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How I taught my intro econ class. I responded briefly that it was probably different than a textbook approach he may have been familiar with. To which he replied in almost the non-sequitur of the year, “oh, so you’re a Democrat?” I actually don’t know what to say.

I caught this in the WSJ on the way to registration today:

Thus, the current Guide to the First Year at Harvard alerts incoming students to orientation programs in diversity designed to build connections within and across “nationality, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, class, physical ability, and religion.” Characteristically and tellingly absent from the list is political or intellectual diversity.

Those who established higher education in this country knew that constitutional democracy was not biologically transmitted, but would have to be painstakingly nurtured in every new cohort of students. When schools dropped requirements for compulsory attendance at religious services and subjected all certainties to critical scrutiny, the schools may have assumed that faculty would find more creative ways of teaching the foundational texts and of rehearsing the debates inspired by those texts. Conservative students—and not they alone—long for exposure to the ideational diversity of Jefferson and Hamilton, Jesus and the Grand Inquisitor, Marx and Hayek, liberal and conservative. They want a campus where a professor who says he votes Republican isn’t considered either courageous or crazy.

The pity is that, so far, students who desire such a campus will have to work for its transformation on their own.

The rest is here.

2 Responses to “A New Student Asked Me Today”

  1. blink says:

    What to say? How about, “Welcome to college, young man. We hope you will see that there is more to life than simple labels.” Second thought: Translate the question as, “Are you on my team?” (and I am new… probably insecure, confused, lonely…)

    Third thought: Celebrate! What could be better than the chance to broaden someone’s perspective or change a person’s mind? There is no point in teaching what people already know, and teaching in an echo chamber cannot be fun either. Facing the passion and misconceptions (and the passionate misconceptions) students bring to economics may be frustrating, but isn’t it also exhilarating?

  2. Michael says:

    “They want a campus where a professor who says he votes Republican isn’t considered either courageous or crazy.”

    I can understand this a lot, since I was hesitant to go to college for these types of reasons (I was near Evergreen College at one point, home of Rachel Corrie and other interesting fellows). It can be really hard to find a place where you can be exposed to new ideas rather than constantly defending your own against old ones.

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