Tuesday, March 29, 2005

That's a Shocker, but Not the Fun Kind

In fact, if there's anything surprising about this study, it's the degree to which liberal professors outnumber conservative ones at US universities. I knew there were far more liberals than otherwise, but not even I guessed it was this bad:

By their own description, 72 percent of those teaching at American universities and colleges are liberal and 15 percent are conservative, says the study being published this week. The imbalance is almost as striking in partisan terms, with 50 percent of the faculty members surveyed identifying themselves as Democrats and 11 percent as Republicans.

The disparity is even more pronounced at the most elite schools, where, according to the study, 87 percent of faculty are liberal and 13 percent are conservative.

"What's most striking is how few conservatives there are in any field," said Robert Lichter, a professor at George Mason University and a co-author of the study. "There was no field we studied in which there were more conservatives than liberals or more Republicans than Democrats. It's a very homogenous environment, not just in the places you'd expect to be dominated by liberals."

When just 13% of the general public call themselves liberals, it doesn't take a statistician to see there's an imbalance in the schools. And it's not likely to get better on its own:

Rothman sees the findings as evidence of "possible discrimination" against conservatives in hiring and promotion. Even after factoring in levels of achievement, as measured by published work and organization memberships, "the most likely conclusion" is that "being conservative counts against you," he said. "It doesn't surprise me, because I've observed it happening."

No shit. Same with journalism and the arts. Unsurprisingly, there are always those who will deny the obvious:

When asked about the findings, Jonathan Knight, director of academic freedom and tenure for the American Association of University Professors, said, "The question is how this translates into what happens within the academic community on such issues as curriculum, admission of students, evaluation of students, evaluation of faculty for salary and promotion." Knight said he isn't aware of "any good evidence" that personal views are having an impact on campus policies.

"It's hard to see that these liberal views cut very deeply into the education of students. In fact, a number of studies show the core values that students bring into the university are not very much altered by being in college."

He's right there; if anything, there's been a backlash. Kids may be ignorant at times, but they're not stupid. Regardless, we're supposed to be teaching them how to think, not what to think. When you spend class time on the latter, you make the former much, much harder.

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