Among the speakers at this week’s Heritage Foundation Bloggers Briefing, the consensus was clear: College students could stand more exposure to conservative ideas.
The inherent contradiction of the liberal political consensus among students is mystifying, the speakers said.
American Action Forum President Douglas Holtz-Eakin put it this way: “Young people have supported [President] Obama in droves, even though they’re at a point in their life when they’re typically most rebellious — and he is going to tell them how to run every part of their life.”
“Why aren’t college students revolting?” Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of Consumer Electronics Association, asked.
Chris Long, president of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, thinks he might have an answer. From Long’s perspective, campuses fail to provide an understanding of the intellectual foundations of conservatism, leaving young people with no viable alternative to liberalism, with the possible exception of libertarianism.
Even if young people have a sensibility that they’re conservative, Long said, they are rarely steeped in conservative philosophy. That’s why the mission of ISI is to reinvigorate the “traditional liberal arts education” on college campuses and help students “understand what it means to be an effective citizen in today’s world.”
That’s no easy task. With the Obama administration on track to leave the next generation a back-breaking amount of debt and an economy in shambles, students might have to be “mugged by reality” before they’ll come to their senses about the future of the country, Long suggested. The struggle of ISI is to engage students in a discussion about first principles “before they get their first paycheck and half the money’s taken away.”
ISI has been effective in that struggle in the past: Founded by William F. Buckley Jr., the program counts among its alumni Heritage’s president, Ed Feulner, and vice president for American Studies, Matt Spalding.
Matthew McKillip is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation.