A Conservative Professor's View From a Liberal Wasteland

Self-Mastery, Academic Freedom and the Liberal Arts


Robert P. George

Self-Mastery and the Liberal Arts Ideal

In the revisionist understanding of many of today’s academic humanists and social scientists, liberal arts education is ultimately about liberation from the traditional beliefs and structures by which earlier generations of Americans and Westerners generally had been taught to govern their conduct for the sake of personal virtue and the common good.  For it has become a matter of dogma that traditional norms and structures are irrational—superstitions and phobias that impede personal development by restricting people’s capacities to act on their desires.

In this dogmatic context, teaching and scholarship are aimed at exposing the texts and traditions once regarded as the intellectual treasures of our civilization—the Bible, Plato, Dante, Aquinas, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Austen, Locke—as mere propaganda meant to support and reinforce unjust (racist, sexist, homophobic, etc.) social orders.

Moreover, since for liberationists, what one fundamentally is, is one’s desires, being true to oneself means acting on one’s desires, in defiance of any “hang-ups” based on putatively outmoded moral ideas and social norms.  The very essence of liberation, on this view, is transcending the traditions that ground these “hang-ups” to embrace one’s desires by, for example, “coming out” as a homosexual, transvestite, polyamorist, or member of some other “sexual minority.”

Nowhere is this clearer than in freshman orientation programs in colleges and universities throughout the United States that feature compulsory, one-sided events designed to undermine new students’ traditional beliefs about sexual morality and decency. 

Shortly after arriving at the prestigious Williams College, a young friend of mine was placed in a group with other new students to discuss campus life. An official moderator asked them to introduce themselves as “gay” in order to understand sympathetically how it felt to “come out.” (The presupposition, of course, was that a person who experiences dominant homosexual inclinations must come out as “gay” in order to be true to himself.)  When his turn came, my friend politely but firmly refused on the ground that this absurd exercise had nothing to do with the reason he came to Williams College—to learn to think critically and for himself.

Of course, what goes on in these collegiate re-education camps, and in far too many classrooms, is radically different from the classical understanding of the goal of liberal arts education, which is not to liberate us to act on our desires, but precisely to liberate us from slavery to them.  Personal authenticity, under the traditional account, consists in self-mastery—in placing reason in control of desire. 

How can it be liberating to enter into the great conversation with Plato and his interlocutors?  According to the classic liberal-arts ideal, doing so enables us to grasp more fully the humanizing  truths by which we can direct our desires and our wills to what is truly good, beautiful, worthy of human beings as possessed of profound and inherent dignity.  The liberal-arts ideal is rooted in the conviction that there are human goods, and a common good, in light of which we have reasons to limit and even alter our desires, thus becoming masters of ourselves.

Now if you accept this ideal, you are seeking answers to the question:  What qualities make for an upright life?  In a talk at Princeton a few years ago, Richard Brookhiser explained that George Washington came to be who he was by imagining an ideal, noble individual and then trying to become that person by acting as that person would and ridding himself of wayward desires that would have no place in that person’s character. 

On the classical view, Washington’s was an act of the most profound authenticity.  He sought to be master of himself, rather than a slave to his desires.  But to some students, Washington’s conduct seemed radically inauthentic.  He was play-acting, being untrue to himself by reshaping his desires in line with standards drawn from “outside himself.”  Overlooked entirely was the classical liberal-arts view of man as a rational creature, capable of understanding reasons in light of which he can discipline his desires.

Academic Freedom

True liberal-arts learning will flourish only under conditions of freedom.  It is compromised when well-qualified scholars are denied positions or promotions for dissenting from campus orthodoxies at institutions that claim to be non-partisan and non-sectarian.   It can be smothered by an atmosphere of political correctness.  It can fail to emerge as a result of the sheer lack of diversity of opinions among students and, especially, faculty.

Crystal Dixon is Associate Vice President of Human Resources at the University of Toledo.  She is an African-American woman and a faithful Christian.  Recently, she wrote a letter to the editor of her local newspaper, rejecting the claim that “sexual orientation” is like race and should be included as a category in anti-discrimination and civil-rights laws.  When her letter was published, the President of the University of Toledo suspended her from her job and threatened further punishment if she did not recant and apologize for publishing a view that he evidently regards as heretical.

