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Do Liberal Academics Make Students Liberal?:
Perhaps not. (Hat tip: Prawfs)

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Do Professors' Ideology Influences Their Students' Ideology:
  2. Do Liberal Academics Make Students Liberal?:
jim47:
Quite the converse, liberal students make liberal academics.

Most people who becomes academics have to endure many years of being surrounded by liberalism while getting post-graduate degrees, then decide they want to spend the rest of their lives in a political culture defined by precocious young liberals. It should be no surprise that more liberals survive that gauntlet than conservatives.
11.4.2008 3:03am
EIDE_Interface (mail):
No self-respecting conservative would be an academic surrounded by a sea of rabid liberal-zombie types. It's like "night of the living dead" every day on a university campus near you.
11.4.2008 4:43am
Hoosier:
EIDE_Interface:
As I made clear in a previous post, I am a former zombie decomissioner. Which is why the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy infiltrated me into the professoriate.

Think of my and my ilk as a sort of "sleeper cell." We're ready, should circumstances turn favorable.

Oh yes. We are ready.
11.4.2008 5:58am
PersonFromPorlock:
There is an aura of "nobody here but us chickens" about the cited studies but I'm willing enough to go along. Liberal professors do make for a liberal academy, though, and a liberal academy makes liberalism the more 'intellectually respectable' political fashion. It's a kind of celebrity product endorsement.

That the students don't learn to be liberal? Well, maybe that's just part of an overall failure to teach.
11.4.2008 6:11am
Guntram:
God forbid I ask this (I might be violating an unwritten rule of commenting on research), but are any of the three papers available on ssrn? I did a quick search but I couldn't find anything.
11.4.2008 6:20am
ScottB (mail):
I went to Berkeley without much in the way of political opinions beyond my parents' general conservative views, and came away a disgusted libertarian. I was in the hard sciences, but I still had enough exposure to the liberal orthodoxy that I decided that their only purpose was to produce more liberals. I'm not sure how I would have ended up without that exposure, but I certainly think it inoculated me against their views. I would never even consider being a professor there- I would have had to keep silent or lose my job.
11.4.2008 6:26am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Pretty much what my kids said. Grin, agree, regurgitate, forget it.

It's more serious to see what is not taught than what is taught wrongly.
No political or military history.... Makes it easier for people like Obama to fool you. You think this [whatever] is a neat new idea and that, now that we're smart enough to try it, finally, it will surely work.
11.4.2008 6:28am
M (mail):
To my mind the most surprising claim in the article was by "libertarian" Daniel Klein, economist at George Mason, who claimed that at universities today kids were not exposed to "good stuff" like, among others, John Stuart Mill. This is an amazing claim since it's so clearly false. Mill is a standard in pretty much any ethics class, most political philosophy classes, philosophy of law classes, lots of political science classes, more than a few history classes, some English classes, and even more than a few women's studies classes. It's so shockingly false that one can't help but wonder if professor Klein isn't perhaps the brave truth-teller he presents himself as but rather a partisan with an ax to grind.
11.4.2008 6:39am
J. Aldridge:
No, they are not likely to indoctrinate their students politically. However, they certainly do indoctrinate students into their world of liberal ill-founded (rubbish) interpretations' of law.
11.4.2008 6:54am
corneille1640 (mail):

I still had enough exposure to the liberal orthodoxy that I decided that their only purpose was to produce more liberals

They might have other purposes as well.
11.4.2008 6:58am
therut (mail):
Being a Chemistry and Math major and going to Medical School left me no time for liberal stupidity. Never even thought anything about politics, screaming, protesting and acting like a NUT. Never felt any professor deserved any title other than employed by me to teach and do the job I hired them for.
11.4.2008 7:23am
TA:
Do Liberal Academics Make Students Liberal?

They try, but mostly fail.
11.4.2008 7:29am
David M. Nieporent (www):
I would need to see the studies to evaluate them; one potential -- and I stress that it's only potential, since I haven't seen them -- problem is that the words "liberal," "moderate," and "conservative" are relative, and tend to mean something very different on a college campus than in the real world. People quite left-of-center relative to American politics think themselves moderate on college campuses because of the skew among the professors there.
11.4.2008 7:37am
The Mojo Bison (mail) (www):
Read the article and seems to me that it doesn't prove its point. Liberal professors apparently don't make students into liberals (or so clucks the Times); what about the proposition that liberal professors keep students from becoming conservatives?
11.4.2008 7:52am
hawkins:

Liberal professors apparently don't make students into liberals... what about the proposition that liberal professors keep students from becoming conservatives?


