Opinion

In response to Mr. Peterson: A liberal college’s educational value

Mr. Peterson,

My initial response after I read your opinion piece “Macalester is to Liberal Education as Creationism is to Inquiry” was one of complete disregard and dismissal of your argument. Perhaps it was the insulting and illogical title that put me off. Perhaps it was the self-important and self-congratulatory manner in which it was written. I was disappointed upon reading your Pope Center article (“Turning Left and Driving Blindly”) to find that it was written with the same arrogant tone.

For an alumnus who graduated nearly 50 years ago and lives in California you sure seem to assume a lot about the culture of classes and life at Macalester. You spend the majority of the article discussing why you think a liberal education is a bad thing. Where is the actual evidence that justifies the disparaging comparison between Macalester and creationism? You claim our courses “sound like” indoctrination rather than education, yet you don’t list a single course. Did you look through the course catalog and find some course titles that suggested that the course may contain some material that disagrees with your political views? You compare our professors to those at Oral Roberts University, yet you don’t provide any evidence, justification, or examples whatsoever.

Your strongest and only significant argument is anecdotal evidence from two disgruntled students who claim to have witnessed “discrimination” against conservative views. Somehow the details of what these views were and how they were discriminated against were left out of the piece. The article is well-written. It is easy to read while nodding your head as you agree with one point which seems to flow smoothly to the next. But when held up to scrutiny, it falls apart as the sensationalist and unsupported argument that it is.

Please don’t take this the wrong way. I support the mission of Mac Mods to bring a more moderate political climate on campus, but your article does nothing to accomplish this. Your article was designed solely to cause a stir and debase the value of a Macalester education. There is enough proof of this in just the title.

You seem to be a fan of anecdotal evidence. MacGOP was recently named the MN College Republicans chapter of the year. Last year a student ran as a Republican candidate for state representative. I have been in multiple classes where professors and students alike have argued against liberal views of other students. Is Macalester spiraling into a black hole of conservative nonsense? What if I told you I was once a “classic conservative” (I was not), then would you believe me? For the record, I consider myself an independent. I choose not to align myself with either major political party. But for most (not all) social issues, I do fall on the liberal side of the spectrum. Most Macalester students, and most Macalester professors, would likely say that they do as well.

This is not a uniquely Macalester phenomenon, and we are not as far off from the norm as reading some course titles and talking to some students has led you to believe. It is a well-known and well-researched fact that both college students and professors tend to be liberal. This has been repeatedly discussed in the New York Times and the Chronicle of Higher Education.

I would be lying if I told you that Macalester does not have a liberal atmosphere. Macalester is the most LGBTQ friendly place I have ever been. We have all-gendered bathrooms and all-gendered housing. Our Board of Trustees voted to publicly oppose the amendment that almost banned gay marriage in Minnesota. We have multiple queer-friendly clubs and a sexuality resource center that encourages safe sex of all types. This inclusivity is something that I am proud of, and I struggle to see how it harms the value of my education.

Macalester is also one of the most environmentally friendly places I have ever been. We compost and emphasize waste reduction. We have an eco-house and a sustainability office. We have a group of students who are working to get Macalester divested from fossil fuels. We are a member of the Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. Again I struggle to see how this harms my education.

These are the kinds of things that I value and that I know fellow students value as well. These are the things that make Macalester such a great place. These are the things that draw so many students to Macalester. Yes, they tend to draw a more liberal crowd, but don’t confuse a liberal crowd with a bad education.

Most Macalester professors work hard to teach from an objective standpoint. Yes, some issues require students or professors to play devil’s advocate, but courses here always generate constructive and valuable discourse. We have a diverse student body with diverse opinions and professors that are experts in facilitating classroom discussion.

To say that Macalester has become “a black hole of political correctness and leftist nonsense” where “everyone who enters gets sucked in and no light comes out” is nothing but erroneous and disrespectful. You are right in saying that students need a balanced education, and Macalester does a great job to provide one. But don’t worry, I won’t bother to apply for a job with you any time soon.

March 29, 2013

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