What is remarkable about this case is how unremarkable it is.  Scarcely a week passes without some offense being committed against academic freedom.  Given the strong leftward tilt in most of the academy, the victim is typically a student, professor, or administrator who has dared to dispute a left-wing dogma.

But all is not darkness.  A few months ago the Department of Sociology at the University of Virginia voted against granting tenure to an outstanding young scholar of family sociology named Bradford Wilcox.  Despite his extraordinary record of intellectual achievement and distinguished teaching, Professor Wilcox was punished for his conservative religious and moral opinions.  But the University’s president, John T. Casteen, reviewed the case and reversed the decision, thereby striking an important blow for academic freedom and the liberal arts ideal.  His example will encourage (in the literal sense of the term) those who dissent from prevailing opinions to stand up and say what they actually think; and it will serve as a warning to those who would attempt to punish their dissent. 

As we consider the appalling behavior of one university president in Crystal Dixon’s case, and the encouraging conduct of another university president in Bradford Wilcox’s case, perhaps it is worth pausing to ask why we should care so much about intellectual freedom in the academy. 

In my view, it is not merely a passion for freedom for its own sake.  We should honor academic freedom as a great and indispensable value because it serves the values of understanding, knowledge, and truth that are greater still.

Far from being mutually antithetical, freedom and truth are mutually supportive and even dependent.  A defense of academic freedom must at least implicitly appeal to truth, and a complete defense will present understanding, knowledge, and truth as the intrinsic values that make sense of freedom as something indispensable to their pursuit and meaningful appropriation.  On the other side of the question, the overwhelming evidence of history shows that freedom is as necessary to the intellectual life of man as oxygen is to his bodily life.

Academic freedom should not be boundless, but its scope, as a value ordered to truth, must be generous—especially in the academy, where free inquiry and exploration are often essential to insight and richer understanding—even if that freedom will sometimes be abused. 

But why must we permit even securely known truths to be questioned and denied?  The most important reason is that freedom is the condition of our fuller appropriation of the truth.  Knowledge and truth have their value for human beings precisely as fulfillment of capacities for understanding and judgment.  Education liberates the human spirit because knowledge of truth attained by the exercise of our rational faculties is intrinsically and not merely instrumentally valuable.  Knowledge that elevates and enriches must be appropriated.  It cannot be merely a matter of affirming correct propositions.  It is knowledge not only that something is the case, but why and how it is the case.  Freedom to inquire, to assent or dissent as one’s best judgment dictates, is a condition of the personal appropriation of the truth by the human person for the sake of whom—for the liberation of whom—intellectual inquiry, understanding, and judgment are intrinsically valuable.

The full essay will be published in the September issue of The American Spectator

Almost every week, new incriminating evidence is mined from Hunter’s wild laptop. And the proof is mounting that President Joe Biden is lying about his knowledge of his family’s crooked deal-making. Everyone knows Hunter Biden is a seriously degenerate guy. Anyone who has handled his infamous laptop needs a tetanus shot.

The salacious stuff on the laptop is sad and pathetic for sure, but that stuff is NOT what is most relevant to the United States. Glenn Beck exposes how the laptop is REALLY about Joe Biden, his abuse of power as vice president, and his ongoing denials now as president.

Now that the 2020 election has passed and their man is in office, the mainstream media have suddenly decided to admit Hunter’s laptop is not Russian disinformation after all. No one has done more research into the Biden family corruption than journalist and best-selling author Peter Schweizer. He has researched the depths of Hunter’s laptop and found more than racy photos. “These aren’t HUNTER’S business deals,” Peter says, “they benefit the WHOLE family.” And he has the emails to prove it.

But the mainstream media still insist President Biden is as pure as his thinning white hair in all of this. As Glenn reveals tonight, he is not. But will anyone in the Biden family see jail time? Americans are fed up with two sets of rules – one for regular citizens and one for the ruling elites.

Watch the full episode of "Glenn TV" below:

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Intelligent people know that wokerness plagues society and must be ridiculed and eradicated from conversations. But what happens when people lose their jobs for calling out the absurdity of woke ideology? What happens when corporations and media sources weaponize wokeness?

Here are five videos that will help us better understand a few of the many issues that wokeness inflicts on society and how we can stand against it.

Bye bye, Target. You crossed the line!

In this clip, BlazeTV host Allie Stuckey of "Relatable" explains how Target recently announced the sale of chest binders and "packing underwear" for women. She expresses how children can be negatively impacted by the sale of confusing clothing items for people suffering from gender dysphoria and the importance of loving the body God gave us.

