Professor is a left-leaning label

Why are professors so likely to be liberal? It’s the stereotype, say sociologists Neil Gross and Ethan Fosse. Just as men see nursing as a women’s profession, conservatives see academia as a liberal’s profession and make other choices.

Journalism, art, fashion, social work and therapy are dominated by liberals; while law enforcement, farming, dentistry, medicine and the military attract more conservatives.

. . . The academic profession “has acquired such a strong reputation for liberalism and secularism that over the last 35 years few politically or religiously conservative students, but many liberal and secular ones, have formed the aspiration to become professors,” they write in the paper, “Why Are Professors Liberal?” That is especially true of their own field, sociology, which has become associated with “the study of race, class and gender inequality — a set of concerns especially important to liberals.”

When tenured professors hire new faculty, they favor those with similar viewpoints and values.

About Joanne

Comments

  1. I foresee this theory becoming very popular in academia because it allows them to wash their hands of ideological gatekeeping and the lack of ideological diversity. Both of which are the problems of established professors who pick the new faculty and not conservative outsiders.

  2. > When tenured professors hire new faculty, they favor those with similar viewpoints and values.

    This is exactly the opposite of what Gross and Fosse say, and not supported by the evidence. Indeed, Gross and Fosse give some *very* good reasons to believe that this is false.

    Additionally (as this item seems to prove), as I’ve often said, “facts lean left.” People who base their political views on the evidence, on the facts, on reality, tend to lean left. People who deny or ignore reality – as tyou do with that comment – tend to lean right.

    There’s plenty of evidence for this assertion, but of course, you’ll ignore it.

  3. Conservatives tend to be more pragmatic. My DH would love to be a history professor but the idea of spending several years making only a grad student’s stipend only to face slim odds of landing a tenure-track position after graduation is not one he finds appealing. So he instead he got an MBA and now makes good money in the financial services industry.

  4. “Additionally (as this item seems to prove), as I’ve often said, “facts lean left.” People who base their political views on the evidence, on the facts, on reality, tend to lean left. People who deny or ignore reality – as tyou do with that comment – tend to lean right.”

    Absolute, unadulterated nonsense, Stephen. There are individuals who do great science, i.e., rely on facts and evidence, who lean to the right and others who lean to the left.

  5. The facts lean the way the facts lean. All sides (republican, democrat, libertarian, green, nazi, communist) will try to spin them to their own ends. Anyone who believes the facts support a particular political ideology is just playing games.

    By the way, just how does anyone know enough to presume to state that “the facts” lean one way or another? Individual humans are incapable of knowing that much.

  6. Now this is an interesting discussion! I would agree with Quincy that facts are facts and that people will try to spin them to fit their own agenda. Often this means that people will argue a position by only including data that supports their position but intentionally (or even subconsciously) leave out data that goes against their position. Republicans may have gotten tarred with this reputation since the Iraq war debacle (the whole infamous dismissal of those in the “reality based community” and all of that). However, a lot of different people do this kind of thing.

  7. Mike Curtis says:

    Facts lean right; feelings lean left.

  8. > “Additionally (as this item seems to prove), as I’ve often said, “facts lean left.”

    It’s amazing that a single item could “prove” so much.

    No wonder left-leaning facts are so prevalent. They can be generated so much more easily.

  9. John Drake says:

    Why doesn’t Downes Syndrome go away?

  10. Finally had a chance to read the entire article, and the situation is not as cut and dry as Stephen makes it out to be.

    He says:

    When tenured professors hire new faculty, they favor those with similar viewpoints and values.

    This is exactly the opposite of what Gross and Fosse say, and not supported by the evidence. Indeed, Gross and Fosse give some *very* good reasons to believe that this is false.

    First, the authors ruled out “intentional” discrimination. They did *not* rule out unintentional discrimination. In fact, their assertion that the academic profession has been typecast aligns fairly well with the belief that conservatives not only self-select away from academia, but are also pushed away by incumbents because they don’t fit the image.

