American universities can still produce scholarship of value
It is tempting for conservatives and other non-progressives to write off American higher education as a total loss, and that is not entirely unreasonable: Liberal bias is wholly pervasive throughout our colleges and universities, and it sometimes seems as if there is little point in conservatives attempting to hold any line there.
But, as Ira Stoll writes at New Boston Post, the lives and work of recently-deceased scholars Bernard Lewis and Richard Pipes show that academia still has some practical value, and that conservatives should not abandon it just yet.
Pipes and Lewis, who taught at Harvard and Princeton, respectively, were “deeply knowledgeable, learned, eminent, and respected” professors, Stoll writes. Known as “advisers to presidents and senators, and…public intellectuals who wrote for newspaper op-ed pages and political magazines,” they were also known for their scholarship at prestigious Ivy League universities. Though these universities are deeply unpopular at the moment with conservatives and Republicans, Stoll writes, “the examples of Lewis and Pipes make the case for engagement, rather than writing off academia altogether:”
Even presidents and prime ministers who win elections based partly on popular reactions against coastal elites, after all, need ideas and staff. One of President Trump’s foreign policy aides, Fiona Hill, is a former student of Pipes. President Trump’s secretary of state, Michael Pompeo, tweeted, “Bernard Lewis was a true scholar & great man. I owe a great deal of my understanding of the Middle East to his work. He was a man who believed, as I do, that Americans must be more confident in the greatness of our country, not less.” Then-Vice President Dick Cheney made a special trip to Philadelphia in 2006 to celebrate the 90th birthday of Lewis.
Lewis and Pipes were both deeply knowledgeable, learned, eminent, and respected. They were brilliant, substantive scholars, whose opinions were grounded in authority accumulated with years of careful research. While they had their own clashes with the “experts” in their fields, they were experts themselves.
It bears mentioning, too, that Pipes and Lewis were not only Ivy League professors, but they were both also something else that is not always entirely so popular with today’s Republican Party. They were both immigrants to America — Pipes from Poland and Lewis from Britain. Had legislators decades ago fretted about the two immigrant Jews taking academic jobs away from native-born Americans, and driving down wages by increasing the labor supply, maybe history would have turned out differently — and a lot worse for America.