So Universities Hire Liberal Faculty--This Is News?
For William F. Buckley Jr., author of the 1951 polemic God and Man at Yale: The Superstitions of "Academic Freedom" and a founder of modern American conservatism, the solution to this scandal was straightforward: Fire the wanton professors. No freedom would be abridged. The socialist professor could "seek employment at a college that was interested in propagating socialism." None around? No problem. The market has spoken. The good professor can retool or move on.
Buckley's book can be situated as a salvo in the McCarthyite attack on the universities. Indeed, even as a Yale student, Buckley maintained cordial relationships with New Haven FBI agents, and at the time of the book's publication he worked for the CIA. Buckley was neither the first nor the last to charge that teachers were misleading or corrupting students. At the birth of Western culture, a teacher called Socrates was executed for filling "young people's heads with the wrong ideas." In the twentieth century, clamor about subversive American professors has come in waves, cresting around World War I, in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and today. The earlier assaults can be partially explained by the political situation. Authorities descended upon professors who questioned America's entry into World War I, sympathized with the new Russian Revolution or inclined toward communism during the Cold War.
Today the situation is different. The fear during the Cold War, however trumped up, that professors served America's enemies could claim a patina of plausibility insofar as some teachers identified themselves as communists or socialists. With communism dead, leftism moribund and liberalism wounded, the fear of international subversion no longer threatens. Even the most rabid critics do not accuse professors of being on the payroll of Al Qaeda or other Islamist extremists. Moreover, conservatives command the presidency, Congress, the courts, major news outlets and the majority of corporations; they appear to have the country comfortably in their pocket. What fuels their rage, then? What fuels the persistent charges that professors are misleading the young?
A few factors might be adduced, but none are completely convincing. One is the age-old anti-intellectualism of conservatives. Conservatives distrust unregulated intellectuals. Forty years ago McCarthyism spurred Richard Hofstadter to write his classic Anti-Intellectualism in American Life. In addition, a basic insecurity plagues conservatives today, a fear that their reign will be short or a gnawing doubt about their legitimacy. Dissenting voices cannot be tolerated, because they imply that a conservative future may not last forever. One Noam Chomsky is one too many. Angst besets the triumphant conservatives. Those who purge Darwin from America's schools must yell in order to drown out their own misgivings, the inchoate realization that they are barking at the moon.
Today's accusations against subversive professors differ from those of the past in several respects. In a sign of the times, the test for disloyalty has shifted far toward the center. Once an unreliable professor meant an anarchist or communist; now it includes Democrats. Soon it will be anyone to the left of Attila the Hun. Second, the charges do not (so far) come from government committees investigating un-American activities but from conservative commentators and their student minions. A series of groups such as Campus Watch, Academic Bias and Students for Academic Freedom enlist students to monitor and publicize professorial conduct. Third, the new charges are advanced not against but in the name of academic freedom or a variant of it; and, in the final twist, the new conservative critics seem driven by an ethos that they have adopted from liberalism: affirmative action and a sense of victimhood, which they officially detest.
Conservatives complain relentlessly that they do not get a fair shake in the university, and they want parity--that is, more conservatives on faculties. Conservatives are lonely on American campuses as well as beleaguered and misunderstood. News that tenured poets vote Democratic or that Kerry received far more money from professors than Bush pains them. They want America's faculties to reflect America's political composition. Of course, they do not address such imbalances in the police force, Pentagon, FBI, CIA and other government outfits where the stakes seem far higher and where, presumably, followers of Michael Moore are in short supply. If life were a big game of Monopoly, one might suggest a trade to these conservatives: You give us one Pentagon, one Department of State, Justice and Education, plus throw in the Supreme Court, and we will give you every damned English department you want.
Conservatives claim that studies show an outrageous number of liberals on university faculties and increasing political indoctrination or harassment of conservative students. In fact, only a very few studies have been made, and each is transparently limited or flawed. The most publicized investigations amateurishly correlate faculty departmental directories with local voter registration lists to show a heavy preponderance of Democrats. What this demonstrates about campus life and politics is unclear. Yet these findings are endlessly cited and cross-referenced as if by now they confirm a tiresome truth: leftist domination of the universities. A column by George Will affects a world-weariness in commenting on a recent report. "The great secret is out: Liberals dominate campuses. Coming soon: 'Moon Implicated in Tides, Studies Find.'"
The most careful study is "How Politically Diverse Are the Social Sciences and Humanities?" Conducted by California economist Daniel Klein and Swedish social scientist Charlotta Stern, it has been trumpeted by many conservatives as a corrective to the hit-and-miss efforts of previous inquiries by going directly to the source. The researchers sent out almost 5,500 questionnaires to professors in six disciplines in order to tabulate their political orientation. A whopping 70 percent of the recipients did what any normal person would do when receiving an unsolicited fourteen-page survey over the signature of an assistant dean at a small California business school: They tossed it. With just 17 percent of their initial pool remaining after the researchers made additional exclusions, some unastounding findings emerged. Thirty times as many anthropologists voted Democratic as voted Republican; for sociologists the ratio was almost the same. For economists, however, it sank to three to one. On average these professors voted Democratic over Republican fifteen to one.
What does it show that fifty-four philosophy professors admitted to voting Democratic regularly and only four to voting Republican? Does a Democratic vote reveal a dangerous philosophical or campus leftism? Are Democrats more likely to deceive students? Proselytize them? Harass them? Steal library books? Must they be neutralized by Republican professors, who are free of these vices? This study opens by quoting the conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks on the loneliness of campus conservatives and closes by bemoaning the "one-party system" of faculties. Nonleftist voices are "muffled and fearful," the researchers say. They do not, however, present a scintilla of information to confirm this. It is not a minor point. No matter how well tuned, studies of professorial voting habits reveal nothing of campus policies or practices.
