I’ve railed against the racket that higher education has become on this page before. I think more people should be able to abstain from going to college and I think the government should stop “helping” students.
That being said, I also think Rick Santorum’s populist revulsion towards academia is based on faulty thinking. Michael Medved did a sufficient job of explaining why this is the case in an opinion piece pub’d by the Journal last week.
But it seems to go beyond that. Rick Satorum’s professors, who remember the young Santorum, have recently come out to protest his claims about his time at Penn State:
“I can tell you professor after professor who docked my grades because of the viewpoints I expressed and the papers that I wrote. There’s no question that happened,” Santorum said. He added: “I used to go to war with some of my professors, who thought I was out of the pale, these are just not proper ideas,” noting, “There is clearly a bias at the university.”
… “I never received a complaint from any students that a professor had downgraded them because they were conservative and the professor was too liberal, or a student was too liberal with a conservative professor,” Robert Friedman told me. He served as chair of the political science department in the late 1970s when Santorum was a student. “Any problem he had with his grades had nothing to do with the fact that he was politically conservative.”
Penn State wasn’t liberal. “I find it amazing that anyone would see this as some kind of a leftist bastion, the Berkeley of Pennsylvania,” said Robert O’Connor, who taught or supervised Santorum in four courses.
Santorum campaigned for John Heinz, the late senator whom Friedman deems “a centrist of the old kind that was very common back then in Pennsylvania.”
Heinz was the sort of candidate who couldn’t win a Republican primary in this state today, as Arlen Specter can attest, and whom the adult Santorum would never support.
“Any problem Santorum had with his grades had nothing to do with the fact that he was politically conservative,” Friedman said. “He wasn’t a very serious student.”
I believe Friedman’s account. I think there would be far more stories about Santorum’s collegiate activism, and definitely better-detailed stories, if he really was fighting tooth-and-nail with the professors at Penn State.
It’s my second semester in my senior year, which is as good of a time as any to cite my own reasons for why I don’t care for anyone who would retroactively claim “bias” in their university:
1. It’s lame. In general, yes, most professors are left-leaning, but that does not mean all professors are jerks. I’ve met many über-liberal professors, but none of them were unwilling to give me a good grade if I played by the rules and wrote a decent paper related to the prompt. (If I had to claim a “bias” at Cornell, it would be one towards Cornell Realism, which I find far more offensive than political liberalism.) Some of my best friends in the government department at Cornell are conservatives who, if anything, make far more articulate defenses of their beliefs because they’re oftentimes surrounded by liberal thinkers. I have, however, also met some people who cry bias because their rather poorly-written papers were not well received by someone who happens to have a different ideology – on both sides of the aisle, no less.
2. It’s hurtful to those who are picked on. This belief that nobody can survive in academia if they aren’t card-carrying makes people take things less seriously when discrimination on the basis of political beliefs actually does come to light. People like Rick Santorum make it easier for the left to discredit people like my colleague Charles Johnson, who actually has found incidences of severe discrimination on his campus. I have no doubt that there are some professors who conservatives and liberals alike should be disgusted by, but it’s awfully hard to parse them out when they lie amidst a cohort of exaggerated ones.