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Rehab for (recovering) academics.
Are you liberal because you're a professor or a professor because you're liberal? 
19th-Jan-2010 12:04 pm
Box Dude
 The NYT thinks they have the answer: typecasting.  Chicken or egg?

From the news article: "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."

Among other things, the article fails to account for why, if their theory holds, some conservatives pursue an advanced degree. Condeleeza Rice comes immediately to mind. However I thought you all might find the news article interesting.
Comments 
19th-Jan-2010 06:15 pm (UTC)
Well, it isn't really the NYTimes. It is two sociologists who have researched it who think so.
19th-Jan-2010 06:25 pm (UTC)
True. However my link was to the NYT article.
19th-Jan-2010 06:34 pm (UTC)
Among other things, the article fails to account for why, if their theory holds, some conservatives pursue an advanced degree.

Why would they need to account for this? They're documenting a statistical phenomena, not establishing a hard-and-fast rule. Further, they don't seem to be speculating that the only reason to pursue an advanced degree is your political stance -- clearly, there are other factors or every liberal would attempt to pursue one.
19th-Jan-2010 06:53 pm (UTC)
Oops. I should have read your comment first.
19th-Jan-2010 06:38 pm (UTC)
Heh. I was just told the other day that I don't look or sound like an English professor. But this may have been because I was at the gym, and I was talking to a trainer about kickboxing. Next time, I'll make sure to wear tweed to the gym, and lecture on negative capability with respect to weight loss and muscle gain.
19th-Jan-2010 06:52 pm (UTC)
Why would the article have to account for anomalies? You don't really think that for the theory to hold water it would have to apply to 100% of professors and holders of PhDs, do you?
19th-Jan-2010 07:00 pm (UTC)
If you're in linguistics, that's how theory works...:(
19th-Jan-2010 07:00 pm (UTC)
Offhand, in my typically arrogant fashion, I'd say that it is because it's damned hard to hand on to a deeply conservative view in the face of an education, particularly one founded in "liberal arts" (pun or coincidence, you decide).

An honest and critical examination of philosophy, history, and similar subjects which demand critical thinking and honest evaluation of societal, moral, ethical, and political issues is simply not going to mix well with a deeply conservative view. Certainly sciences (i.e. medicine) require critical thinking skills as well, but not necessarily that those skills be applied to the same kinds of issues.

I think the conservative (particularly in religious terms) has to be incredibly deep before it can withstand rigorous questioning, without which it is difficult to achieve academic success in the so-called liberal arts. I see many students either undergo dramatic transformations of world-view, or elect to leave academia altogether, or move towards fields of study which pose less challenge to their conservative ideologies. Witness the development of 'alternative' conservative education programs, from conservatively based elementary school & home schooling curricula to the dubious universities like Oral Roberts....
19th-Jan-2010 08:15 pm (UTC)
I see many students either undergo dramatic transformations of world-view, or elect to leave academia altogether, or move towards fields of study which pose less challenge to their conservative ideologies.

Completely. I've always seen more conservatives to be found in the academia of economics, law, business, etc than other disciplines. Interestingly enough, in the schools of design/arts you'll find this almost economic split (among students) b/n fine arts (overwhelmingly liberal) vs graphic design (surprisingly conservative, or moderate). It was very odd to be the most liberal of graphic design students (undergrad and grad) and the more conservative of my friends in printmaking.
20th-Jan-2010 11:10 pm (UTC)
wow, way to open minded!
19th-Jan-2010 07:14 pm (UTC)
Actually, new answer. This is why professors are liberals are professors:

1. Haitian earthquake survivors get not food, not water, but solar powered bibles
2. US Miltary weapons inscribed with bible verses
3. Texas conservatives rewriting textbooks.

(edited for typo)

Edited at 2010-01-19 07:15 pm (UTC)
19th-Jan-2010 11:58 pm (UTC)
I wish I had an icon of something hitting its head against a wall repeatedly.
20th-Jan-2010 02:29 am (UTC)
Conservative doesn't necessarily mean religious right, though.
20th-Jan-2010 03:40 am (UTC)
Once again, LJ confuses "conservative" with "extremist loony."

The real question is why the extremist conservative loonies almost never wind up in academia, but quite a few extremist liberal loonies do. Both are insane and not listening intelligent scholarly arguments in one way or another, but one of them manages to get tenure now and then.
19th-Jan-2010 10:46 pm (UTC)
*sigh* Guilty as charged.

