Phi Beta Cons

A New Bias Analysis

Here is a piece in Frontpagemag.com by the authors of a forthcoming study on bias in the classroom. The evidence the authors gathered confirmed the presence of a decided leftward tilt on campus, but they advise caution regarding the bias actually indoctrinating the students in one direction. For one thing, most of the students tend to the left as well, and so they have no problem with the ideology of the professors. As for the conservative students, the authors found little evidence that they were victimized by the professors for their beliefs. Instead, they found another outcome, almost as distressing. They write:

Our findings indicate that the larger the student-instructor partisan divide, the less interest the student reports in the subject matter as a result of taking the course.  For those charged with introducing students to politics and government, this is an especially important finding. Political scientists have long argued that public disinterest has large and direct consequences for society. Whereas students often forget the facts and figures presented in their collegiate political science courses, a basic interest in government is something that can inspire life-long learning and civic participation. Professors should be concerned if overt expressions of their political views cause students to tune out or attempt to discredit course material, as our findings suggest.

This is the opposite of education. Students become estranged from the subject matter in the course. Given the poor state of civic and historical knowledge among young Americans, we should press for more studies on the actual learning outcomes of students in higher ed. This can work both ways, both in the alienation of conservative students from the materials essential to informed citizenship, and in the complacency of liberal students who aren’t exposed to materials that might broaden their horizons.

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