Here’s Megan McArdle on liberal academics’ reaction to the fact that conservatives are underrepresented in academia:
I find it particularly intriguing because it completely reverses the standard argument about discrimination. Conservatives are usually reluctant to agree that women and minorities are still often victims of structural or personal bias—despite numerical underrepresentation and some fairly compelling studies showing that hiring is not race or gender blind. Yet when it comes to conservatives in academia, they suddenly sound like sociologists, discussing hostile work environment, the role of affinity networks in excluding out groups, unconscious bias, and the compelling evidence from statistical underrepresentation.
Meanwhile, liberals, who are usually quick to assume that underrepresentation represents some form of discrimination—structural or personal—suddenly become, as Haidt notes, fierce critics of the notion that numerical representation means anything. Moreover, they start generating explanations for the disparity that sound suspiciously like some old reactionary explaining that blacks don’t really want to go into management because they’re much happier without all the responsibility. Conservatives are too stupid to become academics; they aren’t open [to] new ideas; they’re too aggressive and hierarchical; they don’t care about ideas, just money. In other words, it’s not our fault that they’re not worthy.
I also find this intriguing—well, ironic.
But McArdle dismisses the notion that conservatives aren’t open to new ideas. However, this explanation isn’t that absurd: conservatives are, by definition, skeptical of new ideas. Academics spend a lot of their time trying to discover new ideas and questioning accepted ideas, practices and institutions. So conservative people probably aren’t inclined to become academics.
In addition, people who become academics probably don’t identify with conservatives, because America’s major conservative party has—for a generation or so—been openly hostile to academics in particular and educated people in general. Here’s David Brooks’ explanation of the phenomenon:
But over the past few decades, the Republican Party has driven away people who live in cities, in highly educated regions and on the coasts. This expulsion has had many causes. But the big one is this: Republican political tacticians decided to mobilize their coalition with a form of social class warfare. Democrats kept nominating coastal pointy-heads like Michael Dukakis so Republicans attacked coastal pointy-heads. …
What had been a disdain for liberal intellectuals slipped into a disdain for the educated class as a whole. The liberals had coastal condescension, so the conservatives developed their own anti-elitism, with mirror-image categories and mirror-image resentments, but with the same corrosive effect.
If you have to become highly educated to become an academic—and if the nation’s main conservative party is openly hostile to highly-educated people and academics—then it shouldn’t be surprising that there are few conservatives in academia.
2 years ago - read more...