Monday, June 20, 2005

Barbara Kay "academic bias" followup: a question of honesty.


If you've already read the earlier piece on the intellectual shenanigans of National Post columnist Barbara Kay, well, I have a bonus for you. In Kay's Dec. 2004 column describing the allegedly hideous over-representation of liberals on college faculties, Kay writes:

For example, one recent study shows that amongst American university teachers, Democrats outnumber Republicans 15 to one. That's on average. In anthropology, Democrats cast 30 votes for every one Republican. Similar results doubtless apply in the faculties of sociology, education, English literature, and women's studies (probably more like 1,000 to one there).

Let's ignore Kay's obvious attempt at pulling statistics out of her ass in that last sentence when she writes "Similar results doubtless apply ...", making it clear she has no clue and is just speculating. No, let's concentrate on the figures she supplies to see where she got them from.

Kay curiously doesn't give a reference to this "recent study" she quotes and, when you finally track it down, you begin to understand why. It's almost certain that the study she's referring to is "How Politically Diverse Are the Social Sciences and Humanities? Survey Evidence from Six Fields," by Daniel Klein and Charlotta Stern. From the abstract, you can clearly see the identical values quoted by Kay:

The most lopsided fields surveyed are Anthropology with a D to R ratio of 30.2 to 1 ... The average of the six ratios by field is about 15 to 1."

Can there be any doubt that this is the study Kay is talking about? But hold everything! What's this? Note well the relevant portion of the title of that study: "How Politically Diverse Are the Social Sciences and Humanities?". [Emphasis added.]

This is clearly not a survey of faculty political affiliation across the entire spectrum, only within the social sciences and humanities, which most people would expect to be more liberally-flavoured, just as one would expect more of a conservative presence in areas such as, say, law, business and economics.

But notice how Kay describes the study:

For example, one recent study shows that amongst American university teachers, Democrats outnumber Republicans 15 to one. That's on average.

But that's not what the study purported to show; the study spoke only of the alleged ideological imbalance within the humanities and social sciences. In short, Kay simply lied about the results of that study. I'm sure you're all just mortified by the thought of a right-wing propagandist playing fast and loose with the facts, aren't you?

Me neither.

BONUS TRACK
: I've linked to this Russell Jacoby article before but it's such a sweet piece of writing, it really deserves as much publicity as it can get.

2 comments:

Scott F said...

What I wonder about is why things like this are even an issue? So perhaps there are more democrats than replublicans teaching in US universities, either in humanities or across the faculty? So what? there are more whites than blacks. There are (probably) more men than women. Perhaps there are more baseball fans than soccer fans.

Why is this worth discussing?

Is it to indicate that there may be a political bias among instructors? What of it? There are more republicans currently siing in the white house than democrats, so lats call it even, OK?

Perhaps there are more democrats among influential, educated, and and well-spoken and written university personnel because they are more educated and informed than the average citizen. In other words, rather than condemn the colleges for being Democrat-heavy, condemn the Repubicans for being Professor-light.

OutEast said...

Or another point; possibly, those with a rightwing, conservative attitude are more likely to follow the money. They simply may be less likely (on average) to be interested in teaching - not generally the most economically rewarding of paths to take.