At Volokh Conspiracy, Randy Barnett writes of a letter sent to the American Association of Law Schools to express the disappointment of conservative and libertarian academics with their being no room at the Inn for them. It’s orthodoxy v. heterodoxy, and orthodoxy has its hands on the wheel of the truck.
The letter is a marvel of academic moderation, beginning with deep appreciation that the leaders of AALS didn’t spit in their face as they showed them the door. It finally comes to its point:
At this meeting we urged, inter alia, the creation of a Political Diversity Task Force on viewpoint diversity similar to the Racial Diversity Task Force created in 1999 or the three task forces created to deal with issues of globalization.
We fear that the Executive Committee does not take our concerns seriously and intends to take no action to address them. We urge the EC to alter this attitude. Both scholarship and teaching suffer when law schools are echo chambers in which only one side of current debates is given a voice.
This would hardly seem a controversial point, and yet it has not only been ignored (but politely), but ignored while other aspects of diversity, racial and gender, have been elevated to fundamental guiding principles. There appear to be two problems here, the first being that non-progressive academics are outsiders, their ideas shunned and their careers stunted to the extent they’re allowed on campus at all.
The second problem is that there aren’t enough non-progressive academics to create an intellectual balance on campus. Hiring committees, staffed by progressive academics, don’t hire conservative academics (or practicing lawyers, but that’s a different issue).
Josh Blackman raises the second problem, noting three rationalizations for the absence of non-progressive academics.
First, many professors assert there is a pipeline problem: on average, fewer qualified conservative faculty members apply for academic positions.
There may be more validity to this point than some folks want to admit, though the cause of the shortfall is itself a problem. Why would conservatives or libertarians choose to pursue an academic career where they will be shunned, where their research will be ridiculed, where their ideas will be summarily rejected? It’s not like the smart kids can’t go make good money elsewhere.
Second, other professors claim that there is no overt discrimination against conservative applicants, and indeed, they have never seen a resume that exudes an applicant’s conservative philosophy.
As if putting “president, Federalists Society,” doesn’t give a clue. Or that research note about the textualist interpretation of the FLSA while on law review. Right. There are always clues, and if not, there is the interview, where lack of a comfort pig is an obvious cue.
But Josh’s third reason, not often spoken aloud by prawfs, but always in their head, is the real culprit.
Third, some professors acknowledge the problem, and candidly maintain that conservative scholars are simply less qualified because their ideas are worse. Or, to use an anecdote one professor related at a debate I attended earlier this year, “the reason why conservatives don’t get hired is because their ideas are just stupid.”
How do you hire an academic to teach students who is “stupid”? Since brilliant people agree with you, those who don’t have no place in the Legal Academy, not because they disagree with progressive orthodoxy, but because they’re stupid. Or to be less harsh, they can’t be too bright as they’ve arrived at the wrong ideas.
But having pointed out the hiring fallacies, and very politely, near Canadian-like, challenging the AALS’ refusal to budge, there remains a question that neither Randy Barnett nor Josh Blackman has confronted. And there may well be good reason for trying not to deal with it head on, as it could be a deal breaker.
Can diversity of thought co-exist with already extant truisms of racial and gender diversity?
It can’t. It’s not that it couldn’t, had diversity of thought been respected while gender and racial diversity initiatives been crafted, but it wasn’t. What happened was that these initiatives went from efforts to eliminate racial and gender discrimination to discrimination in favor of racial and gender causes. See my bastardized Herzberg theory for a longer explanation.
What constitutes non-discrimination in practice can’t be reconciled with any political view other than extreme progressivism today. Academics try to wrap it up in a pretty bow, which is their strength, but it’s all bullshit. Admit your White Male Privilege or you’re a racist and sexist. Make their feelings the center of your universe or you’re a racist and sexist. Where, in that paradigm, is there room for discussion?
We’re now at the stage of practice (not theory, but practice) where all answers that don’t comport with both the approved values and language are met not with open discussion, but screams of racism, sexism, or some other -ism, as if the mere incantation of these words answers all questions. This has become pervasive.
A while back, I was accused by a female lawprof of “harassing” her by using her name in a post about something she said. Not that she disagreed, but that the mere mention of her name was harassment. Where is there room for discussion? Another female lawprof (hint: Mary Anne Frank), has been caught lying so many times that she could be considered for White House Press Secretary. Not only is she shameless about it, but her progressive colleagues would never consider calling her out for lying as they approve of her goals, and they are so deeply adored that the use of lies to achieve them is totally acceptable and justified.
It’s not that there is no theoretical living together. Of course there is. But the Academy has moved far beyond the theoretical and deep into the tyranny of making its Utopian fantasies a reality. Perhaps this means that non-progressive ideas lost in the marketplace of ideas, although that notion requires that all ideas be heard and given fair consideration. Non-progressive ideas haven’t stood a chance in decades.
But realism, being a bitch, informs us that the Legal Academy build a huge edifice to progressive ideals, ugly and unwieldly, but one that seemed lovely when it was being designed. And now, the monstrosity is firmly in place and there is no room in the structure for academics who don’t love it.
It’s not that Randy and Josh don’t have a point, but the battle has already been lost. Less than radical progressive thinkers can’t co-exist in the structure of racial and gender diversity on campus as their demands preclude dispute and any attempt at discussion will only produce screams of racist, sexist. The only part of the diversity edifice on campus that appears well designed is the echo chamber. That works brilliantly.