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The New York Times Gets It Wrong about the Right

For all the popularity of the #fakenews hashtag, it’s still fun to see your name in the New York Times.

The New York Times Magazine just published an article by Jane Coaston in which the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) features prominently.

As an undergraduate at the University of Michigan, Ms. Coaston was an editor in ISI’s Collegiate Network student journalism program. I can’t speak to her specific ISI experiences, but I can tell you what drives ISI in today’s college campus climate.

It’s a climate in which too many points of view are ruled off the table. Prominent figures have been barred from speaking at colleges simply because their views do not align with the dominant progressive outlook.

This intolerance creeps into the classroom. Liberal professors now outnumber conservatives by a ratio of about 5:1, according to survey data from UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute. In the social sciences, “conservatives are so scarce . . . that Marxists outnumber them,” write the scholars Jon A. Shields and Joshua M. Dunn in Passing on the Right.

This is not a Democrat-versus-Republican issue. It gets to the very meaning and purpose of education.

Schools have knocked down some of the pillars of a true education, including open intellectual inquiry and an acquaintance with the great thinkers of history—“the best which has been thought and said,” in Matthew Arnold’s famous phrase. In just the past few weeks, the University of Cambridge began issuing trigger warnings about the works of Shakespeare, and Mississippi public schools banned the novel To Kill a Mockingbird.

This is not what education is supposed to be about.

Filling the Void

Many college students sense that something is wrong here. They want more from their education. They chafe against the narrowing limits of acceptable discourse on campus.

And ISI fills the void for them.

Students across the country are turning to ISI for the education they’re not getting in their classrooms. In a recent survey, the number-one reason students gave for joining ISI was “to learn more about conservative thought and the Western tradition.”

ISI also empowers students to promote the free exchange of ideas on their campuses. Just last month, Ms. Coaston’s ISI-sponsored newspaper at the University of Michigan hosted two scholars for a debate on immigration. The ISI students who organized the debate produced a true rarity on today’s hyper-politicized campuses: informative and civil discourse that fairly represented opposing sides of a contentious issue. The audience members were left to decide for themselves which position was more persuasive.

Students are hungry for this kind of discourse. That’s what we hear over and over from students who have joined ISI. Marlo Safi, a senior at Pitt, recently said, “ISI is a treasure trove for jaded students who seek the intellectual stimulation many colleges fail to provide.” Similarly, Emily Rose Mitchell of Rhodes College wrote, “The rich conversations at ISI conferences made me realize why I went to university.” And Harvard graduate James Holt said, “I’m grateful for the instruc­tion I received at Harvard, but my education would not have been complete without ISI.”

Ms. Coaston devotes a lot of her New York Times article to exploring what she sees as inconsistencies within the conservative tradition. But contrary to popular belief, conservatism is not a dogma or a rigid ideology. As Jonah Goldberg writes in the foreword to ISI’s new edition of the book What Is Conservatism?, “diversity of thought” is “one of the great glories of conservatism.”

In that spirit, ISI is devoted to education, not indoctrination. We educate students in the foundational principles that make a society free and prosperous and help them develop their own perspective around those principles.

So if you’re looking for more from your education; if you want to learn more about principles that are usually ignored or attacked on your campus; if you’re seeking to move beyond the narrow terms of campus debate—please, join us. Sign up to receive helpful content from ISI and find out about our upcoming conferences and seminars.

Get the education you deserve.


Charlie Copeland is president of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute.


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