The notion that faculties should politically mirror the U.S. population derives from an affirmative action argument about the underrepresentation of African-Americans, Latinos or women in certain areas. Conservatives now add political orientation, based on voting behavior, to the mix. "In the U.S. population in general, Left and Right are roughly equal (1 to 1)," Klein and Stern lecture us, but in social science and humanities faculties "clearly the non-Left points of view have been marginalized." This is "clearly" not true, or at least it is not obvious what constitutes a "non-Left" point of view in art history or linguistics. In any event, why stop with left and right? Why not add religion to the underrepresentation violation? Perhaps Klein, the lead researcher, should explore Jewish and Christian affiliation among professors. A survey would probably show that Jews, 1.3 percent of the population, are seriously overrepresented in economics and sociology (as well as other fields). Isn't it likely that Jews marginalize Christianity in their classes? Shouldn't this be corrected? Shouldn't 76 percent of American faculty be Christian?
The Klein study and others like it focus on the humanities and social sciences. Conservatives seem little interested in exploring the political orientation of engineering professors or biogeneticists. The more important the field, in terms of money, resources and political clout, the less conservatives seem exercised by it. At many universities the medical and science buildings, to say nothing of the business faculties or the sports complexes, tower over the humanities. I teach at UCLA. The history professors are housed in cramped quarters of a decaying Modernist structure. Our classiest facility is a conference room that could pass as generic space in any downtown motel. The English professors inhabit what appears to be an aging elementary school outfitted with minuscule offices. A hop away is a different world. The UCLA Anderson School of Management boasts its own spanking-new buildings, plush seminar rooms, spacious lecture halls with luxurious seats, an "executive dining room" and--gold in California--reserved parking facilities. Conservatives seem unconcerned about the political orientation of the business professors. Shouldn't half be Democrats and at least a few be Trotskyists?
Another recent study heralded as proving leftist campus domination was sponsored by the conservative American Council of Trustees and Alumni; it sought to document not the political orientation of professors but, more decisively, the political intimidation of students by faculty. Claiming an "error rate of plus or minus four," the sponsors assert that their study demonstrates widespread indoctrination, that almost 50 percent of students report that professors "use the classroom to present their personal political views." According to the sponsor, "The ACTA survey clearly shows that faculty are injecting politics into the classroom in ways that students believe infringe upon their freedom to learn."
Closer examination of the study reveals dubious methodology. Most questions were asked in a way that nearly dictated one answer. Students were asked if they "somewhat agree" that "some" professors did this or that. A key statement ran: "On my campus, some professors use the classroom to present their personal political views." And the possible responses ran from "Strongly agree" and "Somewhat agree" to "Somewhat disagree" and "Strongly disagree." Of the 658 students polled, 10 percent answered "Strongly agree" and 36 percent "Somewhat agree," which yields the almost 50 percent figure that appeared in headlines claiming half of American students are subject to political indoctrination.
Yet the statement is too imprecise to negate. Asked whether "some" professors on campus--somewhere or sometime--interject extraneous politics, most students (36 percent) respond that they "Somewhat agree." That is the intelligent and safe answer: "somewhat" agreeing that "some" professors misuse politics. To partially or even completely negate the statement would imply that no professors ever mishandled politics. Yet a vague assent to a vague assertion only yields twice as much vagueness. The statement does not so much inquire whether the student him- or herself directly experienced professors misusing politics, which might be more revealing. Yet these murky findings are heralded as proof of campus totalitarianism.
These scattered studies are only part of the story. A series of articles, books and organizations have taken up the cause of leftist campus domination. An outfit called Students for Academic Freedom, with the credo "You can't get a good education if they're only telling you half the story," is sponsored by the conservative activist David Horowitz and boasts 150 campus chapters. It monitors slights, insults and occasionally more serious infractions that students suffer or believe they suffer. The organization provides an online "complaint" form, where disgruntled students check a category such as "Mocked national political or religious figures" (mocking local figures is presumably acceptable) or "Required readings or texts covering only one side of issues" and then provide details.
At the organization's website the interested visitor can keep abreast of the latest outrages as well as troll through hundreds of complaints in the Academic Freedom Complaint Center. Most listings concern professors' comments that supposedly malign patriotic or family values; for instance, under "Introduced Controversial Material" a student complained that in a lecture on Reconstruction the professor noted how much he disliked Bush and the Iraq War. A very few complaints raise more serious issues, and some of these are pursued by other Horowitz publications or are seized on by conservative columnists and sometimes by the national news services. A Kuwaiti student who defends the Iraq War recounts that he fell afoul of a leftist professor in a government class, who directed him to seek psychological counseling. "Apparently, if you are an Arab Muslim who loves America you must be deranged." To his credit, Horowitz's online journal also ran a story from the same college about a student who was penalized after he defended abortion in an ethics class conducted by a strident prolifer [for background on Horowitz, see Scott Sherman, "David Horowitz's Long March," July 3, 2000].
Virtually all "cases" reported to the Academic Freedom Abuse Center deal with leftist political comments or leftist assigned readings. To use the idiom of right-wing commentators, we see here the emergence of crybaby conservatives, who demand a judicial remedy, guaranteed safety and representation. Convinced that conservatives are mistreated on American campuses, Horowitz has championed a solution, a bill detailing "academic freedom" of students; the proposed law has already been introduced in several state legislatures. Until recently, if the notion of academic freedom for students had any currency, it referred to their right to profess and publish ideas on and off campus.
