What happens to a young left-wing activist after she leaves college? She has served in student government, organized protests against -isms and phobias, and lobbied the administration for more diversity, more anti-bias vigilance. Now what?
Well, she may head to one of the many left-wing organizations propped up by many millions of dollars. There are dozens of them—no, hundreds—which take zealous twenty-something progressives, hire and train them, pay them well, urge them to keep fighting and politicking, and send them to the United Nations and corporate boardrooms and college administrations to push hard for progressive causes.
It's an extraordinary pipeline, much bigger than the young conservative pipeline. It works very well, too, and conservatives have been very slow to catch up. We are, in fact, way behind.
It can be dispiriting for young religious conservatives. During my years teaching at Emory University, I've had several conservative students talented enough to excel in the world of sociocultural affairs. I've told them so. In nearly every case, though, they've smiled, shaken their heads, and strolled off to the business school or economics or political science (pre-law). They saw no future for a young conservative.
These are the young people we are trying to reach at First Things. A religious conservative sophomore at a large state university feels surrounded and under surveillance. In the Age of Woke, it's only getting worse. She's confident in her beliefs, but not in her prospects.
First Things is a beacon for them. They've told us so. It's not just that they enjoy our essays, reviews, web posts, and media. They know we hire junior fellows and interns every year and that we are open to submissions and queries. We aren't a large pipeline, of course, but we believe that our impact well exceeds the numbers. Young people often write to me, and I answer every time. They want advice, encouragement, recommendations. At 61 years old, I think constantly about successors. We need them badly: Young people seasoned in intellectual combat, well-read and not screen-obsessed, solid on doctrine and open to criticism.
This is part of what our donors support—not just us, but the rising generation. As I see it, the money you give is directed toward the future. I retired from Emory last year. From the time I started graduate school in 1982, to my hiring at Emory in 1989, and my departure in 2019, I saw the humanities grow increasingly politically correct and ideologically monolithic. I was a liberal in the beginning, but back in the ’80s, a young conservative interested in humanistic things could still envision an academic career. Not anymore. The screening and hiring processes are too slanted. It's all woke now.
That makes First Things even more crucial. We sit halfway between academia and the public square, trying to merge the best of both. We encourage young Americans to read us as a formative activity, a way to grow their minds and imagine their futures. With your help, we can continue.
Mark Bauerlein is contributing editor at First Things.
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