Wednesday, March 30, 2005

No Surprises Here

College Faculties A Most Liberal Lot, Study Finds (

I don't often run quick links anymore, but I couldn't resist this one. According to a new study, 72 percent of those teaching at US colleges and universities describe themselves as liberal, whereas only 15 percent call themselves conservative. The party divide is almost as profound, with 50 percent identifying themselves as Democrats and a mere 11 percent considering themselves Republicans. (I presume that the other 39 percent involved are either independents or something else.) What's also fascinating is that no educational field yielded more conservatives or Republicans than liberals or Democrats. Aside from those figures, there are three main things I find unusually curious about the report:

1.) The report was funded by the Randolph Foundation. Although the Howard Kurtz-authored WaPo article cites some of the organizations that the group donates to, Political Friendster shows that they donate to a religious conservative think tank called the Institute on Religion and Democracy. The IRD's website claims that their president, Diane Knippers, was named one of the 25 Most Influential Evangelicals in the February 7 issue of TIME. Oddly, the IRD was not mentioned in Kurtz's article, although he did say that they have "given grants to such conservative organizations as the Independent Women's Forum and Americans for Tax Reform." The Randolph Foundation funded the poll and did not actually conduct it, however, so I believe they expected the results that we're seeing here. Not that the results were unexpected, because trust me, they weren't. I saw a highly similar study back in December that said practically the same thing, but it didn't get the press that this one is getting.

2.) One of the most left-leaning departments cited in the report is political science; at least 80 percent of their faculty consider themselves liberals as opposed to 5 percent or less conservatives. That honestly concerns me. English is one thing, and I guess it goes without saying that philosophy has similar numbers, but political science should be able to show the benefits and facts about both sides of the aisle. The study did not attempt to see if the professors were letting their views affect their course content, but I still find it highly disconcerting. (From my own perspective, the most I've really seen of liberal course content is the highly PC use of "B.C.E." and "C.E." in place of the year descriptors "B.C." and "A.D.". That has always bothered me, although I've only had a lone humanities professor use the politically-correct "Before the Common Era" instead of the traditional "Before Christ". For the record, he is one of my favorite professors on the campus; he is a strong liberal, although he does a good job of keeping politics out of the classes I've had with him.)

3.) The last major survey of college faculty was conducted by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in 1984. In that study, only 39 percent called themselves liberals. I did a little math, and this means that between 1984 and 2005, the number of self-described liberals in higher education has jumped by 84.6 percent. Why the shift? That question is something I think you should ask for yourself, as I don't have the answer to it.

I talk often about the need for discourse so that we can get out of our political "bubbles". This is one of the reasons why I am such a hardliner about bias and balance in the media. George Mason University political science professor Robert Lichter, a co-author of the study, had some intriguing things to tell the Washington Post. Without editing, this is the last paragraph of Kurtz's report:
"In general," says Lichter, who also heads the nonprofit Center for Media and Public Affairs, "even broad-minded people gravitate toward other people like themselves. That's why you need diversity, not just of race and gender but also, maybe especially, of ideas and perspective."

I couldn't have said it better myself.


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