Here are two definitions of the word liberal:
1) Open to new behavior or opinions and willing to discard traditional values (Oxford Dictionaries)
2) A liberal is a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel. (Robert Frost)
Nick Kristof exemplifies both definitions. He happens also to be on the left, politically, but many people on the left these days are not liberal by either definition. This is especially a problem in universities, which cannot function when professors and students are not open to new ideas and are not willing to question their “side” when empirical evidence calls for it.
The rising problem of illiberalism on campus is why we created Heterodox Academy in the first place. Many of us were therefore thrilled by Kristof’s column today in the New York Times: A Confession of Liberal Intolerance.
Kristof had posted on his Facebook page a link to an essay by John Hasnas on the problems caused by the lack of political diversity in universities. He was surprised by the vitriol, insults, and closed-mindedness of the responses he got. This led Kristof to study the problem more closely and to seek out multiple perspectives by talking with a few of the contributors to Heterodox Academy.
Here are a few excerpts from his beautifully liberal column:
Universities are the bedrock of progressive values, but the one kind of diversity that universities disregard is ideological and religious. We’re fine with people who don’t look like us, as long as they think like us.
When perspectives are unrepresented in discussions, when some kinds of thinkers aren’t at the table, classrooms become echo chambers rather than sounding boards — and we all lose.
This bias on campuses creates liberal privilege. A friend is studying for the Law School Admission Test, and the test preparation company she is using offers test-takers a tip: Reading comprehension questions will typically have a liberal slant and a liberal answer.
Universities should be a hubbub of the full range of political perspectives from A to Z, not just from V to Z. So maybe we progressives could take a brief break from attacking the other side and more broadly incorporate values that we supposedly cherish — like diversity — in our own dominions.