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It's not my imagination!

5/24/2004 7:54 PM
It's not my imagination!
I wasn't just making this 'liberal bias in higher education' stuff up. Others have seen it too...  
At least in the US, it's pretty obvious and has been for decades.
5/24/2004 10:10 PM
Mark Lavelle

But did you read all the way to the end of the article?[QUOTE]... if overly liberal college professors and administrators have long indoctrinated students, "how do we explain then that [the US] is the way that it is" - fairly balanced between liberal and conservative views?  
One of the criticisms leveled against Shapiro is that despite disparaging elite and Ivy League schools in his book, he will attend one this fall - Harvard University Law School.  
That fact makes it hard, says Knight, to accept either Shapiro's scorn for elite universities - or for the UCLA education that helped him gain admission to America's most prestigious law school.[/QUOTE]BTW, citing the Christian Science Monitor as an authoratative source regarding "liberal bias" is like telling me what Newt Gingrich said about Bill Clinton...
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5/24/2004 11:16 PM

Oh please.  
Liberalism, like any other religious zeal, is easily lost out in the 'real world.'  
And, of course he wants to go to Harvard; who wouldn't want to go to (one of?) the most prestigious law school(s) in the nation.  
Supposed journalistic slant aside, the article listed verifiable facts as well as some opinions of people with other viewpoints. Ad hominem is not a valid argument against the objective content of the article.  
Can anybody honestly claim that they didn't experience a deeply entrenched liberal bias in the US higher education system, especially if they attended a California university or even a community college?
5/25/2004 6:48 AM
Mark Hammer

