In Defense of the CMC Government Department
On January 30, the Forum, the official campus news bulletin of Claremont McKenna College (CMC), published an article criticizing the government department at CMC for lacking a sufficiently diverse body of professors. “In particular, students at CMC have voiced concerns about the problems with the program’s practical applicability and diversity, both in the composition of the faculty and in the courses offered,” the article states, going on to cite the department’s “homogeneity” as one of the main reasons for the school’s decade-long decline in the share of students majoring in government.
In reality, a lack of diversity (or a perceived lack thereof) is almost certainly not to blame for declining enrollment in government courses at CMC. In fact, the government faculty’s intellectual diversity is an enduring strength found at very few other American educational institutions. Declining interest in fields like government and the humanities more likely reflects a general trend of students looking to gain a more practical skill set in college, one that will serve them well in the job market. This trend also helps explain the increasing interest in STEM, economics, and other career-oriented fields of study.
But even if we put these facts aside, the accusation that the department lacks meaningful diversity is false. The diversity that matters in an academic setting is that of opinion, and by this measure, CMC’s government department is one of the most diverse in the nation. Learning the historical and ideological contexts of political systems and schools of thought, from a range of viewpoints, is fundamental in order to analyze and predict political trends with any degree of competency.
What the department may lack is the surface-level brand of diversity that is so uniformly and falsely peddled by campus leftists as being the only legitimate kind. Despite the merits of the faculty, the Forum reports that students are primarily concerned by one thing: “the biggest downside of the department…has been that the professors tend to be primarily white men.” But the fact remains that we came to college to learn, and learning is not contingent upon the skin color or gender of our professors. Assessing the value of what someone has to say based on his/her appearance or cultural background betrays shallowness at best and bigotry at worst.
Education is about people’s minds, not their ethnicities. And as the Forum article admits, one of the most impressive facets of the CMC government department is the impressive caliber of its individual members. Professor Charles Kesler, who is the editor of the Claremont Review of Books, published what turned out to be perhaps the single most influential conservative essay of the entire 2016 election cycle, “The Flight 93 Election.” Yet, the Forum labels the majority of the department as “products of times with different priorities,” flippantly dismissing the knowledge of these professors and their willingness to share it.
The range of views within the government department—from liberal to conservative and everything in between—is undoubtedly an asset to the department, as department chair Andrew Busch has said, and it is one of the main reasons the program and major gained national prominence in the first place. CMC’s government major has long been lauded as one of the few in the country where students are able to learn about liberal and conservative ideology and political movements from several distinct perspectives. An academic department that imparts ideological positions from all across the political spectrum is rare and useful, and should be protected.
At this moment, it is more important than ever for students to familiarize themselves with conservative ideas. The November election swept Republican politicians to power at the local, state, and federal levels. Knowing something about the foundational values of the Right will be especially valuable over the next few years to those who wish to work in real world politics. In this pivotal moment, it is strange to ask one of the nation’s premier government departments to become more like all of the rest in order to regain its unique excellence.
Making significant structural changes to the government department and its hiring practices in order to satisfy a superficial vision of diversity would diminish the merit of the department and the quality of the major. An academic department must hire professors based solely on their credentials, achievements, and abilities in order to provide students with the best faculty available. The Forum is wrong: the age, race, and gender of the present government faculty says nothing of their capacity to educate students in the fine art of politics.
Photo: Victoire Chalupe/Wikipedia