Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Viewpoint Diversity: Why Fight Hypocrisy With Hypocrisy?

I have had some trouble with the claim that the way to "solve" the problem of leftist bias at universities is to hire a lot of additional profs, all of whom are biased to the right. All that would do is validate the claim that bias is acceptable, and reduce education to a power struggle over whether the left or the right controlled the state legislature. Ick.

Stephen K has a long, interesting meditation (actually, he may be on medication!) about the problem, or nonproblem, of viewpoint diversity. Nicely done.

He also links this Mallard Fillmore cartoon:

Sure, I smile when I read it, and some people on the left do buy into a neo-Rousseauvian "secular religion," but...

I really don't think it is harder for a conservative professor to get tenure than a liberal one, in most disciplines. At most good universities, if you publish important work that gets noticed, and restrict your political jabber to the dinner table and your personal life, you will get tenure. It is too hard to find good scholars.

Now, it is certainly true that people on the right, as well as the left, find it convenient to play the victim of enormous shadowy forces (remember Hillary Clinton's "vast right wing conspiracy", when all that really happened is that her husband lied about a blow job?).

There is a growing tendency on the right to blame their own simple laziness, and an appalling dullness of the spirit, on a nonexistent leftist establishment. Lack of productivity is NOT a sign of profundity; neither is it evidence of a vast left-wing conspiracy.

So, sure, there is an embarrassing hypocrisy on the side of the left. They want to hire people who LOOK different, but who all think exactly the same. That's not diversity. But it is crazy to think enabling right-wing nutjobs to force students to parrot a DIFFERENT line of crap will make things better.


Dirty Davey said...

I've always thought that the biggest reason for the scarcity of "conservative professors" is the selection effect--it isn't that they're being kept out, but that they aren't as likely to take that career path.

A simple and snarky version would be to say that people who take income maximization seriously are not apt to end up in academia.

A relevant thought experiment: if you were to wander the halls of the American Enterprise Institute offering the scholars the opportunity to exchange their current posts for tenure-track positions (or tenured ones, depending on their seniority) at major research universities, how many of them would take you up on the offer?


Anonymous said...

As a former graduate student who was thought to be a right-winger due to my questioning the prevailing orthodoxy, I think it boils down to basic curiousity. It is not fun to be surronded by people who are convinced they are "correct" about everything. But it is absolute torture to be in a profession where curiosity is necessary to produce original thoughts and works, and where ones fellow students/ profs. view curiosity as threatening to the status quo (which is be definition correct, because everyone they know agrees with them).

Stephen said...

No medication, just not enough time to write a short meditation! Thanks for the kind words.

Anonymous said...

I always wondered why there are more conservative and libertarian think tanks than lefty think tanks and I realized that isn't true . . . lefties have think tanks, they're just called 'universities'.