The battle on campus

By December 5, 2005

Leftists have been the loudest and most successful activists on college campuses since the 1960’s. Their infamous protests of the Vietnam War were exceptional in their magnitude. The demonstrations were so successful that communist Vietnamese leaders admitted that their efforts to win the war hinged upon the success of the so-called "anti-war protestors." They knew that their only hope was a divided America. Public opinion was vital to the American leadership as well, as indicated by the political decisions that prevented a successful end to the war.

The lesson from this sad history is that students do matter, and always have. Students have the time and the means to organize for their causes. More importantly, college campuses are the battlegrounds for the ideas that shape public opinion. While conservatives have introduced ideas onto college campuses for decades, they have traditionally not been as successful at getting exposure for these ideas. But, this has been changing over the course of the last few years.

This new generation of young conservatives is significantly different than previous ones. Our generation is much more accepting of the classical liberal ideals of individualism, civil rights and freedom of expression. While past generations of conservatives were typically viewed as uptight and humorless, the younger generation is more energetic and creative. We are not moral relativists, but we are less likely to want the government telling us what we can and cannot do. Today’s young conservatives are still as bright and passionate as those of yesteryear, but are indeed a new breed. The most striking difference of all is our propensity to fight back.

Our willingness to protest, counter-protest and speak out for our cause is rather new to the movement. Conservative students are tired of the liberal monopoly on higher education, and are no longer willing to accept the status quo.

National movements that seek to address the problem of the biased and blatantly Leftist universities are already making progress. "For over a half-century, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) has worked against the collectivist ideas on college campuses and has countered with the mission to further in successive generations of American college youth a better understanding of the economic, political, and spiritual values that sustain a free society." [1]

Since the eighties, The Collegiate Network has been funding and promoting alternative campus newspapers that differ greatly from the usually Leftist and biased pages of regular campus dailies. Today, the CN has over eighty member papers across the country and is continually starting new ones. I actually got my start as a campus activist at a CN Start the Presses seminar for young conservative journalists. The CN also provides a way for budding journalists and editors to network with each other at their annual editors conference held in different cities each year.

When students have a legal problem, especially one that involves the violation of free speech rights, they can contact organizations that specialize in such disputes. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) seeks to "defend and sustain individual rights at America’s increasingly repressive and partisan colleges and universities. FIRE’s core mission is to protect the unprotected and to educate the public and communities of concerned Americans about the threats to these rights on our campuses and about the means to preserve them." [2]

Student leaders can now get great political training by one of the premier grassroots leaders of our time, Morton Blackwell. Blackwell founded The Leadership Insitute (LI) in 1979 in order "to increase the number and effectiveness of conservative public policy leaders." [3] He is an inspiring and effectual leader, who has worked diligently to train aspiring activists in the "real nature of politics." The Leadership Institute offers eighteen educational programs, an internship program, and an employment placement service to train young conservatives and then place them in public policy positions.

Organizations like ISI, the CN, the FIRE and the LI help conservative students confront the orthodoxy of collectivism that prevails on most campuses.

Students have also done much of the actual organizing themselves. The College Republicans, Protest Warriors and other groups have organized hundreds of new chapters the last few years. Autonomous single-issue organizations have also sprouted up all across America, and students are joining them by the hundreds.

When faced with intimidation from Leftists, today’s young conservatives shrug it off and refuse to back down. They mock political correctness and praise the achievements of Western Civilization.

Conservatives have begun to mobilize, especially since 9-11, and they will continue to fight until the totalitarian Left is forced to return our campuses to an environment of intellectual pluralism and academic freedom. Conservatives are disappointed with the Leftist bias rampant in classrooms, school newspapers and freshmen orientation programs. They reject the orthodoxy of the Left and revel in their own heretical, conservative state of mind.

As William F. Buckley wrote in his first book, God and Man at Yale, in 1951, "The conservatives, as a minority, are the new radicals." This is just as true today on campuses as it was when Buckley first wrote these words. The difference today is that conservatives have the benefit of assistance from organizations that provide them with the resources and leadership training to take their "radical" conservative ideas and make a huge impact on their own campuses. The Left hasn’t seen such methodical political organization and since its own heyday on campuses in the sixties. But this time, it’s the conservatives who are the counterculture.

This is an excerpt from The Conservative Revolution: How to Win the Battle for College Campuses by Brendan Steinhauser. He has been involved in campus politics since his sophomore year at UT-Austin.

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