The latest survey results showing a lopsided leftward tilt in academia have, in turn, resulted in the usual predictable denunciations from academic quarters but with a twist. “We pay close attention to the world because we are fortunate to have the time and may, by virtue of our disciplines, be expected to do so,” Skidmore sociologist Rik Scarce writes in a letter to the Chronicle of Higher Education that appeared in the December 1, 2006 issue. “We also often ground our politics in scientifically sound theories and empirical research.”
How often? Most data show that racial preferences do not improve the lives of black students on their own campuses yet educrats cling to affirmative action as though it were a religious relic.
“The unstated assumption behind these accusations of ‘liberal groupthink’ is that the political views of college teachers should conform to a 50:50 ratio of liberal and conservative viewpoints,” Bellarmine University biologist Robert W. Kingsolver writes in another letter that appeared in that same issue of the Chronicle. “I am compelled to ask: What other profession is held to this expectation—soldiers, stockbrokers, nurses, trial lawyers?”
Most people cannot say with any certainty how their stockbroker, nurse or trial lawyer (arguably the most political of that quartet) voted in the last election. Most college students, meanwhile, can give a better-than-educated guess as to how their professors voted.
Even the military, as overwhelmingly Republican as the professoriate is Democratic, manages to train its troops and go on mission without any reference to issues of the day or, especially, how men and women in uniform should feel about them.
“I’m a member of a board in Michigan that consist of 14 college presidents,” Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn said at the Heritage Foundation. “Recently, we voted on the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI).”
“The vote was 13-1 against it.” I guess you can figure out who the one was. Ironically, Michigan’s mostly Democratic voters passed the MCRI, a statewide ban on racial preferences, by about the same margin that Republican candidates for governor and senator got defeated by.
“The political tilt in higher education is not a cause but a symptom,” Arnn said in his talk at Heritage on December 7th. “It has been a problem for about 100 years.” Arnn has had a bird’s eye view of that imbalance for about a quarter of that century.
“At the 1984 American Political Science Association meeting, they took a poll on the presidential election,” Arnn remembers. “In that general election, Reagan got 59 % of the vote.”
“At the APSA convention, Mondale got 94 % of the vote and half of the other six percent picked candidates to the left of Mondale.” That left a very small universe to find conservatives within.
“My friend and I figured out that we know everyone there who voted for Reagan,” Arnn calculated. “They were either friends of mine or friends of friends of mine.”
Arnn believes he can trace the point in time when the ideological tipping point in the Ivory Tower occurred. “In the 1915 General Report of the American Association of University Professors, John Dewey derided religious education and said that the sole purpose of college is experimentation in social evolution,” Arnn noted.
Virtually alone among American colleges and universities, Hillsdale accepts no government funding. “Out of curiosity, I asked our lawyer if I could see the regulations that go with Title IV, or federal student aid,” Arnn recalls. “He told me that they ran to 400 pages and even if I got them, I would never be able to decipher them.”
“We keep a lady here [in the law firm] whose only job is to understand government rules,” the lawyer told him.
Malcolm A. Kline is the executive director of Accuracy in Academia.