Of course academia is liberal; so what’s our response?

Last Sunday in the New York Times, Patricia Cohen discussed the liberal bias that exists in academia, especially among the social sciences. Specifically, Cohen considers a new explanation being put forth by social scientists Neil Gross and Ethan Fosse that suggests that the professor moniker carries similar pre-conceived notions, similar to how many think of the field of nursing or elementary teacher. The difference being, while most consider nursing and teaching to be feminine, the pursuit of professorship is inherently liberal. They term this phenomena “typecasting”, where because of certain “stereotypes” about professors, many would self-exclude themselves from the pursuit of advanced degrees in certain fields. So, just as many consider nursing to be a “women’s profession,” Gross and Fosse conclude that many consider academia to be a liberal’s profession.

What the authors describe may in fact reflect the attitude of many young people. What needs to be emphasized, however, is that the attitudes of young people about academia are true. They reflect a self fulfilling prophesy created by those who dominate the academy. In other words, we associate professors in the academy with liberalism because they are!!

My personal experience, while only anecdotal, is telling of the field of political science. Pursuit of an advanced degree in political science requires one to select a sub-field of specialization. In the past 50 years, a new subfield has been added to the list of options which once included American government, international relations and political theory. This new subfield is public policy.

The purpose of scholarship in this area is based on the idea that if crafters of public policy would approach their task in a more scientific and professional manner, government will be far more effective at solving problems. Of course, there is no argument that greater professionalism is a good thing.

The problem is the underlying premise behind this sub-field: government (especially the federal government) is the primary means of problem solving. The very existence of the subfield is based on the belief that societal problems demand a federal government solution. Any initiation of a conservative viewpoint (favoring private initiative, state and local governments and only as a last resort, the federal government), is largely ignored if not completely dismissed by most scholars in the field. By definition and design, the field of public policy is a liberal one in that it assumes that government is the essential actor in solving problems.

Gross and Fosse suggest that a liberal is drawn toward academia and the professorial life in the social sciences. What they are failing to give enough credit to is the fact that those who dictate admission and progression in the field have eliminated the conservative perspective.

One point of agreement: in the closing paragraph, Mr. Gross is quoted: “The irony is that the more conservatives complain about academia’s liberalism, the more likely it’s going to remain a bastion of liberalism.” The academy was not always dominated by liberals nor does it always need to be. While it is certainly not any easy proposition, conservatives must find ways to enter and engage the academic world. There is no chance of change happening overnight. Over time, it is possible for conservatives to slowly whittle away and begin the process of shifting the ideological direction.

Three of Colorado Christian University’s Strategic Objectives speak directly to this mission:

• Impact our culture in support of traditional family values, sanctity of life, compassion for the poor, Biblical view of human nature, limited government, personal freedom, free markets, natural law, original intent of the Constitution and Western civilization;

• Be seekers of truth;

• Debunk “spent ideas” and those who traffic in them;

Conservative Christians must take up this cause.

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