Thursday, June 16, 2016

Higher Education’s Academic Monoculture

By Loyd S. Pettegrew and Carol A. Vance
.. the [commencement] message is that it is morally superior to be in organizations consuming output produced by others than to be in organizations which produce that output. — Thomas Sowell
We teach in a millennium where our junior, senior, and graduate students come to us indoctrinated to loathe the evil of capitalism, pursuing their education to work for either the government or not-for-profits. They want to save the world without recognizing the correlation between where the funding for the government and not-for-profits is derived and those evil capitalist corporations they abhor. Higher education is offering very little ideology to enlighten these attitudes.

In a recent Wall Street Journal essay “My Antibusiness Business Education,” Matthew Tice recounts his experience getting a business degree at Bentley College and how both his “business courses and nonbusiness courses espoused an illiberal attitude toward American capitalism and business in general.” He believes that for many students, “such messaging will become internalized and transmitted over time from the college campus to the working world, which is probably the long-term goal.”

There Is No Debate or Intellectual Diversity

In an essay titled “Conservative Faculty? Where?” Michael Strain argues that the vast underrepresentation of conservative faculty in US higher education “surely affects the research topics that are chosen by faculty, the research papers that are chosen for publication by the editors of academic journals, and — perhaps most importantly — the instruction of undergraduates.” As a full-time libertarian liberal arts faculty member it has been disconfirming to sit through years of faculty meetings where open criticism of Reagan and his policies were never ending gospel. Some would say this ideological hegemony constituted a hostile workplace where debate was permitted only at the risk of collegiality, faculty wrath, and ostracizing. After the Mises Daily published our article on “The Seven Rules of Bureaucracy” the department chair sent a nasty email stating how vacuous and untruthful the article was; refusing to acknowledge the published work in the annual evaluation, instead applauding an essay on hip-hop feminism by another faculty member.

In the process of completing The Righteous Mind, where Jonathan Haidt asserts that humans are inherently moralistic, critical, and judgmental, he recounts surveying a meeting of scholars at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology about their political affiliations, believing there wasn’t much political diversity in the group. No one identified themselves as conservative, and 1 percent as libertarian. From this informal research he saw the need to create the Heterodox Academy, to alert people that academic campuses are bastions of the left — a monoculture. In a study interviewing 153 conservative professors, Jon Shields and Joshua Dunn, Sr. conclude that only 6.6 percent of professors in the social sciences are Republicans, concluding that “Political bias expresses an intellectual orientation — one that inclines us to find some questions more important and some explanations more plausible.” Conservatives often find obtaining employment and tenure in academia “a don’t ask don’t tell” dilemma.

Northwestern University’s Alice Eagly presents compelling scholarly research that both the academy and media conspire to cherry-pick studies that confirm their left-liberal bias while ignoring all the prevailing research that contradicts that point of view. Her focus was on the claim that gender diversity on governing boards and racial diversity of work groups has unquestionably positive benefits for organizational efficiency and effectiveness. Writing about the close-mindedness on today’s college campuses, John McWhorter, argues college professors should openly respond “No” when told by protesting students that they are offended by differing ideas and free speech should be curtailed. But, he says, “The naysayer will be called a racist (or self-hating) on social media and on campus for months. However, adults who know that their response to mob ideology is based on logic and compassion will survive emotionally. Of course, such people fear for their jobs.”

The Role of Government Funding

Universities across the US now receive more federal funding than state funding, accounting for $73 billion in 2013. This includes everything from Pell grants and general purpose grants, to TRIO (for the economically disadvantaged), and research grants from the National Institutes for Health and National Science Foundation. In the health and natural sciences, and engineering, grant-getting is one of the surest ways to get tenure and promotion. Sadly, it comes at a huge ideological cost. University faculties have become increasingly dependent on and indebted to the federal government’s research orthodoxies, including climate change and the one-world progressive agenda. It is no wonder that associations of “concerned” scientists have targeted Exxon Mobile for their own research suggesting that climate change models have been historically inaccurate, the threats overblown and money has been wasted.

Many state legislatures across the US are shifting to performance funding standards to matriculate and graduate as many students as possible within three to five years. Faculty are pressured to pass all students admitted regardless of their academic performance. Sadly, college graduates are paying the price. The New York Federal Reserve published a 2014 report showing that newly minted college graduates continue to be unsuccessful in finding jobs suited to their level of education. The likely but unspoken truth is that they lack a quality education due to the new funding performance standards, absence of critical thought and open disdain for capitalism.

Higher Education’s monoculture hubris has become shocking. The Associate Dean of Research in the of College of Arts & Sciences at our institution formally requested that every faculty member detail how his or her current research efforts align with the United Nations’ strategic goals (e.g., achieve gender equality, end world hunger, promote peaceful, inclusive societies for sustainable development, take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts, etc.). There was no mention of innovation, sustaining free markets, free thought or free speech. After reviewing carefully these left-liberal niceties, I responded to my department chair that I was sorry but I just wasn’t a true believer. Being a rhetorical scholar, he replied: “I’ll just tell him that you haven’t drunk the Kool-Aid.”

The above originally appeared at

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