It’s no secret that there are certain areas of society that have a political bias. Whether it’s news outlets like Fox News skewing to the right, entertainment media slanting definitively left, or a variety of other outlets pushing one direction or another, it’s usually not a problem because people can simply ignore it or find an alternative. That’s not the case in higher education, where the vast majority of public and private universities skew left to the point of having no legitimate alternatives for conservatives. Well, it appears Dr. Ben Carson has a solution, though not necessarily a good one, at least if his statements in a Glenn Beck interview on October 21 are to be believed.
It seems Carson wants to institute a type of “fairness doctrine” to enforce that certain ideologies are heard on campuses (read: conservative). While it may sound good in theory, especially to many on the right who have long decried how liberal universities have held a virtual monopoly on indoctrination in higher education, it would require infringing on the First Amendment rights of said universities’ staff members.
For those who are unsure, a fairness doctrine is essentially a rule that forces businesses to share two sides of each issue, whether both sides have merit or not is not the point. There was one such rule in place for broadcasters for many years, and it was disastrous. Essentially, fairness doctrines start with the premise that there are typically two sides to every issue and that both sides must be heard. While this may be the case for a scant few, most issues have far more than one side. Additionally, it presumes that some opposing views have the right to be heard, no matter how insane or incorrect.
For example, imagine that it was mandatory for people who acknowledge climate change as fact to allow climate change deniers to argue their views. Clearly, climate change denial has very little merit and forcing educated people on the issue to allow nutters to proclaim their anti-science views on a program or in a classroom does little to advance discourse in this country. In fact, it would set it back by implying that there is any real doubt among the scientific community on this particular issue.
You can apply this to a variety of other issues as well: 9/11 truthers, creationists, even anti-vaxxers could force their way into the public square when under normal circumstances the general public could ignore them and let them be loony in private. Other issues, such as types of taxation or other economic issues, may have multiple solutions that would require far more than two sides to be heard.
In Carson’s case, he argues that schools would have their classrooms monitored big brother style by the Department of Education and cut off all funding to those who show a left wing bias. While using tax dollars to spy on educators and shutting them down for exercising their free speech rights may seem like a wise solution to some, most recognize it as a huge overreach by the federal government and an infringement on the most basic of liberties.
The reality is that while colleges have an admittedly leftist bias overall, it is not a federal government problem that needs jackboot tactics such as the one he proposes. The real solution would be to encourage conservatives to go into academia–a hard sell when the party’s overall undergoing an anti-intellectual movement due to skepticism of science in a variety of areas, most notable climate change. Still, conservatives are generally more well-versed in other areas than liberals, especially economics and areas involving math.
Additionally, appealing to high dollar donors to schools who have a right of center worldview to withhold their dollars voluntarily in order to influence hiring practices could be a solution, as could conservative parents opting to send their kids to schools with view similar to their own. Of course, the latter may be hard to come by outside of a few high priced universities or religious schools currently, which only serves to identify a need that could be handled economically.
If there is a demand for conservative leaning schools, then a supply should rationally follow. However, it seems conservatives are happier to rail against the status quo and offer up only intrusive government solutions rather than to utilize the free market to meet said demand.
Remember the days when conservatives claimed to be in favor of small government and less intrusive federal regulations? Yeah, it seems they are just as bad as Democrats on these things when it comes their own pet issues.
Here’s the full exchange.