Ph.D. Balanced

I have recently been dealing with what I have termed “liberal guilt.” I’ve heard it posited this way: A liberal is someone who is so open-minded they can’t even hold their own side in an argument. This intrinsic conflict of my liberal perspective recently manifested itself at the FAU same-sex marriage symposium.

After the symposium, I fed a misquote to the Boca News concerning the lack of conservative panel members. Though the papers presented were well crafted and were politically agreeable to me, I had the nagging sense that I was at a rally. It seemed unfair to beat up on the conservative viewpoint without letting them have a say.

Upon further inspection, though, I discovered that it wasn’t the lack of political balance that bothered me. This wasn’t a discussion or debate – it was a collection of scholastic works. In fact, what had been irking me was that these were academics espousing beliefs and opinions. The inescapable fact was that I felt academics had a responsibility to be politically objective.

But what is that, really? “Political” refers to nothing more than those most evenly divisive issues that are promoted for public consumption by the two parties. And what of “objective”? Even if it is humanly possible for to be objective, can we accuse the most educated of opining too much? A Ph.D. is not a guarantee of cognitive quality, but all in all, I feel more comfortable trusting a well-rounded, educated argument than a narrow-minded, ignorant one.

I don’t mean that the quality of one’s ideas is solely determined by the education one has received. Still, intellectual profiling is an essential part of being a college student. There is a reason that humanities professors get paid primarily to give their opinions to students – their opinions are valuated by a formal declaration of authority. If anything, these people should be prodded to offer their slants on controversial issues, no matter how left or right of some arbitrary center they may be.

So where does this notion of the politically celibate professor come from? Its hand has traveled from the shallow breadth of power, on the waves of broadcasted radiation, and has come to roost on my shoulder to peer into my conscience. I have been infected with the ideas of those who do not wish me to have minority opinions.

Innovation has always been power’s greatest fear. The difficulty with power is that it seeks to maintain its form as well as its content, even in the face of its own negative consequences. Power has structural inertia. The primary source of new thought is the abstract. Even the highly mathematically technical genres of science like relativity and quantum theory have their basis in fundamental questions of metaphysics and the often unpopular responses from historical intellectuals. The Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were greatly based on the ideas of important thinkers of the time who were prone to pernicious attacks by the Crown.

This is not new, this relationship between power and the intellectual. Socrates, Jesus, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. come to mind. There might not have been poison, a cross, or a sniper present at the symposium, but I felt the yoke of my king reining me in from the precipice of sincere departure.