And I know it. My brother's fairly conservative and we get into... very heated discussions where I just say, "YOU NEED TO READ MORE TO *GET* THIS!" if he doesn't want to hear me explaining why this or that.

And I can't even be in the same room with two of my parents' friends. This married couple reads nothing but the Economist and Wall Street Journal.
20th-Jan-2010 05:37 am (UTC)
I still don't understand the Economist ever being painted as a conservative rag...
19th-Jan-2010 11:11 pm (UTC)
Among other things, the article fails to account for why, if their theory holds, some conservatives pursue an advanced degree. Condeleeza Rice comes immediately to mind. However I thought you all might find the news article interesting.



In statistics, a model which attempts to account for every outlier is probably over-fitted. It's considered a n00b thing to do.

19th-Jan-2010 11:59 pm (UTC)
In the actual article, their model explains 43% of the variation of political standpoint between professors and all other Americans. Definitely doesn't account for the Condis of the world.
20th-Jan-2010 12:21 am (UTC)
I think it's a lot simpler, really: Why in the world would academics choose to identify as conservatives when most conservative politicians aren't offering them anything? I mean, I'm not claiming to be a terribly principled liberal or anything, but it's patently against my self-interest to vote for people with a track record of slashing funding for public education and the humanities in general, especially if they also go around demonizing academics as the evil side in a culture war.

If conservatives actually started conserving things that I care about, especially schools and libraries, I could totally be bought.
20th-Jan-2010 02:28 am (UTC)
Academia is also very hostile towards conservatives and they know it, so they tend to steer clear away from it.

I'm a conservative and it's difficult. You have to keep your mouth shut a lot.
20th-Jan-2010 02:47 am (UTC)
I'm a centrist. Does that mean I don't exist in academia? Apparently, liberals rule and conservatives are there and silent, but there's no one in between. Hhhmm. Suspicious.
20th-Jan-2010 05:25 pm (UTC)
I'm so liberal my car doesn't even have a right turn signal (*rimshot*), but I teach at a school with an extremely conservative student body, and when I'm teaching composition, I stay a lot more neutral than when I teach literature. But the thing that gets my goat a little bit is that liberals are "supposed" to be more open-minded, and yet when I act open-minded to any conservative ideas, my liberal friends/colleagues act like I'm Pat Robertson.

I don't agree with their ideology one bit, but I kind of get the conservatives' persecution complex. I just wish they knew that not every liberal is the enemy, just like I know not every conservative is a member of the religious right.

The fact that there is basically no such thing as a centrist/moderate/fiscal conservative-social liberal is sad to me.
20th-Jan-2010 09:22 pm (UTC)
But what does it mean to be open-minded?
Fiscal conservatism doesn't mean much - the so called fiscal conservative administrations of the past thirty years have expanded the government as much or more than the so-called liberal administrations, they've just expanded it towards military spending rather than social spending. The only balanced budget since Nixon has been under Clinton, who gifted a surplus to Bush, who promptly spent it back into a deficit. Fiscal conservatism is also at odds with the welfare state. In terms of government regulations of markets, governments have always had a hand in markets and free markets are never actually free. Deregulation spawned much of the current financial crisis.
So exactly why should I be open to fiscal conservative ideals? They don't jive with the empirical data. Controlling costs, managing a fair (progressive) tax base, and encouraging business while protecting consumers aren't conservative or liberal ideals, afterall.

Plus, its a false dichotomy. Liberals are expected to be open-minded to social or fiscal conservatives, but they get to stand there and deny my basic civil rights on the basis of my sexual orientation and gender presentation? Or deny me health insurance because I'm a poor grad student while spending millions to have my age-group killed in a war over oil? Not fair. I shouldn't have to listen to that crap, but they should be aware they live in a pluralistic welfare state (that is slowly creeping towards corporatism and capitalistic empire...)

When it comes to my students, I expect cogent logical arguments based upon readings and data. I hope they get a clue and stop being conservative, but I take pains, too, not to impose said way of thinking on them. They trust big business and big church to take care of them, so be it.
21st-Jan-2010 11:22 am (UTC)
Agreed 100% with this comment and your one below.
4th-Feb-2010 04:10 am (UTC)
I cannot believe I laughed so hard at your joke that I snorted.
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