My own experience as a student at Harvard Law School is that liberal premises are assumed in most classroom discussions. Sometimes the ostracizing is explicit, as when a professor calmly explained to my class that conservative views are the result of irrational biases in favor of the status quo. Other times, it is more subtle, employing terms like “marriage equality” or “reproductive justice.” The message is the same: Conservative beliefs need not be taken seriously. This marginalization of students who dissent from campus orthodoxy on vital questions of law and policy is shameful.
But the intellectual homogeneity of the legal academy poses a deeper problem than the marginalization of conservative students. It is the predominantly liberal student body at elite law schools that is most harmed by the dearth of conservative voices. Many of these students graduate from law school without having encountered a cogent articulation of conservative views in the classroom, without having had their own ideas subjected to rigorous examination and debate.
As a result, these liberal students do not truly know why they hold the beliefs that they do, and they have little understanding of what a great proportion of their fellow citizens believe. For a group of students aspiring to be our nation’s leaders, that is serious indeed, and for a country likely to be led by such students, it presents an important problem. It is tempting to think that the ideological insularity of the legal academy need not concern those outside the Ivory Tower, but an out-of-touch academy produces out-of-touch graduates who go on to serve as judges, senators and, perhaps, presidents. The liberal academic monolith not only harms the intellectual development of students; it does grave damage to the nation’s capacity for future leadership.