If professors spent as much time entertaining information from the other side as they spend denouncing charges that the academy is biased, there would be no academic bias. “While many educators are liberal, most are also professionals whose main goal is to educate, not to indoctrinate,” Darren L. Linvill of Clemson avers in Academe, the journal published by the American Association of University Professors. “Regardless of their personal political beliefs, they should be able to judge a student’s argument on the basis of its demonstration of critical thinking.”
Indeed they should. Whether they do or not is a question Linvill largely avoids.
“Some students seemed to confuse ideological bias with what may simply have been bad teaching,” he claims. “I did not hear sweeping judgments of students’ college experiences: those students who were eager to speak to me wanted to share experiences they had with professors rather than commonplace classroom experiences.”
“The stories of bias I heard during interviews were memorable to the students and worth relaying specifically because they were not everyday experiences. Ultimately, student experiences solicited by researchers (either me or the NAS), however compelling, tell us a limited amount about how pervasive these experiences are, how much they influence students, and how they should be addressed.”
For the record, other than Accuracy in Academia, here are some of the groups which have documented academic biases:
- The American Council of Trustees and Alumni;
- The American Enterprise Institute;
- The Leadership Institute;
- The National Association of Scholars; and
- The Young America’s Foundation
“If professors are trying to indoctrinate students, they have not been particularly successful,” Linvill avers. “Research conducted by Mack D. Mariani at Xavier University and Gordon J. Hewitt at Hamilton College has found that students on average do become slightly more liberal during their college years but that they do so at the same rate as their peers who do not attend college.”
“Using national data from the Higher Education Research Institute, Mariani and Hewitt also found that political orientation does not change at all for most students during the four years of college. For those whose orientation does change, factors unrelated to faculty ideology (including gender and socioeconomic status) seem to contribute to the change.”
“Research also calls into question anecdotal accounts of instructors penalizing students with conservative viewpoints. Markus Kemmelmeier of the University of Nevada, Reno, along with Cherry Danielson and Jay Basten, conducted longitudinal research on four thousand undergraduate students during their four-year college experiences and found that students with conservative views make the same grades in most classes as their more liberal peers. The only exception was in business classes, where conservative students did slightly better.”
As William F. Buckley, Jr., used to write, concerning which a few observations:
- There is an X factor he is missing: the degree to which students self-censor to avoid approbation. Even conservative student publications have become more bowdlerized and they are usually funded outside of the university;
- There is a Y factor he is missing: the extent to which students have been educated/indoctrinated for 12 years before entering college and/or the workforce; and finally
- There is a Z factor he is missing: can it be that students who understand how the market works will be both conservatives and great students in a business class? But those other kids probably kick butt in gender studies.
Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.
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