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Where Are The Conservative Professors?

As a college student, progressive ideology pervades all aspects of my life. Everywhere I turn there’s always more people preaching the gospel of feminist theory, advocating for socialism, or talking about fossil fuel divestment.

In this environment, it’s almost impossible to find anyone — students or professors — who admit they hold conservative views. To be public about those views could be equivalent to committing social or career suicide.

Which I find strange.  Isn’t one of the hallmarks of the college experience learning and debating with people whom you don’t agree with?

My college prides itself on diversity. Yet, our diversity statistics deftly conceal the fact that there is one type of diversity that we lack: political diversity.

At colleges around the nation, the progressive ideology reigns supreme. If progressivism is queen, then colleges around the nation are its throne. And in this regime where progressive ideologies are vaunted—particularly socially liberal ideas — the monarchy cannot tolerate conservative dissenters. Heretic! Woman hater! Cis-heterosexist, racist homophobe! The henchmen snarl.

This ideological homogenization of academe is extremely harmful to a well-rounded education and to students’ political growth. This must end.

Earlier this week, I wrapped up my fourth year of college. I spent two years at Cleveland State University, a large public institution, while I was technically a high-school student, and just finished my second year at Barnard College, a small private school in Manhattan. I’ve also taken classes at Columbia College, a class at the Columbia University graduate school for public affairs, and I have periodically audited a few classes at a local community college in Cleveland.

Never have I been taught by an openly conservative professor. (Or at least, one that I could tell was conservative.)

According to Nicholas Kristof, writing in the New York Times, studies have pegged the proportion of Republican professors in the humanities from roughly 6% to 11%. In some cases, he says, it’s even easier to find a Marxist than a Republican in the academe. In my experience, that’s true.

And I find this tragic. But why? I was raised with socially and economically leftist views; I’ve worked with nonprofits for a variety of causes including welfare, food stamps, gays, trans people, and the environment. I should be glad that I’m being taught by people who share my viewpoints, right? Wrong.

The fact that I have never been taught by an openly conservative professor means I have never had a professor that I don’t agree with. When I asked my friends, none of them could identify a time when they radically disagreed with a professor either.

Thus, we students are in a state of intellectual poverty — in such a dystopian college enclave that we’ve never been exposed to alternative ways of thinking.

The first problem with this is that it subordinates the political consciousness of students to homogenized groupthink. Professors are powerful; students look up to them. The opinions that a professor holds will inevitably be inculcated into his or her students.

Although professors are expected to be politically neutral in the classroom, in reality, few are. Most seem to be moderate or progressive, which is fine. I enjoy when professors bring their values and anecdotes to class; it’s easier to learn from a person when I know things about them. Otherwise, professors can seem cold and robotic, like a tape recorder.

I’m not advocating for ideology-free curriculum, but simply a professoriate with a multiplicity of views, so that students aren’t pushed too far into the maw of one ideology.

The failure of universities to employ openly conservative professors means that many students will rarely have a chance to face and debate opposing views. How does one skillfully defend their own views if they don’t know what the competition believes?

Another issue is that many people homogenize the political-right because they’ve had such limited exposure to it. If you’ve never met a conservative person, it’s easy to reduce them into a series of caricatures.

I should know; it wasn’t until recently that I realized that, despite what I was taught growing up, all conservatives do not hate all women, gays, racial minorities, or poor people. They simply use a different logic and draw on a different value system.

For most college students, this also renders them deprived of learning about the principles and  foundations of conservative thought.

For example, it is easy for a young progressive to reduce a conservative man who is against abortion into a common trope; “he hates women and doesn’t want them to have control over their bodies!” the liberal college student can say.

When in reality, the conservative man may not care about controlling women’s bodies at all. He may just be someone who despises the notion of an innocent baby being killed.

Can you really fight an ideology that you don’t understand the internal logic of?

Colleges educate the next generation of opinion leaders, politicians, and government officials. When students are inculcated into a progressive orthodoxy that neglects to teach the beliefs of the opposition, not only are students unable to fight it properly, but they’re also unable to realize that in some cases, the opposition might actually be worth listening to.

 

Toni Airaksinen is a rising Junior at Barnard College in New York. She currently serves as a Columnist for The Columbia Spectator and is interning this summer with the NYC nonprofit Hunger Free America. She tweets @Toni_Airaksinen

33 Comments

  1. Why would a professional academic, student or instructor, endure a hostile work environment?

    Author; investigate private colleges such as Hillsdale College or Liberty University.

