The Berlin Wall of the College Classroom

“We’re going to lead the world to fight for freedom.” — George W. Bush, exchange with reporters, September 19, 2001

“I truly believe that out of this [September 11] will come more order in the world—real progress to peace in the Middle East.” — George W. Bush to Bob Woodward in Woodward’s “Bush At War”

The above quotes from George W. Bush were made before the historic elections in Afghanistan and Iraq, before Palestinians voted, before thousands marched in Lebanon, before Syria declared it would withdraw troops, and before announcements of elections in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, including, incredibly, for the presidency of Egypt. The remarkable thing about these quotes is how unremarkable they are for Bush. I could fill page after page with similar remarks from Bush, all prior to these astonishing developments.

In a November 6, 2003 speech to the National Endowment for Democracy, Bush predicted: “We’ve reached another great turning point, and the resolve we show will shape the next stage of the world democratic movement.” He noted that when the 20th century ended, there were 120 democracies, and then promised: “And I can assure you, more are on the way.” An “Age of Liberty” was upon us, said Bush, who claimed that “It should be clear to all that Islam … is consistent with democratic rule,” when, in fact, it wasn’t clear to anybody, except, apparently, to George W. Bush. This “advance of freedom,” Bush maintained, “is the calling of our time.” America merely needed to show the will, which meant removing the world’s worst dictator from Iraq and ensuring that elections were held there. Bush resolved: “The success of freedom rests upon the choices and the courage of free peoples, and upon their willingness to sacrifice.”

Bush was not merely correct but, thus far, profoundly so—historically so. “It’s strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq,” explained Walid Jumblatt, leader of Lebanon’s Druze Muslim community, in an interview with David Ignatius of the Washington Post. “I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting … it was the start of a new Arab world. The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen.”

The magnitude of this moment is not lost upon conservatives. Yet, sadly, there is a large group of Americans that are likely befuddled by these developments: college students.

Every survey on the subject reveals that eight to nine of every 10 professors in the social sciences and humanities describe themselves as liberal. Some of these professors do an admirable job of trying to be fair. I’ve seen this firsthand. Yet, for each of those, there are others who refer their students to Fahrenheit 911, who offer a one-sided view on the alleged illegality of the invasion of Iraq, and who respect all forms of diversity except for the kind that matters most in a university: diversity of ideas. Ward Churchill is far from an anomaly. One of my best students, now in graduate school, still cannot get a meeting with her adviser because he learned that she voted for Bush.

This bias issue has come home to roost: When liberal students open their sacred New York Times and stare in shock at headlines like this on February 27, “Mubarak Pushes Egypt to Allow Freer Elections,” and lines like this from February 2, “At polling centers hit by explosions, [Iraqi] survivors refused to go home, steadfastly waiting to cast their votes as policemen swept away bits of flesh”—implicitly knowing that George W. Bush made it possible—they suffer severe cognitive dissonance. They literally cannot make sense of it. They struggle to reconcile the wonderful news with their Bush hatred and their new left-wing worldview: “How can this be? Didn’t Bush and Cheney invade Iraq to plunder its oil and to begin a permanent colonization of the Middle East? Bush is too stupid to have had such foresight.”

This confusion must be especially acute right now, as the chickens truly do come home to roost: In the next few weeks, these students head home for spring break. Perhaps mom and dad will ask Susie or Tommy about current events, to get an idea of how their money is being spent at State U. They may be disappointed to learn that junior doesn’t have a clue, because all that has happened in the Middle East defies everything Dr. Chomsky preached in PoliSci 101.

This will be a rude awakening: Mr. and Mrs. Smith will start to realize that they’ve invested tens of thousands of dollars to have a bunch of Ph.D.s unteach every ideal they long labored to instill in their child—18 years undone in four. To these parents, I offer a degree of comfort: most of these students will forget what they learned and retreat to normalcy once they pay taxes and have babies. To the students, you will need to do what I did: I learned the truth about 1989, Reagan and Gorbachev, and the fall of the Berlin Wall and Soviet communism on my own once I graduated.

Tragically, many of these students are beyond reform. There are spots awaiting them with International A.N.S.W.E.R., the local ACLU, and in the letters-to-the-editor section of the Nation and New York Times. For them, America will never be a beacon of freedom to the dungeons of despotism but instead a rapacious, greedy, imperial empire, and no facts to the contrary will convince them otherwise—just like the tenured radicals that “teach” them today.