Horowitz takes the traditional academic freedom that insulated professors from political interference and extends it to students. As a former leftist, Horowitz has the gift of borrowing from the enemy. His "academic bill of rights" talks the language of diversity; it insists that students need to hear all sides and it refashions a "political correctness" for conservatives, who, it turns out, are at least as prickly as any other group when it comes to perceived slights. After years of decrying the "political correctness police," thin-skinned conservatives have joined in; they want their own ideological wardens to enforce intellectual conformity.
While some propositions of the academic bill of rights are unimpeachable (for example, students should not be graded "on the basis of their political or religious beliefs"), academic freedom extended to students easily turns it into the end of freedom for teachers. In a rights society students have the right to hear all sides of all subjects all the time. "Curricula and reading lists," says principle number four of Horowitz's academic bill of rights, "should reflect the uncertainty and unsettled character of all human knowledge" and provide "students with dissenting sources and viewpoints where appropriate."
"Where appropriate" is the kicker, but the consequences for teachers are clear enough from perusing the "abuses" that Students for Academic Freedom lists or that Horowitz plays up in his columns. For instance, Horowitz lambastes a course called Modern Industrial Societies, which uses as its sole text a 500-page leftist anthology, Modernity: An Introduction to Modern Societies. This is a benign book published by a mainstream press, yet under the academic bill of rights the professor could be hauled before authorities to explain such a flagrant violation. If not fired, he or she could be commanded to assign a 500-page anthology published by the Free Enterprise Institute. Another "abuse" occurred in an introductory class, Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution, where military approaches were derided. A student complained that "the only studying of conflict resolution that we did was to enforce the idea that non-violent means were the only legitimate sources of self-defense." This was "indoctrination," not education. Presumably the professor of "peace studies" should be ordered to give equal time to "war studies." By this principle, should the United States Army War College be required to teach pacifism?
In the name of intellectual diversity and students' rights, many courses could be challenged. A course on Freud would have to include anti-Freudians; a course on religion, atheists; a course on mysticism, the rationalists. The academic bill of rights seeks to impose some limits by restricting diversity to "significant scholarly viewpoints." Yet this is a porous shield. Once the right to decide the content of courses is extended to students, the Holocaust deniers, creationists and conspiracy addicts will come knocking at the door--and indeed they already have.
The bill of rights for students and the allied conservative watchdog groups that monitor lectures and book assignments represent the reinvention of the old un-American activities committees in the age of diversity and rights. The witch hunt has become democratized. Students for Academic Freedom counsels its members that when they come across an "abuse" like "controversial material" in a course, they should "write down the date, class and name of the professor," "accumulate a list of incidents or quotes," obtain witnesses and lodge a complaint. Rights are supposed to preserve freedoms, but here the opposite would occur. Professors would become more claustrophobic and cautious. They would offer fewer "controversial" ideas. Assignments would become blander.
More leftists undoubtedly inhabit institutions of higher education than they do the FBI or the Pentagon or local police and fire departments, about which conservatives seem little concerned, but who or what says every corner of society should reflect the composition of the nation at large? Nothing has shown that higher education discriminates against conservatives, who probably apply in smaller numbers than liberals. Conservatives who pursue higher degrees may prefer to slog away as junior partners in law offices rather than as assistant professors in English departments. Does an "overrepresentation" of Democratic anthropologists mean Republican anthropologists have been shunted aside? Does an "overrepresentation" of Jewish lawyers and doctors mean non-Jews have been excluded?
Higher education in America is a vast enterprise boasting roughly a million professors. A certain portion of these teachers are incompetents and frauds; some are rabid patriots and fundamentalists--and some are ham-fisted leftists. All should be upbraided if they violate scholarly or teaching norms. At the same time, a certain portion of the 15 million students they teach are fanatics and crusaders. The effort, in the name of rights, to shift decisions about lectures and assignments from professors to students marks a backward step: the emergence of the thought police on skateboards. At its best, education is inherently controversial and tendentious. While this truth can serve as an excuse for gross violations, the remedy for unbalanced speech is not less speech but more. If college students can vote and go to war, they can also protest or drop courses without enlisting the new commissars of intellectual diversity.
Reprinted with permission from the Nation. For subscription information call 1-800-333-8536. Portions of each week's Nation magazine can be accessed at http://www.thenation.com.
comments powered by Disqus
William . H. Leckie, Jr. - 4/2/2005
Uh...I'm not sure we're on the same planet.
James E. Thornton - 4/2/2005
President Nixon greatly weakened the Executive Branch with Watergate, and Congress has not taken up important social issues such as Right to Life. The lack of initiative on the part of the Congress has left too much legislative power in the hands of the judiciary (Judicial Activisim) that has grown accustomed to the power and is now reluctant to relinquish it. There is a backlash now swelling against this and Terri Shiavo was a political pawn that the Republican majority in the House is going to use to reclaim that authority and attempt to restrain the judiciary with the acquiesence of the President. I understand the constitutional system quite well, but we disagree on whether or not the checks and balances are working as should be.
I do think we are drifting into a constitutional crisis of epic proportion. I fear that further terrorist attacks and national security concerns will lead to more Americans demanding security at the cost of liberty. The United States is following a similar historical trajectory as Rome, but at an accelerated pace. Unless the terrorist threat is swiftly defeat and important cultural issues such as abortion and immigration are settled soon I fear that the United States will cross the Rubicon sooner rather than later.
Since you have experience in the Press I defer to your judgement, but remain curious as to why there is a closely held assumption that the press is biased towards liberalism.
William . H. Leckie, Jr. - 4/2/2005
I'm a bit perplexed by your assessment of the judiciary. I mean, the growth in executive power was, like, exponential in the 20th century, and your formulation of the issue suggests, in fact, one of two things--either a misunderstanding of the nature of our consitutional system of separate, countervailing branches of government, or a rejection of it, which I find disturbing.
