Sunday, August 21, 2005

Sharp Like A Blade

Ann Althouse points out this passage in an article on the educational influences of John Roberts:
"There was a 'Boy Named Sue' quality to being a libertarian or conservative at Harvard," said Mr. Norquist, referring to the Johnny Cash song and Shel Silverstein poem ("Well, I grew up quick and I grew up mean,/ My fist got hard and my wits got keen.") Conservatives at Harvard, he suggested, learned to be "tougher than anyone else." Unlike students on the left, he said, they were constantly being challenged.
I'd say that was fairly true for many self-identifying, articulate conservatives who received their higher education in liberal academic institutions in the US. Since you were always the opposition party, if you stated your opinion, there was always the likelihood of having to debate – or fend off, as it were – several people at once. While the group think liberal positions were largely considered as the status quo, that everyone accepted.

This hardening, though, was exhausting in its way. And there was always the chance that it might have social repercussions as well. So there were definitely times in graduate school I chickened out of confronting the status quo position of my colleagues. Or I softened the tone in order to advance the ideas in the first place – ideas which they weren't likely to hear taken seriously by other colleagues at that point.

In the end, it was a useful part of my education. That feeling of intellectual otherness that taught you to sharpen your arguments.

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