Want conservatives on campus? Use socialism!

Feb 21 2008 Published by under [Politics]

This made me laugh.  Via The Agonist (through Crooks & Liars), we get the story of the Woessners, professors at Pennsylvania State University.  The Woessners (one conservative, one liberal) did a study to investigate why so few conservatives end up as professors in academia.  Among their many findings and conclusions, they recommend:

 The research led the Woessners to conclude that if higher education wants to attract more conservatives to the professoriate, it should smooth the way financially, offering subsidized health insurance and housing for graduate students, and adopting family-friendly policies for professors.

In other words, to get more conservatives to be professors, adopt very socialist hiring policies!

This is inspiring a bit of a rant in me; if you'd like to see some other reasons why very few professors might be into right-wing policies, look below the fold...

  1. Conservatives don't believe in evolution.   Well, you've just lost the entire biology department, at least.  You've probably lost most of the scientists in every department.
  2. Conservatives don't believe in global warming.  Well, you've just lost anyone working in the Earth sciences.
  3. Conservatives don't believe in women's rights.  Well, you've lost the entire gender studies department.
  4. Conservatives don't believe in gay rights.  Now you've you've lost most of the arts!  (I kid, somewhat...)
  5. Conservatives believe that cutting taxes raises revenue.  You've definitely lost the math department.  You've also lost a majority (though not all) of the economics department.
  6. Conservatives believe that politicians know more about science than scientists.  There went every remaining scientist.

Did I miss any?  The current crop of 'conservative leaders' are so anti-intellectual, it's not surprising that very few conservatives are in academic circles.

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19 responses so far

  • jonolan says:

    There also the fact that most conservatives have the capability of making a decent living in their professions and so do not need to settle for a life of academia. They can do and so do not need to make the rent by teaching.

  • "There also the fact that most conservatives have the capability of making a decent living in their professions and so do not need to settle for a life of academia."

    Settle for a life of academia? I'm sure a lot of conservatives view academia that way, but most of us in it sure don't. I have pretty much incomparable freedom to pursue those projects that I deem interesting and choose my own work hours. And the rent has never been a problem!

    The cited article does agree with your assertion that conservatives simply want to make as much money as possible. By all means, they should do as they like. My concern, listed in my rant, is that the conservative leadership these days is vehemently anti-science and quite intolerant of other viewpoints. Both of those attitudes are incompatible with academia and, I would argue, incompatible with being a decent and sensible human being.

  • jonolan says:

    I will grant you - sadly - that the Bush administration is anti-anything-that-doesn't-endorse- their-position, but do not mistake political expediency for anti-intellectualism.

  • jackofspades83 says:

    I come from a family that finds great honor in academia. If conservatives want to abandon academic pursuits, good riddance to them!

  • jonolan says:

    The issue is that the loss of conservatives in academia signals the loss of any hope of truth in academia - as would the loss of the Liberals. Academia is rife with ideological extremists, so the loss of a counterpoint position means one set of preconceptions will hold sway.

  • babs67 says:

    jonolan said, "but do not mistake political expediency for anti-intellectualism."

    Well, I guess we'd better not use our Prezidunce as an example of that.

  • jonolan says:

    Babs67,

    Actually you should use Bush as an example of that. He has made a systematic effort to endorse and encourage any intellectual or scientist whose results, theories or ideas further Bush's agenda while denouncing and where possible removing those intellectuals or scientists whose work contradict- or interfere with Bush's agenda.

  • babs67 says:

    Jonolan - point taken. I guess I was referring to his personal anti-intellectualism.

  • jonolan says:

    That is something that has always bothered me. Clinton (Bill) did the same thing, as did Carter. Most recent presidents have downplayed they're intelligence and education (though "W" had far less to downplay) in an apparent sop to the the populist idea. What horrible thing does this say about modern America?

  • jonolan said: "...but do not mistake political expediency for anti-intellectualism."

    I'm not sure what the difference is, in this case. The Bush administration has made it their political policy to be anti-intellectual. Even if their motives are more politics than genuine hatred of education, that doesn't make the end result any less anti-intellectual. I suspect that most anti-intellectual movements were, at the top levels, purely cynical political ploys.

    "The issue is that the loss of conservatives in academia signals the loss of any hope of truth in academia - as would the loss of the Liberals. Academia is rife with ideological extremists..."

    I agree that it's good to have multiple viewpoints in any academic environment, but I really disagree with the idea that academia is 'rife' with ideologues or that truth is hopeless without a counter-point. This reminds me of the flawed notion in the news that 'balance' is simply airing two opposing viewpoints without any assessment of their validity. And I've known people in academia over a complete spectrum of political viewpoints: one colleague of mine is a fierce Nader/Kucinich type, while another has a Bush action figure on his desk. Most academics lie somewhere in the middle.

    For my money, the real problem is that the current 'right-wing conventional wisdom' is so extreme that it falls outside of any sensible discussion. I don't think academia is lacking because we're not including the 'cattle-prods up the rear isn't torture' crowd.

    "Most recent presidents have downplayed they’re intelligence and education (though “W” had far less to downplay) in an apparent sop to the the populist idea. What horrible thing does this say about modern America?"

    To me, it suggests that modern America in general is somewhat anti-intellectual. It's hard to put a finger on exactly why, though. Presidential candidates have to downplay their education and intelligence in order to survive (look at the pounding Gore took for being a 'smarty-pants'). Bush, however, is unprecedented in his absolute disdain for educated people and intellectual achievement in general.

