October 23, 2006

I know it. They Won't Admit It. Professors Push Liberalism.

Have you ever thought that college professors are liberal--and, that they push that view on students? If so, what made you come to that conclusion? For many of us, it was because of personal experiences in the classroom or tales of professor indoctrination from our kids. How accurate are these perceptions? Consider findings of this recent study:

"A Profile of American College Faculty Volume I: Political Beliefs & Behavior."

"Major Findings (Undelined emphasis mine)

"Faculty Political Ideology Is Overwhelmingly Liberal
Faculty at colleges and universities of all kinds in America are overwhelmingly liberal in their political ideology, creating a strong campus political culture. Categorized according to both self-identification and voting patterns, faculty are heavily weighted towards the Left. Indeed, those who identify as independents and moderates actually vote more like liberals and Democrats.

"Faculty Are Not Representative of the American Public
The majority of faculty are liberal and Democratic, and therefore the full spectrum of beliefs and political behavior of the American public is underrepresented on campus.

"Faculty Are Ideologically Critical of America and Business, Supportive of International Institutions
Faculty hold a certain number of beliefs that are pervasive, but not monolithic. They include:
• Criticism of many American foreign and domestic policies.
Propensity to blame America for world problems.

"Behaviors and Beliefs of College Faculty
• A tendency to strongly support international institutions such as the United Nations.
• Strong opposition to American unilateralism.
• Criticism of big business.
Skepticism about capitalism’s ability to help address poverty in developing nations.

"Faculty Political Culture Is Self-Perpetuating
University faculty, which moved to the left during the 1960s and 1970s, have maintained their political allegiance and are not likely to move to the right in the near future. Furthermore, new faculty members are proving to be equally if not slightly more liberal. Some academic disciplines, especially the social sciences and humanities, exhibit particularly consistent political behaviors. Recruitment, hiring, and tenure review processes have either failed to adequately prevent this political imbalance within disciplines or have actively perpetuated and deepened political unity.

"Social Science and Humanities Faculty Comprise the Liberal Core of Higher Education
Social science and humanities faculty are the most liberal and Democratic, and least diverse in their political culture. Fully 54% of the social science and humanities faculty identify as Democratic and 60% as liberal, and only 11% as Republican and 12% as conservative, a 5-to-1 ratio. Of social science faculty who voted in 2004, they were more than four times as likely to have chosen Kerry (81%) over Bush (18%) while humanities faculty were more than five times as likely (81% for Kerry, 15% for Bush).

"Business Faculty Are the Most Conservative and Politically Diverse
Conservatives tend to be concentrated in business/management and healthcare fields. Business faculty are the most diverse in their political beliefs and behavior. Still, only 30% of business faculty define themselves as Republicans and 35% as conservatives—and they are the most conservative faculty on campus.

"Dominant Faculty Culture Can Lead to Self-Censorship
Significant percentages of faculty acknowledge that not only students but also other faculty may feel restricted in their expression of opinion if they conflict with dominant popular views on campus."

You can read the recommendations and supporting data by clicking on this link to a pdf file at the Institute for Jewish & Community Research, which is responsible for the study.

How do spokesmen of the professors respond? With ignorance, deceipt, or delusion. Take, for example, this quote by Cary Nelson, a professor and president of the liberal American Association of University Professors (views here at Capital Research Center), as quoted in The Chronicle of Higher Education:
"What faculty think and what they're willing to express in front of their students are two very different things. Many of my colleagues over the years take real pride in knowing that their political opinions are invisible to their students."

Yeah, righttttttt. Then he adds this statement about himself to contradict his defense: "I don't. I put it all out there and encourage students to disagree." He stands corrected.

In fact, as reported in The WSJ Opinion Journal here's what a Fall, 2004, survey of students at top universities commissioned by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni reported:
"...nearly half said that their professors "frequently comment on politics in class even though it has nothing to do with the course" or use the classroom to present their personal political views. In answers to other questions, the majority acknowledged that liberal views predominate. Most troubling, however, were the responses to the survey item "On my campus, there are courses in which students feel they have to agree with the professor's political or social views in order to get a good grade"--29% agreed."

