Tuesday, September 17, 2002

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TIRED OLD SCHTICK: John Leo argues that political correctness has overwhelmed our cherished universities. He cites an American Enterprise study revealing the overwhelming pro-left bias of most professors at elite institutions. So far, a reasonably accurate depiction. Then Leo goes overboard with the following:

"Graduate students who want to become academics know they can't rise within the system unless they display liberal views. Professors know they are unlikely to get hired or promoted unless they embrace the expected package of campus isms–radical feminism, multiculturalism, postmodernism, identity politics, gender politics, and deconstruction. Remaining conservatives and moderates can survive if they keep their heads down and their mouths shut. Dissent from campus orthodoxy is risky. A single expressed doubt about affirmative action or a kind word about school vouchers may be enough to derail a career."

Look, I'm a Republican academic, and I previously taught at the University of Colorado at Boulder, which Leo claims is one of the most ideologically skewed campuses in America. I should be sympathetic to Leo's sort of posturing. But give me a break. Yes, there's some silliness in the ivory tower, but it's hardly the Stalinist world Leo depicts. Citing the extreme cases and then labeling them as typical is a favorite tactic of the very P.C. crowd Leo despises, but he's doing the same thing. I've spent a disturbing number of years on a variety of college campuses. Are academics generally a liberal bunch? God, yes. Have I ever seen a situation when those politics actually led to the kind of discrimination Leo alleges? Never. Personally, I have never felt the sort of coercive pressure Leo claims exists for academics to conform to politically correct views.

A more interesting question is whether what academics say really matters anymore. The proliferation of DC think tanks has made it possible for Ph.D.'s interested in public affairs to bypass the academy altogether. Given the large number of conservative think tanks, my suspicion is that conservative scholars, like good conservatives, are simply following market incentives rather than fleeing leftist persecution.

P.S.: I'm not saying that there aren't examples of conservative or outspoken academics that have been persecuted by P.C. groups (Click here for InstaPundit's take). I am saying that the sort of systematic conspiracy that Leo and American Enterprise are peddling simply doesn't exist. Trust me -- academics just aren't that organized.

posted by Dan on 09.17.02 at 11:26 AM