Sunday, May 01, 2005

Lies, damned lies and the myth of academic "liberal" bias.

I have no idea how I missed this but a delightful "American Prospect" article from back in December of 2002 puts the lie to the standard right-wing wanker party line of massively disproportionate (for you wankers, "really, like, large") liberal representation on academic faculties.

As we all know (and by "know" I mean that the right-wing wankerverse has lied about it for years), the ideological composition of your average academic faculty is ridiculously skewed to the left. And we "know" this because, of course, the right have carefully and methodically documented this, via meticulous and scrupulously fair surveys and sampling.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I still crack me up.

Apparently, as with almost everything else emanating from the right these days (and, yes, I'm looking at you, Prof. Reisman), this claim is pure myth and bullshit, as author Martin Plissner explains:

As often happens in Washington, the matter began at a think tank. The right-of-center American Enterprise Institute (AEI), in the August cover story of its American Enterprise magazine, claimed documentation beyond dispute of the left-wing hammerlock on American faculties. AE's editor-in-chief, William Zinsmeister, in league with David Horowitz (best known for his ads in college newspapers calling on black Americans to show "gratitude" for all that white Americans have done for them) of the conservative Center for the Study of Popular Culture, sent student volunteers to boards of election to search out the party registrations of 1,843 college teachers at 21 institutions. For the cover story, Democrats, Greens and "Working Family" registrants were lumped under "L" for "parties of the left"; Republicans and Libertarians, meanwhile, were filed under "R" for "parties of the right." (Independents, who would seem under Zinsmeister's labeling scheme to merit a "C" for "centrist," were ignored.) The overall ratio of L's to R's reflected in the story's bar graphs was dramatic: 11-to-1...

At none of the campuses -- which ran the gamut from Harvard, Brown, Stanford and Cornell universities to 10 state schools and a smattering of smaller colleges -- did the parties of the left prevail by a ratio of less than 6-to-1. At 86 percent liberal on the Zinsmeister scale, the University of Texas at Austin (on whose board appointees of George W. Bush still reign) trailed by only a tad the University of California, Berkeley (91 percent liberal).

Wow! Proof positive of overwhelming ideological bias in academia! Yes, that certainly is the smoking gun, isn't it? But wait! What's this?

The findings look pretty compelling -- but not when you look at them closely. In the University of Texas sample, for example, 28 of the 94 teachers came from women's studies -- not exactly a highlight of any school's core curriculum or a likely cross section of its faculty. At the same time, none of the 94 was from the university's huge schools of engineering, business, law or medicine -- or from any of the sciences. At Cornell University, it's the same story: 166 L's by the AE bar graphs, and only 6 R's. But not one faculty member in the entire sample taught in the engineering, business, medicine or law schools, or in any of the sciences. Thirty-three, on the other hand, were in women's studies -- more than any subject, save for English.

Oh. But surely that was an anomaly. Perhaps (as Republicans love to suggest these days) the result of an "over-zealous" assistant? Sadly, no.

The methodology employed is similarly slapdash at the other chosen campuses. Harvard's faculty of more than 2,000 is represented by 52 members from just three academic disciplines, all in the social sciences. More than half of the University of California, Los Angeles sample comes from just two disciplines: history and, once again, women's studies.

So, ridiculously-biased sampling. How thoroughly ... Horowitzian. But it does give one pause for a simple thought: If conservatives are this fucking stupid or dishonest in relation to simple statistics, would you want one as a professor?

(By the way, props to this online article, which pointed me to the Plissner article in the first place. Definitely worth the read.)

No comments: