In Defense of the CMC Government Department

On January 30, the Forum, the official campus news bulletin of Claremont McKenna College (CMC), published an article criticizing the government department at CMC for lacking a sufficiently diverse body of professors. “In particular, students at CMC have voiced concerns about the problems with the program’s practical applicability and diversity, both in the composition of the faculty and in the courses offered,” the article states, going on to cite the department’s “homogeneity” as one of the main reasons for the school’s decade-long decline in the share of students majoring in government.

In reality, a lack of diversity (or a perceived lack thereof) is almost certainly not to blame for declining enrollment in government courses at CMC. In fact, the government faculty’s intellectual diversity is an enduring strength found at very few other American educational institutions. Declining interest in fields like government and the humanities more likely reflects a general trend of students looking to gain a more practical skill set in college, one that will serve them well in the job market. This trend also helps explain the increasing interest in STEM, economics, and other career-oriented fields of study.

But even if we put these facts aside, the accusation that the department lacks meaningful diversity is false. The diversity that matters in an academic setting is that of opinion, and by this measure, CMC’s government department is one of the most diverse in the nation. Learning the historical and ideological contexts of political systems and schools of thought, from a range of viewpoints, is fundamental in order to analyze and predict political trends with any degree of competency.

What the department may lack is the surface-level brand of diversity that is so uniformly and falsely peddled by campus leftists as being the only legitimate kind. Despite the merits of the faculty, the Forum reports that students are primarily concerned by one thing: “the biggest downside of the department…has been that the professors tend to be primarily white men.” But the fact remains that we came to college to learn, and learning is not contingent upon the skin color or gender of our professors. Assessing the value of what someone has to say based on his/her appearance or cultural background betrays shallowness at best and bigotry at worst.

Education is about people’s minds, not their ethnicities. And as the Forum article admits, one of the most impressive facets of the CMC government department is the impressive caliber of its individual members. Professor Charles Kesler, who is the editor of the Claremont Review of Books, published what turned out to be perhaps the single most influential conservative essay of the entire 2016 election cycle, “The Flight 93 Election.” Yet, the Forum labels the majority of the department as “products of times with different priorities,” flippantly dismissing the knowledge of these professors and their willingness to share it.

The range of views within the government department—from liberal to conservative and everything in between—is undoubtedly an asset to the department, as department chair Andrew Busch has said, and it is one of the main reasons the program and major gained national prominence in the first place. CMC’s government major has long been lauded as one of the few in the country where students are able to learn about liberal and conservative ideology and political movements from several distinct perspectives. An academic department that imparts ideological positions from all across the political spectrum is rare and useful, and should be protected.

At this moment, it is more important than ever for students to familiarize themselves with conservative ideas. The November election swept Republican politicians to power at the local, state, and federal levels. Knowing something about the foundational values of the Right will be especially valuable over the next few years to those who wish to work in real world politics. In this pivotal moment, it is strange to ask one of the nation’s premier government departments to become more like all of the rest in order to regain its unique excellence.

Making significant structural changes to the government department and its hiring practices in order to satisfy a superficial vision of diversity would diminish the merit of the department and the quality of the major. An academic department must hire professors based solely on their credentials, achievements, and abilities in order to provide students with the best faculty available. The Forum is wrong: the age, race, and gender of the present government faculty says nothing of their capacity to educate students in the fine art of politics.


Photo: Victoire Chalupe/Wikipedia

6 thoughts on “In Defense of the CMC Government Department”

  1. Literally a diverse faculty is literally directly correlated to diverse thought, so this article is a bit of a waste of time. Why do you guys report on stuff that matters without trying to inflame others? Might make this trash newspaper (and it’s writers) a bit better….

    1. “Literally a diverse faculty is literally directly correlated to diverse thought,”

      That literally makes no sense at all.

  2. Okay, this is at least a serious argument, so I’ll lend it the dignity of engaging with it.

    I see where Mann is coming from, but I don’t think CMC’s Government department is actually as politically diverse as she makes it out to be. Political ideologies don’t just fall on a scale from liberal to conservative (that’s a narrow and overly simplistic conception); they also range from libertarian to authoritarian, and differ along innumerable other axes. Sure, the Government department has both liberals and conservatives, but all of the liberals (or at least all the ones I’ve met) still ascribe to a particular variety of liberalism (a kind less focused on social justice). This is where the fact that the department is dominated by old white men becomes important, because although it’s perfectly possible in theory for an old white man to ascribe to a radical social justice-focused political ideology, in practice it’s extremely rare. I’d have much less of a problem with a truly politically diverse department of old white men, but in reality it would be extremely difficult to create, since Jimmy Carter is already taken and you don’t have many other potential candidates.

    The other point I’ll make is that Mann’s conception of a politically diverse department is based around the contemporary American political landscape, but there’s no reason this needs to be so. Why not instead base it around, say, the probable landscape of American politics a few decades from now, in which case something like Pomona’s politics department is more representative? There can be as much diversity in a department that contains moderate liberals and radical progressives as there is in a department that contains moderate conservatives and moderate liberals.

  3. I can’ t tell you how many times I’ve seen white, black, asian and latino people parroting the same lines and thinking the same things. Diversity of appearance or ethnicity DOES NOT LITERALLY translate into diversity of perspective.

    In fact, I think the purpose of alot of humanties programs at very selective schools is to take people who look different and mold their perspectives to be the same. The “right one”. The perspective of a “just and humane society.”

    The value of being a radical progressive is not greater than that of a moderate conservative or moderate liberal just because it is more contemporary. Being relegated to history does not make one less relevant or valuable. Therefore measuring the development a good government curriculum on how accurately it reflects the projected political change in the country in 20 years is a bad barometer. Should we add fascist socialism or theocratic authoritarianism to the faculty recruitment wish list? If we look too much towards the future without passing judgement on the present by some universal standards of what progress IS, we are going to end up teaching knowledge without guidance.

    But props to the creative idea. I like how this commenter thinks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *