bias at school

Tuesday, December 21st, 2004

From Jonathan Chait via The Courant/LA Times (needs account):

A pair of studies recently found that Democrats vastly outnumbered Republicans among professors at leading universities. Conservatives gleefully seized upon this to once again flagellate academia for its liberal bias.

Am I the only person who fails to understand why conservatives see this finding as vindication? After all, these studies show that some of the best-educated, most-informed people in the country overwhelmingly reject the GOP. Why is this seen as an indictment of academia, rather than as an indictment of the Republican Party?

Conservatives have a ready answer. The only reason faculties lean so far to the left is that deans, administrators and entire university cultures systematically discriminate against conservatives.

. . .

The main causes of the partisan disparity on campus have little to do with anything so nefarious as discrimination. First, Republicans don’t particularly want to be professors. To go into academia – a highly competitive field that does not offer great riches – you have to believe that living the life of the mind is more valuable than making a Wall Street salary. On most issues that offer a choice between having more money in your pocket and having something else – a cleaner environment, universal health insurance, etc. – conservatives tend to prefer the money and liberals tend to prefer the something else. It’s not so surprising that the same thinking would extend to career choices.

There’s more going on about this topic at Michael Drout’s weblog. I don’t necessarily know how to respond to the disparity question in higher education, nor do I know if Chait’s arguments make sense in practice due to the absence of qualification. They may and they may not. It may be one of those non-issues that just gets a lot of time because it’s easy. Is there any evidence that a liberal or leftist bias in higher education is particularly a bad thing?

6 responses to “bias at school”

  1. gibb says:

    Only when this bias is spouted in Algebra classes.

  2. steve says:

    But how would it taint the algebra? Is there an algebra for rightists that’s different from leftists?

  3. Maureen says:

    Well, a bias in higher education is a bad thing if one does not “control” that bias… That is, conservatives complain because they are outnumbered in the halls of academia. Notice that claims of media bias in the media have died down a bit now that conservatives have gained a foothold via FOX and other news channels…

  4. gibb says:

    Just my point. It has no place in certain classroom situations because at least Algebra, thank God, is unaffected by politics (at least in the past few years, I think).

    But then again, extreme conservatives might claim to be swayed into thinking that figures can be manipulated too easily, and extreme liberals may believe that x and y are elitist capitalistic pigs and campaign for the poor deprived g or m.

  5. Maureen says:

    Well, actually math has been affected by the fray between conservatives and liberals… Conservatives have argued that liberals want kids to think 2 + 2 = 5…..

  6. Neha says:

    Any strong bias in something as delicate as education might be a wrong approach. However, how can we educate with a closed mind? If the educators are proponents of change, then [ideally] shouldn’t the change be for the “good” or “improvement/advancement”? And if it is, then how can it not be liberal?