1) The current trend in universities is to keep operational costs low by hiring using a just-in-time approach. That means that an increasing proportion of students take an increasing proportion of their courseload from folks who are hired as sessionals at the last moment, for a fraction of the cost of full-time permanent faculty. While these people CAN be solid instructors, they are often unseasoned, and perhaps not as bound by their stature amongst their colleagues as a tenured person might be. That's not to suggest that new profs are reckless pinko wombats and long-time profs are the voice of wisdom and balance, but it's a whole lot easier to say stupid antagonistic things if you don't plan on sticking around and are underpaid.  
I think the article also underestimates how powerful a muzzle the need to generate endowments and contributions is. No university can afford to alienate folks out there with bucks to spend on buildings, named chairs, and library holdings....and not all of those with money are lefties or liberals. A good friend of mine is the president of a major Canadian university, and he'd be the first to tell you (as he tells me) that the contemporary university simply can't afford to kowtow to one end of political spectrum and ignore or offend the other. Of course, assistant profs and TA's aren't as immersed in fundraising as presidents are, but don't think that universities are happy to simply permit a large segment of the populace to be taunted and ridiculed by their staff.  
2) What program you're in and what you take courses in has a lot to do with your impressions of "brainwashing" on campus. You could probably take three straight degrees in biochemistry or math or engineering and never have a single clue who any of your profs might have voted for or how they feel about Iraq or the World Bank or the Pope. In contrast, if you take courses in subjects where social controversy is what people are supposed to address for a living (sociology, literature, poli sci) then you should expect to hear strong views about whatever is in the paper. Indeed, I have no idea how you could even expect to take a social work course that was NOT liberal in orientation (with perhaps the exception of those more administratively oriented).  
There are some subjects where you tend to hear about the shitty deal in life that some people or animals or countries get, and other courses where you don't. My buddy the president taught physiological psychology for a little under 20 years. At the same time, I taught child, adolescent and adult development. His students stuck up their hands and asked questions about neurons and brain-damaged rats. Mine stuck up their hands and told stories about washing the excrement off a dementing parent or about kids getting beaten up by alchoholic foster parents. VERY different classroom environment as far as political issues/views are concerned, simply because of what the subject matter permitted or even encouraged. It was simply impossible for me to get through a year without the notion that "someone ought to be looking out for the welfare of these people" popping up in classroom conversation; I didn't have to push it, the course content did.  
3) If there appears to be a "liberal bias" on campus, it is often because that seems to be the only place where such views don't get shouted down. Turn on AM radio at night and spin the dial. You'll find that talk radio is largely right wing, ultra-conservative, and deliberately attracts a non-academic crowd. I'm not saying they're idiots, but it is fairly clear they don't want academic discourse or debate, and don't want left-wing views on the table. So, you'll excuse "liberals" if they tend to feel more safe on campus....Kent State notwithstanding.  
4) That being said, there very often CAN be extremely high pressure and political correctness from the left on campus, and not all of it from faculty. Student groups can be absolutely rabid and fascistic sometimes (left OR right), and student societies wield their budgetary discretion like a political machete in some places, dispensing portions of your student fees to those whose views they agree with and not to those they don't. Faculty may plant some seeds, but the students tend to grow into little liberal nazis on their own, thank you very much.  
I would NOT, however, expect better behaviour of those on the other side of the political coin. These are kids, remember, whose views are emerging, unyielding and wielded in an absolutist way. Whatever they latch onto into their youthful zeal, they believe absolutely. Mao Tse Tung knew what he was doing when he harnessed the zeal of young people to create an oppressive environment in China. That's not a condemnation, merely a psychological reality of growing up. Young conservatives would treat young liberals every bit as inhospitably were the balance of campus presence reversed. I wish they were a bit more open and flexible in their thinking...but then they wouldn't need university, would they?  
Case in point. Philipe Rushton is a psychologist at the University of Western Ontario (you can google him yourself and find out what the fuss is about). Though he has a terrific body of work throughout the 70's and 80's that I suspect all political stripes would be supportive of, in the last 15 years he ventured into questionable territory that earned him the wrath of students and academics everywhere. Personally, as a fellow academic, I think his stream of thought is simply misguided and sloppy thinking derailed by statistical models, but student groups branded him a racist and shouted him down enough that he was removed from teaching duties because he simply could not carry on in the classroom. For a while, his tenure was in some question as well, as far as I know, from outside pressure. Similar events have happened in other schools to other people in other disciplines with worse outcomes. Ironically, in contrast to what Shapiro might suggest, it is usually other academics that rush to the defense of such apparently conservative thinkers, and not student groups or the press.  
5) Is conservatism more "idealistic" than liberalism? I don't know. Post-secondary education is supposed to get you to challenge things, push the envelope, and explore the accepted wisdom. Part of what you pay tuition for is to come out being a much bigger and wider version of yourself at the end. Personally, I think that is a result of exploring ALL avenues and trains of thought, but if I had to make a forced choice, I'd say that a liberal perspective stands a better chance of pushing the envelope a little more (and I stress, a *little* more) than a conservative one, simply because often a part of a conservative mindset is that things are fine the way they are (well, unless "liberals" are presently holding the reins).  
Of course, pushing the envelope and mindlessness/mindfulness are two different things. Spoonfeeding someone a different view of the world and encouraging them NOT to question what you give them is not what university is supposed to be about, whether conservative or liberal. I have no patience for those who do not make a point of getting students to explore what it is THEY (the students) believe. It is certainly okay to hold a view in the classroom and make that view known as the one you hold. But with that comes the responsibility to tell students that they do not have to believe what you do, and a responsibility to assess their work for its depth of though and not whether they agree with you or not.  
6) Faculty aren't saints or sages, either according to the terms of their contracts or in reality. They are hired on the basis of mastery of their area of expertise, and only rarely on their ability to be balanced, capable of vision, and open to all possibilities. Hopefully, many of them turn into that ideal, and if you're lucky, you get a few that are exquisitely balanced in their views and nurturing of whatever you offer up in your own thinking, rather than dismissive and elitist. But I don't know why one should expect faculty to be more capable of that than the average person. I have a Ph.D. and I've taught several thousand terrific people from one coast to the other at a number of universities, but you know, big f***ing deal. If I've been able to strike balance and let people feel comfortable in their beliefs while encouraging them to explore others, that was sheer dumb luck on my part and theirs, and not because of anything I was taught during my 3 degrees, anything that was engineered (or not) in the university itself, pressure from colleagues, or whatever.  
7) Finally, I would be remiss in overlooking Shapiro's being Jewish. For a variety of reasons, the "Zionism is racism" line seems to be as accepted on campus these days as the notion that Starbucks makes a better cup of coffee than the vending machine by your locker. For those of us of the semitic persuasion, the acceptance of this view as reality in such a completely decontextualized way, without debate or room for movement, is a little oppressive to say the least, and I imagine souring for someone of Shapiro's age and ethicity.  
It's a pity that Shapiro's experience wasn't more pleasant, and his bad experience, combined with his own youthful zeal, have created bitterness that is not warranted in many and probably most places. The article - which may well misrepresent his views and book - would suggest that he has confounded the impact of students with that of faculty, and that he probably went to the wrong school at the wrong time and place.
5/25/2004 7:11 AM
Mark Lavelle

