Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Ivory Tea

On the campuses where students have started up Tea Party groups, some have found support from faculty members — if not for their ideas, then for the fact that they are interested in talking about them.

“To the extent that a Republican Party and Democratic Party can have clubs on a campus, I can see no reason not to have a Tea Party on campus,” says William Kline, an assistant professor of liberal and integrative studies at the University of Illinois at Springfield.

Kline, who is currently advising founder Daniel Oliver on a master’s degree in liberal and integrative studies with a focus on liberty studies, says Tea Party principles are not necessarily at odds with strains of political and economic thought that are taught widely in academe -- particularly the writings of Friedman, John Stuart Mill, and Adam Smith.

“It is a big-tent movement,” he says. “If there are young students who find they are interested in the ideas of what they think limited government should be, well, sure, there’s all kinds of stuff to read about that in the ivory tower.”

The important thing for ivory-tower Tea Partiers to remember, Kline says, is that Glenn Beck -- the conservative talk show host who has styled himself as the movement’s celebrity-in-chief -- didn’t invent the idea of small government. Tea Party students who profess a belief in ideas such as “liberty” and “small government” should be willing to educate themselves on the origins of those ideas and humble themselves upon the writings of their critics, Kline says.

Kline was featured in a December 8, 2010, article by Inside Higher Ed.

Download a PDF of the full article