It’s that time of the year again. Fresh out of high school, eager for independence, intimidated by new responsibilities, and determined to change the world, droves of new faces mill about the campus. They face an open vista of opportunity with four years full of adventures and surprises to forge their own path.
Along with the adventures and the surprises, of course, will come challenges—and few will face more relentless challenges than those who enter Stanford with culturally conservative principles. The great paradox of the moral relativism that plagues the modern liberal ideology is that in its unconditional refusal to reject any belief or lifestyle, it unconditionally rejects conservative ideologies that do precisely that. The deeper this relativist ideology sinks into its worship of “diversity,” the more repugnant it finds cultural conservatism. Hence it should come as no surprise that, seeing as nowhere does relativism’s cult of diversity flourish more than at Stanford University, conservatives find themselves under constant duress by the Stanford culture.
I would propose three principal areas in which this hostility manifests itself:
1. SOCIALENVIRONMENT. It is human nature: when people who share a certain ideology gather in a group, they become more prone to mocking those on the other end of the spectrum. Conservatives do it too. Unfortunately, because Stanford is ideologically undiverse, it becomes safe for liberals to assume that any given fellow student is also liberal (I was recently told by a sophomore that I was the first conservative he had met at Stanford). As a result it becomes socially acceptable—even advantageous—to deliver public criticisms of conservative principles; students compete to demonstrate their commitment to progressive ideals such as universal healthcare and gay marriage; and if a conservative is bold enough to voice dissent, his liberal peers may compete to shout him down.
**2. THE CLASSROOM. **It might be hard to believe, but professors are said to be more liberal than college students. The liberal slant in the classroom can be remarkable. Sometimes it is deliberate, but often professors aren’t even aware of their bias; they simply teach what they know.
Take my medieval music history class last year. The textbook, Craig Wright and Bryan Simm’s Music in Western Civilization, offered this vignette on Christianity and the Middle Ages:
In the Middle Ages people did not think of the world as we do today. To begin with, they believed that the sun revolved around the earth, that Jerusalem sat at the exact center of the earth, and that the world was no more than seven thousand years old, extending back only a few years before the Flood. Reality was explained by the Bible, not science, and it was flexible.
The assumption is that biblical faith and science are competing approaches to explaining reality. This is an anti-religious viewpoint and is decidedly not representative of Christian thought, whether modern or medieval. With respect to the young earth hypothesis in particular, Christian theologians dating back to St. Augustine have been advocating a non-literal interpretation of the Genesis creation story.
Apparently Wright and Simms didn’t know any better—and neither did my professor, until I wrote a paper on the subject. Such viewpoints are—sometimes unbelievably—simply taken for granted and taught accordingly.
3. ADMINISTRATION POLICIES. Perhaps the most inexcusable contributor to the anti-conservative culture at Stanford is the Administration itself. Conservative parents may not be thrilled to learn that their tuition money goes toward providing free birth control to students, as Stanford’s Sexual Health Peer Resource Center (SHPRC) proudly advertises. Consider, for instance, information listed on SHPRC’s website. The page dedicated to “An Informal History of the SHPRC” begins with these observations from Carole Pertofsky, Director of Health and Wellness Promotion at Vaden Health Center:
Back in the mid-70’s, women and men were gifted with the birth control pill. It was revolutionary, in that for the first time, women were in control of their own ability to decide whether and when to have children. That was the key to the Sexual Revolution, fueled by the ideals and principles of Feminism. Young people were empowering themselves by saying YES to Civil Rights, NOto war, and YES to sexual freedom and the right to choose.
This is not a Stanford Daily op-ed piece: this is a Stanford facility’s explanation of its origins and purpose! Where to begin? One gets the impression feminism and the sexual revolution are to be worshipped as deities by their mysterious capitalization. How is a conservative Catholic who considers the use of artificial contraceptives immoral to respond to the slavering description of the pill as “a gift” and “revolutionary?”
The SHPRC is but the tip of the iceberg. Consider the Housing division of Residential & Dining Enterprises, which has embraced “gender-neutral housing” (permitting students of different sexes to share the same room), or the School of Medicine, which has fought fiercely for federal taxpayer grants to conduct research on human embryos.
So what is a poor conservative freshman to do? His peers, his teachers, and even his school administration tell him his views are judgmental, anti-intellectual, and outdated. Is there any hope for the survival of his conservative convictions?
There is. In my view, the antidote to the broader anti-conservative culture lies in the various conservative subcultures scattered across campus. In groups like these, students with conservative principles will not only find peers who respect or share their values, but they will also gain access to a diverse array of intellectual resources. Although any individual conservative might not be able to answer every liberal objection, chances are the collective knowledge of the conservative community will at least be able to provide a balancing viewpoint.
It is that last point that I think might be most important. I would not encourage conservatives alone to seek out culturally conservative networks on campus, merely as a sort of buffer for their preconceived belief system. Instead, I would encourage anyone who appreciates true diversity—giving a voice and the courtesy of a fair consideration to all people—to seek out these pockets of conservatism. Hear them out—at the end of the day, you might not agree, but you may find them less judgmental and close-minded than their reputation might suggest.