    Second, because “advanced degrees” and “disparity between education and income” are two of the criteria that the authors believe account for political beliefs, they are leaving unaddressed a positive feedback loop that reinforces the leftist bent of academia.

    Third, the authors’ assertion that leftists have “an expressed tolerance for controversial ideas” is a conceit of questionable truth. The ideas normally labeled controversial by academics are controversial to society at large. Among leftist academics, they are a form of orthodoxy. Because of this, I’ve found leftist academics to have the least tolerance of ideas controversial *to them*, as opposed to society at large.

    Additionally (as this item seems to prove), as I’ve often said, “facts lean left.” People who base their political views on the evidence, on the facts, on reality, tend to lean left. People who deny or ignore reality – as tyou do with that comment – tend to lean right.

    As stated earlier, the facts are the facts. Each and every one of us has incomplete information upon which to base our beliefs. To assert that when one bases their political beliefs on facts and reality one comes out a leftist is pure sophistry. Besides, such an assertion is impossible to prove because such a proof would require all the facts in the universe to be known and for the sum of those facts to point to the political left. Limited human intelligence precludes such a proof.

    That said, it is an assertion easily disproven. Let us look at two people who base their political beliefs on the facts they know:

    Person A is an academic who has lived all his life in the US. He has studied history, and his understanding of the history of capitalism is augmented by his personal observations growing up as the child of a poor family. Based on his knowledge of “the facts”, he concludes that a communist system is the best form of government and actively works towards that goal.

    Person B is an immigrant who grew up in the USSR. She has also studied history, but her understanding of the history of communism is augmented by her personal observations of the communist system. Based on her knowledge of “the facts”, she believes that a libertarian capitalist system is the best form of government, and actively works to counter Person A.

    Two people, each evaluating reality based on the information they have and drawing conclusions from those evaluations. One leans left. The other leans right. Both go through the same thought process, accepting all the facts and the reality as they are able to perceive it, yet come to wildly different conclusions.

    If the facts leaned left, then Person B could not exist. The facts, leaning left, would have forced her to a left-leaning conclusion despite her personal experience with communism growing up. But, Person B does exist. She’s a coworker of mine. Person A also exists. He’s a friend of mine.

    In fairness, the analysis above omits from the assertion the weasel words “tends to”. The weasel words would allow Stephen to reply that all counter-examples were “exceptions”. Besides, the base assertion that “the facts lean left” is stated without weasel words, so I believe it fair that the clarification to it be judged with the same amount of clarity.

    There’s plenty of evidence for this assertion, but of course, you’ll ignore it.

    The fact that there is plenty of evidence to support the assertion is irrelevant because the assertion is readily disproven. I can equally well assert that there is plenty of evidence for the assertion that “the facts lean right”. However, that is also readily disproven.

    The true statement here is that a subset of the facts lean left, and those who use that subset as a grounding for their political beliefs will lean left. Another true statement is that a subset of the facts lean right, and those who use that subset as a grounding for their political beliefs will lean right. A third true statement is that those who deny the subset of facts that lean left will lean right. A fourth true statement is those who deny the subset of facts that lean right will lean left.

    I’ll admit that that was a lot of words to back up the idea that the facts are the facts, but it cripples the search for truth when any side claims to have a monopoly on rationality.

  11. Richard Aubrey says:

    “…but it cripples the search for truth when any side claims to have a monopoly on rationality.”
    Which is exactly the objective.

  12. “Facts do not speak for themselves. They speak for or against competing theories. Facts divorced from theories or visions are mere isolated curiosities.”

    – Thomas Sowell

Trackbacks

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by kriley19, JoanneLeeJacobs. JoanneLeeJacobs said: Professor is a left-leaning label: http://www.joannejacobs.com/2010/01/professor-is-a-left-leaning-label/ […]