Go west, Harvard professors. (Photo by Don and Melinda Crawford/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

An Idea for Professors at Elite Schools: Go Teach Republicans

For Ivy League academics sick of progressive students, Ben Kawaller has a solution: move schools and teach docile conservatives.

I am not a Republican. I have nothing against Republicans on an individual level—some of my best Twitter followers are Republicans. But I don’t have the temperance for conservatism. I do not conserve; I spew. Liberally. 

But you know what’s nice about Republicans? They raise happy, obedient kids. And as I watch what’s become of our university campuses, where student outrage can curtail curricula, debase administrators, and upend careers, it occurs to me that it would really be something if the best professors at the Stanfords and the MITs of this world left their perches for less cosmopolitan schools. Why not trade the anxious, rebellious spawn of Democrats for the sunny, docile children of Republicans?

Their respect for authority alone is intoxicating. I recently spent a few days in rural Arkansas, where I met a whole bunch of Republicans, and all their kids called me “sir.” I didn’t even have authority over these children, but by the time I left I felt like an army general.

Each of these kids was humbler than the next. For my purposes, in fact, it was less than ideal—I was shooting on-camera interviews and looking for big personalities, and between “Yes, sir” and “No, sir,” these were some of the most abbreviated answers ever captured on film. But what else can one expect of children who haven’t forever been told that the world is just dying to hear what they think about every blessed topic? While talking to these kids, I had a real sense that one day they’d be capable of sitting through a biology class or a history lecture without once having the urge to cancel their instructor.

I think Republicans are also better than Democrats at protecting their kids from crazy trends. Last summer I met a father in Iowa who’d decided to homeschool his seven children after hearing that the local school district was accommodating the bathroom needs of a student who identified as a house cat. (This all sounded pretty made-up to me; surely if there’s a classroom with a litter box for a cat child, it’s in Canada.) The point is, all it took was one species-fluid middle schooler for this father to yank his entire family out of society. I spoke with the guy’s twelve-year-old son, who hadn’t seen the inside of a classroom since he was nine. “How many years is that?” I asked the kid. The math was beyond him, but he was very respectful. 

Of course, not everything I’ve seen in red America has been fantastic. In a town outside of Little Rock I witnessed a grown man slap a two-year-old for playing with her food. I admit, it did make me grateful to have been raised among nice liberal people who know not to smack children as a matter of course, and so only ever do it out of uncontrollable rage. But watching this man threaten his sobbing toddler with more corporal punishment, I did have the reassuring thought that at least in twenty years she probably won’t be at Berkeley agitating for an intifada.

I’m not saying liberal parents are to blame for the fact that vast swaths of the supposedly brightest kids of the nation like to spend their free time braying about the uniquely evil state of Israel or tormenting scientists for doing their jobs or destroying people’s livelihoods in the name of fighting bigotry. Liberal students have been attending colleges for decades without craven administrators allowing them to turn their campuses into hotbeds of intolerance.

I should know—I was one of them! I recently came across an email I wrote as an undergrad to a conservative professor in response to an op-ed he’d written against having sex outside of a relationship. I informed him that his argument, which rested on biological differences between men and women, was “careless, demeaning, and unsubstantiated,” before expressing my wish to the seventy-year-old former Guggenheim Fellow that he give “some serious thought” to what he’d dared to express in the school newspaper. At which point in any sane world, an authoritarian dad from Arkansas would have materialized in my dorm room and smacked me about the head.

Of course, this was in 2006, and at no point did it occur to me to try and issue a collegiate fatwa against the offending professor. But forcing myself to read this haughty missive I’d fired off as a 21-year-old, I was struck by how similar I sounded to the adolescent schoolmarms who now set the parameters of their professors’ conduct. I was so righteous. I was also so lost and self-loathing. And, most importantly, I was so eager to avoid the reading my parents had paid these people so much to assign me. (Had my folks only been Republicans, I might have feared them enough to do my homework.) The idea that any college kid with even a fraction of my neuroses should have any kind of power is frightening. I shudder to think of what I might have inflicted in my directionless fury.

What’s enabled this nightmare transformation on college campuses—from what feels like the humanism of my youth to the zealotry of today—is a question other commentators have tackled extensively. All I have to offer is a solution: brain drain. 

I only wish I knew where professors should go! The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression’s recent 2024 College Free Speech Rankings report isn’t too encouraging; only four schools out of 248—four!—have a speech climate that could be described as even “good.” And their list of “warning schools,” two-thirds of which are conservative, more or less invalidates this whole thought experiment. 

Still, it’s a nice fantasy, no? The idea of Steven Pinker ditching Harvard and taking off for Brigham Young, that bastion of free speech? Look, at least when you’re dealing with Republicans, the fascism comes from above, the way God intended. 

I think it’s worth a thought. Maybe the kids at BYU could stand to hear a bit of evolutionary psychology. And I’ll bet a former Harvard professor could live pretty well in Utah.

Ben Kawaller is an L.A.-based writer and host. His last contribution to The Free Press was a video about learning to be a real man. Watch it here.  

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