Five Essential (Conservative) Books

When I was an undergrad, I participated in an academic exchange program. My first assignment was to write an essay on mythology in the poem Paradise Lost, and eager to impress my new professor, I spent long hours researching Milton’s use of Greek and Roman myths.

After I turned in my paper the professor carefully scrutinized it, and wearing an expression of disdain, handed it back. “You failed,” he said. Stunned, I managed to stammer out that I didn’t understand why—the paper was precisely what he’d asked for. “I didn’t mean the Greeks,” he said, clearly annoyed. “I meant the myth of Christianity.”

I was reminded of this incident recently when author David Horowitz mentioned a visit he’d made to a college campus on the East Coast. Students complained to him that, among other limits on their intellectual freedom, one of their recent exam questions was, “Explain Why Reagan Was Wrong.” Just as in my experience, the school was highly ranked and widely respected—but it made no room for intellectual diversity.

This sort of bias against non-liberal values is the norm at universities across the country. Yet, year after year, parents cheerfully pack up a minivan full of belongings to meet their young scholar’s physical needs—bedding, electronics, notebooks, and a fridge intended for healthy snacks (which will actually be used for beer)—while giving little if any thought to their children’s intellectual needs. Mission accomplished, proud mom and dad willingly hand over their progeny to a system that will, for the next four years, make every effort to erode or overturn the values they spent nearly two decades carefully nurturing at home.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Forewarned is forearmed, and with that in mind, here are five books that caring parents (and grandparents, aunts, uncles, godparents, and nosy neighbors) should pitch into the back of the U-haul along with the football pennants and university T-shirts.

Author David Horowitz, ex-communist, ex-Black Panther supporter, and ex-leader of the New Left, writes about liberal dogma within the university, and he should know. His latest, Reforming Our Universities (available August 31), is both an exhortation and a warning to students who dare to think outside the Left’s box. From proposing a new Academic Bill of Rights to the “Adopt a Dissenting Book” campaign, Horowitz encourages students while also challenging professors to extend their policy of tolerance to conservatives, and embrace the call to “educate, not indoctrinate.”

Flipping to the positive side of the coin, Matthew Spalding’s We Still Hold These Truths focuses on what’s right in America, identifying ten core truths in American history and their importance to our nation today. For students facing historical revisionism, this is a welcome defense manual, and its textbook-like categories make it handy for inquisitive conservatives on the go—it’s organized by subject for quick retorts in the cafeteria line.

Jonah Goldberg called Letters to a Young Conservative an “intellectual Swiss Army knife” when it was released in 2002, and though some of the predictions are blunted with age, it still has a sharp edge. From immigration to affirmative action, Dinesh D’Souza has a lively discussion with, and plenty of advice for, a young prototypical undergrad named Chris. Written in a friendly, colloquial style, students will find it a welcome break from War and Peace.

Following a good grounding in reality, undergraduates can move on to Conservatism 201: Debate. The Encounter Broadsides Series offers a number of brief booklets on current political crises, from healthcare to defense. They’re designed along the lines of 18th Century tracts, and in a backpack-sized 48 pages each, they make shaping the debate a brief read away.

Finally, if it’s too late—if the kids are taking pains to bring up euthanasia every time you mention Aunt Sally’s ailing liver—shock them out of their state of brain decay with a copy of Obama Zombies, an entertaining address by author (and HUMAN EVENTS’ editor) Jason Mattera on the youthful indiscretions of the current college-going, Obama-loving generation.

Ronald Reagan once noted that “freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” Actually, he wasn’t quite right. Freedom and other vital American values are as little as four years of indoctrination away from extinction. This fall, make sure that the students in your life are prepared for more than compliance.