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Why Colleges and Universities Are Usually Filled With Liberals

I worked at a major research university for three decades and had wide exposure to many of its operations.

Are Colleges and Universities Really Run by Liberals?

Listen to almost any conservative pundit or watch Fox News or any one of the other conspiratorial networks and you will hear a charge repeated ad nauseam.

Higher education is run by Marxist-teaching liberals

In fact, conservatives are apoplectic over what's taught in our colleges and universities. It's as if every teacher spends his or her time indoctrinating students in liberalism. That's why, obviously, so many students emerge and vote for Democrats.

But is this charge true? Are our colleges and universities teaching politics? Is every class teaching Marxist ideology? And why are so many university professors liberal? Is there a vast conspiracy against conservatives?

Let's take a look at the real reasons so many faculty members seem to be liberal in our colleges and universities.

Johns Hopkins (CC-BY)

Johns Hopkins (CC-BY)

College and University Life is the Antithesis of Conservative

Conservatives make all kinds of accusations about how colleges and universities work. Unfortunately, they tend to do so without any understanding about how what really happens there or why.

The people who populate a college or university are mostly a product of the environment. This is similar to people who populate a church or populate a Wall St. firm.

Those who populate a church are almost entirely Christians because that's the nature of the environment. People who work at a Wall St. brokerage firm tend to all support lower capital gains taxes. Therefore, most of them tend to vote Republican. Why? Because Republicans tend to support lower capital gains taxes. There are many more examples. However, it seems silly to run through them all. The relationship between cause and effect should be obvious.

Those who work at colleges and universities tend to be liberal because that's the nature of the environment. Contrary to accusations, there is no conspiracy to keep conservatives out. Simply put, the environment does not attract conservatives. The environment attracts liberals.

Duke University (CC-BY)

Duke University (CC-BY)

What is the Environment of a College or University?

There's a reason conservatives are called conservatives. It's not because they want to conserve energy. It's because they want to conserve tradition. If conservatives are the opposite of progressives, it's because one group wants change and the other does not. This is not absolute, of course. However, it's fair to say that one invites change while the other does not. Or perhaps, it's the speed of change that is the root of their political disagreements. Nevertheless, conservatives have traditionally existed to maintain the status quo.

The environment of a college or the university, while steeped in tradition, promotes change. It promotes educational diversity. Scientific inquiry is a foundational principle of learning. Therefore, it's a foundational principal of most colleges and universities.

Rigorous scientific inquiry is also a fundamental principle in higher education. Regardless of any accusations, our colleges and universities are responsible for a huge amount of the scientific advancement in this country in virtually all subjects. Many of these projects rely on government grants for funding, so that relationship between universities and the federal government creates certain philosophical underpinnings. Bottom line though, higher education reveres science and its methods.

Conservatives have increasingly belittled science and questioned basic scientific principles. It's hard to teach science if you don't believe in its rigors.

The Political Perspective of Teachers

If we believe the thesis that environment creates political belief, it's important to understand how many teachers live their lives in higher education.

Many conservatives like to accuse teachers of living the high life, making a huge salary, and working only nine months of the year, if that. Unfortunately, that's a conservative fantasy and projection of their own values.

While tenured faculty make good salaries, important things happen when they're not teaching. They're either researching or writing. Certainly, there are sabbaticals, but most faculty members I know spend those sabbaticals writing and researching new books.

What most conservatives don't seem to understand is the existence of a massive underclass in higher education. Many, if not most, classes are taught by teaching assistants, GPTI's, and adjunct faculty who barely make more than minimum wage. They are definitely not living the high life. In fact, tenure has become a very difficult thing to achieve. It takes many years.

What I'm saying is that in order to be a teacher, those who teach must sacrifice. It is not an affluent life. As we know, the poor rely on government more than those who are rich. This relationship helps form the political beliefs of many of those who are in education.

In a nutshell, the rich tend to favor conservatism while the poor favor liberalism. Of course, there are other reasons, but that generalization helps explain why the environment attracts the people it does.

Business Students vs. Everyone Else

There are definitely conservative parts of most colleges and universities. It's called Business School. There's much less exposure in Business School to new subject matter than in social studies. In Business School, you can take some of these classes as electives, but you can easily avoid them as well. You can take accounting and calculus and stay there. The world needs accountants and stock brokers and businesspeople.

Of course, there are liberals in most business schools, but if you could look at the political affiliations of both students and faculty, you'd find more conservatives in the Business School. That's certainly not because there's a political requirement for being in Business School. It's simply because the environment attracts them and appeals to their interests.

Columbia University (CC-BY)

Columbia University (CC-BY)

Is The Communist Manifesto Really Taught?

