Culture Wars/Current Controversies

The Disappearing Conservative Professor

This article provides a pretty good overview of the actual role of ideology in higher education. Noam Chomsky created a minor stir sometime back when he argued that universities are actually “far-right” in reply to the usual complaints about universities being dominated by liberal and left ideologues. However, in the context that Chomsky was speaking, he wasn’t entirely wrong. Universities function basically like this: Science and technology departments conduct the research that is necessary for the maintenance of the military-industrial-complex and the high-tech economy. That is particularly true of schools like MIT where Noam spent most of his career.

Business schools and economics departments generally teach from a neoliberal perspective, which reflects the dominant ruling class ideology, the occasional token libertarians, Marxists, or unreconstructed Keynesians notwithstanding. Technical and professional schools are mostly about churning out skilled workers and technocratic managers. It is only in the humanities and liberal arts departments that liberal and left opinion flourishes. Political science and international relations professors tend to be mostly technocratic centrists, mainstream liberals, left-of-center progressives, with a minority of neocons and occasional libertarians. Traditional humanities fields like history tend to be dominated by left-of-center types (the kinds of folks who would be enthusiastic Obama voters). Education, social work, and social sciences departments tend to be further left, often functioning as seminaries for “progressive activists.”

The craziest SJW types tend to be in “fringe” departments that didn’t exist a few decades ago like gender studies, cultural studies, ethnic studies, etc. Some English departments, mass communications programs, and art schools have a large number of these types (mostly because many creative types often have far-left political and social views). “Diversity mania” is found in a wide range of fields, including seeming non-ideological ones like healthcare, although this is more about technocratic management than an ideology per se.

By Jon A. Shields

National Affairs

When concerns over the homogeneity of university faculty are raised, conservatives and liberals tend to hunker down into a battle of grievances. Conservatives point to instances of political bias and the need for “real” diversity in higher education, while liberals remind their conservative opponents of the still-low number of minority professors and the importance of their perspectives. It should be possible to overcome this impasse. Both the right and left tend to define diversity too narrowly and inconsistently, and both would benefit from broadening their appreciation for the value of diversity in higher education.


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