Liberal Bias and the Academy

February 4, 2010

In 1951 when the precocious 26-year-old William F. Buckley, Jr. published God and Man at Yale charging the American academy for forcing a liberal ideology upon its students, it caused quite a stir among intellectual and academic circles, not to mention his alma mater. Dinesh Dsouza’s 1991 bestseller, Illiberal Education had a similar effect. However in recent years, “getting agitated about political correctness on college campuses has been the near exclusive sport of beleaguered conservative professors, rambunctious college Republicans, and David Horowitz.” An April 2007 article in the Claremont Review of Books, compared “complaining about political correctness on campus”….“to complaining about your taxes in April.” This rings true in my experiences, as a personal example, this past fall semester in my “20th Century Political Thought” course during a lecture on the late Richard Rorty’s magnum opus, Achieving our Country: Leftist Thought in America, my professor sympathized with Rorty’s criticism of conservatives’ critics of political correctness and liberal bias in the academy. He complained to the class, that conservatives are always talking about the great “political correctness conspiracy.” The question then is, do conservatives have a legitimate complaint about liberal bias in the American higher education system?

A recent article in The New York Times, titled “Professor is a Label that Leans to the Left,” provides substantial empirical research on the topic and arguably, a conclusive “yes.” What distinguishes this research study from “so much of the hubbub that surrounds this subject is their methodology.” This is one of the only studies to use data from the General Social Survey of opinions and social behaviors that compare professors with the rest of Americans, while the majority of these studies rely heavily on anecdotes. The thesis of the article is that the overwhelming majority of professors are liberals because their profession is “typecast.” The author compares this to the nursing profession, which is dominated by women (less than 6% are men) due to the fact that many consider nursing to be a “women’s career.” Sociologists call this a “gender-typed” profession, while professors, journalists, and social workers are considered “politically typed.” However, the study also showed that “typecasting” is of course, not the only cause for liberal slant in the profession.

“Nearly half of the “political lopsidedness in academia can be traced to four characteristics that liberals in general, and professors in particular, share: advanced degrees; a nonconservative religious theology (which includes liberal Protestants and Jews, and the nonreligious); an expressed tolerance for controversial ideas; and a disparity between education and income.”

For a substantive example, at my institution for instance, The George Washington University, the faculty donated $221, 490 (92 %) for Democratic candidates and an aggregate of $20, 500 (8%) for Republican candidates in the 2008 primary election. In the presidential election, the ratio is nearly the same, 91% to 9%. This is of course, not to be viewed in isolation, but rather as an example of the academy in general. In the 2004 presidential election, at President Bush’s alma mater (Yale) for example, the faculty donation ration of Kerry to Bush was 150:3. The ratio at Princeton wasn’t much different, 114:1, nor at Harvard, 406:13. These numbers along with the national collegiate trends such as the rejection of western civilization, euro-centrism, and the classical liberal arts curriculum in favor of new academic disciplines such as “Queer Studies” and “Africana Studies,” is all evidence that liberal bias in higher education is real and its existence today is arguably more prevalent than ever.

Sam K. Theodosopoulos is the Editor-at-Large of the GW YAF Blog.

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Requiescat in pace

February 2, 2010

“Abortion is the ultimate exploitation of women.”
 -Alice Paul 

Humanity is rarely granted the comfort of an existence painted in black and white.  Our charge in moral decision making is never complete perfection, rather, decisions are made on the basis of historical reality and the vast reservoir of human experience.  However, grace does intervene in our struggle.  We are presented with moral absolutes which are inviolable–whether derived from a natural or divine law, truth intercedes to contrast the shades of gray.  The most basic right is that to life, we would neither deny life to ourselves or our fellow man.  This much is certain.

A corollary to the right to life is the right to equality of opportunity.  Conservatives and liberals agree on this point, access to opportunity should not be rejected.  The arc of American history has tended to remove barriers at every bend–from tyranny, bondage, to segregation.  With abortion, the death of an unborn child, not only is the right to live denied, but the opportunity to go forth and achieve.  Our current laws and attitudes towards abortion ignore not only basic human dignity but also all that our history managed to accomplish.

The two major organizations fighting for the status quo, NOW and NARAL, won’t even approach the morality of ending a human life as part of the debate.  In their concession we know that our position is correct.  Issues of fetal personhood are not addressed, with personhood always written in quotations.  Their focus relies on notions of “reproductive rights” and the perpetuation of feminine liberation myths.  Certainly, women and men have the right to use contraception, but not murder.  The founding mothers of modern feminism, from Mary Wollstonecraft to Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton recognized abortion as immoral and inhumane.  The right to life, in Stanton’s mind, was an extension of the freedom of women from being considered as property, writing, “When we consider that women are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit.”  The opinion of the modern feminists, that greatest embodiment of equality is the ability to oppress, is irreconcilable with the intellectual foundation of feminism.

It was Fr. Richard Neuhaus that saw the struggle to end abortion as the greatest human rights campaign, inseparable from the human rights campaign led by Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s.  The Black Power movement viewed abortion as a genocide perpetrated against the black community.  All of this demonstrates that the sanctity of life is total, we cannot extend equality to all with the exception of the unborn.

Neuhaus, in his seminal address to the National Right to Life committee in July of 2008, stated “The culture of death is an idea before it is a deed.”  We cannot reduce or eliminate abortion in our country unless we refuse to except the premise of the “culture of death.”  We must reject the utilitarian argument that life is not worth living unless certain prerequisites are met.  This culture robs life of its mystery, a culture in which all are merely functional units consuming goods and being herded by the state.  An attitude supportive of the single mother and child born into undesirable circumstances begins to combat this culture, and places a limit on the cult of liberation supported by the modern left.  We must heed the cries of “ne plus ultra” emanating from the graves of the unborn.

Last week, members of GWYAF took to University Yard to heed these cries and defend the right to life.

Joe Naron is the Director of Press of the George Washington University Chapter of Young America’s Foundation