We Didn’t Mean Intellectual Diversity!

Monday, October 15, AD 2012


Don’t you see the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the language of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible because there will be no words in which to express it.

George Orwell, 1984

You know that you are living in topsy-turvy times when the most close-minded institutions are colleges and universities which are purportedly dedicated to free inquiry.  A hilarious example of the type of brain-dead ideological conformity enforced at most laughably described “institutions of higher learning occurred last week:


Angela McCaskill was the first African-American woman to earn a Ph.D. at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., a school for the deaf and hard of hearing. She has now worked at Gallaudet for over 20 years, and in January 2011 she was named its chief diversity officer. Last year, she helped open a resource center for sexual minorities on campus. But she has now been placed on leave because of pressure from some students and faculty. Her job is on the line.

McCaskill’s sin? She was one of 200,000 people to sign a petition demanding a referendum on a law recognizing gay marriage, which was signed by Maryland’s Democratic governor, Martin O’Malley, in March. The referendum will be on the ballot next month, and the vote is expected to be close.


McCaskill’s signature became public when the Washington Blade posted a database online “outing” all those who had signed the petition. Even though her signature indicated only that she wanted the decision on gay marriage to be made by the people and not by the legislature and the governor, her critics declared that it demonstrated “bias.”


Gallaudet University’s president, T. Alan Hurwitz, announced that he was putting McCaskill on paid leave because “some feel it is inappropriate for an individual serving as chief diversity officer” to have signed such a petition. “I will use the extended time while she is on administrative leave to determine the appropriate next steps,” said Hurwitz, “taking into consideration the duties of this position at the university.” Just last year, Hurwitz had praised McCaskill as “a longtime devoted advocate of social justice and equity causes.” But she is apparently not allowed to have private political views.

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3 Responses to We Didn’t Mean Intellectual Diversity!

  • Those people make Medieval Inquisitors look like cub scouts.

    It seems they oppose the “consent of the governed.” Some of them call democracy the “dictatorship of the majority.” Thing is they aren’t content with disenfranchising (using the courts to enforce their unpopular agenda) but they those so evil as to disagree with them. Che, Lenin, Stalin, et al murdered them.

    By their actions they demonstrate their world-view that we the people are either too evil or too stupid to govern ourselves.

  • And folks laugh at me when I refuse to do phone surveys….

  • Direct quotes From the Catholic Catechism

    2425 The Church has rejected the totalitarian and atheistic ideologies associated in modem times with “communism” or “socialism.” She has likewise refused to accept, in the practice of “capitalism,” individualism and the absolute primacy of the law of the marketplace over human labor.[206] Regulating the economy solely by centralized planning perverts the basis of social bonds; regulating it solely by the law of the marketplace fails social justice, for “there are many human needs which cannot be satisfied by the market.”[207] Reasonable regulation of the marketplace and economic initiatives, in keeping with a just hierarchy of values and a view to the common good, is to be commended.

    2446 St. John Chrysostom vigorously recalls this: “Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive them of life. The goods we possess are not ours, but theirs.”[238] “The demands of justice must be satisfied first of all; that which is already due in justice is not to be offered as a gift of charity”:[239]
    When we attend to the needs of those in want, we give them what is theirs, not ours. More than performing works of mercy, we are paying a debt of justice.[240]

    2408 The seventh commandment forbids theft, that is, usurping another’s property against the reasonable will of the owner. There is no theft if consent can be presumed or if refusal is contrary to reason and the universal destination of goods. This is the case in obvious and urgent necessity when the only way to provide for immediate, essential needs (food, shelter, clothing . . .) is to put at one’s disposal and use the property of others.[190]

Academia and Lifestyle Bias

Wednesday, February 16, AD 2011

The other week Megan McArdle wrote a post about political bias in academia, inspired by this anecdote about psychologist Jonathan Haidt:

He polled his audience at the San Antonio Convention Center, starting by asking how many considered themselves politically liberal. A sea of hands appeared, and Dr. Haidt estimated that liberals made up 80 percent of the 1,000 psychologists in the ballroom. When he asked for centrists and libertarians, he spotted fewer than three dozen hands. And then, when he asked for conservatives, he counted a grand total of three.

