Conservative views aren’t illogical, just poorly expressed

We conservative students should be ashamed of ourselves.

The July 2 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education contains a searing critique of how conservative students perform in humanities classes. The article is by Donald Lazere, professor emeritus of English at California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo and titled, “The Contradictions of Cultural Conservatism in the Assault on American Colleges.”

Lazere draws a connection between the consumerism of conservatives and their loss of critical thinking, which I think is ridiculous. But I’m hard-pressed to find fault with observations he makes about conservative students he’s taught in general education English classes.

Lazere writes, “I bend over backward to encourage their views and to be more than fair in grading…But for most students, sad to say, their conservatism is in direct proportion to their self-admitted, near-total ignorance of politics, history, geography, economics, and academic modes of reasoning.”

He blames this on our consumer society’s disregard for the humanities because it isn’t “useful” in getting a job after graduation.

Conservative students want to get a degree and then a good job in order to support a family and contribute to society. Many people with these aspirations don’t believe the humanities are helpful in meeting these goals.

But the result is a generation of conservative students who are unable to engage in critical thinking and defend their views rhetorically.

Lazere says conservative students frequently question his liberal views and counter them with their own, but “when asked what evidence or experience those tenets are based on, or whether the students have ever studied any contrary evidence, they just stare in bewilderment.”

I believe the reason we conservatives appear dumb when our beliefs are attacked is because we lack an interest in engaging with alternative ideas.

Lazere says this is because we’re too focused on getting good jobs to take critical thinking seriously. I say it is because we’re so confident in the correctness of our views that we don’t see the point in examining alternative ones. This arrogance is destroying our ability to defend our views intelligently.

Lazere argues, “They have not developed the reading and critical-thinking skills to cope with complex ideas of any ideological variety.”

He claims our apparent “dumbness” is caused by the simplistic ways conservative spokespeople use to express ideas and which we students then parrot.

“So perhaps the major source of cognitive dissonance is not liberal ideas versus conservative ones but complex ideas versus simplistic ones,” he writes.

As an example, he refers to a student he had who knew nothing about American history but what he’d read in Rush Limbaugh’s See, I Told You So.

When Lazere explained that Limbaugh’s ideas didn’t jibe with primary documents and that the student ought to examine the primary documents to decide for himself, the student responded, “But I don’t have time to do that-I’m an agriculture major.”

As a conservative, I am embarrassed when conservatives respond to very logical reasons why gay marriage should be legalized with statements like, “But it’s just not right.”

If we’re going to win the ideological battles that threaten to destroy our society by legitimizing evil ideas, we must have better reasons to oppose them than that they’re evil.

Furthermore, if our views are as right as we believe they are, defending them logically and rhetorically ought to be very easy.

We conservatives must care about humanistic ideas, even if they won’t help us get a better job. We must learn to engage in critical thinking and express ourselves intelligently.

After all, what good will a high-paying, family-supporting job be if we end up living in a society we don’t want our families exposed to?

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