DATE: 12/11/2004 08:08:00 AM
More Condescension from the Left - Jonathan Chait tries to explain why universities don't hire Republicans in the Los Angeles Times. It's a piece that just cries out for a fisking. After all, it's a cold, rainy/icy day here in Maine and there's nothing else to do.
A few weeks ago, a pair of studies found that Democrats vastly outnumbered Republicans among professors at leading universities. Conservatives gleefully seized upon this to once again flagellate academia for its liberal bias.
Am I the only person who fails to understand why conservatives see this finding as vindication? After all, these studies show that some of the best-educated, most-informed people in the country overwhelmingly reject the GOP. Why is this seen as an indictment of academia, rather than as an indictment of the Republican Party?If we're so dumb, then why do we even bother complaining? I mean, if conservatives are poorly-educated and among the least-informed peole in the country, then why do we even consider this an issue? If we were as dumb as Chait thinks we are, there wouldn't be conservatives looking to attend or teach at colleges. But, blast it all, conservatives actually do attend college, thus ruining the liberal party and disproving Chait's first assumption. Next!
Conservatives have a ready answer. The only reason faculties lean so far to the left is that deans, administrators and entire university cultures systematically discriminate against conservatives.
They don't, however, have much evidence to back this up.Other than, of course, the hundreds of thousands of us conservatives that have attended college and been harassed by liberal professors, conservative professors being denied tenure, liberals stealing conservative publications on campuses and going unpunished. I could go on, but Chait is so laughably wrong here that it's not necessary.
Mostly, they assume that the leftward tilt is prima facie evidence of anti-conservative discrimination. (Yet, when liberals hold up minority underrepresentation at some institutions as proof of discrimination, conservatives are justifiably skeptical.)Oh, so now it's okay to be 'justifiably' skeptical about claims of bias by minorities, whereas before it was considered racism to even suggest there wasn't bias. And who once charged racism? Liberals like Chait, of course.
Conservative pundit George Will recently tied the dearth of conservative professors to the quasi-Marxist outlook in African American studies, women's studies and cultural studies. And at many campuses, those departments certainly don't amount to much more than left-wing propaganda factoriesSo, um, why do they exist? Because college administrators, who are overwhelmingly liberal, don't mind having such 'left-wing propaganda factories' in their schools. Plus, the classics are full of books by dead white guys, oppressors all.
It's also true that radical multiculturalist theory - which sees white male oppression as the key to everything - has taken root in plenty of more mainstream disciplines.Hate to tell you this, Jon, but that theory has taken root in the Democratic party as well. After all, the reason we don't have good vote reform is because every time Republicans suggest common-sense approaches to the question, like making ID mandatory or purging voter rolls, liberals cream that all we want to do is oppress minority voters.
This no doubt makes things hard on prospective conservative academics, not to mention mainstream liberal ones. A historian I know (a liberal) used to complain that history departments showed little interest in the traditional research he did, only caring about subjects like 'buggery in the British navy.'While in college, I took an American history class where the professor taught history from the 1800s to the present entirely from the perspective of minorities. That wouldn't be terrible, if I had signed up to take a class like that. But this wasn't an elective. It was the required history of the United States all first-year students had to take. I often disagreed with the professor and got "C's" on all of my papers. I don't say this to brag, but in most all of my other classes, my average grade on a paper was "A-." I learned too late that to disagree with this professor meant a bad grade in the course.
But the rise of fashionable left-wing scholarship can be blamed for only a tiny part of the GOP's problem. The studies showing that academics prefer Democrats to Republicans also show that this preference holds in hard sciences as well as social sciences. Are we to believe that higher education has fallen prey to trendy multiculturalist engineering, or that physics departments everywhere suppress conservative quantum theorists?Obviously, Mr. Chait has never read a junk science paper by a so-called "hard science" professor that tries to prove the latest screeching by extreme environmentalists is justified. Being a liberal, he's probably never sat in a science class and experienced the scorn that religious conservatives feel from hard science professors who shun the very idea of God being responsible for the creation of the world. No, there's no liberalism whatsoever in the sciences. Totally objective.