"Liberalism, like any other religious zeal, is easily lost out in the 'real world.'"
I have absolutely no idea WTF that's supposed to mean. Is that English?!  
"Ad hominem is not a valid argument against the objective content of the article.[/QUOTE]I agree. That's why I included that first part in the quote:[QUOTE]... if overly liberal college professors and administrators have long indoctrinated students, "how do we explain then that [the US] is the way that it is" - fairly balanced between liberal and conservative views?"
As for this:  
"Can anybody honestly claim that they didn't experience a deeply entrenched liberal bias in the US higher education system, especially if they attended a California university or even a community college?"
I can (I majored in Computer Science, after trying Math/Statistics and Music, but not in CA). I'd rate all the science & math & electives teachers as non-denominational, and my music profs as "bipolar" – some could tolerate music written after 1900 and some couldn't! ;)
5/25/2004 3:20 PM
Mark Hammer

"music profs as "bipolar" – some could tolerate music written after 1900 and some couldn't!"  
Heh, heh. Sez it all. :) Good one.
5/25/2004 3:19 PM
Correct, it was MY imagination . . .
It's later than you think and it's worse than it looks.  
The majority of staunch conservatives and staunch liberals in the two major parties are already mindless and that trend has been increasing for decades. This is the group most greatly motivated toward brainwashing when possible.  
These are the only ones who select our leaders, that's why leadership is not available for us to choose from in a candidate.  
This pressures the free thinkers to align with the lesser evil simply to slow the rate of US decline.  
Competition is fierce and benchmarking each other's performance is essential to both parties in power, in order to remain powerful as well as prevent mindful interference. No surprise then that self-proclaimed liberals & conservatives are about equal in strengh & numbers. IMHO it's too bad when real liberals or conservatives fail to reject the Democratic & Republican parties completely.  
Well, here's a quote:  
He says his professors were moral relativists who shunned notions of good and evil and taught students to regard religious and patriotic values with suspicion.  
And that's a bad thing?  
For many millennia the appreciation for good vs. evil was so important that it needed to be deeply ingrained before a student was suitable for schooling outside the home, even for the youngest of children. Is there something wrong in the homes of extreme conservatives & extreme liberals now, that college professors might be expected to provide the foundation for discriminating between good & evil, when it's a little too late if the student's family has not taught their children well enough to begin with?  
People draw the fine lines between good & evil in numerous different places but the big picture is easy for most people to agree on regardless of creed. Without trying to redraw those lines for anyone, a consistent phenomenon over the millennia is that evil has been overcome to a great degree through suspicion of patriotic & religious values, and secondarily by questioning government & educational instutions. Suspicion is not adequate (but probably goes far enough for teaching purposes) but the action of tearing apart or replacing an institution after it has been confirmed to have been infiltrated with evil is the only time that good has prevailed over institutionalized evil.  
So it's essential if progress in this millennia is to be as rapid as the previous one, that someone needs to always be suspicious of patriotic & religious values.  
Seems to me that it's all our responsibility, if we don't live up to it and the concept fades then we have to live with the resulting unquestioned institutions even after they have absorbed evil components in their snowballing action. At least it's a little comforting to know some of this important suspicion is being preserved in some schools and universities, it looks like it is going to be needed more and more as time goes by. Kind of like the monasteries that preserved written languages during the dark ages when illiteracy became the most popular thing and prevailed for a while that time. Any way you look at it the monks were not very much like normal or mainstream people of any kind, it's best that way and it enabled them to fulfill their role in a way that regular people could not have done.  
I suppose you could prefer that anti-intellectuals and non-academic uneducated mobs be the ones questioning patriotic & religious values?  
Hmm, I guess if the situation was bad enough that would work too, perhaps the ages always become darker before an enlightenment . . .  
ps- I didn't read Mark's post with the mindful/mindless and saints/sages references until after I had written my message.  
"music profs as "bipolar" – some could tolerate music written after 1900 and some couldn't!"  
Heh, heh. Sez it all. Good one.  
I mean really, whether it's brand new music or oldies from a previous century or 3, it's overwhelmingly pop music or we wouldn't even be aware of it, during the time the tunes were written or afterward :)
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