As for the states' rights shibboleth, this has a hoary past as an issue, one that was given a framework of settlement, I'd have thought, by the Reconstruction amendments and the doctrine of incorporation.
More to the point, perhaps, it ignores the long subservience of a highly conservative judiciary to business interests (the peculiar history of the 14th amendment, zum Beispiel)and presents an od contradiciton to your apparent view of the limits to executive power (at least when a Neanderthal is in the Oval Office); imagine this is 1937....Would you have supported FDR's "court-packing plan?"
Your allusion to a "water[ing] down" by "editorial boards" of journalists presumptively biased reporting simply doesn't fit the every day realities of a newsroom, and fails to take into account the "market pressures" which have shaped everything from layouts and broadcast news formats to selection of lead stories, to the consequences of an inflation of journalistic salaries (I started in the 1960s at $75 a week on a major daily and the Runyonesque character of Front Page type reporters still existed, though there was a kid from Harvard interning as a copy editor at the time)and the nationalization of hype. Later, as a weekend radio news editor, I had to fight like hell to just report anything deemed of a "liberal" nature--a large antiwar protest, for instance.
That's why in the 70s and 80s you had the rise of all these urban "alternative" weeklies, which alas have now been absorbed by corporations like New Times and print mostly entertainment chatter.
I stand by my position: The right's whining about bias or access or whatever is a ploy for dominance. Even if I were a conservative (and in many ways I am, I guess) I'd be horrified at the totalizing drive of the US right. It is dangerous, period.
And, my friend, I live in a country that is still overwhelmed by the consequences of a movement that aimed for total control. It ain't happy. But they learned their lesson, even if it took a catastrophe to teach them.
James E. Thornton - 4/1/2005
I attended a community college in Virginia in 1995-1996, and the University of New Orleans 2000-2003. At both universities the faculty were overwhelmingly liberal and I got into heated debates; especially in Philosophy and English literature. The historians were almost as bad. I was an older student being active duty military and innoculated against the brainwashing. The younger students for in their early 20's took the bait, hook, line, and sinker.
Mr. Leckie is an old acquaintance of mine on the site and he likes to throw a grenade now and then to keep it interesting.
I have read the posts and taken a look at the tables presented by Mr. Plott and I agree with him. There is some other factor that moderates students after they graduate or leave the university. Identifying that force may be a worthy undertaking for a Sociologist so I disagree with Mr. Plott that this issue is trivial and not worth debating.
James E. Thornton - 4/1/2005
I can agree with you on the risk taking nature of entrepenuers, but I still believe that very large corporations are conservative by reflex. For example, new product lines and services are rarely introduced. Even if current lines are not selling well.
You fail to convince me on the media. Perhaps editorial boards water down the personal bias of the journalists, but even so I would say the media is liberal. I have no problem with that. American newspapers were very polemic from the founding of the Republic.
Yes, the Shiavo case was very tricky. I believe the judiciary as a branch of government has grown too strong and should be restrained. Decades of a weak Congress and Executive branch facilitated this phenomenon. Judges can sometimes allow the law to take precedence over common sense and that was the case in this instance. I don't see the Federal Judge's Constitutional concerns unless they dwell on the issue of state's rights. If the Congress and the President request the Judiciary to examine or re-examine an issue then they are obligated to do so. If Congress or the President had ignored the ruling and taken action to forcibly reinstate the feeding tube, then a Constitutional crisis would have occured.
William . H. Leckie, Jr. - 4/1/2005
Delighted to, before the wife has me go out and mow the lawn...
Methinks we tend to confuse "business" with caution because of a poor distinction in our heads between caution and calculation, and among employees and managers and shareholders. People who start businesses are risk-takers; large business organizations generally, and very aggressively, pursue coordination and control of their markets; both have, historically, not been shy about demanding that public policy accommodate their objectives despite--I don't want to use the term "ideology" because I think it's a fuzzy word--let's say "rhetorical" adherence to "market-based" shibboleths and, ironically for your question, a kind of Social Darwinism. I have not even imagined that managers, upper level types, exercise restraint in their use of other people's money.
Now, we fail to assess the concentration of media ownership very systematically, anymore than we assess the politics of media employees very well. I'm sure you've heard "liberals" bemoan the pliability of establishment media under Bush 2; it's real. It's driven by "market" forces (especially in TV and radio news operations, which are experiencing cost-slashing and the importation of packaged "news"--outsourcing!), or so journalists have told me, rolling their eyes and throwing up their hands, but also by the caution that obtains when you are getting a very fat paycheck, even when you privately express very strong views, from, say a newspaper or other outlet that is owned by a conglomerate.
On the reproductive and death rights issues, this, too, is a very sticky wicket, generally--it seems--misunderstood by right-wingers. A rebuke to Bush and Congress on the Schiavo matter was penned down in Atlanta by a Bush 1, very conservative, appointee. His concerns were constitutional. Alas for "ideological" movements, even conservative jurists acknowledge something called the law and the doctrines of checks and balances and stare decisis, respectively. That does not mean that ideas, values, biases, do not infiltrate the courts--it does mean that as Republican appointees dominate the courts,we can expect and have had, in mostly unsexy cases, changes in the way lawyers are taught to present cases as well as in their outcomes.
And now a Westphalian Hausfrau is insisting that her lowly Hausmann leave his toy and do some real work!
Charles Edward Heisler - 4/1/2005
I don't take Horowitz seriously because there is no way to legislate "balance" at colleges and universities.
Once legislatures committee this concept and figure out they will have to double the faculty and costs at their schools, the concept will die a merciful death.
