The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

30 March 2005

Hang a left at the Ivory Tower

By now most everyone has heard that not only do college faculties lean to the left, they lean farther to the left than most of us thought.

Obviously some sort of conspiracy — or is it? Lesley advances a theory wonders out loud:

[L]et's say I suggested that maybe the underlying reason for this is that conservatives just aren't as interested in thinky stuff like academics as liberals, preferring instead more lucrative careers in corporate America. Do you think the same people who insist we should be open-minded about suggestions that women just may not as be interested in thinky stuff like science as men wouldn't see my suggestion as prima facie evidence of bigotry against conservatives?

I certainly don't see it as evidence of bigotry. If anything, it's a reflection of the tendency of humans to collect in like-minded groups. If someone can show that the desire to teach is somehow connected to a leftish mindset, I'd like to see the research. And perhaps a conservative grad with the urge to change the world, so to speak, is more likely to choose to do so in a think tank than in the classroom, but I don't know of any numbers supporting this premise either.

Come to think of it, I'm not especially alarmed by the leftward slant of college faculties: there is no shortage of students who emerge from the groves of academe seemingly unaffected by the tilt. And I'm certainly not going to call for some affirmative-action program to put more conservatives on college faculties, which I think would be a case of the cure being at least as bad as the putative disease.

It may be that time itself will correct the imbalance, as people who lived through the 1960s and believed it to be the defining moment of American history die off and are replaced by people who are less afflicted with this particular form of nostalgia.

Posted at 10:17 AM to Almost Yogurt

TrackBacks if any:

Just to clarify, I wasn't actually advancing that as a theory. I haven't read the study, which I imagine deals with underlying causes. It wasn't linked in the Washington Post. I would be interested in reading the study itself, so I'll have to figure out where I can find it.

My post was more a riff on the fact that some of the people suggesting there might be discrimination against conservatives in academia are the same people who suggest there might be explanations other than discrimination when explaining gender gaps in a field where physical strength is not a major factor. Just seems odd.

Posted by: Lesley at 11:49 AM on 30 March 2005

I'm not sure that it's 60's nostalgia--if you're willing to stay in a campus environment for decades, then you HAVE to be more tolerant of the "post-adolescent idealistic phase."

I forget who said it, "If you are conservative in youth then you have no heart, and if you are liberal in your old age, you have no head."

*shrugs* I didn't really like college, so what do I know?

Posted by: aldahlia at 2:52 PM on 30 March 2005

Nor did I, and I know nothing. (Or so I think sometimes.)

Posted by: CGHill at 3:43 PM on 30 March 2005

-- If someone can show that the desire to teach is somehow connected to a leftish mindset, I'd like to see the research. --

Charles, the evidence is strong that those who head for the Halls of Ivy are especially averse to teaching. The average college professor -- not adjunct or instructor -- spends 7.5 hours per week in the classroom, and begrudges even that much.

For a strong and thought-provoking disquisition on this subject, see Charles Sykes's book ProfScam.

Posted by: Francis W. Porretto at 4:26 PM on 30 March 2005

Hmmm. Obviously I'm in the wrong racket business.

Posted by: CGHill at 4:49 PM on 30 March 2005

This study could be slightly askewed as most elite universities are in the North. Although, it has been my experience that the College of Liberal Arts tends to be more liberal; even in the South. Further research in Southern universities might give the statistics more balance by examining the business and science departments. Just a thought.

Yes Charles, in my opinion, professors get full-time pay for part-time work. But, I guess we have to give them something for all those years of study.

Posted by: Babs at 3:59 PM on 31 March 2005

My husband was an overpaid business professor for a time. He was conservative and they ran him off. Truly! It is unreal just how intolerant academia is of conservative persons.

Posted by: Jan at 8:50 PM on 31 March 2005