Leftist bias in our education system has grown to alarming proportions. According to a large 2017 study of college professors, registered Democrats now outnumber registered Republicans by a margin of 10 to 1. Of the top 61 liberal arts colleges surveyed in the study, 39 percent had no Republicans on staff. Zero.
Although it often begins as early as preschool, leftist indoctrination finally becomes very apparent by high school and happens right under our noses. For those who don’t have a good alternative to a public high school or whose field necessitates a university degree, the situation may seem hopeless.
Learning more information from robust sources, however, can raise students’ chances of not getting sucked into false portrayals of American history, economics, and more. So, whether you’re a student heading back into hostile territory, or a parent or friend worried about the bias in our schools and looking for a send-off gift or two, here are eight books conservatives should have in their arsenal.
‘A History of the American People’ | Paul Johnson
The average American history textbook comes riddled with leftist bias. Some, like Howard Zinn’s Marxist “A People’s History of the United States,” have contributed to the rise of the radical left and even inspired violence from domestic terrorist groups like Antifa. Johnson’s book is the perfect antidote.
Structured as a novel with a grand narrative, “A History of the American People” is unapologetic in its admiration of the United States and highly critical of leaders or movements that have failed to uphold its founding principles.
Although “A History of the American People” ends midway through the Clinton presidency, Vol. III of William J. Bennet’s “America: The Last Best Hope” can be used to supplement the years 1988 to 2008. For a look at European history from 1919-1990, Johnson’s “Modern Times” is exceptional and pairs well with its American-focused kin.
‘Vindicating the Founders’ | Thomas G. West
No group finds itself more frequently in the crosshairs of the leftist intelligentsia than the Founding Fathers. Thomas G. West’s “Vindicating the Founders” is a full-throated, passionate defense of America’s original statesman, and the ideas and policies they believed in.
West doesn’t blink in the face of hard confrontations. “Vindicating the Founders” is no exception. In this scholarly, well-researched book, West provides an expert defense of the Founders against attacks on their views on race, sex, voting rights, welfare, and many other hazardous topics.
Readers who enjoy “Vindicating the Founders” should check out West’s more recent “The Political Theory of the American Founding”—a weighty and thorough exploration of many of the ideas of the former book.
‘Liberty and Tyranny’ | Mark Levin
Those who only know Mark Levin for his radio program or his Sunday night show on Fox News are missing out on one of conservatism’s best writers. Levin’s books offer detailed, fleshed out renderings of the arguments he makes on his shows. They’re punchy, witty, and easily digestible. His books on the Supreme Court and how to restore liberty to our republic are both excellent.
His best book, however, is still “Liberty and Tyranny,” which sold more than 1.5 million copies, topped The New York Times bestseller list for three months, and was Amazon’s No. 3 bestselling book the year it came out. Levin’s manifesto spells out what it means to be a conservative in an age of rising statism and socialism.
In “Liberty and Tyranny,” Levin discusses the virtues of faith, the Founding Fathers, the free market, and the Constitution, all while landing devastating body blows to the threadbare arguments of the left. It’s a great book for anyone seeking to understand conservative ideology while loading up on rebuttals to modern statists.
‘12 Rules for Life’ | Jordan Peterson
In the last two years, few have had a bigger rise from relative obscurity to international renown than Dr. Jordan B. Peterson. His latest work, “12 Rules for Life,” has sold more than 3.5 million copies, and he just wrapped one of the most successful speaking tours in recent memory. The good news is that he’s a rare academic, tenured intellectual who is explicitly not of the left.
Today’s culture praises victimhood, fake “self-esteem,” government handouts, and deflecting blame onto others. Peterson preaches personal responsibility, confronting one’s inner demons, and courage in the face of life’s inevitable difficulties. Against all odds, Peterson’s message is picking up steam and shifting the narrative.
A mix of philosophy, psychology, theology, and biology, “12 Rules for Life” isn’t what one would call a “light read.” Yet it’s an inspiring book many have had a tough time putting down once they begin. Rather than resenting Peterson’s tough challenges, millions have been authentically empowered by taking ownership of their lives and refusing to criticize the world—until they get their own house in order.
‘The Right Side of History’ | Ben Shapiro
Ben Shapiro’s ambitious book “The Right Side of History” is a whirlwind tour of more than 3,500 years of Western Civilization and, like Peterson’s “12 Rules for Life,” covers a wide range of topics. “The Right Side of History” offers an introduction to political philosophy and the broader discussion of the role that both reason and revelation must play in our lives.
Shapiro’s thesis—that the West owes a profound debt to Athens and Jerusalem—builds off of the work done by thinkers like Leo Strauss. The book stands out in its ability to succinctly distill complicated ideas so a wider audience can benefit. You don’t need a Ph.D. in philosophy or political theory to read it, and that’s a good thing.
For many, “The Right Side of History” has a good chance to spark an interest into deeper dives of Locke, Tocqueville, or Montesquieu, especially among the high school and college-aged students who make up much of his audience. We can only hope.
‘Free to Choose’ | Milton Friedman
If there’s one “all-inclusive” book on economics every student should possess, it’s this. Originally released nearly 40 years ago, Milton Friedman’s “Free to Choose” remains one of the best defenses of capitalism and free markets ever written. Its classic inquiry into the relationship between freedom and economics remains as potent as ever.
Friedman leaves no argument unanswered in a work that is just as relevant today as it was when it was published during the final period of the Cold War. Unfortunately, we still hear far too many misguided calls to abandon capitalism or turn our back on free-market principles. Friedman articulates why trusting government to solve our problems remains such a perilous mistake.
As a complement to his book, Friedman and PBS produced a 10-part documentary series in 1980, with an updated re-release in 1990. The 1980 series can be viewed online and offers an excellent reinforcement of the text. The spirited debates at the end of each episode are refreshingly balanced and insightful.
‘The Thomas Sowell Reader’ | Thomas Sowell
Of all living Americans, few come close to the inter-disciplinary intellect of Thomas Sowell. Whether it be economics, politics, philosophy, or just plain common sense, he’s matchless in his canny observations. Various Sowell books belong on the bookshelf of every student. His “Basic Economics” is a rightly revered and is in its fifth edition.
To properly take in Sowell’s complete wisdom, a student’s best bet is “The Thomas Sowell Reader.” Containing nearly 100 of Sowell’s best essays, the compendium covers a lot of ground. Its organization allows it to be picked up whenever you need to compare Sowell’s thoughts with the prevailing voices (or insanity) of the day.
Sowell’s penetrating analysis is invaluable when confronting the lunacy heard on many modern college campuses or public high schools. If there’s a “hot-button” topic being discussed in class, chances are there’s an astute essay that tackles it in “The Thomas Sowell Reader.”
‘The New Road to Serfdom’ | Daniel Hannan
Finally, in “The New Road to Serfdom” British conservative politician Daniel Hannan examines what makes America so special, and what we risk to lose if we turn our backs on its core principles. Hannan’s take is illuminating because of its 30,000-foot view of America from an outsider. Americans often don’t realize how good they’ve got it, and Hannan does a great job of pointing out the things we shouldn’t take for granted.
Hannan’s book pushes back against oft-repeated college campus trope that America would be better if it were more like Europe. Hannan utterly rejects that line of reasoning. Indeed, much of his life has been spent trying to get Britain out of the European Union and to adopt more American, liberty-friendly policies.
We’d be wise to heed Hannan’s advice and strengthen our freedoms while we still can. After America, there’s nowhere to escape to.
Joshua Lawson is a graduate student at the Van Andel School of Statesmanship at Hillsdale College. He is pursuing a masters degree in American politics and political philosophy.