Want an example from the same article?
"My teacher came into class the day after the election proclaiming, 'That's it. This is the death of America.' The rest of the class was eager to agree, and twenty minutes of Bush-bashing ensued. At one point, one student asked our teacher whether she should be so vocal, lest any students be conservatives. She then asked us whether any of us were Republicans. Naturally, no one volunteered that information, whereupon our teacher turned to the inquisitive student and said, 'See? No one in here would be stupid enough to vote for Bush.' "

So much for academic freedom and the comfort of freely exchanging ideas.

What's going to change this liberal bias and instruction at schools? The professors won't and the colleges won't. What will change it are the protests to legislators by parents and students who want real educations rather than left-wing indoctrination. What will change it is the market place that will see students, to the extent that they can, avoiding left-wing bastions of conservative bashing and choosing to attend more community colleges and those less liberal.

Until this process moves colleges closer to the center, prepare your kids and consider majoring in business.

Posted by Woody M. at October 23, 2006 09:40 AM | TrackBack

Since when does criticism of Foreign and domestic policies become leftist? I say leftist because that seems to be the whipping boy of all your comments/posts.
As to the liberal leanings (real or percived) of College and University professors, do you think that they may be looking at politics from an educated point of view?

Posted by James S Melbert at October 23, 2006 05:15 PM

James, first, it is considered more common of the left to attack U.S. policies on anything whenever a Republican is the sitting President. That's a given and has nothing to do with right or wrong. The left looks at which sides are lined up (Bush against whomever) and makes its choices based on that--not the issues. Only after having announced their choice do they try to support it with issues--no matter how wrong or illogical the application of those issues. It's an automatic reflex.

Second, it's a common arrogant viewpoint of academic elites to consider that their extended educations somehow make their opinions superior on anything--no matter that their real world, practical experience is so lacking and that they buried themselves in a fantasy world of campus liberals. My roommate in college received his PhD in mathematics, but I wouldn't trust him to tie his shoes properly. I've heard more wisdom from a taxi cab driver than most professor activists.

Posted by Woody at October 23, 2006 05:39 PM

James, you consistently put forward the standard explanation from the moderate left as if it were some new argument that no one here has dealt with before.

When the foreign and domestic policy of a government leans rightward, as this one does, then consistent criticism of it implies a leftward slant. Criticism per se is not indicative of a leftward slant. It is also at least theoretically possible that some of these professors are criticizing foreign and domestic policy from a further right perspective. There certainly are such criticisms within the general public. But when we add in the information that America is generally blamed by the survey group, then it becomes unlikely that the criticism is coming from the right. Concluding that academics in 2006 lean left from such data is not much a stretch.

As to the "more educated" POV. That is certainly the view they take of themselves, and many people would agree with their assessment. I believe in education, and still grant to people who have spent many years studying a subject the presumption that they might know something. You would think that such people would know more, wouldn't you? One would expect that in making observations about social and political issues that they have not only a grasp of the basics of the major points of view but are able to appreciate subtleties and angles that might not have occurred to the rest of us. It really should be that way.

But "should" is not "is." When you give them the stage and allow them to make their arguments, they make the same banal, easy-to-shatter arguments common to the lefty bloggers, prominent talking heads, and elected Democrats. I am not referring only to the Ward Churchills and other high-profile fringe examples of what academics believe, but the professors speaking at the conferences I attend spout about. I am referring to the preponderance of articles written by academics which appear in ALA publications, MLA conference summaries, psychology and social work journals, magazines for educators, commentaries in history and international studies, or humanities and anthropology textbooks.

One of the main things which moved me from socialism to a general conservative/libertarian slant was the reading of the theological writings coming out of the seminaries of the mainstream denominations. I picked up those books initially expecting to agree with the writers, who were going to present the deeper biblical and historical exegesis proving those simplistic conservatives wrong. But when I actually read those books, they were just recycled 60's Socialism Lite. They turned out to be the same meatheads I had played guitar with at church basement coffee houses. Their arguments were the same, just with better vocabulary and footnotes.

There are notable exceptions of academics from the left with whom I disagree with but at least make coherent arguments. They are not common. Most of what you will read if you poke around are the same tired arguments endlessly repeated, along with (alternating) whining that no one's listening and condescending sneers.

Don't be fooled. Not only are academics not above the same prejudices common to the rest of mankind, but they are exquisitely well-defended against learning anything from those they feel are their inferiors.

