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?