Today, Allie notices that Target's stock experienced a 35-year record drop. Apparel was named as one of the two underperforming departments. Was pushback from critics of gender-affirming apparel the cause? It is hard to tell, but Allie encourages her audience to continue speaking out when corporations cross the line by making harmful products available for sale to the public.

Listen to the podcast here.

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Wokeness can get you fired

In this clip, Stu Burguiere covers a story about a man who challenged Black Lives Matter using nothing but data and was fired.

Here's the story: "I had been at Thomson Reuters for over six years—most recently, leading a team of data scientists applying new machine learning and artificial intelligence algorithms to our legal, tax and news data. We advised any number of divisions inside the company, including Westlaw, an online legal research service used by most every law firm in the country, and the newsroom, which reaches an audience of one billion every day around the globe. I briefed the Chief Technology Officer regularly. My total annual compensation package exceeded $350,000." Read more

"We live in the era of woke religion," says Stu.

Listen to the podcast here.

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Coca-Cola circumvents Constitution with TERRIFYING mandates on diversity

Glenn Beck loves Coca-Cola. So much so, in fact, that he refuses to drink Pepsi if Coke isn't available. But ... he says the time has come for him to give up his favorite soda. Why? Because Coca-Cola just announced some terrifying new company policies on diversity and equity. It sent out notices to all partnered law firms, demanding a required percentage of diverse attorneys on any legal team working for the corporation. The notice says all legal teams also must report these numbers quarterly and they will lose Coca-Cola's business if they do not comply.

"Equity is not the same thing as equality," Glenn said, adding that equality means we all have an equal chance, while equality means we all have the same outcome.

Glenn explains how mandates like this could affect everybody — even the guy working on the factory line or the truck driver delivering the drinks. Glenn also explains how Coke's new move is nothing less than a circumvention of the Constitution, and he predicts more companies (especially those in support of the Great Reset) will follow with similar policies, too.

Listen to the podcast here.

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Coca-Cola takes a 'pause' on woke initiatives after after pressure from the Right

Glenn followed up on a story about Coca-Cola becoming the poster child for how a corporation could shove leftist ideologies onto its consumers. The company suspended advertising on Facebook in a push to censor former President Donald Trump, published a manifesto about racial equity, and demanded all legal teams working for Coke meet certain diversity quotas.

But, after Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), and many other conservative voices called for a boycott of the company's products, Coca-Cola appeared to shift directions.

Read more on this story here.

Listen to the podcast here.

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Calvin Klein's gender blender ruins sex and Mothers' Day

Chad Prather reflected back to the Great Depression era of enticing photographic entertainment, otherwise known as the callow and deprived years of his youth, when a Calvin Klein pictorial of old would have represented something exciting, something to, say, think about at the end of the day. Had he run across this present weird concept at that age, he would have either been disgusted on sight … or possibly really disgusted when his dumb a** put two and two together the next day. Anyway, his point is: Has the whole world gone crazy? Do we really need this? At this inclusive embracing point in our recent history, what in the world makes Calvin Klein feel the need to be the standard-bearer for a lifestyle screamed largely into existence by a very vocal minority?

Listen to the podcast here.

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Former Disney artist SPEAKS OUT: ‘It’s time to do something’

A former Disney artist, who wishes to remain anonymous, joins Glenn to describe WHY he recently took action against his former employer: ‘I'm tired of watching my country go down the drain. And it's time to do something.’ Today’s woke Disney is not what Walt once imagined, he says, and his recent video release — "It’s A Woke World After All" — exposes Disney’s large stray from its roots ...

Listen to the podcast here.

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Rolling Stone magazine on Sunday published an article that argued in no uncertain terms that the suspect who grotesquely took the lives of ten people in Buffalo, New York, last weekend was a "mainstream Republican."

Like so many in the corporate media, the article's author Talia Lavin — who in 2018 resigned from the New Yorker after falsely accusing a combat-wounded veteran and ICE agent of having a Nazi tattoo — has painted the Buffalo killer as a right-wing, white supremacist, Tucker Carlson-worshipping conservative who is "gripped by a racist delusion."

On the radio program Tuesday, Glenn Beck revealed what the killer actually wrote in his alleged "manifesto," which proves he was far from a freedom-loving constitutionalist, and explained why blatantly ignoring his words will only make the problem worse.