If they dont make them liberal nor let them become conservative, it seems we should be thanking the professors.
11.4.2008 8:11am
Matt_T:
My parents are lifelong Democrat moderates and even Bush hasn't been able to push them much further left. I went to college with a somewhat conservative bent that amounted basically to "Government, leave me alone" and innate disgust with the fawning marxists in academia. I came out with an even stronger libertarian inclination, having witnessed the thought/speech police at work and realizing that the right will try to impose an authoritarian system in an obvious way while the left will try to sneak it in under the radar in the guise of altrusim.
11.4.2008 8:48am
Wayne Jarvis:
The most important skill that can be taught in school is how to be a skeptic. As a conservative at a liberal college, you have plenty of opportunities to challenge your existing viewpoints. In some cases you might actually reject your existing views. In all cases you gain an understanding why other might disagree with them, which is in and of itself a valuable experience.

I have always felt that the liberal students are the ones getting short changed. You are not benefitting from education if your ideas are not even remotely challenged.
11.4.2008 8:55am
pauldom:
M:

To my mind the most surprising claim in the article was by "libertarian" Daniel Klein, economist at George Mason, who claimed that at universities today kids were not exposed to "good stuff" like, among others, John Stuart Mill. This is an amazing claim since it's so clearly false. Mill is a standard in pretty much any ethics class, most political philosophy classes, philosophy of law classes, lots of political science classes, more than a few history classes, some English classes, and even more than a few women's studies classes. It's so shockingly false that one can't help but wonder if professor Klein isn't perhaps the brave truth-teller he presents himself as but rather a partisan with an ax to grind.

K.C. Johnson is not much better, claiming that whole fields "from traditional literary analysis to political and military history" are not taught. I'm not sure what, precisely, Johnson means by that "traditional literary analysis," but I can say that my colleagues (conservative AND liberal) who teach literature, at my own university and others, primarily emphasize close reading and regularly lament that students don't do more of it. Even grad lit theory classes spend a lot of time on topics like "New Criticism." And if you google terms like "military history syllabus" you'll see that there are plenty such courses out there.

But then again, why let facts get in the way of a good polemic?
11.4.2008 9:02am
ASB (mail):
In college, nearly all of my professors were liberal. The students knew it. The professors knew that the students knew it. And I never had one that, knowing I was a libertarian, berated me, discounted my ideas, or tried to "convert" me. I thought that college was great, and I did well.

Then I get out, and started reading on my own, and found a whole lot of stuff I never knew was out there. Looking back, my econ 101 was entirely Keynesian. My honors "origin of the social sciences" class culminated with Hegel, Marx &Engels, but never once was von Mises mentioned. I read the Grapes of Wrath in lit. but not The Fountainhead.

The problem is not professors converting students, its students only getting one side to any story based on the curriculum and how the class is presented. There was never any hint of counterbalance. I still think i got a "good" education because it prepared me well for grad school, but it certainly wasn't complete in any sense.
11.4.2008 9:18am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
I googled "military history syllabus". Got two pages.
11.4.2008 9:22am
Accountant Ed (mail):
It's impressive that conservative VC commenters were bright and strong enough to resist the brainwashing at their respective universities, while those mindless liberals just fell into the professors' trap. Bravo, Conservatives! Now onward, to battle the daily onslaught from the Emm Ess Emm and, well, basic reality.
11.4.2008 9:24am
runape (mail):

It's so shockingly false that one can't help but wonder if professor Klein isn't perhaps the brave truth-teller he presents himself as but rather a partisan with an ax to grind.


Klein does indeed have an axe to grind. Krugman is among his preferred targets, as are Thaler and Sunstein, whom he accuses of being "anchored in the political status quo and their own commitments to certain ideological ideas and values" (the horror). Oddly, he also accuses Thaler and Sunstein of neglecting Mill, Smith, Hayek, Coase (!) and Friedman (!!), among others. Whatever one thinks of their contribution, the suggestion that they do not engage with those authors is demonstrably false.
11.4.2008 9:25am
Hoosier:
I don't think that they are very succesful at "converting" students at institutions that lack a leftist student culture, or where it is at least not the only game in town. So "progressive" liberal arts colleges probably see more of this than do big state universities. I.e., probably more radicalization of students at Oberlin and Reed than at Illinois or Case Western.

Much seems to depend upon whether faculty predilections are or are not reinforced in the dorms and dining halls.
11.4.2008 9:34am
pauldom:
Richard Aubrey:

I googled "military history syllabus". Got two pages.

