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    A blog by John Warner, author of the story collection Tough Day for the Army, and a novel, The Funny Man, on teaching, writing and never knowing when you're going to be asked to leave.

Coming Out as a Conservative
October 22, 2013 - 5:26pm

I understand that this may be the death knell to my career in higher education, but it’s time for me to come out publicly as what I truly am: a conservative.

I suppose it’s been true for a long time, but I didn’t want to admit it to myself until I saw the video of these guys taking it upon themselves to “disrupt” a rock formation in Utah’s Goblin Valley State Park.



My initial response to seeing the video was to turn to my wife and say I thought the death penalty was appropriate. As I cooled off, I figured that a monetary fine and the public scorn/shame they’re likely experiencing is probably sufficient punishment, but I wondered at my own reaction and realized it was so strong because of my conservatism, as in the very root of the term, conserve, “to protect (something, esp. an environmentally or culturally important place or thing) from harm or destruction.”

Eyes fully opened, I now see additional evidence of my conservatism, everywhere I look, actually.

I drive a nine-year-old Prius because I wish to conserve the Earth’s resources and also my bank account.

I support a return to the Clinton-era tax rates because I would like to conserve (or even restore) some of the middle-class to which I belong and used to be much larger. It now makes a little bit less than in 1989.

I also now realize that my disapproval of the presidency of George W. Bush is not because I am a liberal squish, but because I am conservative. Would Eisenhower have approved of initiating unfunded foreign wars? Would Reagan have advocated the addition of an unfunded prescription drug benefit, and federalizing education under No Child Left Behind.


But where I find I am most conservative is when it comes to education. We are currently beset by our own band of disrupters who believe MOOCs, or Big Data, or adaptive learning software will cure what ails us.

Of course, what ails us depends on who you ask. Mostly, though, for these disruptors, it’s not enough technology to go with our humanity.

LA Unified School District thinks that giving thousands of iPads to students will close any learning gaps. If the gap is in how quickly students can hack their iPads so they can do what they want (surf the internet, play games, listen to music), problem solved!

Clayton Christensen, who I believe claims to be a conservative, wants to change higher education at the DNA-level, the very opposite of conservation.

McGraw-Hill Higher Ed president Brian Kibby thinks we need to abandon tried and true paper technology for digital texts within the next two years.

(He also apparently thinks blogs should be mostly pictures backed by second-rate leader-speak pabulum like when you're a leader, it's important to "be a duck.")

In my conservative viewpoint, these people look like utopians to me, and utopians are anything but conservative. 

If I’m being cynical, I must admit that it’s also possible that their motives are capitalist. And while capitalism is consistent with conservatism, they aren’t synonymous, and as a conservative, it’s my duty to point out when they are in conflict.

When it comes to these disruptors, I’m pledging to follow the lead of another stout conservative, William F. Buckley, by standing athwart history and yelling, “Stop!” just as I wish some park ranger had been able to do before those lummoxes took it upon themselves to destroy what had taken nature millions of years to create.


I make conservative use of Twitter, no more than 5-10 tweets per week.



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