3.12.04

QUOTE OF THE DAY.

Jeff Jacoby:
The American Council of Trustees and Alumni has just released the results of the first survey to measure student perceptions of faculty partisanship. The ACTA findings are striking. Of 658 students polled at the top 50 US colleges, 49 percent said professors "frequently comment on politics in class even though it has nothing to do with the course," 48 percent said some "presentations on political issues seem totally one-sided," and 46 percent said that "professors use the classroom to present their personal political views."
Academic freedom is not only meant to protect professors; it is also supposed to ensure students' right to learn without being molested. When instructors use their classrooms to indoctrinate and propagandize, they cheat those students and betray the academic mission they are entrusted with. That should be intolerable to honest men and women of every stripe -- liberals and conservatives alike.
"If this were a survey of students reporting widespread sexual harassment," says ACTA's president, Anne Neal, "there would be an uproar." That is because universities take sexual harassment seriously. Intellectual harassment, on the other hand -- like the one-party conformity it flows from -- they ignore. Until that changes, the scandal of the campuses will only grow worse.
(Link inserted by the Superintendent, who is a member of ACTA.)

The ACTA have issued a press release. There is room for interpretation of some of the findings. Consider:
The majority of students surveyed majored in subjects like biology, engineering and psychology—subjects that have nothing to do with politics.
Hmm, we use government moneys for fuel economy standards in cars, medical research, surveys for streetcar lines, and institutionalization of crazy people. It is difficult to teach any course without policy intruding somewhere.

SECOND SECTION: Owen at Boots and Sabers observes the Diversity Boondoggle (TM) in operation in Madison.
[T]his debate was hosted by The Diversity Committee of the Associated Students of Madison, in cooperation with the Offices of the Dean of Students. It seems to me that they intentionally stacked the deck against the pro-life side of the debate. For the pro-choice side, they put up two seasoned professors. For the pro-life side, they put up one 20-year-old woman. It seems obvious to me that they intended the “debate” to be little more than the pro-choice folks beating on the pro-life advocate.
He hopes that taxpayers have long memories.
It further frustrates me that this sham of a debate was put up by a taxpayer-funded government entity. When UW starts bitching about their budget again, I hope people remember that their tax dollars are being spent on crap like this.
Yes, and on secret pay raises for administrators.

THIRD SECTION: Lots more on this topic, starting with Economist's Lexington.
Academia is simultaneously both the part of America that is most obsessed with diversity, and the least diverse part of the country. On the one hand, colleges bend over backwards to hire minority professors and recruit minority students, aided by an ever-burgeoning bureaucracy of “diversity officers”. Yet, when it comes to politics, they are not just indifferent to diversity, but downright allergic to it.
Several commentators have noted that your mileage may vary, depending on the discipline. Chris at Signifying Nothing warns critics about imposing fixes that make conditions worse.
Replacing liberal ideologues who can’t keep their lectures and their leftism separate with right-wingers with similar faults is no solution. Nor is a witch hunt against professors who, after all, are human and—over the course of 100+ hours of lecturing a semester—are probably going to say at least a couple of things that reflect something other than the objective material of the class.
He notes that some practitioners of his discipline are not sufficiently familiar with the intellectual foundations of all the policy perspectives.
A friend (and fellow Ph.D. student) and I once talked about the problem inherent when people who teach political science don’t even consider the political views of one of the two major parties to be legitimate.
The problem, dear Brutus, rests with the presentation of the curriculum. In Economics, the Welfare Economics Paradigm appears to provide a logical foundation for "Four of Five Experts Agree." As Chris's colleague Robert, an economist, notes,
It’s not as much of a threat in my discipline, economics, as it is in other fields. As my Thought professor has pointed out at great length, the economic discipline has created a “little box” which it defines as theory. The box is supposedly used as a means of keeping ideas that aren’t fully explainable out of the body of theory. There’s also a nearly complete positive correlation in favorof those ideas that can be expressed using math. Again leading to my theory about how indeterminate a discipline is sets its leftward tilt.
That's a partial explanation. One can demonstrate (are you reading, Joseph Stiglitz?) that an omniscient social planner can achieve all sorts of improvements on a world comprising otherwise partially-informed actors. The good news is that often, ideas expressed using math can be turned into investigations -- perhaps less precise than "statistical significance" or "right sign" articles suggest, but nonetheless instructive -- of whether the inefficiencies derived at the chalkboard (these days, teased out of Waterloo Maple?) prevail in life.

Reality checks, however, matter. The Angry Clam, now posting at Patterico's Pontifications, suggests there is plenty of viewpoint diversity in law.
Start at the law schools.

Rather than try to deal with all the "but conservatives just aren't drawn to comparative literature Ph.D. programs!" distractions (although we aren't- we're not stupid enough to end up like this guy), let's go where none of those arguments hold weight.

Law school is a great start, for several reasons.

First, there is an explicit ideological debate in the law, with the conservative side not being relegated to whispers at the local National Association of Scholars chapter and newsletter, but forcefully applied, every day, in the legal world.

Second, the credentials to teach (J.D. + clerkship) are attractive for reasons beyond teaching in and of itself, unlike the Ph.D. degree. These are also wise career moves.

Third, and relatedly, there exists a huge farm league for selecting and identifying conservatives with the academic and intellectual potential for teaching, independent of the petty politics of faculty search committees- once again, clerkships. For those of you who don't know, a law clerk is an odd combination of secretary and apprentice to a judge. Justice Scalia, for example, has four clerks every year. The first few years of professional development for law faculty are not dependent upon the academy itself, but rather to a system where conservatives are well represented.

In other words, it is easier to produce, at a moment's notice and in large numbers, conservatives qualified to teach. This is not the case for many academic disciplines (for whatever reasons. My personal ones for avoiding grad school were that, unlike most everyone else, I had little use for postmodernist literary theory and the race and sexual orientation obsessed nature of modern humanities "scholarship.").

Additionally, the needs for intellectual diversity are far greater in law school than in undergraduate education. This is partly because, as I mentioned, conservatism and the law is a powerful force in modern jurisprudence. However, there is also a self-serving reason for law schools to seek this out, rather than have the one or two token conservative professors (even more rare is the conservative professor that is allowed to approach constitutional law. We're less of a threat when confined to business law).

The reason is this: law schools love to boast about the clerkship placements of graduating students. More conservative professors = more access to conservative judges = more clerkships. Additionally, professors are often looked at judicial appointments, which also makes the school look better. And, as we noticed, Republicans get elected to the presidency as well.
I think we call that a market test. John at Discriminations offers evidence that at first blush suggests disciplines less tied to reality are more prone to the old smugness.
These letters remind us -- if anyone needed reminding -- that a substantial swath of liberals today, at least in universities and similar institutions, really do believe that conservatives are repugnant, ignorant Neanderthals and that no reasonable person could be a Republican. There are, no doubt, some conservatives who entertain, and proclaim, similarly offensive stereotypes about liberals, but my impression is they are closer to the fringes while their liberal counterparts are both more numerous and closer to the liberal mainstream.
It's difficult to engage in civil discourse with people who have already concluded that you are an uninformed pre-Enlightenment bigot.
(Link in excerpt added - Ed.) Ayup.

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