The Corner

Politics & Policy

Does the Academic Imbalance Matter?

Yes, it does, argues political science professor Andrew Taylor of North Carolina State.  He recently spoke about a recent research paper he co-authored on that topic. The Martin Center’s Shannon Watkins attended his talk and writes about it in today’s article. 

In academic fields where viewpoint matters, faculty members who identify as leftist heavily outnumber those who are centrist, conservative or libertarian. Progressives like to say that it doesn’t matter, or not much, because professors are so dedicated to teaching their subjects and research doesn’t show that many conservative students have their outlook altered by their college years. Taylor doesn’t accept that. It is bound to matter some, he argues. Conservative students aren’t often transformed into Social Justice Warriors, but leftist prof after prof must pull some in that direction. And students who are already inclined to favor socialism have their beliefs confirmed daily.

Another reason why this matters is that it affects who wants to go into the academic world. Non-leftist students who discover how hostile the academic world is to people who don’t accept the “progressive” worldview are driven away from teaching careers.

What can we do about this problem? Taylor offers several ideas:

First, academics, students, parents, and taxpayers should demand that colleges and universities be transparent about the subject matter that is taught. One way to do this, particularly at public institutions, is to make course syllabi publicly available.

Secondly, alumni should keep their alma maters accountable. An effective way to enforce accountability is by withholding donations from institutions that fail to uphold intellectual diversity. Donors can also direct how their funds are used,  instead of writing a blank check to a university.

A final possibility is to create separate conservative institutions, centers, or departments. Taylor referenced a recent National Affairs article by Fredrick Hess and Brenden Bell entitled An Ivory Tower of Our Own which makes the case for the creation of an alternative research university that can serve as an “incubator” of conservative ideas.

Watkins sums up: “Taylor’s account of the status of campus conservatives, although sobering, serves a much-needed purpose: it shines a light on academia’s entrenched bias. Unless that bias is remedied with a healthy competition of viewpoints, colleges and universities will continue to stray from their central mission of truth-seeking.”

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

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