Try again. Without the quotes.
11.4.2008 9:44am
Closet Libertarian (www):
I had the same experience at Berkeley as Scott. The liberal students dismayed me: either wanting the University to intervene on foreign policy or overturning the ROTC table. The liberal professors did not sway me (such as a physics professor who unsuccessfully tried to make students sign an agreement not to make weapons or a literature lecturer who made us write about gay rights and there was a correct answer) but they did deprive me of being exposed to conservative thinking. I got that later in grad school and outside. I teach now and do occasionally voice an opinion but try to clearly label it as such and welcome conflicting views.
11.4.2008 9:45am
Ben P:

I googled "military history syllabus". Got two pages.


I must admit, while I'm a big fan of military history, it's not been "in vogue" in the academic community for a long time. Graduate students are necessarily going to study the popular topics and want to teach classes on those topics. Undergrads are going to take classes that they're required to or are interesting.

Further, beyond the survey level, how much deeper can you really go in military history. Do you expect there to be a substantive student interest in deep analysis of tactics in ancient battles? I doubt it, most undergrads that take military history classes are going to be thinking about the type of stuff that's on the history channel.

That said

9 military history classes at 8 different universities

Hist 386 The military and war in America at sam houston state

History 380: the history of war at Ohio State

Hist 3360 American Military History at Tennessee Tech

I can find more.
11.4.2008 9:50am
Xanthippas (mail) (www):

what about the proposition that liberal professors keep students from becoming conservatives?


Ha. At least, I assume that's snark on your part.


However, they certainly do indoctrinate students into their world of liberal ill-founded (rubbish) interpretations' of law.


I assume you're talking about law school now, not college. If so, then I think you are wrong. It's entirely possible for a professor to critique the holdings of cases, but not at all possible to make them say something other than what the court means them to say. If the law is wrongly interpreted, it is by the court whose case you read, not by the professor.
11.4.2008 9:51am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
military history syllabus without quotes.
About 139k hits.

Now, where are the students? How come only veterans know anything more than that war is bad?

See Seabury and Codevilla. Primer on War. Their view is that the only thing students know today about military affairs is that which is wrong. Hell of a book, by the way.
11.4.2008 9:56am
Xanthippas (mail) (www):

I must admit, while I'm a big fan of military history, it's not been "in vogue" in the academic community for a long time.


My own personal experience is only useful as anecdotal evidence, but I attended a fairly typical public university in the North Texas area and took an undergraduate class on military history, as well as a history of the Vietnam War that necessarily focused on the military to a great extent. The focus of the classes was on larger strategic concerns, not tactics in the style of the History Channel. That sort of thing should be reserved for dedicated amateurs, professional military historians or members of the military who will of course exercise tactical thinking.
11.4.2008 9:56am
Ben P:

That sort of thing should be reserved for dedicated amateurs, professional military historians or members of the military who will of course exercise tactical thinking.


My point was generally that "larger strategic concerns" lend themselves primarily to survey classes. I don't think many history departments will devote more than a class or two to such matters


Now, where are the students? How come only veterans know anything more than that war is bad?

See Seabury and Codevilla. Primer on War. Their view is that the only thing students know today about military affairs is that which is wrong. Hell of a book, by the way.


So your definition of a "military history class" is only a class that teaches students the positive results of war? And we're talking about bias in academia? But I digress.

War theory is heavy stuff. I read Clauswitz as part of a senior level European history stuff. I wouldn't inflict that on most undegrads. I don't know whether seabury and codevilla is better, but your amazon book review suggests so.
11.4.2008 10:10am
Richard Aubrey (mail):

"Now, where are the students? How come only veterans know anything more than that war is bad?

See Seabury and Codevilla. Primer on War. Their view is that the only thing students know today about military affairs is that which is wrong. Hell of a book, by the way"


BEN P. RESPONDS:
So your definition of a "military history class" is only a class that teaches students the positive results of war? And we're talking about bias in academia? But I digress.

Got a clue, much? Where did I say that? Oh, right. This is a lawyers' board. You get to make stuff up.
11.4.2008 10:29am
Ben P:

Got a clue, much? Where did I say that? Oh, right. This is a lawyers' board. You get to make stuff up.


I think I made a perfectly reasonable inference from your argument.

I pointed out that, while I wouldn't say they're everywhere, there are a significant number of schools offering some type of military history class.

Your response was "where are the students? how come only veterans know anything more than war is bad?"

Quite frankly I don't know how I can interpret this statement to mean anything other than that a military history class should have as one of it's results teaching students that war can be good.

That was my initial conclusion, then I proceeded to look up Seabury and Codevilla on Amazon, (where I noticed you have the most recent consumer review oddly enough). The Editorial review begins

War can be preferable to peace: This is the unconventional argument of Seabury, a political scientist at Berkeley, and Codevilla, a Research Fellow of the Hoover Institute....Its major contribution, however, is its development of the thesis that human intercourse produces objective circumstances in which kill or be killed becomes the best option.


