A Timeless Warning From William F. Buckley Jr.
How politically diverse is the Yale faculty today? According to an article by James Freeman in the Wall Street Journal: “0%.” He notes, “Nobody looks to the Ivy League for balanced political discourse. But a new report suggests that on at least one campus, the stifling of conservative views among faculty members is nearly complete.”
I find this Dec. 9 report fascinating because recently I have been culling through the transcript of an old radio interview a cousin sent me of William F. Buckley Jr., who attended Yale. Buckley was my mom’s first cousin. He founded National Review and was the father of the modern conservative movement.
Buckley wrote a book exposing Yale’s liberalism back then and caused quite a stir. The book was “God and Man at Yale.” The radio interview, hosted by Bill Slater in 1951, is striking because it echoes today’s debates.
Buckley railed against the incongruity he saw at Yale: “The institution that derives its moral and financial support from Christian individualists … then addresses itself to the task of persuading the sons of these supporters to be atheist socialists.”
Buckley exposed the following quotes from textbooks on economics at Yale:
- There is no “‘right’ of private property, and the freedom to engage in business for oneself is not a basic freedom.”
- “The State must remedy the appalling inequality of income which most Americans regard as inequitable.”
- “The fear that increasing the public debt can make the nation go bankrupt is almost completely fallacious.”
- “To set the responsibility for attaining and maintaining full employment on the shoulders of individual consumers or individual business men is absurd.”
Some of these arguments sound exactly like what we are hearing from candidates on the left today.
In his research, Buckley found that Yale was not alone. He included in his 1951 book an appendix that listed “hundreds of colleges using the same left-wing textbooks on economics.”
Perhaps what disturbed the young Buckley, a strong Catholic, was another trend he discovered at Yale: “I found that, with some exceptions, the teachers disparage Christianity – or for that matter, any belief in God – and even go so far as to play up the notion that religion is a ‘superstition.'”
The host probed Buckley as to the issue of academic freedom:
Slater: But surely the objection arises that unless all points of view are expressed in college, a student isn’t going to come out well educated.
Buckley: All points of view should be expressed – but there’s a difference between a point’s being expressed and point’s being propagandized.
Slater: Will you give us an example, please?
Buckley: Well, I am strongly in favor of presenting a course on the theory of communism, but I am very much opposed to its being taught by a propagandist for communism.
Slater: Well, then, Mr. Buckley, where does the time-honored search for truth come in?
Buckley: It seems to me, Mr. Slater, that educated men ought to be able to say, with respect to truth: Our convictions and our knowledge lead us to believe collectivism to be false and individualism to be truth – and we shall certainly not support or tolerate the teaching of error, at least in those schools for which we are responsible. … The freedom of a group to found a school – as Yale was originally founded – to support that school, and to urge its students, for whose education they are responsible, to scorn error as they – the responsible ones – see error, and to embrace truth as they see it.
In effect, argues Buckley, “academic freedom” became the avenue by which education was replaced with indoctrination. Buckley also says in the interview, “Those citizens who wish to urge socialist values ought to be allowed to found and support schools dedicated to this program.” But don’t pretend (to keep the alumni support coming) that such a school is Christian and that it promotes free enterprise.
A year after Buckley’s book came out, “Witness,” by former Communist Whittaker Chambers, was released. Chambers said of communism, “It is not new. It is, in fact, man’s second oldest faith. Its promise was whispered in the first days of Creation under the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil: ‘Ye shall be as gods,’ It is the great alternative faith of mankind. … The Communist vision is the vision of Man without God.”
Despite the incredible power of free enterprise for good to alleviate the misery of poverty for hundreds of millions the world over, and despite the murderous track record of the Communists (100 million-plus human beings killed by the Communists in the 20th century alone), somehow socialism/communism seems to be winning the debate in the minds and hearts of many young people in our society. They have learned these things in their colleges.
Many of them are simply echoing the kinds of unbelief in God and belief in the state that the young William F. Buckley Jr. encountered at Yale 70 years ago. Some things never change.
Hat tip to my cousin Meredith Lombard.
Article posted with permission from Jerry Newcombe