This is a bogus issue and once the University of Colorado manages to fire Churchill, a well deserved end to that gentleman, then all of this will settle down.
tom plotts - 3/31/2005
Churchill's a true believer. I think he more or less enjoys tweaking people and generating controversy. That's not the same as saying he's in it for the money, since it is possible to be both a believer and a capitalist, right? Besides, if you want someone to read your stuff, you gotta publish it. Further, academics are too often judged by the volume they produce in print, and not on other contributions to the larger scholastic community. That's just the game.
I do see a qualitative difference, though, between someone who makes a living moving from lecture to lecture, city to city, generating a living via honorarium (in the manner of the old traveling medicine shows) as opposed to someone making some cash (usually meager) for writing books.
In any event, it's weird how some of these folks personalities seem very much matched, regardless of the content of their "pitch". Horowitz and Churchill no doubt share some important traits as people.
Good to see you agree, here. There's real reason to take Horowitz and co. seriously (especially those that make a living in the academy!), but not because they actually make a point. Another one of those fights that's about something other than what is being fully spoken.
James E. Thornton - 3/31/2005
Nice to see an old friend.
Please expound upon your critique of my post.
Hugh High - 3/31/2005
I do not know to whom Mr. Leckie has addressed his comments. However, if to me, I can assure him that the only thing I want is honesty on this forum and no deception as regards data interpretation.
If one is going to make affirmative statements in support of one's postion, as did Mr. Plotts, then they should be supported by the references given by the pleader.
My remarks/responses to Mr. Plotts did not, in the least,suggest any particularly ideological point of view.
All that said, it is likely (or more likely ) that Mr. Leckie's remarks were directed to Mr. Plotts.
Charles Edward Heisler - 3/31/2005
Tom I happen to agree with you on your argument. I would suggest that the "why" of Horowitz is easily explained--he makes money pushing his routine. Like all fear mongers, there is money in them there chills!
Hey, I have suspected all along that Ward Churchill was all about pacifying his publisher by pushing a few more book sales.
Academia can be quite rewarding for some folks.
William . H. Leckie, Jr. - 3/31/2005
Look, the issue's been carefully massaged. If you want to find conservatives, head off to the lavishly endowed B-schools or law schools, where students out of necissity have to be trained to deal with a post-Reagan judiciary.
The real stick in the right-wingers' eyes is the humanities and social sciences, and their fundamentally totalitarian impulses (yes, let's call a spade a spade)recoil at them. What we're reading on this list is an American update of the petit bourgeois resentments that fueled authoritarian mass movements in prewar Europe exploited by a technically sophisticated apparatus.
And no one has yet explored the consequences of a calculated strategy to build ideologically driven counter-institutions on the right--think tanks--which have in fact shaped public agendas far more effectively than any aging New Left historian who's comfortably shaped his life to look like an animated New Yorker cartoon. If the pod people want equal representation on faculties, why, let's demand more "liberal" (whatever that means) representation at AEI, Heritage, Cato....
Early on in the civil rights movement, very early, I took a black football player (housed with a few others on old army cots under the stadium at the time) at the local college to a joint called Mack's Chicken Shack to integrate the place. It was great fun. The point was made and we got served. We enjoyed our southern fried. Let's all take a liberal professor to an event at one of those scholarly dovecotes of the right?
William . H. Leckie, Jr. - 3/31/2005
Alas, the issue's really that you lose the ideological and electoral game in a niche and you whine about it. You want affirmative action for right-wingers, that's all.
William . H. Leckie, Jr. - 3/31/2005
"...cautious nature of business?" Where've you been the last quarter-century, son?
That's about as accurate as your characterizations of corporate-owned media and a federal court system dominated by Republican presidents' nominees.
Hugh High - 3/30/2005
It is difficult to know just where to begin regarding Mr. Plotts' more recent statements, but it will assist readers to be reminded that :
(a) Mr. Plotts' asserted that "then we should see a horde of 18-24 year olds consistently voting Democratic (or worse!) over about the last half century. " and, among other things, gave in support of this assertion a URL of the PEW Research center and some surveys conducted by them .
YET, as I have pointed out, the surveys for party affliation go back only 6 - 6 1/2 years -- and I noted that is vastly short of the 50 years asserted by Mr. Plotts.
(b) NOW, he seemingly agrees that he intentionally misrepresented so as to get people's attention with his statement
" Well, you busted me Hugh. It does. It was good enough to illustrate the point, however, which you do not at any point contend."
(I confess I do not understand the last phrase -- 'which you do not at any point contend.' It makes little grammatical sense. )
It does your argument little good, Mr. Plotts, to intentionally misrepresent data.
(c) That assertion being found to be misleading and false, Mr. Plotts then resorts to the all-too-common tactic of 'changing the goal posts' /argument, and asserts that Univ. of Michigan Opinion Research survey data on ideological leanings of respondents supports his contention, and indeed, yet better.
HOWEVER, the URL and data to which he points go back only to 1972-73, which, again, is far short of half of a century which was his initial contention.
[ An aside : I find it distasteful that he would have referred to Sen. Geo. McGovern as "that famous commie" . Doubtless this was an attempt to be facetious -- but most assuredly without a light touch, and when one wishes to be facetious, it is best to use a light touch. I would doubtless disagree with Sen. McGovern about almost all issues economic and social, but he is an honorable, decent man who has served the nation well and for whom one can have immense respect -- while in absolute disagreement. ]
Mr Plotts rhetorically asks me "How do you explain this remarkable stability in the middle and slightly conservative with Horowitz's theory? "
My name is High, not Horowitz. I have not made any assertions about the trends other than to point out Mr. Plotts' errors and deceptions. I have asserted, and demonstrated, that Mr. Plotts has mislead readers as regards data on which he supports his initial contentions. It is not, then, for me to explain Mr. Horowitz's theory. He is better placed so to do.
