“Intellectual Purity” On College Campuses

With the end of “don’t ask, don’t tell” looming, faculty senates on many elite college campuses are facing what may be their worst nightmare.  The U.S. government is calling their bluff.

For many years, some on university faculties have justified their efforts to expel ROTC and to abuse pro-military students by pointing to DADT.  By calling the military discriminatory, they could continue to indulge in anti-military sentiments that have been continuously dominant on college faculties since the Vietnam War without running contradicting their own claims to be tolerant and pluralist.

But what are they to do when DADT is gone?  If they really only cared about discrimination, the answer would be easy — allow ROTC back and stop the practice of abusing students who happen to wear a uniform or express pro-military views.

But we can’t have that.  Fortunately for the anti-military types among the nation’s college faculties, Colman McCarthy has an answer — simply enforce the “intellectual purity” of college campuses by continuing to exclude ROTC.  And just because “right wing bloggers” are offended doesn’t mean they are wrong to be offended.  Indeed, the right-wingers are doing a better job upholding liberal ideals than the supposed liberals on this one.

It’s a curious definition of the university mission that McCarthy and his supporters promote, to say the least.  The liberal ideal that supposedly motivates university education is precisely to challenge all ideas by exposing students to alternatives.  That is the reason to set up gender studies departments, ethnic studies departments, and yes, peace studies departments.  It would seem to include military studies departments as well, which is the university name for ROTC programs.

“Intellectual purity” has always been the pursuit of the enemies of that liberal ideal.  Followers of Senator Joseph McCarthy sought to ensure “intellectual purity” by preventing “subversion” by communists and other anti-Americans in the 1950s.  It is both ironic and tragic to see those McCarthy persecuted embracing their own version of his hateful program now.

Anyone who truly honors the strengths of both American society and the American university system should be offended by this effort.  We cannot teach peace and tolerance by declaring all pro-military ideas and the people who represent them verboten from college campuses.

We can’t censor our way to conformity with ideals of tolerance and mutual respect among peoples.  And if anyone has a real dedication to progressive ideals, they wouldn’t even try.



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