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  3. Or perhaps conservatism is as absent as it is in academic settings because of how far removed from reality this political ideology is in 2016. It’s not merely an accident that, for example, such a high % of scientists identify as left-wingers to some degree or another.

    If a conservative ideology finds it’s way to an academic setting, then by all means, let it be expressed freely. But lets not fall down this irrational path of pretending that all political ideologies are equal. Give people the freedom to express their ideologies, but if those ideologies fail to withstand scrutiny within these academic settings, then call a spade a spade & move on. Treating political ideologies sensitively as we do now with religious beliefs isn’t just irresponsible, but it’s dangerous as well.

    • chris says

      This comment seems confused thinking – the ‘reality’ of 2016 in academia is one in which some ideas have an easier time than others. Some are actually treated as religious beliefs, or we wouldn’t see the cultural studies / pomo achieving such baroque levels of elaboration, upon such flimsy foundations, or the reproducibility crisis in social science. The people who have been calling them a spade – Sokal, and so on – have absolutely failed to stop them, and the campus politics we see are the result.

      It’s unfortunate that climate change scepticism, for instance, gets dragged under the banner of conservatism, just because it’s anti-academic-concensus, but my enemy’s enemy..

    • eich says

      “Can you really fight an ideology that you don’t understand the internal logic of?”

    • Yandoodan says

      You could not furnish a better illustration of what this author is discussing. You exclude an large range of inquiry and discussion by saying that you disagree with it and all smart people agree with you. No True Scotsman at its worst.

    • Your comment can only have been written from the perch of ideological purity. It’s the voice of the echo chamber.

      Sure on subjects such as climate change and evolution, the smug and popular saying “reality has a liberal bias” rings true. But when it comes to other issues like crime and punishment, the economy border controls and the veracity of the left’s claims with regards to inequality, racism and sexism; there’s still a debate to be had.

      In fact if one looks at the data on crime and the evidence with regards to why gender differences persist, it is the left who are far more likely to be denying science and data to protect their ideology.

  4. Ryuichi Maeda says

    Unfortunately, some of the positions that have somehow come to fall under the conservative label are ill-supported by evidence or argument. Evolution and climate change are both supported by an overwhelming scientific majority, and it just gives conservativism a bad reputation that people have somehow accepted this bizarre “I’m a conservative, so I guess I need to oppose climate change” way of thinking. As much as I think liberalism or progressivism or whatever you call it has become an embarrassing cartoon version of what those labels used to mean, the same has unfortunately become true of convervativism. I find it very hard to tell people that even though I lean conservative on many political and economic issues, I accept evolution and climate science, I don’t care who any consenting adult sleeps with or marries, and I don’t believe that the Bible should become an ammendment to the Constitution . But as soon as they hear the word conservative, the foam appears at the edges of the mouth. I guess I need to issue a trigger warning before using the word conservative.

  5. kachi says

    Abortion is a terrible example to demonstrate the conservative’s “different logic and draw on different values”…

    When the author says:
    “When in reality, the conservative man may not care about controlling women’s bodies at all. He may just be someone who despises the notion of an innocent baby being killed.”

    This is not demonstration of logic, this demonstrates emotion. Innocent baby being killed. This man feels bad about it. By opposing abortion he is imposing emotions and his moral values on others, and that imposition creeps onto the rights of others.

    Innocent baby being killed. Man feels bad. Does this man consider the hundreds and thousands of babies that die from poverty, malnutrition, inadequate healthcare? There is no logic here. We should not govern society based on feelings.

    I lean conservative on many political and economic issues. I support stricter (plus safer and smarter) immigration policies, conservative economic policies. I am not even American. Abortion, climate change and guns are non-issues to conservatives and liberals worldwide. The political platform has been hijacked entirely by moralists, lobbyists and religious entities.

    • Ardy says

      kachi: Far too late that emotional bird has flown. The world changed in the 70’s when universities started to attack our stoic philosophy that had supported us for so long. The idea that the emotions are of any value to logic is one of the great fallacies from the baby boomers. Now we have most political decisions (and many others) being based on emotions.

      Emotions have their place but it is NOT at the head of the table. It is at the bottom along with ego, selfishness and jealousy.

    • Yandoodan says

      ” Innocent baby being killed. This man feels bad about it.”

      This man? The author is a woman. Her bio at the base of the article clearly states this.

      And your “keep your hands off my body” argument is just as emotional as “killing innocent babies” (and a lot creepier). No point is criticizing your opposition for doing something you do as well. It makes you look like a putz. (I mean this in the spirit of friendly advice.)

