- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 3, 2005

It seems that liberals are confused about why conservatives care so deeply about what goes on in the groves of academe. They do not get why conservatives are very vocal about political bias in the classroom, which is combined with lessons in everything from anthropology through to zoology.

2005 is proving already to be something of a vintage in this respect. First, we had the debacle over comments offered by Larry Summers at Harvard on women in science. Now we have a Colorado professor, Ward Churchill, hopefully no relation to the great statesman Winston Churchill, who wrote an essay comparing those who died in the horror of September 11 with the Nazis who perpetrated the Holocaust.

Liberals are confused about these skirmishes as well, and do not see any contradiction between their condemnation of Mr. Summers on the one hand, and their collegial support for the professor on the other. Mr. Summers is to be forbidden the defense of First Amendment rights, though he was positing an idea for intellectual debate in the best traditions of liberal academia. Meanwhile, our erstwhile professor is to have full access to the First Amendment defense for making insulting remarks in a third-rate essay.

Though perhaps not highbrow enough for his university’s reading lists, the Dr. Doolittle novels featured something called the Push-me Pull-you animal. This confusing animal had a head at two ends and couldn’t always decide which way to go. So he always seemed to be going in two different directions. Sound familiar?

In the debate raging across campuses up and down the country, this animal is often seen in human guise. The absurdity of academics jumping to the defense of the professor is that it now seems intellectually acceptable to call American people Nazis, but please do not call them Christians. The theological point is closer to the truth, that we all bear the fault of sin.

However, while we retain our sinful nature, we may turn to God in a denial of sin and evil. The Americans who died September 11 were no doubt true to the nature of being American, namely a people that deny a place for evil in our society and in the world. Those who killed them did so with evil intent and evil result, but out of the ashes of this assault on what is good came a crystallization of what evil is in fact.

When President Reagan talked about Russia as the evil empire back in the 1980s, no doubt the professor was in the back row sniggering. Perhaps Mr. Reagan’s rhetoric had too much that was abstract for some. When President Bush talked about evil in the wake of September 11, he meant it and we saw it, and we saw what evil men can do.

Of course, evil is one of those embarrassing words that secularists, and many liberals, like to dismiss. It is an embarrassing four-letter word that causes more distress to them than some other four letter words that we prefer not to hear in polite company.

Like Humpty Dumpty in Alice in Wonderland, evil is a word that means just what it says it means, neither more nor less. Certainly, there is much to be said for a balance of ideas and opinions, and we should freely express our understanding in order to test our ideas against other opinions. The problem occurs when this process gets narrowed down to a politically acceptable set of biased views, and where disagreement is fine so long as you agree on the boundaries of what is disagreeable. In this scheme of things, many conservative and religious views are considered to be beyond the boundary.

So, here’s the beef conservatives have. They care deeply that much of what is taught in universities, colleges and schools across the country is not reflective of America, nor is it intellectually rigorous. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the young students of today are being taught by the young students of yesterday, and they in turn will teach the young students of tomorrow. The system becomes self-perpetuating, with many academics having little exposure to the realities of the outside world. This enables them to entertain the most fantastical propositions, apparently without the need to test them empirically against how the world actually works.

George Orwell put it best when he explained that there are some ideas so idiotic that only intellectuals would believe them. Well, the professor has certainly proven the point.

David Cowan holds two degrees in theology from Oxford University, and is a former Lutheran chaplain to students in Cambridge, England.

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