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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Political Diversity, Yes; Ideology, No

<istopher Logel’s Ethicist column in the October 10 issue of the Carletonian laid out a case for political diversity at Carleton that correctly and powerfully argues against ideological discrimination and on behalf of a culture of tolerance and mutual respect. I, like many others, share these sentiments. But I feel it necessary to correct some untrue or illogical assumptions that are too often made on behalf of what are perceived to be minoritarian points of view. During my ten years at Carleton, conservative students in particular have reported feeling uncomfortable with the “monocultural,” “heavily liberal” climate at the College. On one level, I sympathize with their genuine sentiments of not seeming to fit in and I join Logel in deploring the kind of ad hominem attack he describes in his piece.

I part company with our articulate and thoughtful conservatives (both at Carleton and in the community at large) in reducing political diversity to the rather hackneyed and inaccurate two worlds of “liberal” and “conservative.” The current financial crisis, which has a government of “the right” engaged in nationalization and the presidential candidate of “the left” embracing free markets and pro-globalization arguments (though not too loudly), suggests that the ideological game board has shifted fundamentally. In truth, it has been changing for years. The old categories of liberal and conservative have been ripped asunder by increasingly complex and contradictory forms of global economic, cultural, and political change. To defend these categories as if they were internally consistent worldviews is to try to breathe life into mummies in the museum.

Political diversity at Carleton takes multiple forms based on distinct identities (e.g., gender, race, sexual orientation, etc.), class interests, and regional and national backgrounds. If the “left-of-center” position on the erstwhile left-right ideological gamut seems to be increasingly hegemonic, it may be that demographics, education, and the erosion of the conservative movement in the U.S. are causing a shift in ideas. Yet this does not mean that overall political diversity has declined. Much diversity exists within these categories if one considers opinions regarding diverse issues such as the U.S. role in the world and the prevalence of racism in society. For example, relatively optimistic and pessimistic viewpoints abound on both of these issue areas within the so-called left-of-center.

One might even question to what extent ideologies should be defended as part of the diversity of thought. If by “ideology” one means a fixed, unchanging worldview that holders express and to which others must listen without the opportunity to challenge, then such a thing may have little place at Carleton. Political ideologies like all established systems of thought and practice are present at Carleton to be challenged, including majoritarian varieties. Their advocates should always feel uncomfortable; that is, if our interest is in education. If we have a “monocultural” hegemony of thought at Carleton it is most aptly expressed in our mission statements, which envision training students to think critically, to never accept hypotheses without verification, to never adopt dogma and defend it behind the aegis of some inherent right to minoritarian expressions immune to questioning. In that regard, I envy our “conservative” students, if only because they think differently. But also because they are learning more by being a part of this intellectual community. I, for one, am glad that they are here.

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