The main causes of the partisan disparity on campus have little to do with anything so nefarious as discrimination. First, Republicans don't particularly want to be professors. To go into academia - a highly competitive field that does not offer great riches - you have to believe that living the life of the mind is more valuable than making a Wall Street salary. On most issues that offer a choice between having more money in your pocket and having something else - a cleaner environment, universal health insurance, etc. - conservatives tend to prefer the money and liberals tend to prefer the something else. It's not so surprising that the same thinking would extend to career choices.Remember earlier, when Chait complained that conservatives don't have much evidence to prove that liberals control campuses? Here's where he proves that he's a true liberal - the rules he expects you to play by don't apply to him. He offers supposition after supposition in these paragraphs. After all, does he really need to offer evidence? Everyone knows Republicans love money and hate the environment and poor people. When it comes to the choice between money and helping someone in need, sign me up for the cash!
Second, professors don't particularly want to be Republicans. In recent years, and especially under George W. Bush, Republicans have cultivated anti-intellectualism. Remember how Bush in 2000 ridiculed Al Gore for using all them big numbers?Great line. The only problem is, it's not true. Bush ridiculed Gore because his math didn't add up. Gore thought he could provide tax cuts while paying for dozens of new programs. It didn't make sense, and Bush pointed that out. Cheap shot by Chait, but what else is new?
That's not just a campaign ploy. It's how Republicans govern these days. Last summer, my colleague Frank Foer wrote a cover story in the New Republic detailing the way the Bush administration had disdained the advice of experts. And not liberal experts, either. These were Republican-appointed wonks whose know-how on topics such as global warming, the national debt and occupying Iraq were systematically ignored. Bush prefers to follow his gut.Again, where's the evidence? That the Bush administration didn't do what the experts wanted him to do? That just can't be! Doing that would cause chaos! You can't ignore the experts and hope to survive as a country! Except, um, we have. And Bush was re-elected. Maybe the 'experts' aren't as smart as they think they are. Chait just can't face the fact that academics, even conservative ones, may be unnecessary to running the country.
In the world of academia, that's about the nastiest thing you can say about somebody. Bush's supporters consider it a compliment. "Republicans, from Reagan to Bush, admire leaders who are straight-talking men of faith. The Republican leader doesn't have to be book smart," wrote conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks a week before the election. "Democrats, on the other hand, are more apt to emphasize...being knowledgeable and thoughtful. They value leaders who see complexities, who possess the virtues of the well-educated."
It so happens that, in other columns, Brooks has blamed the dearth of conservative professors on ideological discrimination. In fact, the GOP is just being rejected by those who not only prefer their leaders to think complexly but are complex thinkers themselves. There's a problem with this picture, all right, but it doesn't lie with academia.Typical. It's not our fault. It's your fault for being stupid! You're too dumb to see how dumb you are! Chait ignores something I've seen quite a bit, having worked at a university.
Liberals make terrible leaders, and campuses are among the worst-run organizations in the world. Let me give you an example.
The university wanted to build an addition onto the chemistry building. Money was spent to bring in engineers and architects to draft plans. Things moved forward...until...someone noticed a problem. There was a tree in the way. More to the point, an elm. The elm was more dead than alive and held together with concrete (I'm not kidding - dutch elm disease had taken its toll) and wire. Students protested, the faculty senate protested, letters to the editor were written and rallies were organized. The university changed its plans, spent more money and re-did the plans.
The decision-making process at most universities can be paralyzed by the smallest of things. Like the, well, Democratic party, any special-interest group on campus (except conservatives, that is) can have a say in every decision made. It can take months to decide the smallest issue. Complex thinking may be great in theory, but it's terrible in reality. Think of President Clinton. One of the things former aides say most frustrated them about the president was his inability to make a decision. Ditto with Senator Kerry. Men who cannot make decisions make bad presidents, no matter how smart they are.
Chait has a problem with conservatives and the president. He's spent the past few months defending Bush-hatred and spreading crude stereotypes about those who disagree with him. Given his love of academia and the general low quality of his writing of late, maybe it's time for Chait to avail himself of an academic tradition and take a sabbatical.