Next, Mr. Plotts tells me that " In the Pew data--if you had actually read it instead of just flailing wildly and opting to take the lazy route and calling me naughty names--you'll have read that over time older people tended to identify with the Democratic party and that younger people have increasingly identified with first, the Republicans, and, most likely, that fuzzy category of confusion known as "Independents".
There are three comments :
(a) first, having re-examined my initial post, I fail to find any "naughty name" I am alleged by him to have called Mr. Plotts. It is not my 'style' to do that -- I find ad hominem statements both distasteful and, perhaps more importantly, useless; and
(b) I did read the Pew material carefully and found it interesting. YET, I was not the one who made assertions about it -- Mr. Plotts was. I did not assert that it tended to show increased leftist voting by the young, or increased conservative voting by the young. I merely pointed out , and he has seemingly now confessed thereto, that Mr. Plotts' cited sources did not support his contention that there is data for a 50 year period which disputes Mr. Horowitz's hypothesis.;
(c) the time period is only 6 - 6 1/2 years, hardly a long run trend.
As to statistics, in what is difficult to understand, Mr. Plotts says "This is all percentages, Hugh, not regression analyses." [ I understand it is the vogue to referring to strangers by their first names -- but not a trend to be encouraged or admired. ]
I don't understand why this statement was made. First, I never asserted to the contrary nor did I assert it was regression analysis. IF Mr. Plotts is -- somehow -- making reference to the existence/non-existence of a trend , or time series, I never asserted there was such a trend . Mr. Plotts did. Moreover, surely he realizes one can have an analysis of a trend -- or its absence -- without regression analysis. BUT, I never alluded to regression analysis, nor the existence of a trend (I did assert that the trend Mr. Plotts claimed to exist was not supported by the data he used in support of his contention. And, of course, I was and am quite right. The Pew Data is clear that it is percentages. A strange assertion , I think.
Mr. Plotts then says : " data points" is not a term anyone I know uses (which is what gave you away). I'm assuming you were referring to the sampling periods. Oops!"
The fact, Mr. Plotts, is that the surveys were taken at points of time which are given by Pew. They then become data points at those points of time. The 'sampling periods' are the time periods at which the samples were taken by Pew. Rather inconsequential, Mr. Plotts.
I don't know what Mr. Plotts' background is -- mine includes years of teaching statistics and econometrics.
Finally, Mr. Plotts says : "You claim to want a serious discussion about what I am calling a non-issue. Fine, than at least demonstrate that you're carrying your own weight when it comes to having something to contribute to that discussion. "
I would hope I have contributed to this discussion and demonstrated that Mr. Plotts contentions are misleading and unsupported.
tom plotts - 3/30/2005
Nothing quite like the sight of a jellyfish flailing on the beach. Misinterpret the data? Indeed.
I have two responses to deal with here. The first--in the previous subthread--is a plea to examine the data from "college wards". I'd love to, if you'd have only been kind enough to provide some. Second, college wards/precincts are not the same thing as student-age voters. Most urban areas near colleges tend to be more liberal than the general population, but that's more a function of urban political preferences overall than brainwashing students. The reasons for this are highly variable and not relevant to the discussion, unless you believe that college graduates tend to never leave campus AND that they were mostly registered in those wards to begin with, which is unlikely. In any event, unless you give me something to work with besides one short blurb, not much to debate here.
Mr. High complains that my link didn't contain 50 years worth of trending data. It's a lame comeback, given my original point, but using "misrepresenting" in your non-responsive response tends to get people's attention.
Here's Hugh's gripe: 'The link only goes back to 1997!' and therefore I'm falsely asserting a trend because I don't present data going back to WWII.
Well, you busted me Hugh. It does. It was good enough to illustrate the point, however, which you do not at any point contend.
Really, the right's gripe here goes back actually to the 60s. I can get you quick and easy data to '72. Here goes:
Examine this table somewhat carefully, Hugh. Unlike party affiliation, this is ideology, and in my view probably a more accurate gauge of the argument than party is (since you could have conservative Democrats and, at least once upon a time, liberal Republicans). If you'll notice, there's a great rush to the middle/middle-right. In over thirty years, no great shift towards anything remotely resembling radical left. And this starts with that famous commie McGovern!
Now, we're beginning the education of our 4th generation in colleges since the 60s. How do you explain this remarkable stability in the middle and slightly conservative with Horowitz's theory? How can all these zombiacs that faculty are producing--year after year after year unchecked!-- get you these results? The fact is, they can't. In the Pew data--if you had actually read it instead of just flailing wildly and opting to take the lazy route and calling me naughty names--you'll have read that over time older people tended to identify with the Democratic party and that younger people have increasingly identified with first, the Republicans, and, most likely, that fuzzy category of confusion known as "Independents". Hardly a socialist revolt in the making, mon frere. Frankly, this data gives much more credence to the idea that there are conservatizing forces that are tugging voters away from Democrats (it doesn't *prove* that, obviously, but it does indicate that some force is taking voters away from the venerable Party of the Left, which trashes the Horowitz hypothesis in any event).
Now, let's just go right to your objections now (I dealt with partt affiliation previously).
First, you'll note that this new table isn't broken down by age. "Hey, wait", you'll say, "you're doing it again! Argh! Where's the 18-24 year olds!"
Well, that data is on there, and those sets are large, my friend, and if you actually care about this hugely important issue and are as good at interpreting data as you seem to think you are, you should have no trouble downloading them and running your own analysis on suitable software. I'll not babysit you that far. Show me the money!!!!