"The corporate media has, from the very get-go, tried to associate [the killer] with the Republicans, to say that he's a conservative, to say that he got all of his training from Tucker Carlson," Glenn began. "But you know it's weird, in the 180-page document authored by the shooter, he doesn't mention Tucker Carlson — not even once. Not at all. There is one mention of Fox News, and it's an infographic showing the top Fox News host, such as Maria Bartiromo and Greg Gutfeld, as being Jewish. He also says Rupert Murdoch is a Christian Zionist who may have Jewish ancestry though it's never been publicly admitted," he continued.

"Oh, another thing. Ben Shapiro is mentioned multiple times, including as an example as the 'rat of the Jewish people.' So gosh, that doesn't sound conservative to me, doesn't sound Republican, doesn't sound like he's learned anything from anybody that is on the right. Moreover, he has described himself as an ethno-nationalist and eco-fascist national socialist. He loathes libertarianism and conservatism in particular."

Watch the video clip below to hear more of the criminal's own words, which prove he was no right-winger and certainly NOT a "mainstream Republican."

Can't watch? Download the podcast here or listen to the episode highlights below:

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A Colorado mother of three, Erin Lee, said her 12-year-old daughter was recruited by teachers to attend an "art club" after school, only to find it was a GSA or Gay Straight Awareness/Alliance Club. Not only was the family misled about the purpose of the club, but a guest speaker — who told the middle school students that "if they're not fully comfortable in their bodies, that means they're transgender" — also encouraged the kids to keep secrets from their parents.

Lee told Glenn Beck on the radio program Monday that her "shy, vulnerable, barely 12-year-old daughter" had just moved to Wellington Middle School in Fort Collins, Colorado, when she was invited by her art and home room teachers to attend an "art club" after school.

"She texted us [and] we gave her permission for art club," Lee said of her daughter. "When she got there, it was actually GSA, or Gender and Sexuality Awareness or Alliance Club. The teacher had invited in a completely unqualified outside presenter who did unthinkable things with the children. I'll give you the CliffsNotes version. She told them, 'what you hear in here, keep in here.' She used flags to use defining words, telling them if they're not fully comfortable in their bodies, that means they're transgender. Then she would hand out the flags and stickers and bracelets and other swag. She told them that 'queer' is a label for when they're still figuring out their sexuality.

"She did the 'Genderbread person,' which explicitly asked kids who they're sexually attracted to, so 11, 12, 13-year-olds with peers and adults in the room, talking about their sexuality. She handed out her personal contact information and invited them to connect on teen chat platforms, like WhatsApp and Discord, where she knows that parents are not monitoring the conversation. She told them that families may not be safe, and it's okay to lie about where they are. And in fact, the art teacher, as my daughter was leaving the room that day, pulled her aside and said, 'remember, you don't have to tell your mom.'"

The outside presenter, Kimberly Chambers, is the director of SPLASH Youth of Northern Colorado, an organization that targets children as young as 5 years old, as indicated on its own website. Chambers is a paid employee of the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment with access to children’s information, according to a Parents Defending Education incident report.

Lee went on to say that, after learning from her daughter what happened, she and her husband contacted the school principal, who confirmed that the meeting was, in fact, held in secret and they are always held in secret because as a public school they have to offer children a "safe space." Lee then turned to the school board, but said she was ignored "for months." Finally, she was able to meet with board member Kristen Draper, who turned out to be a close friend and "strong ally" to Chambers. Draper also volunteers for an arm of SPLASH called SKITTLES.

"FOIA emails showed that [the school] immediately colluded when I objected to what happened," Lee told Glenn. "They immediately colluded with the school board to keep me quiet. They referenced parents who find out as 'barriers' that the school board has removed. They talked about sending social services into my home because I didn't like what they did with my child," she continued.

"My daughter had never expressed gender dysphoria before. She never expressed that she'd had any trouble at home. They never spoke to me. I never spoke to any of the people that did these things before they decided to talk about calling CPS ... In the state of Colorado, if my child had said to the CPS that I wasn't affirming her transgender identity, I firmly believe they would have removed her from the home. And the people knew this when they suggested that CPS come to our home to remove our child," Lee warned. "Colorado is off the rails in particular, but this is happening everywhere."

Watch the video clip below for more details:

Can't watch? Download the podcast here or listen to the episode highlights below:

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