ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

Thinking Harder About Bias in Academe

August 26, 2005 by ACTA

Every few months someone issues a new study indicating how politically one-sided American professors are. Last year, ACTA issued a report of its own. Every few months, too, liberal academics who are happy with the institutional ideological status quo respond to these studies by rising to their own defense. And, every few months, the public is treated to an embarrassingly illogical and self-serving set of non-arguments from those defenders of the indefensible.

Makers of such non-arguments include Duke philosophy chairman Robert Brandon, who, upon learning that only 8 of Duke's 150 humanities professors are registered Republicans, said, "If, as John Stuart Mill said, stupid people are generally conservative, then there are lots of conservatives we will never hire." They include UCLA professor John McCumber, who has said that "a successful career in academia, after all, requires willingness to be critical of yourself and to learn from experience," and has opined that these essential attributes are "antithetical to Republicanism as it has recently come to be." They also include UC-Berkeley professor George Lakoff, who claims that the reason there are so many leftists in the academy is that "unlike conservatives, they believe in working for the public good and social justice, as well as knowledge and art for their own sake."

Those examples--and there are many more--are gathered by Brooklyn College history professor KC Johnson, who has put together an excellent essay on academics' sorry history of self-aggrandizing excuses for why they shouldn't have to define the lack of intellectual, pedagogical, and political diversity among college and university professors as a problem. Johnson methodically dissects the non-arguments that have been offered in defense of a biased academy, and offers lots of revealing quotes and informative links along the way.

His conclusion is a challenge: "No academic administration has made the creation of an intellectually and pedagogically diverse faculty its primary goal. ... Such an initiative, of course, would encounter ferocious faculty resistance. But it would also, just as surely, excite parents, donors, and trustees. If successful, an institution that made intellectual diversity its hallmark would encourage imitation--if only because other colleges would face the free-market pressures of losing talented students and faculty. So, the question becomes, do we have an administration anywhere in the country willing to take up the cause?"

Good question--one boards of trustees might bear in mind when hiring (and firing) college and university presidents.

Comments

Leave a Comment >

There are no comments for this article yet.

Let us know what you are thinking

FEATURED TOPICS

ACTA's take on:

News Roundup

The Consequences of the Government Shutdown for Higher Ed

Chronicle of Higher Education, Lindsay Ellis and Lily Jackson 

College Bloat Meets ‘The Blade’

Wall Street Journal, Tunku Varadarajan

College Trustees Must Protect Free Speech

Chronicle of Higher Education, Keith E. Whittington

Donations Keep Iowa Wesleyan Afloat

Education Dive, Natalie Schwartz

Signup to Receive ACTA’s Quarterly
Newsletter & Email Updates


Include information for trustees.

Search