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Becoming Right

Becoming Right: How Campuses Shape Young Conservatives

Amy J. Binder
Kate Wood
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 392
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  • Book Info
    Becoming Right
    Book Description:

    Conservative pundits allege that the pervasive liberalism of America's colleges and universities has detrimental effects on undergraduates, most particularly right-leaning ones. Yet not enough attention has actually been paid to young conservatives to test these claims--until now.

    InBecoming Right, Amy Binder and Kate Wood carefully explore who conservative students are, and how their beliefs and political activism relate to their university experiences. Which parts of conservatism do these students identify with? How do their political identities evolve on campus? And what do their educational experiences portend for their own futures--and for the future of American conservatism?

    Becoming Rightdemonstrates the power that campus culture has in developing students' conservative political styles and shows that young conservatives are made, not born. Focusing on two universities--"Eastern Elite" and "Western Public"--Binder and Wood discover that what is acceptable, or even celebrated, political speech and action on one campus might be unthinkable on another. Right-leaning students quickly learn the styles of conservatism that are appropriate for their schools. Though they might be expected to simply plug into the national conservative narrative--via media from Fox News to Facebook--college conservatives actually enact their politics in starkly different ways.

    Rich in interviews and insight,Becoming Rightillustrates that the diverse conservative movement evolving among today's college students holds important implications for the direction of American politics.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4487-6
    Subjects: Sociology, Education, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xx)
  4. Chapter 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-28)

    In 2004 and again in 2007, members of the College Republicans on a campus we call Western Flagship, the main campus of the Western Public university system, staged an eye-popping event known as the Affirmative Action Bake Sale.¹ The Bake Sale is a widely recognized piece of political theater that conservative students put on at many universities across the country, at which members of right-leaning campus organizations sell baked goods at a higher price to white passers-by than they do to, say, African Americans or Latinos/as. The event is said to highlight while also parodying the deleterious effects on all...

  5. Chapter 2 Who Are Conservative Students?
    (pp. 29-75)

    Conservative college students are made, not born. While this may seem like an obvious statement, we often overlook the many inputs that go into people’s political development and assume that their political views are more or less static over time. But right-leaning undergraduates, like anyone else, are informed by multiple experiences at different points in their lives, from the political conversations they have with their families while eating their Wheaties in the morning, to the events that student organizations stage in high school and college, to the blogs and Twitter feeds they follow online, to the conferences they attend with...

  6. Chapter 3 Sponsored Conservatism: The Landscape of National Conservative Organizations
    (pp. 76-112)

    Now that we have more information about who conservative students are demographically and how they first come to embrace their right-leaning political beliefs, it is time to turn our attention to the organizations that mobilize undergraduates for conservative action—both to be young voters and supporters in the present and to take on political leadership positions in the future. In this chapter we look closely at three organizations specifically set up to advance the cause of right-leaning college students: the Young America’s Foundation, the Leadership Institute, and the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. Although our story in other chapters concerns how students...

  7. Chapter 4 How Conservatives Think about Campus: The Effects of College Reputations, Social Scenes, and Academics on Student Experience
    (pp. 113-160)

    What do conservative students discover when they get to campus? Certainly the arguments developed by the national organizations described in the last chapter—as well as by Fox News, the conservative blogosphere, and such books as Alan Kors and Harvey Silverglate’sThe Shadow Universityand David Horowitz’sIndoctrinationU—are intended to lead right-leaning students to expect the worst.¹ Critics accuse professors of politicizing the classroom when they should be exposing students to a canonical education in Western culture. They complain about administrators who, they say, mandate freshmen orientation programs and support libertine campus organizations that create a sexually decadent...

  8. Chapter 5 Provoking Liberals and Campaigning for Republicans: Two Conservative Styles at the Western Public Universities
    (pp. 161-212)

    In this chapter and the following one, we provide answers to one of the central questions posed in chapter 1: What is it about university campuses—which are home to specific constellations of organizational and cultural structures—that make them such important influences on students’ political expression? How is it that this influence can be so strong that what it means toact likea conservative student—even when ideological concerns are more or less shared across universities—can be so radically different from one campus to the next? Why does life at Eastern Elite University, for example, lead the majority of actively involved...

  9. Chapter 6 Civilized Discourse, Highbrow Provocation, and a Fuller Embrace of Campaigning: Three Conservative Styles at Eastern Elite University
    (pp. 213-269)

    When we arrived on the East Coast in the fall of 2008 to complete our interviews with Eastern Elite University students and alumni/ae, we had more or less wrapped up the first phase of data collection at Western Public. Because we had found the provocative style to be so dominant in our first case-study—and also knew it to be a favored form of expression in much of the Republican Party at large—we expected to find it would have at leastsomepresence at Eastern Elite. We were thus unprepared for just how dissimilar conservative styles at Eastern Elite...

  10. Chapter 7 Conservative Femininity
    (pp. 270-308)

    In the last three chapters we have used the comparative case method to show how cultural and organizational features at each of our universities—in combination with our interviewees’ precollege experiences and national organizations’ formulations of conservatism—create notable differences in college-age conservative styles. One way to describe what we have found is that students and student groups “pull down” discourses and practices from the widely available national cultural repertoires for what it means to be conservative, while they also “build up” local-level innovations in relatively consistent ways, such that dominant and submerged political styles remain in place on campuses...

  11. Chapter 8 The Theory behind the Findings: How Studying College Conservatives Extends Our Understanding of Higher Education, Politics, and Culture
    (pp. 309-326)

    Over the past half century—through the eras of Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and today the Tea Party—conservatism has dramatically reconfigured American politics. In the words of the political scientist Stephen Skowronek, since the 1960s “a conservative insurgency has pushed its way to power, transformed national discourse, realigned political conflict, and brought new priorities to the fore.”¹ Given the enormous consequences of this shift, historians, social scientists, and journalists alike have scrambled to account for the roots of this change.² Some scholars have focused on the movement’s standout elected political figures, demonstrating how conservatism may be...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 327-362)
  13. References
    (pp. 363-380)
  14. Index
    (pp. 381-400)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 401-402)