Higher education has lost its identity at the moment. Rather than foster an environment where challenging ideas can be discussed and debated, it has bowed to the mob, allowing, and in some cases supporting students’ efforts to censor the viewpoints presented on campus.
In some ways, this trend toward political correctness is a predictable outgrowth of the increasingly singular ideological bent of its faculty. It can’t be a surprise that college is becoming an echo chamber when only one side of the debate is being given a voice.
Nicholas Kristoff, writing for the New York Times, paints the problem with some startling statistics:
Four studies found that the proportion of professors in the humanities who are Republicans ranges between 6 and 11 percent, and in the social sciences between 7 and 9 percent.
Conservatives can be spotted in the sciences and in economics, but they are virtually an endangered species in fields like anthropology, sociology, history and literature. One study found that only 2 percent of English professors are Republicans (although a large share are independents).
In contrast, some 18 percent of social scientists say they are Marxist. So it’s easier to find a Marxist in some disciplines than a Republican.
Sadly, the winnowing of conservative professors is not by chance or happenstance, but in many cases by active discrimination. Kristof cites several peer reviewed studies that found that social psychologists, anthropologists, English professors, and other academics said they would be less likely to support a job candidate if they knew they were conservative.
Ultimately, this is not a fight about fairness. It’s about the quality of the education being delivered at today’s institutions of higher learning. College’s were created not as lush, well-appointed four year camps to help young adults self actualize, they were founded as institutions to help prepare young adults for the world.
And the world, quite frankly, is a tough place.
It is filled with people who don’t look like us, think like us, or even believe in the same things as us. Not because those people are wrong, but because diversity—racial, ethnic, religious, and yes, ideological—is a fact of life. Are students ready for that upon graduation?
This world is also filled with jobs that don’t care (at least for very long) about what we think, what grades we received or whether our professors liked us. They want employees who can do the work and do it well. Are students prepared for a reality in which results matter?
To be clear, many students are ready. But for many others, higher education has failed them by not challenging them. And as a recent op-ed in Georgetown University’s student newspaper explains, that must change:
By failing to enshrine ideological diversity, Georgetown falters in some of the most fundamental promises of higher education. A robust exchange of ideas requires students and faculty to have the greatest possible variety of backgrounds, to expose ourselves to myriad viewpoints. Only by having our views challenged can we refine our own stances, learn how to best justify our arguments and hone our critical thinking abilities. …
The imbalance of ideological diversity in our faculty disadvantages students of all political persuasions: Liberal students fall into the trap of groupthink, while conservative students feel alienated by the absence of faculty supportive of their political ideals. Both sides lack an adequate model of reasonable, academic, respectful debate that professors often provide for their students, leading us to become more entrenched in our own ideas instead of learning how to disagree reasonably.
Given the politicization of college campuses, where once normal ideas are given a label as either conservative or liberal, it’s refreshing to hear a simple, commonsense request for respectful debate. Moreover, to realize that an honest academic debate requires two sides is slow and steady progress to a one-time norm. Perhaps the fever of political correctness is finally breaking.