The New York Times reports on a study that explains the reason so many academics are liberal is because . . . academics are typecast as being liberal?
The overwhelmingly liberal tilt of university professors has been explained by everything from outright bias to higher I.Q. scores. Now new research suggests that critics may have been asking the wrong question. Instead of looking at why most professors are liberal, they should ask why so many liberals and so few conservatives want to be professors.
A pair of sociologists think they may have an answer: typecasting. Conjure up the classic image of a humanities or social sciences professor, the fields where the imbalance is greatest: tweed jacket, pipe, nerdy, longwinded, secular and liberal. Even though that may be an outdated stereotype, it influences younger peoples ideas about what they want to be when they grow up . . . .
The academic profession has acquired such a strong reputation for liberalism and secularism that over the last 35 years few politically or religiously conservative students, but many liberal and secular ones, have formed the aspiration to become professors, they write in the paper, Why Are Professors Liberal? That is especially true of their own field, sociology, which has become associated with the study of race, class and gender inequality a set of concerns especially important to liberals.
To understand how a field gets typecast, one has to look at its history. From the early 1950s William F. Buckley Jr. and other founders of the modern conservative movement railed against academias liberal bias. Buckley even published a regular column, From the Academy, in the magazine he founded, The National Review.
Conservatives werent just expressing outrage, Mr. Gross said, they were also trying to build a conservative identity. They defined themselves in opposition to the New Deal liberals who occupied the establishments precincts. Hence Buckleys quip in the early 1960s: Id rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University.
In the 1960s college campuses, swelled by the large baby-boom generation, became a staging ground for radical leftist social and political movements, further moving the academy away from conservatism . . . .
To Mr. Gross, accusations by conservatives of bias and student brainwashing are self-defeating. The irony is that the more conservatives complain about academias liberalism, he said, the more likely its going to remain a bastion of liberalism.
Color me unconvinced: I know plenty of young, conservative academics who can’t find full-time employment as professors. I suspect it has more to do with the inability of right-leaning academics to gain tenure than it does with conservatives typecasting the profession as too liberal.