Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Conservative Academicians: An Oxymoron?

You gotta love this! For years conservatives have been whining about liberal bias in higher education. They've created organizations like David Horowitz's Students for Academic Freedom, which is anything but, in order to root out and destroy faculty members they deem too leftist or insufficiently loyal to the neo-con agenda. So the American Enterprise Institute decided to commission a study, lead by a conservative professor, to prove that there really is a problem and figure out how to fix it.

Except the study didn't exactly support the standard right-wing worldview. It shows that, while the majority of American professors are indeed left-leaning, the main reason there aren't more conservatives in academia is that ... conservatives are greedy! Getting a PhD takes years, academic pay generally sucks, and it's hard to balance family life against academic work demands. Most conservatives simply aren't willing to make the material and lifestyle sacrifices necessary to succeed in academia.

How does the report propose to fix the problem? Socialism, affirmative action, and political correctness for conservatives! Subsidized housing and more health benefits. Special concessions to PhD students and professors with families. And last, but not least, making academic institutions and professors be extra nice to conservative students who feel they're discriminated against, even though all the data shows they aren't.

Not that any of these are necessarily bad things, but it sure is funny to see conservatives advocating for such "liberal" ideas.

Of course I've simplified (my conservative friends might say oversimplified) the findings of the AEI report, so I encourage you to read it for yourself. If you're not up for pushing through the paper, the Chronicle of Higher Education just did an interesting and entertaining article covering both the paper and the professors who wrote it.

Finally, you have to give the folks at AEI credit for publishing the study even though the results probably weren't at all to their liking. AEI may be an organization of ideological nutcases, but they see themselves as scholars and in this instance actually acted the part.

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