      And opposition to “climate change” can have nothing to do with the science. Conservatives oppose an appointed UN council with enforcement powers (Obama’s “treaty with teeth”). They would oppose this regardless of the science. Instead, conservatives back technological solutions. It’s about political action, not science.

      Censorship by exclusion hurts leftists as well as conservatives. As long as you are totally ignorant of your opponent’s position you will be unable to advance meaningful arguments against it.

  6. I have had one professor that I knew was conservative. He taught one of my political science classes. But, it was obvious that he was conservative and many of his students gave him bad reviews, citing his conservatism as the very reason why they didn’t like him. He was already tenured, though, so I guess that wasn’t going to bother him much.

  7. Sorry guys, the young lady is completely right. I’m born and raised in New York City by liberals – couldn’t care less about controlling a woman’s body, and absolutely find abortion so bizarre, so irrational – just seldishness in disguise (barely): humans picking a date whereby one day it’s murder and the previous day it’s not. It’s humans at their most irrational. The only rational positin you could have on the topic would be to say abortion should be allowed any time of a pregnancy, but then of course it would revral its grotesque nature, so humans settle on this idea that they pick a libe in the sand where one day its a himan, amd the next day it’s night. Liberals are the fundamental definitin of irrational.

  8. The reasonable attitude re abortion is to accept that one is weighing the lesser of evils. If one is stridently against infanticide and also stridently in defense of a woman’s (euphemistic) “right to choose” then presumably one must be just as strident regarding the place in gestation wherein the one rule stops applying and the other one steps in. Otherwise one stridently contradicts oneself.

    • RS says

      Misty, for practical purposes we need to set a hard cutoff. But there is clearly a grey area here. So, to rework your point, one can logically be strident about a cutoff point being outside a certain “grey” range but not care much whether it is one day or the other within that range. Public policy is full of such “arbitrary” cutoffs— drinking, driving, voting, military service. Google continuum fallacy. That is the argument you are using, I think.

  9. Ardy says

    I wonder what would happen if a conservative government stated that all universities must have a politically balanced professorship. All hell would break loose but I would enjoy watching it.

  10. Yandoodan says

    Both Ms. Airaksinen and the commenters miss an important point. Knowledge increases, not just from debate, but from debate of a certain type — debate that attacks ideas. Attacking people for holding ideas doesn’t count. Only attacking ideas works.

    Knowledge advances by testing ideas, then using the tests to improve the better ones and toss the worse ones. This doesn’t happen when one side is excluded. It doesn’t matter which side. And in a university setting “side” can mean positivists vs. fallibilists, historic analysis vs. post-structuralism, string theorists vs hard science, etc. Censorship by exclusion is practiced in many such cases.

    It’s not that we need more conservatives. We need a marketplace of ideas with lots of choices. No one can improve their ideas if they are protected from challenge.

  11. allure says

    That points to a maybe unprecedented liberal dominance of culture. And politics downstream from culture (and education) and eventually the consensus turns into votes. Specially when the same dominance happens in arts, cinema, television…

    On the other side there seems to be a “positive” side-effect on the conservative (and libertarian) youth. They’re forged into intellectually hostile enviroment, from college to social media, they develop a thick skin, they debate all the time and they need to look deeper and for more independent sources.

    The liberal youth instead grow full of certainties and become very sensitive to different POVs, they’re outraged all the time and can’t deal well with dissent – culminating with the safe space culture.

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  13. It would have been nice if the author conveyed a deeper understanding of the issues facing liberalism and conservatism. Both social/political philosophies have been changing for decades (and some say, usurped by charlatans), if you study them from their inception. When one argues that we need to be challenged by a conservative viewpoint, what exactly does that mean these days? The fact that the author is not even willing give light to the fact that both of these ideologies have mutated over the years, renders this piece over simplified and quite frankly whiny. I can get that at The National Review. I was hoping for more here.

  14. If anyone ever wants to see climate change denial levels of myopia from liberals, just cite FBI crime statistics back to back with victim survey data, with regards to how it pertains to race. Now watch them twist and turn like a conga eel before calling you racist and ending the conversation.

    It’s stunning and predictable. Just introduce the cold hard facts, light the fuse and wait for the reality denial.

  15. Andrew097 says

    There is nothing more intolerant then liberal thinking, no desent allowed.

