Diminishing The Universities

Robert Maranto, an associate professor of political science at Villanova University, writes an op-ed in Today's Washington Post that exposes, yet again, the decidedly leftist bias in academia today. He points out, quite reasonably, that the impact of this institutional bias diminishes the universities themselves. He starts out stating plenty of figures showing that there is, in fact, a bias then hits his real point.

Despite that bad job-hunting experience I had, I doubt that legions of leftist professors have set out to purge academia of Republican dissenters. I believe that for the most part the biases conservative academics face are subtle, even unintentional. When making hiring decisions and confronted with several good candidates, we college professors, like anyone else, tend to select people like ourselves.

Unfortunately, subtle biases in how conservative students and professors are treated in the classroom and in the job market have very unsubtle effects on the ideological makeup of the professoriate. The resulting lack of intellectual diversity harms academia by limiting the questions academics ask, the phenomena we study, and ultimately the conclusions we reach.

There are numerous examples of this ideological isolation from society. As political scientist Steven Teles showed in his book "Whose Welfare?," the public had determined by the 1970s that welfare wasn't working — yet many sociology professors even now deny that '70s-style welfare programs were bad for their recipients. Similarly, despite New York City's 15-year-long decline in crime, most criminologists still struggle to attribute the increased safety to demographic shifts or even random statistical variations (which apparently skipped other cities) rather than more effective policing.

In my own area, public administration, it took years for bureaucracy-defending professors to realize that then-Vice President Al Gore's National Performance Review (aka Reinventing Government) was not a reactionary attempt to destroy government agencies, but rather a centrist attempt to revitalize them. Most of the critics of the academy are conservatives or libertarians, but even the left-of-center E.D. Hirsch argues in "The Schools We Need and Why We Don't Have Them" that academics in schools of education have harmed young people by promoting progressive dogma rather than examining what works in real classrooms.

All this is bad for society because academics' ideological blinders make it more difficult to solve domestic problems and to understand foreign challenges. Moreover, a leftist ideological monoculture is bad for universities, rendering them intellectually dull places imbued with careerism rather than the energy of contending ideas, a point made by academic critics across the ideological spectrum from Russell Jacoby on the left to Josiah Bunting III on the right.

He's got this exactly right. The existence of a monoculture presents students with only one point of view. Education becomes indoctrination and the intellectual rigor of the universities suffer. We've seen how awful it can get at the University of Delaware just recently. Maranto may be a little on the optimistic side, though. Some of the bias against conservatives and or Republicans is, I think, quite intentional. Look at how imbued the left is with a driving need to silence critics and stifle dissent (all the while screaming that they are being oppressed). They learned that somewhere, don't you think?

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6 Responses to Diminishing The Universities

  1. rufus says:

    Dear Gaius

    I, absolutely, agree that that a Diversity of viewpoints is Vital for a Free Society. If, we, the citizens, must make decisions about the future direction of our country, then we need the information to judge wisely. That is one reason why blogs like this make an important contribution to the well-being of our progeny.

  2. Pingback: PoliGazette » Ideology in Universities

  3. NortonPete says:

    I was takening an online course from a prominent accredited college that encourged communication between students. I received a 90 grade on my first paper when I made the mistake to respond to a police officer who was also taking the course. I made a pro USA comment online and received a grade of 50 on my next paper from the same teacher.

  4. Bob says:

    Moreover, the leftist bias is also antimale, and males have responded by avoiding the humanities and social sciences, where they are now distinct minorities. As a result, the liberal arts and social sciences have degenerated into finishing schools for girls, who are thereby made unfit for productive careers in the private sector. They still, of course, can become faculty members in the humanities and social sciences and continue the collapse.

  5. Rich Horton says:

    Moreover, the leftist bias is also antimale, and males have responded by avoiding the humanities and social sciences, where they are now distinct minorities. As a result, the liberal arts and social sciences have degenerated into finishing schools for girls, who are thereby made unfit for productive careers in the private sector. They still, of course, can become faculty members in the humanities and social sciences and continue the collapse.

    Got any stats for that? I’ve heard that sort of thing plenty in the past ten years but I cannot say I’ve witnessed it. (And I’ve seen Political Science, Philosophy and History programs up close in Washington DC, Ohio, Missouri, Minnesota and Wisconsin…public and private universities…it isn’t a great statistical sample, but if it was as bad as you say you would have thought I’d have seen it once.) None of those departments had majority female faculties, and only one small department had parity.

    I think the stuff Maranto points out is more relevent.

  6. Steve J. says:

    American universities have been hospitable to conservatives since at least the 1930s. Prof. Maranto should familiarize himself with the Southern Agrarian Movement. Recent conservatives who have done very well are John Yoo and Condi Rice. I would add Richard Pipes, his son Daniel, F. A. Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, Richard Weaver, Leo Strauss and Wilmoore Kendall.

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