Visiting professor encourages KSU to allow space for conservatism
by Rachel Gray
November 17, 2013 12:34 AM | 4247 views | 3 3 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jonathon Imber<br>Jeff Stanton
Jonathon Imber
Jeff Stanton
KENNESAW — A guest speaker told an audience at Kennesaw State University last week about his dedication to demand respect for conservative ideals in the academic community.

Jonathon Imber, a professor of sociology at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, gave a keynote address last Tuesday “On Teaching Conservatism,” about a class he has offered for a decade.

Imber, who since 1998 has been the editor-in-chief of “Society,” a scientific journal publishing research on social science and public policy, said it can take an hour to explain the difference between him being conservative and not a conservative.

“Identity politics” are an oversimplification, Imber told the crowd, and it is biased to assume to know a person’s political views because of one label.

Just because someone might identify as a conservative, it is impossible to know their stance on abortion or welfare, or even if they have a finite opinion, Imber said.

Years of studying sociology has shown Imber that the ambition to get ahead requires conformity, he said.

But, Imber has a history of going against the grain, including his push to teach a course on conservatism in an effort to have conservatives taken more seriously, especially in the liberal hotbed of New England.

While Imber said his views were never shouted down, he was shunned for being a lone voice, or self-described activist, for expressing conservative ideals.

When asked by an anonymous student at the forum what a “closeted conservative should do on a liberal campus,” Imber said, “Come out.”

Political extremes coming together

Dean Robin Dorff of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences said he challenges KSU students to think critically and work together to solve world problems.

KSU is the third-largest university in Georgia, offering 90 graduate and undergraduate degrees, including doctorates in education, business and nursing, and a doctorate in international conflict management.

Dorff was asked at the forum if Imber is teaching academic acceptance of conservatism in a liberal-leaning state, will KSU offer a class on accepting liberalism, and perhaps even socialism, for students studying in the conservative-minded South?

Dorff asked for Imber’s advice, who responded that he teaches about Karl Marx, especially in his classical sociological theory course.

“It is irresponsible for people not to understand what was at stake in Marx’s mind,” Imber said about the German philosopher, economist and revolutionary socialist from the 1800s.

Imber said democracy is not a perfect system of government, but after being tested numerous times, it still stands. It is authoritarianism that rejects the principles of academic freedom, Imber added.

Disagreements are unavoidable in a society that has banded together for a collective will, Imber said. He added everything is a calibration of how far in one direction the country will go before turning back.

“Divided government has been a story in American government for a very long time,” Imber said.

The youth changing society

Imber, who has taught a “Social Problems of Youth” class, told the mostly young crowd Tuesday night that higher education is more liberal, especially in the sociology field.

He added that conservatism might be changing in younger generations to focus on fiscal responsibility and limited government, instead of moral stances on family values, like the defense of marriage.

Imber said he has been mistaken as a missionary for challenging contemporary sensitivities, and there should not be ideological rigidness.

“You can’t have a marketplace of ideas if you blow it up,” Imber said. Debate is about calm deliberation, but “not without enthusiasm, not without passion,” he added.

Khalfani Lawson, who graduated from KSU in May with degrees in political science and African studies, said there is an “academic lens on conservatism” in the South, and conservative students have a common thread not shared by liberal students like himself.

Lawson said, in his major, “I have been in classes where I have been on the lesser side.”

In those classes, Lawson said he tried to assert his position from a place of personal experience and “engage in a healthy discourse.”

Imber said personal convictions and principles, or even facts, point people in different directions based on past experiences. What is important is what someone continues to learn, Imber said.

“Experience is the foundation, not the end point,” Imber said.

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John Lofton
November 18, 2013
FORGET, PLEASE, “conservatism.” It has been a failure because it has been, operationally, de facto, Godless. In the political/civil government realm it has ignored Christ and what Scripture says about the role and purpose of civil government. Thus, it failed. Such secular conservatism will not defeat secular liberalism because to God they are two atheistic peas-in-a-pod and thus predestined to failure. As Stonewall Jackson's Chief of Staff R.L. Dabney said of such a humanistic belief more than 100 years ago:

”[Secular conservatism] is a party which never conserves anything. Its history has been that it demurs to each aggression of the progressive party, and aims to save its credit by a respectable amount of growling, but always acquiesces at last in the innovation. What was the resisted novelty of yesterday is today one of the accepted principles of conservatism; it is now conservative only in affecting to resist the next innovation, which will tomorrow be forced upon its timidity and will be succeeded by some third revolution; to be denounced and then adopted in its turn. 

“American conservatism is merely the shadow that follows Radicalism as it moves forward towards perdition. It remains behind it, but never retards it, and always advances near its leader. This pretended salt hath utterly lost its savor: wherewith shall it be salted? Its impotency is not hard, indeed, to explain. It is worthless because it is the conservatism of expediency only, and not of sturdy principle. It intends to risk nothing serious for the sake of the truth."

In any event, “politics,” for the most part today, is whoring after false gods. It will not save us. Our country is turning into Hell because the church in America has forgotten God (Psalm 9:17) and refuses to kiss His Son (Psalm 2.) See, please, 2 Chronicles 7:14ff for the way to get our land healed.

John Lofton, Recovering Republican

Dir., The God And Government Project

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KSU Student
November 18, 2013
The Dean's first name is Robin, not Robert.
Samuel Adams
November 17, 2013
With respect to Mr. Lawson, when you are a liberal in the midst of conservatives, at least you are given the opportunity, most of the time, to speak in academia. Odds are great that your professor leans left and there will be no punitive action against you for speaking up. When you are a conservative in the midst of supposedly tolerant liberals, odds are great that your professor will be punitive if you speak up, classmates will talk you down (or shout you down if, for example, you are Gen. David Petraus at Columbia University). At least you are trying for discourse, as most liberals simply want to censure or hide or distract with personal attacks and ridicule (in the way of Saul Alinsky) when faced with conservative engagement. Watch for this, carefully, and continue to seek discourse and facts, and one day you too will be, maybe not a 100 percent conservative, but you will see the logic of many conservative principles.
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