessmen, politicians, athletes, movie stars and talk-show hosts. This further alienates them from the larger society.
In sum, if the universities are morally right, Americans are, by and large, morally wrong, and America is indeed the malevolent force in the world that so many colleges depict it as. On the other hand, if Americans are by and large right about the greatest moral issues of the day, and America, with all its flaws, really is the greatest force for good in the world, our universities are, with a few exceptions, moral wastelands.