Conservatism 101 on NPR

March 23, 2011 | By Lauren Hart

Conservatism 101, a project of the Leadership Institute with the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI), has gone from a battle at the University of Virginia by the Burke Society, a conservative campus group, to a nationwide initiative to bring courses about conservatism to universities across the country.

It's at three major universities so far: the University of Virginia, American University, and Brown University. Brown, a member of the Ivy League, was the latest school to approve the addition of Conservatism 101. Brown sophomore Terrence George (photo at left), the student leader for the project on his campus, recently went on On Point with Tom Ashbrook, an NPR radio program, to discuss his efforts.

"I've been at Brown for two years. I've benefited from learning about political liberalism, I've learned about Marxism, and other political traditions. But I really haven't seen an in-depth treatment of conservative ideology," Terrence explained, adding, "I felt I was being short-changed, and I wanted to somehow fill the gap. That’s why I wanted this course [Conservatism 101] at Brown."

Katherine Bergeron, Dean of the College at Brown, claimed that the school administration is always supportive of student input on classes. "We have the desire to engage students with their own education. It is well known that Brown has a long-standing tradition doing just that," she said on the show. "There is a program that allows students to develop a course, in collaboration with a faculty member that will be a full credit experience. It is related to the belief that independent learning experiences can be the most important part of a liberal education."

Nevertheless, Terrence's efforts were not without hardship. "The advertisements for the course were initially torn down, and graffitied with images of burning American flags; I pressed on," he said in a talk at CPAC. "I wrote assignments and much of the syllabus for my course, which have made a splash on campus."

LI and ISI assist students in bringing a course on Conservatism 101 to their campuses. They help in developing a syllabi, complete with thinkers like Edmund Burke, Frederic Bastiat, Milton Friedman, Ayn Rand, and William Buckley.The course content focuses on the four major components of modern conservatism: traditional conservatism, libertarianims, social conservatism, and neo-conservatism.

Terrence is adamant that the course is imperative in an increasingly liberal academia where "students can be forced to accept half-truths, half-explanations, and sometimes flat out lies about the nature of our world and the place of conservatism within it. In short, the history of intellectual conservatism is a history denied."

To learn more about Conservatism 101, or how you can bring a course to your campus, contact Bryan Bernys, LI's National Field Director.