But it doesn't matter if it's all age groups. Why? Because over 30 years, 18-24 year olds tend to continue aging. The students from the 60s are now much older, but they're still a-voting. And you would think they're still voting radically left, according to the communist brainwash theory. Yet, the table says that's not true over all that time.
I stand by my original comments that this issue is stupid and transparently bogus. If you were honest in your own critique, you would ask yourself why we don't have a viable socialist/communist party as a result of a few decades of leftist propaganda (don't look at me, it was Buckley who accused these faculty of being reds, not just "liberals", although these days with you people these two very distinct ideologies seem to have fused).
Why, also, have we had a nearly 25 year Republican grip on the White House? Why has total Democratic party membership gone *down* as opposed to up, the way it should go if the theory you're defending is accurate (that data is in there, too, I believe on both sites).
The bottom line is that even though this disparity in party affiliation does exist, it appears to add up to much of nothing, and I think it would behoove you folks to figure out a better explanation for that. Either serious brainwashing occurs as a result of this so-called liberal bias; OR you're left with the less-than-dramatic conclusions that a) faculty fail at brainwashing, or b) faculty don't brainwash, and they're responsible about presenting multiple views for critical analysis, or c) that they may be Democrats, but they're not particularly "left". Personally, I think it's a combination of B and C.
I stand by my original comments, and I think the quality of your response only strengthens it.
On a personal note, you need to seriously brush up on basic stats before you start levelling charges of misrepresenting much of anything. This is all percentages, Hugh, not regression analyses. Second, "data points" is not a term anyone I know uses (which is what gave you away). I'm assuming you were referring to the sampling periods. Oops!
You claim to want a serious discussion about what I am calling a non-issue. Fine, than at least demonstrate that you're carrying your own weight when it comes to having something to contribute to that discussion. Know that another unsubstantial response will go unanswered, so insult away.
Hugh High - 3/30/2005
It is interesting that Mr. Plotts would dismiss, out of hand, interest which a large number of people have about the possible effects of undergraduate schooling on party affialiation and suggest that the entire discussion is "bogus."
This is particularly interesting since he then proceeds to cite as evidence in support of his contention that "If Horowitz is correct, and liberal faculty beget liberal students, then we should see a horde of 18-24 year olds consistently voting Democratic (or worse!) over about the last half century. Well, that's not the case. See here: " and then he gives the URL of the Pew Research center and study of , among other things, party affialition by age (among other demographic variables.)
Now, the Pew Study in fact covers AT MOST only the period since 1997 -- which is rather short of a "half century." Moreover, there are, in the series of reported surveys, ONLY 5 data points -- there are NOT continual and annual surverys, rather there are 5 surveys the last of which ended in Oct. 2003. [ Lest Mr. Plott, or others, suggest that there is a 'values' survey which covers the period 1987 I would point out that (a) the period 1987-2005 is less than 1/2 a century as Plotts suggested and (b) those surveys cover only 'values" as defined by the Pew Methodology, not party affialiation.
It is interesting that Mr. Plott would be willing to assert the existence of a trend, and that further discussion of that 'trend' is silly, when the alleged trend consists of 5 data points for a period of, at most 6 - 6 1/2 years. On that basis , I would assume he would agree it is silly to discuss changes in divorce rates, murder rates, family income , foreign investment in the US (and conversely ) , changes in number of class A highways in the US, changes in .....
Mr. Plott's misrepresentation of the Pew Research findings is regretable. I assume he simply is incapable of interpretating it, rather than engaged in intentional misrepresentation.
There is much to be said for vigourous debate over important issues.
John H. Lederer - 3/29/2005
Hmmm-- take a look at the totals in the college student wards
tom plotts - 3/29/2005
Frankly, this "debate" is retarded. There's a simple hypothesis in play, and amazingly enough, it's pretty testable.
If Horowitz is correct, and liberal faculty beget liberal students, then we should see a horde of 18-24 year olds consistently voting Democratic (or worse!) over about the last half century. Well, that's not the case. See here:
The question then becomes this: Why, in spite of this overwhelming left-leaning edge in faculty, do so many youth vote Republican?
Perhaps it's because other factors far more influence one's ideology. At the very least, todays Bolivarian college graduate becomes quickly reprogrammed once they hit the workplace. If this is the case, no harm no foul, right?
Now, can we stop treating this as a serious discussion and move on to something a little less bogus? Like why otherwise intelligent people are mounting this campaign at all? Or better yet, why a group of people constantly complaining about other people's victimization are the loudest, most whiny victims of them all?
If I were one of Horowitz's minions, I'd be pretty insulted at the suggestion that I'm so incredibly stupid as to not be able to critically receive any information on a college campus. Why these kids are not doing a double take is a bit beyond me. Unless, of course...
edwin s reynolds - 3/29/2005
Russell Jacoby, thanks for the essay. in the orwellian world of conservative pc/doublespeak it is nice to read some critical analysis on the issue of academia. Jonathan Pine, if it walks like a duck etc., it is a duck, despite objections to the contrary. lastly, i beleive churchill is an anarchist not a liberal, no small difference.
Peter N. Kirstein - 3/28/2005
I gave a talk at American University last year on the persecution of the American left and the tenuousness of academic freedom for professors suspended or expelled for their political ideology. Many of the students in the audience were associated with Students for Academic Freedom and I was impressed with their passion, directness and frankly lack of restraint in challenging me and my position. I have rarely had such a difficult and challenging exchange with students and must say they were bright and prepared to do battle.
Mr Horowitz is not a creep but a brilliant defender of its objective to transform higher education into a more conservative enterprise. He may lose this battle but his crusade for his beliefs does serve as an interesting and useful challenge for higher education to reexamine itself.
