The “Double Life” in Academia

The “Double Life” in Academia

Some thirty years ago in these pages, William L. Neumann registered an eloquent protest against the acquiescence of American academics to the conservative temper of their time. “Today’s American historian probably
reflects his age more completely than in any previous generation,” he wrote. “American historical writing . . . embodies the prosperity, the conventionality and the nationalist emphasis of the Truman-Eisenhower years.”

Three decades later, we are neck-deep in another period of complacency, conventionality, and nationalism, but fortunately the academy has not conformed as supinely as it once did (though it has by no means been immune to the general rightward drift). But this modest display of independence is not to everyone’s liking. To some, like Stephen Balch
and Herbert London, it is evidence that “the American campus is now the nesting place for a significant population of political extremists…the campus has probably become American extremism’s principal address.” Instead of obediently shuffling rightward, “the spectrum of respectable opinion” in the academy has shifted “further and further to the Left.”

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Wurgraft | University of California Press Lima