“This is a statistically impossible lack of diversity,” Dr. Haidt concluded, noting polls showing that 40 percent of Americans are conservative and 20 percent are liberal.

This post generated a record number of comments, many of them explaining reasons why this disproportion among academics was the result of something other than academia being a hostile environment for conservatives, which McArdle summarizes in a followup post as follows:

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15 Responses to Academia and Lifestyle Bias

  • “One thing that was very, very clear to me, watching the friends I had who were in grad school or struggling to find tenure track positions, is that trying to make it in academia didn’t fit well with getting married and having children young.”

    What you say is even MORE true about would-be academics who are conservative and female. I self-selected myself right out of the academic career I thought I wanted because it was so obviously incompatible with the way I wanted to mother.

    I have at least one female friend (not politically conservative at all, btw) who manages the academia-family juggle pretty well, at least it looks that way from the outside. Her husband is in charge of a good-sized chunk of child care for their 2 kids. She does important work, research that is good for families, and has a good influence on the medical students she teaches. I tip my hat to her and truly admire her. But what she does doesn’t look easy at all, and I’m not sorry that I didn’t attempt such a challenging lifestyle. Especially since I have twice as many children as she does.

  • Why do we think that teaching is not a business? Does the efficiency and efficacy of an institution that seeks to make a profit while delivering the service people hire it for somehow destroy the teacher’s ability to teach or the student’s ability to learn?

    Perhaps if teaching was not so heavily subsidized by government, it would become a free market business and it would probably be cheaper, better and accessible to more people. Of course, that would probably mean that the diversity of ideas would explode and that may undermine the Leftist lock on academia.

  • I’m in academia, and your post is, unfortunately, correct. There are two things, however, to add:

    1). The vast, vast, vast majority of people, including those in academia, are not “political” or “ideological,” even across the varied definitions of the words. They just don’t care about politics, although they certainly do care about the economy and cultural trends (especially as parents). (Important exceptions can be made for the “tenured radicals” that stormed the academy from the late 60s to the gender and race battles of the early 90s.) Yet the currents of socialization are very powerful, which leads us to….

    2). The hyper-ideological, who are very active in academia (especially the “critical theory” types that have infected the humanities and cultural studies). All good and decent people are of the left! Aren’t you good and decent? Here is the “conspiracy” of academic life – less of an explicit closed door to conservatives/traditionalists (right-liberals are in fact represented), and more of a strong socialization that keeps the door actively shut.

  • If you want to see what the minds in higher education are thinking, see this ted video. The highlights are the sentence that Pres. Obama can’t do it alone and that we need to help him. And the “secular church” (actual quote) they are building. http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/liz_coleman_s_call_to_reinvent_liberal_arts_education.html

  • It’s important to note that the proportion of liberals in academia varies a lot by discipline. Here is a good paper with breakdowns by field and subfield. Haidt was talking to psychologists, who are as a group among the most liberal (according to the paper, around 17% of professors in the Social Scientists consider themselves Marxists!) If we are talking engineering or elementary education, it’s much more evenly divided.

    Most explanations for why professors tend to lean left apply to all professors regardless of field. This suggests either that there is something else going on (maybe there is another factor that is more present in some disciplines than others, or maybe there is a countervailing factor that offsets the other factors somewhat in certain fields).

  • I love it that academics think they’re not rigid or heirarchical. They’ll break you like a spirited horse, and make you follow every meticulous rule to guarantee that there’s no variety or dissention at all, and that’s just for a degree. To join their ranks, get tenure, or head a department you’ve got to lick shoes continuously. The entire experience is one of servitude to superiors and domination over novices.

  • They’re just peeved because she called them out on their biases, and they can’t hide it.

  • Most explanations for why professors tend to lean left apply to all professors regardless of field. This suggests either that there is something else going on (maybe there is another factor that is more present in some disciplines than others, or maybe there is a countervailing factor that offsets the other factors somewhat in certain fields).

    Fair point. (And I should probably caveat that my thinking on this is based on fields bridging between the Humanities and Social Sciences, which look to be the most heavily left-leaning.)

