Sunday, February 19, 2006

Rather than work on my essay for tomorrow and take home test for later this week,

I'll share with you excerpts from the Young Conservatives of Texas at UT-Austin professor watch list. One of my friends happened to have a copy, and I quickly scanned it for the sociology classes:

Intro to the Study of Society:
"[T]he readings postulate that economic and social forces 'determine' most people's position in the 'social hierarchy.'"

Race, Class, and Gender:
"If you believe in the American Dream and that the U.S. is a land of great opportunity, nothing in the readings from this class will confirm that belief."

Last night I watched a documentary on about bias in universities. It wasn't really about that, though; it was actually about free-speech issues. I get the feeling from the movie I didn't get all of the facts (and in one case, subsequent googling confirmed that I had not), but if what they were saying was true, then, well, I agree. But problems about free speech aren't just problems that conservative groups have on campus, so I don't see how this proves anything.

Anyway, the overall impression I get is that people want to go in to college and never have their assumptions questioned, never want to be forced to critically think about things.

Are there more liberals than conservatives in academia? Sure. Part of that, undoubtedly, is due to self-selection. Conservatives and liberals have different values (and I don't meant to place a judgement on the rightness or wrongness of these values at all). Conservatives are less likely to find it appealing to spend many years getting a PhD and then work for relatively low return. I've read that conservatives who get doctorates tend to go to work for government, think tanks, and industry. That's where the money is.

You could say that it's flat-out hiring bias, but that really can't explain why physicists and mathematicians tend to be more liberal as well. I mean, their research rarely has an explicitly partisan or political agenda. The differing values hypothesis fits more here, I believe.

So, Horowitz-ites out there, what to do about this imbalance, this "lack of intellectual diversity"? Affirmative action for conservative job candidates?

I think we can all agree that it's a problem when students are given lower grades because of their political beliefs. I, however, also think it's a problem when students can go through four years of undergraduate education and never hear anything that makes them question their political beliefs. They should be questioned. That goes for students on the left, on the right, and in the middle.

Those quotes up there, they sound like they're coming from people who came into a class with an idea of how the world should look, and think that it's a bias when those beliefs are challenged. You may be able to teach calculus without touching on the political at all, but sociology? The study of society is inherently political. The goal is to encourage debate and critical thinking on these issues. Not to go in and get your beliefs confirmed.

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