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Friday, November 16, 2007

Conservatives in Academe

Inside Higher Ed reports on a new study arguing that part of the explanation for the political imbalance among college faculty (lots of liberals, very few conservatives) rests in students' preferences regarding career and family desires. Conservative students are more likely to value financial security and raising a family while liberal students want to write something "original." What's striking about the charts at the end of the study (pp 18-22) are some things that seem to be statistically significant (though perhaps don't have as much explanatory power): satisfaction with classes and visits to profs outside of office hours. Student satisfaction with humanities and social science classes drops pretty dramatically as you move from students on the "far left" to students on the "far right" and same with visits to profs. This suggests something else I've long thought (hey - a study that confirms my views - it must be right!) and that is part of the lack of conservatives going into academics is the sense that many have that it's not a place for conservatives, something they learn while as undergrads when they see all of their profs as liberal - something that would be especially obvious in...humanities and social science classes.


Tom Van Dyke said...

If you put Pat Buchanan in front of the class and he gave everybody an A, he'd get a good score from the students.

"Liberal" is a state of mind, and we judge the other guy's liberalism in terms of how it affects us.

I went back and visited my college after graduation, and one of [needless to say lefty] profs dragged me up to speak to the class about my life in the real world. First, he openly insulted them, saying all this bunch wanted was good grades, good jobs, a big house and a Mercedes.

They nodded quietly, approvingly, knowingly, laughing at his challenge. Even my conservative self felt a chill. They'd endorse whatever would get them their A.

David S. Bloch said...

I disagree with TvD on this one. By all accounts, politically conservative professors have a terrible time of it. Although I think there's probably some truth to the notion that right-wing profs are less likely to grade-inflate than their left-leaning counterparts. (I read somewhere that grade inflation originally was an effort by leftist professors to keep their students out of the Vietnam War. No idea if that's true, though.)

I think Michael is probably closer to the truth when he says that conservative students, especially in the humanities and social sciences, tend to be dissatisfied with their hard-left professors. They're also worried that they'll be penalized for their views (and they're probably right), so the ractional response is to avoid extracurricular interactions.