Tuesday, March 16, 2004


"Why do so many professors loathe Republicans?

The simplest explanation may be that it's easiest to hate your enemies when you don't know them. After all, assistant professors like Mr. Torres have very little opportunity to mingle with card-carrying members of the Party of Lincoln, or with non-card-carrying conservatives, in their faculty lounges. Call it a crisis of diversity--not of the racial or ethnic sort but of the intellectual variety.

Eighteen months ago, American Enterprise magazine studied voter-registration rolls and published a survey of professors and their political preferences. At Stanford University, 151 professors were aligned with parties of the left (e.g., Democrats, Greens) and 17 were affiliated with parties of the right (Republicans, Libertarians). Similar disparities were recorded everywhere researchers looked: Brown, Cornell, Harvard, Penn State, UCLA, etc. A separate review of Ivy League academics found that 84% of them voted for Al Gore in the 2000 presidential election, compared with 9% for George W. Bush and 6% for Ralph Nader.....

To borrow a lit-crit term applied to the alleged victims of white-male hegemony, campus conservatives are "The Other"--a barely human subpopulation whose presumed inferiorities justify the dominance of an enlightened professoriate.

The ivory-tower crowd generally defends itself from charges of bias in one of two ways. There is the Torres approach: "Despite my grievances with the right, I work hard to treat people equally in my work as a matter of principle and a commitment to social justice." In other words, a deep-seated antipathy for College Republicans and other fascists doesn't influence how these students are taught. ("Not true," says Ms. Wardell. "My friends and I often pretend to be more liberal because we know it leads to better grades.")

Then there is the suggestion that politics are irrelevant: e.g., that an admiration for Dennis Kucinich has nothing to do with teaching calculus or Chaucer.

Both theories sound plausible. But haven't liberals been telling us for years that the personal is political and ideology is everywhere? My own experience suggests that the liberals may have a point--and that their prejudices can't be checked at the schoolhouse door. To take a single example: About 15 years ago I endured a psychology course at the University of Michigan. One of the lectures focused on racism. My professor announced that it takes several forms, starting with the KKK variety. She said another strain is called "symbolic racism," which involves opposition to government programs meant to improve the status of blacks and Hispanics. So if you think racial-preference policies aren't a great idea, you're a "symbolic racist."

Today this is basically the official position of the American Psychological Association. Students who question it can't win, because speaking up is an admission of guilt. Call me a stupid conservative--or worse--for suspecting that the whole thing has more to do with politics than pedagogy.

So what might be done, apart from packing professors into sensitivity seminars? Conservative gadfly David Horowitz has written an Academic Bill of Rights that promotes intellectual diversity and protects students from political harassment. In his energetic way, he is urging legislative bodies from student assemblies to Congress to adopt it.

The American Association of University Professors has already announced its opposition to Mr. Horowitz's proposal. No surprise there. The last thing it wants is a new generation of students informed of the fact that they can't believe everything their professors say."

More here.

No comments: