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August 04, 2006


Andrew Samwick

You (and Paul) have it basically right--the modern university is a Kibbutz Hooked Up to an ATM.


In response to Paul, I would be surprised if the left/right balance were more "normal" in the hard sciences given much of the right's pro-religious anti-science platforms these days. At least at my institution, one that has historically leaned right but has shifted in recent decades, physicists, chemists and biologists vote Democrat.


Jeffrey, as an educator, I was quite intrigued by this discussion, and I think that you have raised some thought provoking points regarding the seeming liberalization of academia.If I might add to this, I think this trend is historically documented; in many oppressive regimes, the first people carted away are the academics, and the reason is usually for their liberal leanings and demands for reform.


Shortsighted "thinking".

Education in the USA is anything but free market driven.

I challenge Miron to cite a competitive market that offers tenure to employees as is the case with public education.

In addition, I challenge Miron to cite a free market entity that is subject to extreme dependence on government grants.

I challenge Miron to cite a free market entity that is supported by tens of billions of dollars in loans.

In summary, public education is the beneficiary of excessive government largesse unlike virtually any other free market concern.

papa troy

I don't know why left-leaning individuals are drawn more often to teaching...I am convinced, however, that their methods, ideas, and management of our public schools have created an ineffective, inefficient, and expensive education system. There "PC" policies have created a generation of people lacking the fundamental skills: reading, writing, and arithmetic to compete in a world job market. Liberals generally believe in government intervention, albeit, with good intentions. However, government polices most often reward the sloth and burden the thrifty working class. Teach the able individual to provide for theirself and they will provide for those who are unable volutarily through charity. Force them through government mandate and everyone becomes a sloth.

Anja Hartleb-Parson

Private universities do not operate in a free market either. Almost all of them receive government funding through financial aid and research grants.

I am also not convinced that conservatives just want to impose their ideas in the academy. Rather, as David Horowitz makes clear, intellectual diversity should be part of education in a free society: "In authoritarian and totalitarian societies schools exist to indoctrinate students in the orthodoxy of the state. In a democracy we teach students how to think, not what to think. In other words, in a free society the very purpose of education is to open students' minds and teach its citizens to think for themselves. This is the idea that lies at the heart of the academic freedom provisions of every university."

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This is most apparent on controversial issues such as abortion, homosexuality, evolution, gun control, and environmentalism. In some cases a teacher will refuse to write a recommendation or a student will be denied full credit or graduation unless the student embraces a liberal belief.

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At least at a institution, one that has historically leaned right but has shifted in recent decades, physicists, chemists and biologists vote Democrat.



"...conservative ideas imposed because these ideas are not doing well in the marketplace."

Just like LIBERAL education is not doing well.. GLOBALLY. 6 other industrialized countries scored above the United States in science, and 23 scored above us in math. The reading scores for the United States had to be tossed due to a printing error. The major international tests PISA The Programme for International Student Assessment is given every three years to 15-year-olds worldwide.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a group funded by 30 countries, coordinates the test. The first PISA test was in 2000 and every test specializes in one particular subject, but also includes other subject areas. In 2006 the subject receiving special focus was science. In 2009 reading will be the special focus.

TIMSS The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study is an assessment given to fourth- and eighth-grade students around the world. The first TIMSS was in 1995, and the test is administered every four years. In 2007 approximately 60 countries participated.

PIRLS The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study assesses reading achievement in fourth-graders from 50 different countries. PIRLS is conducted by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA), the same organization that gives TIMSS. The PIRLS given in 2001 was the first in a projected cycle of testing that will occur every five years.

According to Professor Erling E. Boe, of the University of Pennsylvania, "These rankings are reasonably consistent across surveys within grade levels for the same subject, though the rankings at grade 4 are sometimes quite different than those at grade 9 for the same subject. Also, the relative rankings by subject vary, such as between reading at grade 9 and civics at grade 9. Furthermore, the sample of nations participating in surveys varies greatly by survey and grade level."

Experts noted that the United States' scores remained about the same in math between 2003 and 2006, the two most recent years the test.

And you think our colleges are fairing any better than our public schools. If they are it's because we have international students enrolled in them. But education as a whole sucks in this country and that my friend is what makes your comments bogus to the bone.

More propaganda from the left as usual. Be a little more moderate next time and you may convince some idiot, thanks to our liberal take over of education, that you are even remotely correct.


Believe it or not, universities do not have a litmus test for political belief when hiring faculty. There is no conspiracy. Reputable universities value the academic quality of the candidate - their transcripts, thesis, published material, teaching reviews, etc - that demonstrate a grasp of their subject and an ability to be effective in the classroom and in conducting research. That the majority of faculty self-identify as "Democrat" may be reflective of a reliance on empirical logic and an openness to new ideas. In my personal experience of the current political environment, conservative parties and dogmas are less reliant on logic and openness and more reliant on dogma and fear. Just a thought for all the conspiracy theorists out there.


Hi, everyone. I'm fairly conservative-leaning and I just graduated about two years ago from what is arguably one of the most liberal colleges in the country, so I think I have a valuable perspective on this issue. First off, I don't think it's fair to say that higher education is a "free market." I chose to attend my alma mater knowing full well about the liberal atmosphere I would find there because a) it was the best school I had been accepted to and I knew I would get a great education there, and b) I'm a home-body and I wanted to stay close to my family. I'm sure many students make decisions on the same basis (besides... how well informed do you think high school students and their parents really are about the political inclinations of the institution they're interested in attending? It's not exactly something that gets posted on admissions webpages of most universities). I suppose I could have sought out a more conservative university (although I'd be hard-pressed to think of more than a couple examples), but really, I wasn't looking for a university whose teachings would agree 100% with my beliefs because I think I would find that just as stifling; I believe that the best environment to learn in is one in which all ideas are given consideration.

As to the impact of having a markedly liberal-leaning faculty, it may be subtle but it is definitely there. Imagine that you were in my situation at liberal arts college X three years ago: you have a question to ask your bio professor after a confusing lecture, so you head down the biology wing where all of the biology teachers' offices are. As you walk past the offices, you notice something interesting: it looks like the teachers are having some kind of unannounced competition about who can put up the most anti-Bush material on their doorway. Now, I am certainly not the biggest Bush supporter, but hopefully you can see how this display might be at least a little demoralizing to a more conservative student trying to seek help from their teacher.

That was a very tame example; I have plenty of more egregious ones that I could share, both from my time in college and since I've entered medical school. Suffice it to say, it saddens me when professors use their bully pulpit to vent their political beliefs to a captive audience.


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