    Though it strikes me that there might be a sense in which the point I was raising might actually apply to different fields to different degrees: Skimming through that paper, it looks like the most heavily left-leaning fields are the ones where a credential would be the least useful in getting a job outside of Academia. Say you have a PhD in History, Classics or English. If you wash out in trying to get a tenure track position, will your academic credential and experience help you much in getting a private sector job? Not really.

    The most balanced fields politically look like they are ones where your credential might also qualify you for a non-academic job: Engineering, Business, Computer Science, Medical Science, Elementary Education

    To that extent, taking a run at getting into academia would still be hard on the lifestyle in the short term, but at least the long term risks are not as high.

    Also, Humanities and Social Science departments often have the greatest oversupply of candidates for available positions, so this might also both increase the lifestyle risk factor and give incumbents more room to discriminate based on worldview/culture/ideology.

  • As a broken-down old high school teacher I have always been Republican. When I was young I was faulted for that; now that I’m older and the old Dim ways are changing I am faulted for not being Republican enough. Sheesh. My daughter-the-psychologist is a Republican too, but takes care to hide it. I dunno what “academia” is, exactly, but my professors in undergrad and grad schools were usually quite conservative.

  • When I got my undergraduate degree in Education at the University of Illinois in the seventies, the Education faculty was skewed heavily to the Left. I do have to hand it to them that I still received good grades although I made no secret of my politics. (This included interrupting my educational methods professor when he was off on a political rant in class by telling him that he was preaching garbage, to the shock of my fellow students. The professor gave me an A anyway.) The law school professors were less political at the U of I, although we did have a few radical wackdoodles.

    I got the feeling when arguing with some of my professors that they hadn’t heard many conservative arguments, were unused to debating and really were just part of the great herd of independent minds and not doing much actual critical thinging on the issues, but simply going with a leftist flow.

    The area of my life in which I encountered the most free thinkers who didn’t engage routinely in groupthink, was ironically among my colleagues in the Army. It is a sad comment on our times when the military has more intellectual diversity than the academy.

  • Most of my professors (in physics) were/are centrists. I have met only a small handful that were truly conservative and a few that were truly liberal. I never engaged my other professors who were/are outside of physics in political conversations, but some I did have the feeling that they were fairly liberal (one professor was a former member of the Black Panther party!)

  • I’ve previously been active in a parish at one of the top public universities in the country, and I have some anecdotes about this.

    One includes a dept. head telling a fellow parishioner to his face that had he known my acquaintance was non-liberal/independent then he would’ve never voted for his tenure. Upon hearing this, the other academics present affirmed their knowledge of similar stories and examples. The person this happened to isn’t even slightly conservative. Another one about the same fellow: he’s a convert and when he was in RCIA & approaching Easter Vigil he mentioned his impending reception into the Church to someone in his dept who he knew was nominally Catholic for some reason; she said it would be best for him not to mention it to anyone else if he wanted to be on good terms with everyone and/or keep his job. Again, other academics present indicated this was par for the course. Welcome to the Politburo.

  • By “a fellow parishioner” I don’t mean the dept. head is also a parishioner (he isn’t!), I mean the fellow is my fellow parishioner.

  • The Achilles heel of the academy may well prove to be the inability of graduates to find jobs. As costs have risen insanely, there was always the expected payoff at graduation. But now that payoff seems less and less likely for graduates. Which will dissuade increasing numbers of students from enrolling in universities or at least the more expensive universities. Which will reduce revenues. And will require universities to compete for students on some other basis than arrogance. I see a day of reckoning arriving for bloated, tenured university faculties that may one day be starved of students and thus their fundamental reason to exist.

  • Family issues and children are also my first major explanation for the tilt of academia.

    Part of my genius plan to retake academia involves becoming very wealthy and then endowing family studies departments or chairs for Allan Carlson clones.

    But I wonder if this would work, given that most “family studies” scholars would still have to put off childrearing until their 30s.

    My second major explanation for academic bias: non-discrimination laws and policies have been so strictly applied that they have created a de facto ban on even the most liberal conservative thinkers, who tend to be more indifferent towards accusations of “sexism, racism, homophobia,” etc.

    Anti-discrimination, not simply non-discrimination, is the ordering principle of the modern university. This explains both the monopoly of thought in academia and also its activist character.