The University as Conquered by the Left


In keeping with several recent posts, The American Interest posts a stunning graph showing the leftward lurch of American Universities since the mid-90s.  According to the chart, as recently as when I first attended college, academics were evenly split (around 40% each) between liberals/progressives and moderates, with conservatives making up the difference (at 20%).  Now, the far left accounts for about 60% of academics, with moderates being a 30% minority and conservatives down to around 10%.

The post raises the “canon wars” in the humanities as part of the reason for this shift, suggesting:

Whether or not you approve of these developments, it’s easy to see how they could have made scholarly minded students with traditionalist leanings less inclined to get a PhD and enter an academic humanities or social science department (the Heterodox Academy posts notes that most of the conservatives in the chart come from STEM departments and professional schools).

Progressives sometimes argue that the dearth of conservatives in academia can mostly be explained by self-selection, rather than discrimination, and is therefore not a cause for concern. But this argument fails to take into account the way that changes in academic culture affect self-selection.

This gives too much ground.  Relishing the role of contrarian, I’d likely be a traditionalist humanities academic, right now, if I hadn’t been blocked from graduate school in 1999.  Megan McArdle cites a passage of the book, Inside Graduate Admissions: Merit, Diversity, and Faculty Gatekeeping, that illustrates how this blacklisting happens.

As McArdle notes, the problems of this approach go well beyond simple fairness and concerns about a “Dream Deferred.”  First, areas of intellectual inquiry can go far, far off the rails if those who would pull in one direction are deliberately excluded from the debate.  This is especially a problem in the humanities, which don’t have mathematically provable equations or experiments that can be performed in a laboratory.  Rather, the experiments of the humanities and social sciences can only truly be performed on large segments of society, where they can do substantial harm if the underlying theory is not sound.

Second, as the university races farther and farther from the public on matters of basic belief, it not only risks public support for its mission, but becomes increasingly focused on imposing its belief system as opposed to offering practical services to their students.

(Both links via Instapundit.)

  • ShannonEntropy

    “Higher Education” in this country is a total disaster

    After 24 yrs on the faculty of Brown I couldn’t take it any more so I resigned. That was way back in 2006. AND I was in a ‘STEM’ field. I cannot even imagine trying to be a white heterosexual male in one of the humanities or social “sciences” there today

    The really sad thing about Brown is that there is no curriculum and grades are optional. They readily admit “celebrity” students who never have to crack a book to get a degree there. People like JFK Jr … Emma Watson … the kids of George Harrison or Jane Fonda. Donut be surprised if Malia Obama picks Brown cuz she might actually have to do some work at say Stanford

    And Brown offers prospective students Beer Pong during the interview process … so what’s not to like ??

  • Rhett Hardwick

    I haven’t been around all that long, but I wonder if there is anything new here. Buckley’s God and Man at Yale dates from 1949(?). But, I wonder if it was not always so. I am unable to think of a conservative philosophy that arose from academics (the Reformation might be one).There does seem to be a little reactionary philosophy there. I read a squib this morning about Harvard Law School campaigning against the appointment of Louis Brandeis to the Supreme Court, their reason, anti-semitism. He was their most successful graduate.

    I am currently bumping into an example of academia creating a belief. I am reading a history of the Crusades which aims to rebut the academic themes that they were about “colonialism” and “second sons” seeking wealth by plunder. I was aware that much of the “history” was written by Protestants seeking to discredit the Catholic church as the “religion of peace”, but watching “The Kingdom of Heaven”, which I knew bent history 5 ways to Sunday, set me on a little search. I have some knowledge of the battles and tactics of the Crusades but had accepted the “usual story’ of their origin. Review of a demographic map of Europe, circa 1100, makes it clear that Europe was “under siege” by the Muslims.