What do conservatives mean when they accuse higher education of teaching Marxism? Does that mean that schools have students read The Communist Manifesto? Or does it just mean that higher education teaches the principles of Marxism?

There are certain classes where The Communist Manifesto is required reading. Those classes include things like 19th Century European History and Political Philosophy. Of course, it's also true that Mein Kampf is taught in German history classes, but that doesn't mean higher education is training students to be Nazis. It's a ridiculous assertion to make that The Communist Manifesto is taught in classes where it's not relevant. It doesn't happen. If a student takes a course where it's relevant, they might encounter Marx. If not, they won't.

So what conservatives are really charging is that higher education is indoctrinating students in Marxist philosophy. This is also false. It just doesn't happen. The teaching of Marxist philosophy happens in classes about Marxist philosophy. This class is taught at most colleges and universities because it's relevant to historical developments including the formation of the Third Reich and Communism, among others.

Political Issues that Address a Political Divide in Higher Education

The following political issues directly address why conservatives tend to voluntarily avoid higher education. And if they aren't voluntarily avoiding it, the following issues explain why the values expressed and practiced in higher education tend to attract those with similar values. These tend not to be conservative values.

Climate Change

When conservatives talk about higher education discriminating against them, this one issue always comes to mind. The causes and effects of climate change are widely accepted in higher education. The vast majority of scientists agree that the earth is becoming warmer due to man-made increases of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. There is overwhelming scientific evidence to back this up. It is simply a fact that increased amounts of trapped carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increase the surface temperature due to the greenhouse effect. This is basic science.

Somebody with a conservative political agenda cannot possibly work in a scientific field if they don't acknowledge the basic science behind global warming. It's that simple. So, to say that the conservative view of global warming deserves equal treatment in an academic setting is fundamentally false. The political position that global warming is a hoax is not based on a basic understanding of science and scientific inquiry. If you asserted that position during an interview for any position in atmospheric science, the department would never hire you. That's one simply reason there are few conservatives in these positions.

There are people in the world (many, actually) who believe the world is flat. I would assert this disqualifies you from teaching anything in higher education.

Socialism

I've never seen, heard, or been present where any teacher in higher education advocated for Socialism. However, there is a basic value proposition in higher education that relies on government assistance more than say, working as a plumber's apprentice or going directly into business or working on Wall Street as a stock broker. Because of the cost of higher education, the vast majority of students rely on government assistance to attend. Given that this establishes an important role for the government in their lives, it's no wonder that many students view government as a force of good.

Religion

Conservatives are almost overwhelmingly Christian. White Anglo Saxon Protestants (W.A.S.P) form a huge part of the conservative base. Further, this base generally positions itself in opposition to other religions. Conservatives believe that Christianity is the best religion in the world. Other religions believe the same thing. Higher education is a place to learn about other religions. In fact, it's often a place where students are exposed to other religions for the first time in their lives. This exposure, by its very nature, creates doubt about the superiority of Christianity. It's not that other religions are taught as being superior to Christianity. It's that teachers teach them without bias, so they are equal. This very equality is objectionable to most conservatives. That the learning itself creates doubt is wrong, so they, sometimes without knowing it, oppose learning about other religions.

Diversity

Similar to religion, teachers expose students to many new subjects. By the very nature of teaching these subjects, those subjects are elevated in importance. Conservatives tend to oppose this sort of thing. For instance, teaching African-American Studies or Women's Studies or Native American Studies, by definition, elevates those disciplines. By teaching those perspectives as they apply to American history, teachers elevate those perspectives. Conservatives hate such things. For instance, teaching the Native American perspective of American history introduces a negative. In other words, by looking at different experiences, the "conquest" of the Americas just wasn't great for everyone.

Conservatives have labeled such perspectives anti-American. Once again, the traditional view of American history must be maintained. To teach the negatives is damaging. Conservatives rail against such things. However, teaching different experience isn't inherently negative, though it can obviously introduce a new element to American history some students haven't heard before.

Wait, Aren't There Conservative Colleges?

Of course there are. Not surprisingly, many of them are religious schools. This directly supports the point I am making. Religious schools have doctrines and they rarely teach subjects opposed to that doctrine. Here's a list of ten conservative schools:

  1. Hillsdale College
  2. Grove City College
  3. Biola University
  4. University of Dallas
  5. Liberty University
  6. College of the Ozarks
  7. Houston Baptist University
  8. Regent University
  9. BYU
  10. Pepperdine University

A Basic Primer on Global Warming

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 crankalicious

Comments

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on September 08, 2020:

Looks pretty accurate to me. thanks for the article.

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