The Liberalism of Academia

I still remember the comment my teacher wrote on one of my journal responses in junior year (HS) English, on the liberal slant in academia (a response to an Economist article), “But could it also be that more intelligent people are more likely to be liberal?” This struck me the wrong way at the time, but to temper the question down a bit we could ask whether liberals are more likely to have that “academic curiosity” or whether mostly-liberal-academics have created academia in their own image. After all, there are different academic cultures: see that of Mainland China (and possibly other East Asian countries), where the student-teacher relationship is much more hierarchical and derivative than the more egalitarian one here.

The NYT covered the work of two academics who would probably lean towards the latter. They argue that the profession is just typecast as a liberal one, just as nurses are typecast as a women’s profession, but they also make a good point about other factors that might perpetuate the liberalism among academics.

“Nearly half of the political lopsidedness in academia can be traced to four characteristics that liberals in general, and professors in particular, share: advanced degrees; a nonconservative religious theology (which includes liberal Protestants and Jews, and the nonreligious); an expressed tolerance for controversial ideas; and a disparity between education and income.

The mismatch between schooling and salary complements a theory that the Harvard professor Louis Menand raises in his new book “The Marketplace of Ideas.” He argues that the way higher education was structured by progressive reformers in the late 19th century is partly responsible for the political uniformity of today. In the view of the early reformers, the only way to ensure that quality, rather than profit, would be rewarded was to protect the profession from outside competition. The tradeoff for lower salaries was control; professors decide who gets to enter their profession and who doesn’t.” NYT

p.s. I voted so you can’t blame this sbrown thing on me

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