Friday, November 19, 2004

More on Academic Bias

As I wrote about yesterday, a new study detailing bias within the academy has come out. Stanley Kurtz has also taken notice and points to the New York Times article (by John Tierney) on the topic. Tierney's piece includes an especially illustrative, and egregious, quote by a liberal professor
One theory for the scarcity of Republican professors is that conservatives are simply not that interested in academic careers. A Democrat on the Berkeley faculty, George P. Lakoff, who teaches linguistics and is the author of "Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think," said that liberals choose academic fields that fit their world views. "Unlike conservatives," he said, "they believe in working for the public good and social justice, as well as knowledge and art for their own sake, which are what the humanities and social sciences are about."
This simply illustrates the kind of echo chamber that has been written about before and that is also alluded to within Tierney's piece
Martin Trow, an emeritus professor of public policy at Berkeley who was chairman of the faculty senate and director of the Center for Studies in Higher Education, said that professors tried not to discriminate in hiring based on politics, but that their perspective could be warped because so many colleagues shared their ideology.

"Their view comes to be seen not as a political preference but what decent, intelligent human beings believe," said Dr. Trow, who calls himself a conservative. "Debate is stifled, and conservatives either go in the closet or get to be seen as slightly kooky. So if a committee is trying to decide between three well-qualified candidates, it may exclude the conservative because he seems like someone who has poor judgment."
Kurtz doesn't see things getting any better, though he does mention David Horowitz's Academic Bill of Rights and other possible solutions. However, legislating change will prove marginal at best. I agree with Kurtz that it is ultimately up to the institutions to effect change. Neither of us hold out much hope for that. Hence, Kurtz's idea of either establishing small "conservative student think tanks" within universities (he mentions Robert George's James Madison Program at Princeton University) or the outright creation of new institutions (he mentions Ave Maria College) may provide the only hope for academic equality.

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