Is College the Cure for Conservatism?

By Gary Palmer

A 2009 article by William Voegeli entitled “The Roots of Liberal Condescension” quoted “UD”, a blogger for Inside Higher Ed: “We need to encourage everyone to be in college for as many years as they possibly can, in the hope that somewhere along the line they might get some exposure to the world outside their town, and to moral ideas not exclusively derived from their parents’ religion. If they don’t get this in college, they’re not going to get it anywhere else.”

“UD” seems to suggest the cure for a Bible-believing Christian and/or Constitution-quoting conservative is college. “UD” acknowledges the importance of college, not so much for preparing people to participate in our workforce and civic life but for the purpose of fundamental re-education, deprogramming and reprogramming. Thus, for liberals, college is not only about academics but also expanding their political base.

Two surveys in 2006 and 2008 were commissioned by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) and conducted by the University of Connecticut’s department of Public Policy. Over 14,000 randomly-selected freshman and senior students from 50 colleges and universities nationwide were asked 60 multiple choice questions regarding American history, government, America and the world, and the market economy.

The 2008 survey of freshmen reported an average score 51.4%; seniors were only slightly better at 54.2 %.

Freshmen scores were actually higher than the seniors’ scores at eight of the college and universities, including Yale, Duke and Princeton. In other words, when it comes to American history and civics, some of America’s elite university students know less when they graduate than when they enter as freshmen.

Colleges not only fail to teach the fundamentalideas and principles that are essential to maintain our constitutional system of government, they denigrate and undermine the patriotic pride and religious faith in an effort to remove them from the next generation of Americans.

As Voegeli points out, “… higher education is remedial education, and the affliction it remedies is an American upbringing. In other words, college campuses are battlegrounds in the culture war.

It hasn’t always been that way.

Prior to the liberal takeover of public education, American students were expected to learn our nation’s founding principles and pride in our nation was encouraged and reinforced. Students learned about the influence of Christianity in American and religious faith and morality were acknowledged as indispensible for ensuring the vitality of our nation’s future.

But not anymore.

As these surveys would seem to indicate, college seems to be the cure for all things patriotic, religious and conservative as well as the best means for changing the culture and political landscape towards liberal ideology.

Gary Palmer is president of the Alabama Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit research and education organization dedicated to the preservation of free markets, limited government and strong families, which are indispensable to a prosperous society.

One response to “Is College the Cure for Conservatism?

  1. Thanks for the information on the ISI survey. I looked at summaries of two other studies which came to the opposite conclusion. College students grow no more liberal during their fours years than non-college students. And, more to your point, college students tend to be more religious than their non-college counterparts at the completion of college. See http://election2012nh.wordpress.com/2012/03/04/liberals-college-and-snobbery/

    “The 2008 survey of freshmen reported an average score 51.4%; seniors were only slightly better at 54.2 %.” I can’t tell what the ISI survey says about the impact of college on students. The quote above suggests that the difference made by college is not all that great.

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