  16. There is social conservatism, and there is fiscal conservatism. We are in a time of rapid change, and liberation of many minority groups. What type of social conservative would we like to see teaching in the universities? One which champions slavery, or merely one which will tell the students that he wishes no gays were allowed on campus? The alternative to lockstep liberalism is certainly not “conservatism” which so often means blind adherence to tradition, and a refusal to offer any coherent logic or evidence.

  17. Santoculto says

    Spartans killed their defective babies too.
    Leftoidism is a implicit infanticide cult.

    A implicit death cult

    Give the freedom free of basic responsibility

    “die young”

    Gramscian logic

    “Teenagers supposedly no have the capacity of moral discernment of its attitudes, specially if they were blacks. But a children have full capacity of discernment to change its gender.”

    “Liberals” are not just this well intentioned Lisa Simpsons, pretend to be uber rational. On avg a lot of them are a disgusting combinations of this three traits: Narcissism, stupidity and moral deficit.

      • santoculto says

        Not so in ”these days”.

        Conservatives have one of this basic perceptual roots stuck in the ground of the nature, socially liberals have none. Liberals are metaphorically as uprooted trees, a nietzchian literalism or a death cult. a super-human alienation.

        Socially liberals tend have internalized that ”nature reality” is bad for them because many them ”know” or have the intimate impression that they are ”biologically inept”, it’s not exactly true.

        Many homossexuals for example know subconsciously that homossexuality CAN BE understood as ”abnormal” or ”unatural”, at least by human context. But many them, specially the lgbt groups, don’t want agree with those who they interpret as ”enemies of the cause” and they are partially correct about it.

        Even the most biblical of all conservatives still can ACCEPT some ”inconvenient” truths of the nature,but MOST of the post-modern gramcians simply can’t accept any of this BASIC/millenar ”common’ sense or popular ‘wisdom’.

        In other words, conservatives, the biblical to the skeptical or scientifical ones, tend to have at least the basic logic in their hands, even the idea of God is logic, the first correct perceptions of human mental perspective (the most balanced of all species), the idea of ”un-equality” or contrasts, what made our reality.

        Post-modern western-urban-liberals have none in this deeply rooted logical statements,

        They are absolutely inept SPECIALLY when they are placed in the functions where they are not very good.

  18. santoculto says

    You believe that ”moral deficits” is not real thing*

    • Liberals favor a minimal and cerebral definition of morality, along the lines of the golden rule and utilitarianism. It takes a conservative to hold fast to witch burning, ethnocentrism, or other “deep” and “natural” forms of mob rage. Where is the “logic” ?

      • santoculto says

        Most of ”liberals” DON’T KNOW what they are doing or thinking, the perfect definition of stupid.

        ”Golden rules” = euro-caucasian ethnocide*

        golden (((universal))) rules is incompatible with DOUBLE standard/hypocrisy.

        ”utilitarianism” = convenience**

        what is useful and what is not**

        well, capitalism also work like that… because is utilitarian.

        darwinian selection too, 😉

        a beautiful or a ugly apple*

        what is useful for you*

        Of course, the ugly prejudice,

        ”ALL conservatives are histerical pseudo-moralists.”

        ”Ethnocentrism” is the golden rule among humans.

        What you define ”ethnocentrism” is likely to be the (hipo)minimal control of territory and with a homogeneous cult-ure and subsequent mêlange of peoples, the evolution of MODERN states.

        You’re a favor of globalism** a world without borders**

        recognize human variations in temperament and phenotypical combinations = basic recognition of basic, very visible differences, logic patterns

        recognize gender enphasised bipolarity = basic recognition of basic and logic patterns.

        what ”liberals/GRAMSCIans” don’t recognize as a real.

        we have few certainties derived by ”common’ sense and most of gramscians threw out most of them.

  19. santoculto says

    ”Liberals” have some logic elements of course but regarding on demographic and anthrobiological sustentability they or you guys are rootless because you conclude that ALL or MOST ALL ”conservative” statements are wrong and specially the most relevant.

    Leftism gramscism is just the reverse mirror of ”rightism”, is not a synthesis, is just a antithesis.

    and i’m not self-labelled as conservative, to me, both sides are very stupid in their own way.

  20. santoculto says

    ”What you define ”ethnocentrism” is likely to be the (hipo)minimal control of territory and with a homogeneous cult-ure and subsequent mêlange of peoples, the evolution of MODERN states”

    Correcting

    you want hipo-minimal control of territory with a ”multi-fractioned” culture and subsequent mêlange of different peoples, the evolution of modern states.

    Is not*

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