Posted by Assistant Village Idiot at October 23, 2006 06:41 PM

hiya GM!..overwhelmingly liberal is a masterpiece of understatement.!.great post.:)

Posted by Angel at October 23, 2006 08:26 PM


This subject is of special interest to me because we have a son in college at UT-Austin with a double major in honors liberal arts and business. We knew that sending our son into a liberal arts program at UT-Austin would expose him to liberal views. Frankly, however, I think that's a good thing. I'll admit I won't pay for him to take a course under Robert Jensen but I would hate to spend my life in an echo chamber of ideas and I don't want that for our son. Having said that, I certainly don't want our son to take class after class from professors who insist that students parrot the professors' viewpoints to get a good grade.

Overall, that hasn't happened to our son ... much ... although it has happened in 2-3 of his classes over the past 2 years. What surprised me is that this is about the same ratio of liberal idealogue teachers that our son had in his conservative private high school classes. So, anecdoctally, our experience is that teachers across the board are more liberal and approximately 10-15% of them let it affect the way they teach their classes.

On a brighter note, our son had one professor who made his liberal views known, insofar as they were relevant to the class subject matter, but who also encouraged students to take a contrary position. The top grades in the class went to conservative students, not to the ones who regurgitated the professor's views. Based on our son's reports, however, this experience is probably uncommon.

Not surprisingly, bias is less pronounced in the business school than in liberal arts. Perhaps you are correct that parents and students need to rise up Dartmouth-style and take back the colleges. I think it may be more practical, however, to steer our children into disciplines that accept conservative views, e.g., business school, engineering, and maybe the sciences. In my view, that's an effective way to put our money where our mouths are.

Posted by DRJ at October 23, 2006 09:40 PM


Excellent comment. I especially liked your concluding paragraph and I think it bears repeating:

"Don't be fooled. Not only are academics not above the same prejudices common to the rest of mankind, but they are exquisitely well-defended against learning anything from those they feel are their inferiors."

Posted by DRj at October 23, 2006 10:29 PM

If you would feel more comfortable if your kids were being indoctrinated by right-wing conservatives, why don't you send them to a right-wing institution to get their education? If there are a left-wing nutters or incompetents on the faculty, your kids should have the good sense to ignore them, if you have raised them properly. If not, well, I guess that's the breaks.

I'm afraid I don't see why this is even an issue, let alone a problem.

Posted by Jassalasca Jape at October 24, 2006 01:04 AM

Jassalasca Jape,

If I understand your reasoning, shouldn't you or your kids be willing to attend right-wing colleges? After all, if you've been raised right, you should do fine.

Posted by DRJ at October 24, 2006 02:36 AM

JJ left off the third option--not left-wing indoctrination, not conservative indoctrination...but no indoctrination where students and faculty are allowed to freely discuss ideas without threats of grades, jobs, or ridicule. That's a concept that liberals can't accept, as colleges have become breeding grounds for their movement.

Posted by Woody at October 24, 2006 06:23 AM

Some thoughts:

1. Walk through the faculty parking lots (if you have them) at your college/university. Check the bumper stickers. This, of course, is hardly scientific but I note more Left Causes than Right. BTW, one that has now mostly disappeared is: Save Tibet. How, EXACTLY, were the Left going to do that...what was the plan?

2. Peek into faculty offices (colleges/universities) and you also get a feel for their politics. As stated earlier, there is less of this in the "hard" sciences than in Liberal Arts - Humanities. Some folks put newspaper articles and cartoons on their doors.

One example: I know of a faculty member at a college with Che on his office door (among many other things..Castro..). Inside the office is the flag of old Soviet Union. Yep. I wonder whether the Gulag was all that much better than Hitler's concentration camps. This faculty type also had a photo of Stalin. Is this funny? Was it a joke? Your tax dollars at work. Do college/university types actually do much reading outside their disciplines...or even within them? Do they come to realize than very many of other faculty are Lefties and so embrace that as people want to "fit in"? Damned if I know.

Posted by Tango Charlie at October 24, 2006 08:17 AM

As someone who has taught in the "academy" both full time and part time for over 18 years, I know for a fact that a lot of my "comrades" are of the lefty persuasion. Many of them go to great lengths to keep thier politics out of the classroom, the majority however, do not.

But, since I'm a righty, and since I'm in the "academy" and James says that college professors teach "from an educated point of view" I would guess that James is saying that it is ok for me to indoctrinate my students. I won't, but thanks for permission James.

Posted by GM at October 24, 2006 08:33 AM

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