Luke Sheahan, a professor at the Catholic University of America, has written an article (Humanitas, Vol. XXV, Nos. 1 & 2, 2012, pp. 44-65) outlining two different approaches to academic freedom, one articulated by Russell Kirk, author of The Conservative Mind (1953) and the other following William F. Buckley, one of conservatism’s more articulate firebrands and author of God and Man at Yale (1951). The comparison is instructive on how conservatives remains divided: one side embraces power (just like liberals), only for use in opposition to its arch political antagonist; the other embraces the idealism inherent in rationalism (just like liberalism), without recognizing that deeply engrained cultural practices often/usually trump the most noble ideas (and ideals). Sheahan sums up the differences between their positions this way:

“The primary difference between Kirk and Buckley is that Buckley sees in academic freedom only a dissembling mechanism used effectively by the left and the irreligious to conceal the true power struggles in academia. Hence he argues that conservatives must tear the mask off that struggle and assert their own power.  Kirk defends the pursuit of what is higher in human life than base material existence, including temporal power in the academy. It is possible for an institution to protect the search for thruth for its porfessors as Guardians of the Word.  Kirk does not deny that many professors use academic freedom to cover their own indoctrination efforts just as Buckley decries. But all that is not naked power is not necessarily dissembling rhetoric.  There can be a place where the mind and the higher imagination are cultivated in a spirit of prescriptive freedom, where a community of scholars pursues truth in its particular manifestation without hindrance. This is the dignity of the academy that is inherited from humanity’s long search for truth, and it still enlivens the philosophers in its midst. This is Russell Kirk’s conservative vision for academic freedom.”

For Sheahan’s full article, click here.

Thx:  Micah Matix/Prufrock