If from those two pieces of evidence I can draw any conclusion other than that your statement meant that you expect any "military history course" should result in students learning that sometimes wars are necessary or even beneficial, please I'm all ears. (and I do say that without any snark)
11.4.2008 10:56am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
I can tell the difference between reasonable inference and insulting snark.

BEN P.
"
So your definition of a "military history class" is only a class that teaches students the positive results of war? And we're talking about bias in academia? But I digress. "

And I can tell the difference between a lousy attempt at an excuse and an honest one. Note the use of the word "only".

Then. "Quite frankly I don't know how I can interpret this statement to mean anything other than that a military history class should have as one of it's results teaching students that war can be good. "

Followed by "one of".

Try again.
11.4.2008 11:06am
Ben P:
I really don't see those as inconsistent.

My initial quote stated that you'd only consider military history classes that brought out this particular view to be legitimate military history classes. If that was incorrect I apologize, but I still think it was reasonable.

My second quote said basically the same thing except admitting that the military class could have other possible objectives as well.

It's the exact same thing as saying.

All true A's contain B.

Then saying B is one of the components of A, A could also involve C, D, and F, but it still has to contain B.
11.4.2008 11:13am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Ben.
Next time, try to be more subtle. Climbing down from something this obvious has to hurt.

"Only" is not only not reasonable, it's obviously not reasonable. As in the preface, "so you're saying" always, always goes before a massive and deliberate misstatement of somebody's point.

It was designed to put me on the defensive as some kind of war freak. Even though, being literate (which is all it would take) you knew better. Check out your following comment about academia.
11.4.2008 11:19am
MarkField (mail):

I read the Grapes of Wrath in lit. but not The Fountainhead.


And you honestly think that politics alone can be blamed for this decision? I'm no fan of Steinbeck, but on sheer quality of writing alone, this one is no contest.
11.4.2008 11:30am
Randy R. (mail):
Okay, kids, back to your corners. It's a simple communication problem. Richard didn't mean to say that there are positives of war, only that there is more to learn about war that a simple reduction to 'it's bad.' Ben saw this as attempt to convince othere that there might be 'good wars', a common theme among some conservatives (and undoubtedly some liberals), and probably takes issue with the notion that any war can be 'good.'

Time to kiss and make up, okay?
11.4.2008 11:31am
Randy R. (mail):
I went to a large state university, and there were no doubt plenty of liberal professors. They wrote a lot, talked a lot and even taught a lot along those lines. But in the classroom, it didn't matter at all, at least from the ones I picked.

I always picked my courses by the professor. I didn't care one whit for the subject matter. My experience taught me that a good professor can make any course interesting and important. and a poor one can make even Shakespeare boring. I was an English major and I loved taking all sorts of classes outside of that, like pol sci, history, sociology, etc.

As a result, I never got indoctrination -- instead I got not-so-good grades (because the good professors are often the toughest graders) but a first class education. The worst that I can remember is my sociology professor who made convincing conservative arguments, and convincing liberal arguments on the state of America. There was no doubt where he stood on the matter, but at least he was fair about the process.
11.4.2008 11:36am
MarkField (mail):

Time to kiss and make up, okay?


Easy for you to say.
11.4.2008 12:31pm
Hoosier:
Randy R--I always picked my courses by the professor. I didn't care one whit for the subject matter.

By the way, how as that course on Underwater Buddhist Musicology?
11.4.2008 1:29pm
Hoosier:
Ben P:

Further, beyond the survey level, how much deeper can you really go in military history.

I think this sort of question illustrates the problem with the discipline of history "reading out" military history from its curriculum. One might as well ask 'How much can we say about the history of slavery beyond that it was bad?'
11.4.2008 1:34pm
David Warner:
A moving account from an Ivy history prof at FIRE.
11.4.2008 1:35pm
David Warner:
Xant,

"what about the proposition that liberal professors keep students from becoming conservatives?

Ha. At least, I assume that's snark on your part."

The more intelligent the student/professor, I'd say that this very much happens when either:

(a) no conservative (any definition) viewpoints are discussed, so fair-minded student ends up the in the middle of what is
(b) caricatures of conservative viewpoints (like Pat Buchanan on MSNBC) are indeed discussed, and with enthusiasm, so fair-minded student ends up with an overly broad understanding of the unfair
11.4.2008 2:21pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Interesting about the kids who regurgitated what they thought the prof wanted on the midterm.
I wonder if he wondered where they got the idea that was necessary.
11.4.2008 2:27pm