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There is More Than One Way to Skin Your Professor’s Cat

It is a common, and righteous, complaint of many college students with a conservative mentality that their professors insist upon their adherence to a radically progressive set of doctrines.  The solution to which many such young conservatives tend is to try to yell their opinions more loudly, or to stand up strong and firm in the face of the oppressor.

This smacks of old-school nobility, but is ultimately ineffective.

I once heard Remi Brague respond to a question from the audience after a lecture he gave.  The question was, “What do we, as conservatives, as Catholics, do to change the academy?”  His answer was simple and sharp: “We must be twice better.”  Problems with his English aside, the point is one which sticks.  We cannot simply be dragged into a war of ideologies, of Left vs. Right, Progressive vs. Conservative, of dominance of opinion.  That is a sure road to mob rule, to the rule by the sway of popular opinion.  Even if we “won” that war, we would have no more legitimacy in the victory than the current prevalence of progressive doctrine.

Instead, we must be better, indeed, twice better: we need to have better arguments, clearer arguments, stronger arguments—which means that we must not only state the truth, but show why it is the truth.  We cannot appeal to emotion, nor can we simply appeal to tradition, for those in opposition cannot know whether or not our emotions are justified, nor can they see the value of tradition, blinded as they are by their own habits.

We cannot hold the opposition in contempt, for they have grown up in a culture which systematically diverts their attention from the true; they have been habituated, likely from before the age of reason, to live unreasonably.  We should not hate them, but pity them.  We should not attack them, but enlighten them.

To do so, we have to recognize that they do not want truth shoved down their throats, however much that might be more immediately satisfying to us.  We have to show them that truth patiently.

It is true that we are engaged in a battle for Western culture, Western civilization; but the enemy is not the opposed person, it is the error to which they adhere, and which adheres to them like a parasite.  Trying simply to rip the parasite off is typically many times worse for the host, causes the host pain, and may even incite a violent reaction from the host.  Maybe they’re comfortable with their parasites.

I once took a general psychology class with a fairly liberal professor.  A term paper of 5-7 pages was assigned, directed to deal with one of the major movements or theories in psychology.  I chose behaviorism, with which the professor did not fully agree, but towards which she had some sympathies.  I proceeded to show why behaviorism is a logically inconsistent notion, and why it has a kind of philosophical prescriptivism despite lacking any philosophical principles (trust me to write a philosophy paper in a psych class).

I had the highest paper grade in the class; why?  Because what I did was “twice better.”

In short, dealing with the difficulties posed by progressive, liberal professors is not, in most cases, well-accomplished by being obstinately opposed to their doctrines: what we need is clear logical demonstration of why their positions are false.

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