Hugh High - 3/28/2005
Two brief comments/observations about the statements by Horowitz and by Pine.
First, as to Pine : I find it distasteful to Pine, or anyone else on this form to make personally disparaging and/or ad hominem remarks about anyone. To call someone a "Creep...." illlustrates a lack of taste, I think. To assert, a priori, that anything one writes is "sure to be manufactured" is to attack their veracity with no evidence.
To attack their ideas seems reasonable , but ad hominem attacks and petty name calling are best left on the school yard playground. It is unbecoming of Mr. Pine to have stooped to these levels.
Secondly, as to Horowitz's statement that the word 'leftist' is to be much preferred to "liberal" , I could not agree more. All too often in the US the term 'liberal' is used to refer to those who wish to control and/or regulate -- not to liberate. I would propose that, for most of those who are now referred to as 'liberals' , we properly call them regulators or controllers or demi-dictators.
James Eric Thornton - 3/28/2005
Jacoby states, "Moreover, conservatives command the presidency, Congress, the courts, major news outlets and the majority of corporations; they appear to have the country comfortably in their pocket."
President Bush did not win in a landslide and 2008 will be wide open. Democrats frustrate the President's agenda with filibusters and unless the Senate changes the rules governing debate the gridlock will not end. The print media is overwhelmingly biased toward liberalism, and the only television network that comes close to being conservative is Fox News. To suggest that the courts are dominated by conservatives is hillarious. Roe v. Wade and even the Terri Shiavo case demonstrates this. I can only agree with Jacoby that a majority of corporations are dominated by Conservatives, but only because of the cautious nature of business.
Charles Edward Heisler - 3/28/2005
I have no problem with the conclusions drawn by Jacoby in this piece--as a conservative I find no inherent danger in the liberalism of the colleges and universities of America.
It is not hard to understand the natural selection that has gone on in many disciplines that has created the hoards of yapping professorial coyotes barking out the same tired philosophies for students. It makes no difference.
When this discussion comes up it is good to realize that very few students are effected by this group of folks. They come, they study, they get their required credit hours, and then go forth to become useful and productive citizens. I think the more interesting study would be one that polled students of these liberal institutions some ten years later to see what the impact of the so called leftist teaching really was. I would bet that the "indoctrination" would be insignificant in so far as it related to either the students or to society.
That has been my observation.
Still Jacoby does present one idea that I would argue with when he states incorrectly, "Conservatives distrust unregulated intellectuals." I know of no conservatives, especially myself, that think the common behavior and world view of liberal professors is "intellectual"! I am afraid that one thing that is far too common amongst these folks is an abject lack of intellectualism, especially if you're definition of that term is a dispassionate pursuit of reason.
None of the more prominent campus liberals, most certainly Ward Churchill, exhibit those characteristics in their apparent beliefs and statements.
I fear the contradiction that they present to students far more than their intellectualism--I wonder what students must think scholarship really is after a semester of watching this bunch draw conclusions from evidence. Heaven forbid that a student would ask one of these people to support their claims with any reasonable argument! Should that ever happen with any regularity, our faculties would be outed big time and it would be embarrassing.
John H. Lederer - 3/27/2005
Go call the Earls of Surrey and of Warwick ;
But, ere they come, bid them o'er-read these letters,
And well consider of them; make good speed.
How many thousand of my poorest subjects
Are at this hour asleep! O sleep, O gentle sleep,
Nature's soft nurse, how have I frighted thee,
That thou no more wilt weigh my eyelids down
And steep my senses in forgetfulness?
Why rather, sleep, liest thou in smoky cribs,
Upon uneasy pallets stretching thee
And hush'd with buzzing night-flies to thy slumber,
Than in the perfumed chambers of the great,
Under the canopies of costly state,
And lull'd with sound of sweetest melody?
O thou dull god, why liest thou with the vile
In loathsome beds, and leavest the kingly couch
A watch-case or a common 'larum-bell?
Wilt thou upon the high and giddy mast
Seal up the ship-boy's eyes, and rock his brains
In cradle of the rude imperious surge
And in the visitation of the winds,
Who take the ruffian billows by the top,
Curling their monstrous heads and hanging them
With deafening clamour in the slippery clouds,
That, with the hurly, death itself awakes?
Canst thou, O partial sleep, give thy repose
To the wet sea-boy in an hour so rude,
And in the calmest and most stillest night,
With all appliances and means to boot,
Deny it to a king? Then happy low, lie down!
Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.
Jonathan Pine - 3/27/2005
Coming from the Creep of Misinformation, a disillusioned leftist who one day underwent an epiphany, this is typical. He can't back up what he said and if he does it's sure to be manufactured.
david horowitz - 3/27/2005
Let's see: leftists (let's not pussyfoot around the deceptive label "liberal") institute a hiring blacklist over a thirty year period that results in 1) a 10-1 ratio of people who basically agree with them politically over those who don't, 2) and thousands of political ideologues who have no business in a classroom (I'm thinking of Ward Churchill folks, not necessarily Jacoby). This McCarthyism is ok with Jacoby. What's not ok is that conservatives should launch a movement to get these ideologues and political activists to behave academically in the classroom, e.g.,by not campaigning against George Bush on university time. And for this tacit support 1) for the blacklist and 2) for the abuse of academic freedom Jacoby wants to be seen as a "liberal."
- Daniel Pipes says in interview that the absence of anti-Israel protests in Muslim countries is highly significant
- A historian who studies China has discovered an overlooked angle in the debate about the Middle East. Could he have figured out a key reason for Iraq’s failure to defeat ISIS?
- American Historical Association backs revision of the AP course in history
- Middle East Scholars and Librarians Call for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions
- Cornel West and the Insular World of the Obama-Hating Left