  • Jake Ryker says:

    Ok, as a moderate conservative I can say is um, why? Why is it important if one is conservative or liberal? I mean what is the point if we teach facts, and how they apply to life. Lets face it if I teach math does the number 2 really – really care that I view the world with X Y or Z.

    Lets say something that is more important – Human First! – Why fit things into boxes when we all start as Humans first. Imagine a world that has Humans First. No religion would be foremost – no politics – no race – no gender – NO!

    It would be simple – respect me I am human and teach me what I need to know to do the job or to be a better human being…..Just a thought from a old man.

  • jonolan says:

    Jake,

    I believe the main thing would be what is allowed to be taught. Both the liberals and conservatives limit curriculums and voiced opinions to those which match their politics / world-view.

    Currently, in the liberal academia of today, it is hard to find anyone willing to give factual teachings on a variety of subjects such as: Islam or American History. If academics were purely conservative - read Christian Right for this purpose - similar levels of restrictions would be in place.

  • JakeRyker: "Ok, as a moderate conservative I can say is um, why? Why is it important if one is conservative or liberal? I mean what is the point if we teach facts, and how they apply to life."

    I almost completely agree. Certain subjects are completely independent of political leanings: there's no such thing as 'conservative' or 'liberal' physics, for instance. Other subjects such as history and politics are more 'fuzzy', and then instructors strive to teach the students to critically evaluate different points of view and come to their own conclusions, i.e. to think.

    "Why fit things into boxes when we all start as Humans first."

    Also right. Too often, people are shoved into the 'conservative' or 'liberal' bin, as if there are only two points of view in the world! In the end there is a broad spectrum of viewpoints amongst people and most of us have more in common than we imagine. (For instance, the attitude 'Humans first' puts you in agreement with a lot of 60's era hippies and against a lot of radical conservatives!)

    "Just a thought from a old man."

    Geez, you make me tired when you talk like that! You're not that old!

  • jonolan wrote: "Both the liberals and conservatives limit curriculums and voiced opinions to those which match their politics / world-view... Currently, in the liberal academia of today, it is hard to find anyone willing to give factual teachings on a variety of subjects such as: Islam or American History."

    I call complete B.S. on your statement. What do you mean by 'factual teachings'? That we don't spend enough time talking about the Satanic nature of Islam or the glorious and perfect nature of American society?

    Universities try and teach a more sophisticated version of history, which includes both the achievements and faults of each society and religion. This is apparently too accommodating to conservative nutjobs like David Horowitz, who believe that, to quote Stephen Colbert, "The facts have a well-known liberal bias."

    Radical conservatives believe not only that there is no such thing as an unbiased opinion, but that ideology corrupts and perverts every decision in life. We all have biases, but to automatically assume that those biases overwhelmingly corrupt independent thought is an example of psychological projection and an unjustified insult to the professionalism of people in academia and, well, everywhere.

  • jonolan says:

    There is no such thing as unbiased opinion. That is the basis of the current academic practice of requiring three independent sources for any historical attribution in a thesis.

  • jonolan said: "There is no such thing as unbiased opinion."

    Um, that's what I was implying with my previous statement: "Radical conservatives believe not only that there is no such thing as an unbiased opinion [which is reasonable], but that ideology corrupts and perverts every decision in life [which is absurd]."

    In any case, this discussion gets away from my original point: mainstream conservatives have positioned themselves as the antithesis of academic and intellectual thought. Even people on campuses who are conservative-minded are going to be repulsed by the anti-intellectual facade that the conservative movement has constructed, and much less likely to identify themselves as such. Maybe conservatives should spend less time complaining about 'balance' in academics and spend more time actually doing academics.

    Anyway, that's it for me; I've got more blog posts to write...

  • jonolan says:

    OK, given the caveat that for the purposes of this thread "mainstream conservative" equates to what is often described as NeoCon or Bush Co., I'll give you that one with my apologies for not being able to stem that subversion of my general party.

  • Ian says:

    Once again someone lumps together conservative economics and conservative social policy. I believe in global warming and evolution and in fact consider myself a militant atheist. I also understand macroeconomic theory and consider myself a classical liberal (aka laissez faire capitalism) which is now considered "conservative" in regards to economics.

    As for cutting taxes I guess youve never heard of Ireland or understand the corporate tax policies.

  • "Once again someone lumps together conservative economics and conservative social policy."

    Ah, once again someone takes a sarcastic, off-the-cuff post and tries to read it as some sort of detailed policy statement.

    "I believe in global warming and evolution and in fact consider myself a militant atheist."

    Good for you! The reality is, though, that the official Republican platform, which encompasses most conservatives, and every conservative I ever see or hear from anywhere, does not follow your agenda. In America, that's what 'conservative' has come to stand for by default. If you don't like it, run for office or change what you call yourself.

    "As for cutting taxes I guess youve never heard of Ireland or understand the corporate tax policies."

    Ah, yes, who hasn't heard of the Irish tax system, which has turned Ireland into the economic powerhouse of the world! Really, if your example of successful tax-cutting strategy is a country with the 51st best GDP (easily beaten by The Netherlands, that tax-free haven, at #20, and pretty much every other European country), you don't really have an example.