25 July 2009

Oppositional Conformity

Had to share this. . .

Researcher Condemns Conformity Among His Peers (NYT: Science)

“Academics, like teenagers, sometimes don’t have any sense regarding the degree to which they are conformists.”

So says Thomas Bouchard, the Minnesota psychologist known for his study of twins raised apart, in a retirement interview with Constance Holden in the journal Science.

Journalists, of course, are conformists too. So are most other professions. There’s a powerful human urge to belong inside the group, to think like the majority, to lick the boss’s shoes, and to win the group’s approval by trashing dissenters.

[. . .]

I remember when I first realized that even rebels have their need for conformity. I was teaching a freshman writing class in 1994. Several of my students had adopted the Standard Issue Grunge Uniform for College Students. They had also adopted the Standard Issue Anti-establishment Opposition Ideology (SIAOI). One student loudly denounced the frat-boy mentality of the university and went on to articulate all the talking points of the comfortable academic Left. Of course, at the time, I was delighted. But being constitutionally contrarian ,I challenged his points and noted (to my own amazement) that his dress and ideas were formed very precisely AS a way of opposing the establishment. Wasn't it reasonable to suggest that his whole outlook (and outfit) was determined by the frat boys he claimed to loathe?

In my long experience in the academic world, I can bear unflinching witness to the fact that perhaps the only group more conformist than leftist academics resides in barracks and salutes superior officers.


  1. Marc Porter8:34 AM

    Amen, Father. I work in an environment (human services) flush with leftist types. They believe themselves to be intellectuals, when they are in fact barely scratching the "pseudo" surface. More interestingly, and in relation to your thoughts, having served both in the military and in my current capacity, I can say unequivocally that the counselor (which I am), progressive-type (which I am not) is far more conforming than were my military peers.

  2. "..I can bear unflinching witness to the fact that perhaps the only group more conformist than leftist academics resides in barracks and salutes superior officers."

    Don't bet on that one padre, the conformity of military enlisted is enforced by the Uniform Code of Military Justice and individual expression is often displayed in the most flabbergasting manner. After 22 years in Uncle Sam's canoe club I know a bit about this topic.

  3. Anonymous5:52 AM

    The liberal nuns exhibit this perfectly. After they removed the holy habit and abandoned many of their other traditions, they eventually moved into a lock-step, brainless opposition to those who retained those usages. At first, the language used was "we now have choices..." but in the end, they applied enormous peer pressure to conform to all of their companions. Even today, don't think you're going to get a respectful dialogue from a nun in lay clothes with whom you disagree on any political, religious or cultural matter. Her total response will indicate very little tolerance for any opinion varying from her own.