Political Bias on Campus

Schools, colleges and universities have to a large extent become politically left-leaning intellectual mono-cultures. After decades of politically biased faculty hiring, especially in the social and liberal arts disciplines, conservative and libertarian scholars and ideas have been almost completely displaced from many campuses. The result is that students very often receive a biased and one-sided education that negatively affects their ability to function in the real world.

Despite claims and celebrations to the contrary, over the last decades college campuses have become ever less diverse. What were once institutions hosting intellectuals with a wide variety of opinions and ideas have deteriorated to intellectual mono-cultures. As an example, in many US colleges the percentage of faculty that is politically left-leaning is over 90%. As Mayor Bloomberg’s video below indicates, 96% of Harvard faculty donated to Barack Obama’s re-election campaign. 97% of the political donations made by Cornell faculty went to the Democratic party. Crowdpac’s scoring model shows that far more colleges lean left than lean right and that those that lean left do so far more radically than those that lean right. In other words, not only are most University faculties intellectual mono-cultures, they are, compared to the political center, radical political mono-cultures.

This intellectual uniformity among faculty can lead to conformity among students, both real and pretended. If faculty let their own political views influence the way they teach and grade and if most faculty have the same political views then this can have profound effects on the education of their students. If one hears one and only one idea over and over again, without ever hearing opposing view points, then the idea often becomes doctrine.

How did the leftist intellectual mono-culture at colleges evolve? How did it come about? The overarching reason is likely a strong bias in the selection and promotion of faculty. Faculty members are not not, as it is typically done in a business, hired by the management. Instead professors pick, promote and tenure their own colleagues. In such an environment the majority rules. If a group is inherently biased into selecting their “own kind”, then once the size of this group has reached 51% of the faculty, nobody else can get hired or promoted anymore. Soon close to 100% of the faculty are members of that group, in this case leftists. This process is sometimes called “The long march through the institutions” and the idea is to subvert a system, in this case the education system, from within. Instead of trying to tear down the walls of intellectual integrity, free thought and speech, leftist activists got their PhDs, entered the system, hired and promoted each other and have so succeeded in turning the political culture of the education system from diverse to uniform.

The goal of the campus left is not however to only take over the education system. Their goal is to change society. On powerful way of doing this is to indoctrinate their students with leftists ideology. This typically means to promote socialist ideas while drowning out capitalist ones, to hail big government while neglecting to point out that big government kills millions (WW1&2, Cultural Revolution, Great Leap forward, Bolivarian Revolution, etc.) and that most innovations and improvements of benefit to mankind were accomplished by private citizens in free societies. It involves the promotion of racial and other grievances while drowning out ideas about individual rights and personal responsibility. It also involves highlighting historically dark chapters. In the case of the US this typically means slavery in the case of Western Europe it means colonialism. At the same time it means neglecting to teach bright historical chapters, like the victory in WW2, the freeing of Eastern Europe from Soviet oppression, the liberation of Japan from its Emperor, the reformation and enlightenment, individual rights not subject to the whims of a king or queen, myriad of technical innovations of benefit to mankind such as the steam engine, the electric light, the transistor, the internet etc and scientific and cultural achievements from classical music and literature to space exploration and the successful eradication of once terminal diseases. It also includes romanticizing other cultures as if these don’t have dark chapters of their own.

In large part due to societal complacency this process has now come to its natural conclusion: many students have become even more left-leaning than their professors. It is quite something to see adult human beings getting offended by an opposing opinion and demanding from their professors and college administrators to be “protected” in “safe spaces”, given “trigger warnings” going as far as becoming physically violent in trying to shut down speech presenting ideas contrary to their own views. Other students may not lean left but feel they have no choice but to pretend they do in order to survive the name-calling, bias (including bad grades) and sometimes violence hurled against anyone who disagrees with leftist campus ideology.

How can this process be reversed? The problems with the subversion of the educational sector are deeply rooted and difficult to deal with. Issues include:

  • Politically biased hiring is hard to prove. While statistics may provide strong indications of biased hiring, in each individual case hiring faculty committees can always claim that a particular candidate was just better qualified than a politically more conservative applicant.
  • Teacher and faculty tenure makes it virtually impossible to fire faculty. Even absolutely appalling teachers often cannot be removed from their posts.
  • Partial or complete tax payer funding of educational institutions makes it hard for students/parents to act like customers in other segments of the economy where they can demand good service for the money they directly pay to a business or service provider. Even many private Universities in the US are in fact partially tax-payer funded.
  • Government guaranteed student loans encourage students to take out large loans to finance ever more expensive degrees that are sometimes not worth the money. Degrees that still pay are typically found in the medical, legal, financial, business, scientific and engineering fields. Degrees that, on average, don’t pay can often be found in arts and social fields and it is in these departments that colleges are often the most politically biased. It is very hard for example to find a sociology professor who is a Republican. Government-backed loans to pay for degrees provide financial resources for politically biased hiring shenanigans. Without such government backing students would (have to) chose degrees that correlate positively with their financial future which automatically leaves less room for departments to hire political activists into their faculty.
  • Very limited choice of schools in primary and secondary education, limited choice in tertiary education: Students are usually assigned to school districts and cannot easily ditch a bad school to go to a better one in a different district. School vouchers and charter schools are attempts to get around this problem, both are fought tooth and nail by left-leaning political organizations like the teachers unions and the NAACP. In the tertiary segment many state colleges in the US offer in-state residents tax payer subsidized tuition making the change to a different college harder. The problem is that parents/students pay for subsidies via their taxes and many cannot afford to pay on top of this to go to a school outside of the system they fund.
  • Political activism by professors/teachers: The teachers union in the US is one of the most active and powerful supporters of the Democratic Party in their fight against school choice and for other leftist causes. Being intertwined with the political system in this way makes student’s and parent’s fight for better schools and colleges extra difficult. Faculty in many colleges overwhelmingly donate to the political left and has often formed a close alliance with left-leaning forces in politics. Concentrated power usually wins over dispersed power.

Dealing with these issues requires fundamental reforms. It is not however that the required reforms are particularly hard to envision, the problem is to enact them against very powerful special interests, e.g. tenured faculty and their unions and political allies. Some politicians (often those leaning right) are working on promoting charter schools and school vouchers so as to promote choice and competition in the primary and secondary education segments. It may be possible to engage the education special interest lobby in the courts. This can depend however on political views of justices but victories are possible especially if legal challenges are well organized and funded. Technological innovations in the education sector may eventually do to the left-leaning education lobby what Uber, Lyft and similar companies did to Taxi cartels. Finally, if students get some idea how politically biased the education is that they often receive these days, then they can slowly but surely push back against conformity on campus. For USD 50,000 per year one should expect a diverse education where a multitude of ideas, opinions and views are fairly taught and discussed on their merit.

Further Reading & Viewing




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