Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Faculty bias revisited

Mary Eberstadt raises a few questions about this review of the evidence.

I’m more or less with Eberstadt on this. The studies reviewed in the report may have their flaws, but the report is simply a brief for the opposition, arguing, for example, that one of the problems with the studies is that they didn’t focus on enough disciplines, didn’t look at faculty at less prestigious institutions, or at part-time faculty. Those folks may indeed present a somewhat different picture, but if you’re looking for opinion leaders, you’d probably look at high prestige places (or at least at place that are currently high prestige; come the revolution, things could be different).

But my favorite argument from the review is this hardy perennial:

Suggesting that the higher education establishment actively excludes conservatives overlooks the possibility that people with different values and interests sort themselves into different professions. An illustration of the relationship between political values and occupation is evident in the predominance of Republicans in the military. A survey of active members of the military found that 57 percent indicated they were Republicans, compared with 13 percent who said they were Democrats.... Given the American tradition of a politically neutral military, this is a worrisome finding.

The important point is that the nature of military or academic occupations may each attract individuals who share common beliefs. It is no more plausible to believe that the hiring process for the military tries to screen out Democrats or retard their promotion than to believe that higher education discriminates against Republicans.

On the narrow question of partisan affiliation, he’s probably right. I doubt that anyone asks about party affiliation in a job interview. And I’m willing to agree also that party affiliation doesn’t imply political bias in the hiring process or in the classroom. I know people who are willing to call themselves Democrats and who are entirely fair-minded in their approach to students, colleagues, and potential colleagues. But there is an important difference between the military and higher education. In the former, there is strong support for adherence to professional norms. In the latter, the old norms have been under assault for at least a generation. This doesn’t mean that every self-professed academic leftist is willing to subordinate everything to his or her political ends, but there has been a sustained questioning of notions like objectivity and fairness, which makes them weaker than we’d like them to be.

If we should worry about the distribution of party affiliation in the military, then we should also worry about the relative paucity of conservatives on high-prestige college campuses.

That’s not a reason, as I’ve said many times in the past, to support the passage of an "Academic Bill of Rights," but it is a reason for good people to support the creation of centers like Ashbrook, the Tocqueville Forum at Georgetown, and others. It’s also a reason for good people to support organizations like the Association for Core Texts and Courses, which is honestly focused on teaching good books well, without any political agenda.

Discussions - 5 Comments

Thumotic American patriots with a gun virtually excludes liberals of all sorts. On the other hand, conservatives in my experience are MORE philosophic than liberals, who take their cue from Machiavelli and opt for the effectual truth. Joe is too kind. In my experience academic liberals will do anything, and I mean anything, to exclude their conservative betters.

Wont the various blue collar workers and members of the AFL -CIO be thrilled that some of their wages after being taken as mandatory dues found their way to fund such a thoughtful and timely study.

Here here! Another of round of the chorus "bias, what bias aint nobody here but us chickens."

That’s not a reason, as I’ve said many times in the past, to support the passage of an "Academic Bill of Rights,"

Well, I suppose it comes down to just how bad you believe things have become. At least in state institutions, I think it is entirely appropriate to attempt to legislate some basic decency and fairness. The wacko-left who runs the institutions are not going to willingly let them go.

Perhaps we should reference the grand puba of this blog, Lincoln? We should ask ourselves, WWLD (What would Lincoln do?). Given his no holds barred attitude in holding the union together, what would Lincoln do about today’s academy? I think he would think the "Academic Bill of Rights" does not go far enough...;)

With malice toward none, with charity for all. . .

"It is no more plausible to believe that the hiring process for the military tries to screen out Democrats or retard their promotion than to believe that higher education discriminates against Republicans."

What a strange claim. The hiring and promotion processes for the military are vastly different from those in higher ed. Indeed the case can be made that the military process weighs against political tests while the academic process enshrines them via peer input into hiring and promotion.

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