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In the first book of his two-volume account of Ronald Reagan and his times (Title: The Age of Reagan: The Fall of the Old Liberal Order), conservative historian Steven Hayward reported that contrary to popular belief, Cal-Berkeley wasn’t notably left leaning in the late 1960s. Berkeley attained its hippy-dippy reputation due to the actions of what Hayward described as 5% of the student body. This was the percentage that actually leaned hard left. Media accounts largely focused on this fringe, thus creating the perception (false) that this conspicuous minority was representative of the student body in total.

Reagan himself famously said “sell bonds” when told by unhinged Cal students that “we are the future.” Not reported on enough was how unrepresentative those shouting at Reagan were relative to the broad student body.

Hayward’s history came to mind while reading Gerard Baker’s recent commentary in the Wall Street Journal about the hideous and obtuse blame-Israel commentary that's revealed its ugly head at Harvard and other top schools in the days since October 7th. It was unspeakable, and rates endless rebuke.

Still, does it represent Harvard’s student body (and other top schools) in total? It would be hard to make the previous case. More on that in a bit.

For now, Baker made the point that the “vile, anti-semitic bile” that’s been spewed in the past week and a half has “come from student groups on leafy campuses, where a conservative is as scarce (and unwelcome) as a misplaced pronoun.” The bet here is that Baker might agree that he overstated things a bit.

To say that conservatives on campus are as rare as “misplaced pronouns” is like saying Cal was monolithically SDS (or name your left-wing group) back in the 1960s. Except that it once again wasn’t. In reality, the hard left made an intriguing story for media members always looking for a story.

Fast forward to the present, simple anecdote will be used. My work has taken me to colleges all over the U.S., including leafy ones like Dartmouth, and allegedly left-leaning ones like Cal. My speech title has more often than not been “The Unrelenting Genius of Wealth Inequality.” Never once have I been shouted down, only once did a student refuse to shake my hand (this was at Oklahoma State in Stillwater) after my presentation, but too many students to count have surrounded me post-speech to tell me how much they agreed with me. Some even admitted what I said persuaded them.

Realizing that anecdote isn’t statistic, it’s worth extrapolating my experiences. I’m a right leaning writer, at which point it would be easy to poll the myriad writers who broadly think as I do and who, like me, routinely speak on campus. Most would at least sheepishly admit that their reception on campus has been mostly warm, like mine.

Sheepish is a crucial word simply because the popular view that colleges and universities are heavily populated with snowflakes, socialist professors, and Israel-hating anti-semites is fuel for – yes – conservatives who are energized by what they want to believe colleges are like. As a result, the fiction about the make-up of college campuses has developed a life of its own, only for the wildly insightful Baker to conclude what all conservative pundits on the speaking circuit know isn’t true.

Applied to Harvard and its alleged make-up, we can just use common sense. Think about it. A high percentage of Harvard’s student body is Jewish. Based on the previous truth, does anyone seriously think the media-driven views about Israel and Israel vis-à-vis Hamas have monolithic qualities there? Hopefully the question answers itself.

It’s accepted wisdom that world travel fosters understanding of cultures and people frequently warped by media and books. So true. What’s true about travel might be wisely applied to U.S. universities. They’re not what they’re said to be. A visit to leafy campuses would remind the most hardened of skeptics that the kids truly are alright, and not infrequently Republican.

John Tamny is editor of RealClearMarkets, President of the Parkview Institute, a senior fellow at the Market Institute, and a senior economic adviser to Applied Finance Advisors (www.appliedfinance.com). His latest book is The Money Confusion: How Illiteracy About Currencies and Inflation Sets the Stage For the Crypto Revolution.

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