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Academic Discovers Progressive Academic Bias, News At 11

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Posted on February 9 2011 4:00 pm
Jesse Hathaway survived the progressive re-education camps of Ohio University and the People’s Republik of Athens, and now lives and blogs in beautiful Myrtle Beach, SC. Follow him on Teh Twitter, and become part of his Right Turns Only posse.
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This week, the New York Times discovered something that should surprise no one: colleges and universities are dominated by progressives.

At the annual Society for Personality and Social Psychology conference, the “Head-Shrinkers’ Ball,” attendees swap notes about racial prejudice, homophobia, sexism, stereotyping and unconscious bias against minorities, in a matter not dissimilar to what happens at your typical newspaper on a daily basis.

This year, however, a new type of bias was found lurking in the academics’ midst, one that was totally unheard of: political bias—namely, the political bias of their own profession.

Prof. Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at the University of Virginia, is an expert in the “intuitive foundations of morality and ideology.” During his speech, Haidt asked the audience to self-identify their political leaning. The results were, again, unsurprising: an estimated 80% of the 1,000 psychologists identified as liberal. Only 3 people in attendance—that’s 0.003%, to those keeping score at home—were conservative.

Haidt called this headcount a “statistically impossible lack of diversity,” noting that recent polls estimate that 40% of Americans identify as conservative, and 20% identify as progressive or liberal.

He went on to term his colleagues a “tribal […] community,” noting that “anywhere in the world that social psychologists see women or minorities under-represented by a factor of two or three, our minds jump to discrimination as the explanation, but when we find out that conservatives are under-represented among us by a factor of more than 100, suddenly everyone finds it quite easy to generate alternate explanations.”

It seems that Prof. Heidt has suffered from what we call, in the business, a “blinding flash of the obvious.” Conservatives have been saying that academia is dominated by progressives for years. Whether it’s college professors defending civil rights abuses in the Middle East, the inanity of gender studies classes, professors comparing the Second Amendment to Nazi Germany, or your run-of-the-mill campus feminist rage-fest (over swimsuit editions of magazines, no less), it’s so sad, that it’s funny, that some progressives are just now realizing that academic bias is not only real, but a bad thing.

However, some progressives are still refusing to board the Clue Train. Also in the New York Times, Paul “Housing Bubble” Krugman whinged that “every once in a while you get stories like this one, about the underrepresentation of conservatives in academics, that treat ideological divides as being somehow equivalent to racial differences,” warning that “this is a really, really bad analogy.”

Almost as if he was anticipating this argument, Prof. Haidt noted in his speech that talking with conservative students about their experiences in academia “reminded him of closeted gay students in the 1980s,” in as much as they felt pressured to hide their true identity, in order to blend in with the majority and avoid discrimination.

While I keep on saying that Heidt’s research is surprising to no conservative, it is encouraging that academics seem to be waking up to the existence of academic bias.

As they say, the first step to solving a problem, is admitting that it exists, and that’s exactly what Prof. Heidt helped some academics do. Now, they just need to put their words into action.

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