Mark Naison: Live With It! Liberal and Leftist Professors are Here To Stay!
[Mark Naison is Professor of AFrican American Studies and History, Fordham University.]
The whole question of liberal and leftist bias on university faculties came to the fore recently when a Conservative Alumni group offered $100 to any student who would take notes on the lecture of 30 faculty members at UCLA who the group identified as "radical professors"
I hardly think this an issue worthy of such extreme measures Yes, Conservatives are right--- university faculties are filled with liberals and leftists, but why is this a problem if they do their jobs well? The ranks of college football coaches are filled with born again Christians and rock ribbed Republicans, but I don't hear about legislative committees monitoring their activities to assure political and religious diversity in the locker room. Can you imagine the Pennsylvania State legislature calling in Joe Paterno and asking whether his coaching staff contains any marxists and feminists? Or suggesting that coaches not begin games with a prayer because their might be atheists or non-believers on their teams?
Liberals and leftists have gravitated to university teaching careers, just as Christians and conservatives have gravitated to careers in coaching and the military, but people on the Right are not going to be able to do anything about this without undermining their own credibility. Why? Because most college teachers have high standards of professionalism and are deeply immersed in their discipline. By the time they have a tenure track position on a university faculty, they have gone through a rigorous training program in pursuit of their doctorate and have gone through exhausitve search procedures which included university administrators as well as senior members of their department. In those settings, spouting political propoganda just won't cut it; you have to show a mastery of your field honed by thousands of hours of disciplined study,and if there are biases in the subjects chosen, they are hardly ones shaped by current political controversies
Sure, some faculty members have "Impeach Bush" posters in their offices, but I defy anyone to show that college teachers are more aggressive in prostyletizing for their political or religious beliefs than college football coaches or offficers in the US military, who also for the most part, have their positions paid for by "taxpayer money".
Live with it! Leftist professors are a fact of life in American Universities, and unless conservatives want to upset the majoirty of students who actually like their professors and wreak havoc with established norms of academic freedom and university governance, they are here to stay.
As for David Horowitz, who has been leading the charge for "political balance" in university hiring, I have one coment. For the sake of consistency, why don't you do the same thing with college football staffs? Why don't you place a few radicals,or even Democrats, as assistant coaches at Clemson or Penn State or University of Alabama.
I volunteer to be a the first recruit for this campaign. Joe Paterno or Bobby Bowden would love me I may be a leftist, but I push my students hard and as anyone who knows me from Brooklyn sandlot sports can tell you, I play to win!
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Doug Campbell - 3/7/2006
As an oh-by-the-way, I'll add that the academic boast of openness and of being the 'Marketplace of Ideas' rings pretty hollow given the world that Professor Naison celebrates.
Doug Campbell - 3/7/2006
I oppose any attempt to reduce or eliminate profs on the basis of political belief, but Mark Naison's comments highlight problems with the current situation in our history departments. He writes, "Liberals and leftists have gravitated to university teaching careers . . . . Why? Because most college teachers have high standards of professionalism and are deeply immersed in their discipline."
And people of other professions or of other beliefs don't have high standards and commitment? Naison's assertion seems to imply that proper research and right thinking will always yield a liberal political solution to historical questions. I thought that good historical scholarship was supposed to be unbiased, and that it can yield surprises that undo preconceptions.
But Naison adds, "By the time they have a tenure track position on a university faculty, they have gone through a rigorous training program . . . and have . . . exhausitve [sic] search procedures which included university administrators as well as senior members of their department. In those settings, spouting political propoganda [sic] just won't cut it."
However, if the administration and other faculty mostly think the same way, then there is a real risk of intellectual group-think regardless of professional attitude. Like then hires like because approaches outside the employers' paradigms are dismissed as poor scholarship. Indeed, I'm sure politics don't arise "in those settings" if employers and new-hires all think the same way. I hope people like Naison can recall historical situations where dedicated leaders and other professionals goofed because their decision-making process was so restricted. Why should academia be immune to the same pitfall?
Yet this is what I see in history academia, and it is nearly all of the left. As Naison readily admits, it is because the political left dominates the profession. It is a pity that a political stance has come to be equated with intellectual strength. I doubt that the consequence of this tack will be as openly and suddenly catastrophic as a military defeat, economic depression, or some other historical disaster, but disastrous it shall be.
Alonzo Hamby - 1/27/2006
Mark Naison might be a great assistant coach for all I know. And he may have acquired a devotion to academic values surpassed by none of us. It is interesting, however, to read his account of taking his Ph.D. orals at Columbia in 1968 while also being a leader of the strike that temporarily shut down the university. See Peter Novick, "That Noble Dream," 428-29, and make up your own mind.
Mark Hirsch - 1/26/2006
I have no problem with professors who are left leaning because I had many in my history classes and they treated me fairly and they knew I was a conservative Christian. However, I am sure there are cases where students are not given fair grades who might be conservatives. I don't believe professors should teach with an agenda to change students political views. Just teach the truth. Don't have an agenda to break down conservatism and destroy other peoples beliefs.