Nichole Hungerford

Left-Wing Academia Crusader Doesn’t See Anything Wrong with NAS Book Bias Study

Posted on June 25 2010 10:00 am
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And why would he?

A few weeks ago, I wrote on an alarming study from the National Association of Scholars which demonstrated the complete hegemony of the left-wing perspective in university summer reading lists. A staggering 70% were found to be left-leaning and a mere 2% (!) represented the conservative perspective at all. 

Ashley Thorne, communications director for the NAS, appeared on Fox News yesterday to discuss the controversy. Thorne has made it clear that the study was not intended to expose the political underbelly of our universities. It just sort of happened that way — and for obvious reasons.

Academia suffers from a glut of left-wing and far-left thought, and many of its purveyors are not the least bit reluctant to impart their perspective as unexamined truth to impressionable students. In the case summer of reading lists, the students in question are so fresh, they have not even started their education. Yet these books set the tone for the rest of their college career — what the NAS described as four more “years of the same.” 

The other guest brought on with Ms. Thorne was John K. Wilson, founder of the absolutely absurd and manifestly gratuitous “College Freedom Institute” which focuses on conservatism’s “onslaught” on free education. (Give me a break.) Given the state of our campuses today, I can only conclude that this is some sort of hyperbolic delusion. In any event, Wilson has criticized the validity of the findings of NAS study and he repeated those criticism on in the clip. Primarily, Wilson refuses to believe that the the ratio of conservative to left-leaning books could be so disproportionate. His just doesn’t think many of the books on the list are clearly left-leaning, as the NAS claims. But his reasons for thinking so seem to be twofold: First, he seems to be speaking from the position that assumes critique on conventional social views, what might be construed as “traditional” or “conservative,” is the duty of universities, and is ipso facto “free thinking.” (In other words, if universities are promoting independent thought, then they must be tearing down conservative views.) But also, the books just plainly do not strike him as biased.

“You know, I don’t think colleges even realize they’re picking books that lean to the left,” Thorne responded. In fact, Wilson on his blog sounded quite enamoured with the list, despite the fact that he doesn’t think they are overtly or objectionably left-leaning. So what’s the disconnect here? How can two people look at the same list of books and come to such starkly different conclusions?

I think Thorne diagnosed the problem correctly. Admittedly, I am not familiar with all the books on the list and cannot give any kind of quantitative analysis of them, but the danger I see is the growing societal trend that assumes that liberal norms are automatically the “received” or “uncontroversial view.” If we want to avoid controversy, then we accept that racial minorities and woman are systemically oppressed, for instance. Or that America is imbued with latent racism which sublimates into various social institutions. Or that there is some degree of class warfare in our society. I wonder — does John Wilson consider any of this “left-wing” pablum? Or does he accept it as conventional wisdom? And for that matter, what do his leftist colleagues in academia think? As you can see, the answers to these questions will determine who is judging the study unjustly and who isn’t.

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