Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Bait and Switch

I confess I'm uncertain why University of Chicago faculty are complaining that a Milton Friedman Institute could bolster the perception that the University of Chicago is a conservative institution. Don't they realize just how useful this little misunderstanding is in luring in the sort of smart, unsuspecting young conservatives that might otherwise be heading off to some place like Hillsdale? Instead, they arrive at the University of Chicago, and lulled by all the Plato and Aristotle their first year, they find themselves reconsidering some of their assumptions before they realize they're living in a nest of (gasp!) liberals.

So really, shoring up the reputation of the University of Chicago as a conservative bastion is a good thing, especially since people seem to be catching on to the fact that the reputation is really built on the basis of a few prominent exceptions (hi, Leon Kass) rather than an institutional mindset.

But in all seriousness, what the University of Chicago as an institution does try, and more often than not succeed, at getting right is a general attitude that "liberal" and "conservative" (at least in the narrow, political sense) are not the appropriate labels by which to build a university program, despite efforts from students and faculty on both sides of the political spectrum to convince them otherwise.

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