I love being a professor. I love studying law. I love teaching law. And right now, I'm worried. I've always had to deal with the underrepresentation of people of faith and conservatives on faculties. I once dismissed that as a mere network effects problem, but now I'm not so sure. Like my fellow conservative law professors who sent that prophetic (in the correct sense of the word) letter to the AALS calling for affirmative efforts to promote intellectual diversity, I am increasingly persuaded that the problem is one of actual bias.
But now things are going past the constant annoyance of not having any like minded colleagues to discuss ideas or problems with, being told that being on the same faculty with someone of my views makes a colleague "sad," having left-wing students try to get me fired by making a one-time ill-tempered molehill into a mountain, hearing jokes in the faculty lounge about people I like, and all the other crap I've put up with for nearly 30 years.
For sometime now, of course, there has been a purge on college and university campuses directed at, well, people like me. "Bias Response Teams" chilling free speech. Protests over "controversial" speakers on campuses. Safe spaces for everybody but conservatives. Campus sponsored wakes to mourn Hillary's defeat. You know the drill.
But now things are getting scary. Milo at Berekely. Charles Murray at Middlebury, where the mob injured a professor. The attack on the pro-Trump rally in Berkeley. Violence now seems to be a routine tool of choice for the campus left. How long before it is turned on faculty and students who don't fit the secular progressive model?
Which brings me to Rod Dreher and his Benedict Option:
The “Benedict Option” refers to Christians in the contemporary West who cease to identify the continuation of civility and moral community with the maintenance of American empire, and who therefore are keen to construct local forms of community as loci of Christian resistance against what the empire represents. Put less grandly, the Benedict Option — or “Ben Op” — is an umbrella term for Christians who accept MacIntyre’s critique of modernity, and who also recognize that forming Christians who live out Christianity according to Great Tradition requires embedding within communities and institutions dedicated to that formation. ...
As we try to determine which forms of community, which institutions, and which ways of life, can answer that question, we should draw on the wisdom of St. Benedict and his Rule. We should innovate ways to adapt it to forms of non-monastic living in the world. ...
I think schools can be a form of the Benedict Option. Consider St. Jerome’s, a classical school in the Catholic tradition, in Hyattsville, Maryland, or the Scuola G.K. Chesterton in San Benedetto del Tronto, Italy, which is run by Catholics for Catholic children, following the vision of the late Stratford Caldecott (see his essay, “A Question of Purpose”). ...
Rod has a long post up at The American Conservative where he discusses the need and potential for implementing the Benefit option in higher education. Please go read the whole thing. But there's the key section for present purposes:
To put it in a MacIntyrean way, small-o orthodox Christians and all — including secular people — who treasure the traditional humanities need to “stop shoring up the academic imperium” and create new institutions within which the life of the humanities can thrive amid the barbarism of the contemporary university (and I’ll have a lot more to say about the events at Middlebury College in a separate post). ...
N., who is a believing Christian and a cultural conservative, told me that he has become so discouraged by the environment within academia that he is having trouble contemplating giving the next 40 or 50 years of his professional life to making a place for himself within the university. He gave examples of the chronic political correctness that he says is suffocating the life of the mind within the university. He talked about a friend of his within the academy, an ethnic and religious minority who is quite progressive, but who will not use social media for fear that progressive things she might say today will be deemed intolerable bigotry tomorrow, and cost her her job, her professional reputation, and more.
“You know, these people come after your personal life, even your family,” said my friend.
N. doesn’t just want to run away from something corrupt. He wants to run towardsomething good. He just wants to teach, to pass on real knowledge and wisdom, to honor the tradition he has devoted his scholarly life so far to learning. His field has nothing to do with Christianity, just so you know. He is afraid that ideological tyranny in academia, plus the deliberate forgetting of traditions within the humanities, are causing precious things to die.
I used to think the answer was to stand and fight. For the most part, I still do. But as things get worse and I get more tired of it all, the more a Benedict Option School of Law looks like an idea whose time has come.