It seems like yesterday that I watched our eldest daughter testily strap on a helmet to ride her red bike for the very first time in our new suburban neighborhood. The helmet must have been large or ugly, or perhaps the hair was just so that day. Whatever the reason, she was not happy about putting on the thing that Spring morning of 2008.
"I don't like it either," I explained, "but it's the law, and we need to obey it. Unless the law gets changed, it's illegal for you to ride your bike without a helmet -- no matter what you or I want. We could both get arrested."
And then, as the bike gained speed down the driveway, on an awkward and serpentine path, my 11-year-old daughter looked back quickly over her shoulder and shouted, "Well, it's communistic!"
Scientists can now demonstrate on monitors when warming occurs in the euphoria centers of our brains. Had there been such a monitor on hand that morning, my ticklish regions assuredly would have lit up like 10 free games on a Pinball machine.
"Okay, O'Reilly," I remember thinking to myself, "you're getting somewhere." My daughter was becoming familiar with the tentacles of collectivism, albeit one of its baby ones.
I didn't meet my two eldest daughters until they were 4 and 6 years old (they are stepdaughters), but I hoped to have some influence over their intellectual development in the years I had. At bedtime when they were little, I would read age-old children's classics to them, tell them stories from history, and, occasionally, as they got older, play historic audiotapes, like FDR speaking on the floor of the House of Representatives after Pearl Harbor or Winston Churchill delivering his "Finest Hour" remarks at the House of Commons after the fall of France. I hoped to make them realize how precious and fleeting our freedoms, large and small, can be. I wanted them to be patriotic -- to believe in American exceptionalism -- and to always question uniformity of opinion, even the ideas I was promoting.
That 11-year-old girl is now a beautiful 17-year-old young woman going off in September to one of the best universities in the country. My wife and I are enormously proud of her -- she busted her butt to get in -- but at the same time I am alarmed that I did not do enough in my one tiny area of her development . . . because she's about to get slaughtered by academic liberalism. She's still so young, and those professors are so cool, progressive and doctrinaire -- giants in the eyes of young minds.
I recall a story of students entering law school being told they will never again think the same way once they passed through its doors. "Then why go?," I wondered at the time. That's a little how I'm thinking about my daughter heading off to college in the fall. She has a perfectly good mind now; why let it be corrupted? I know it's crazy to think that, but part of me can't help it.
I was in New Haven last weekend at the opening of the headquarters of the William F. Buckley, Jr. Program at Yale University, a student-run enterprise launched in the spring of 2011 to bring some intellectual diversity to the campus. There, I met one of a handful of conservative professors among the 1,155 teaching arts and sciences at the University. He's leaving for another school.
Yale is far from alone. The preponderance of leftists teaching at top American universities today is near complete. A 2013 study by noted sociologist Neil Gross estimated that just 4 percent of college professors today consider themselves economic conservatives, and that's at all colleges. The elite ones tend to skew farther to the left. Yet those schools are loaded with endowment money donated by successful American capitalists. Go figure.
I am thrilled that my daughter is headed off to a great university. But, honestly, a good chunk of me is wondering how long it will take her mind to recover from the experience.
William F. B. O'Reilly is a Republican consultant who is working on the Rob Astorino campaign for governor.