January 27, 2010 Leave a comment
[I meant to post this last week, but forgot. Fortunately, it's not exactly time-dependent.]
Great article in the New York Times about some really interesting research that nicely explains why such a preponderance of college professors are liberal.
The overwhelmingly liberal tilt of university professors has been
explained by everything from outright bias to higher I.Q. scores. Now
new research suggests that critics may have been asking the wrong
question. Instead of looking at why most professors are liberal, they
should ask why so many liberals — and so few conservatives — want to be
A pair of sociologists think they may have an answer: typecasting.
Conjure up the classic image of a humanities or social sciences
professor, the fields where the imbalance is greatest: tweed jacket,
pipe, nerdy, longwinded, secular — and liberal. Even though that may be
an outdated stereotype, it influences younger people’s ideas about what
they want to be when they grow up.
That's a nice addition to our understanding, but, there's a number of other key relationships as well:
Typecasting, of course, is not the only cause for the liberal tilt. The
characteristics that define one’s political orientation are also at the
fore of certain jobs, the sociologists reported. Nearly half of the
political lopsidedness in academia can be traced to four
characteristics that liberals in general, and professors in particular,
share: advanced degrees; a nonconservative religious theology (which
includes liberal Protestants and Jews, and the nonreligious); an
expressed tolerance for controversial ideas; and a disparity between
education and income.
Well, give me a check mark on all four of those. I still remember when my mentor as an undergraduate, Paul Gronke, explained the last point– lots of education, not so great income. No complaints here, though.
I'll also mention that it, in my experience, it is decidedly not ideological bias of present faculty. I've been on many a hiring decision and not once has the job candidate's political beliefs come up as a matter of serious discussion.