Not all diversity is desirable, apparently.
In his column for the Sunday edition of The New York Times, liberal columnist Nicholas Kristof defends conservatives who argue higher education is biased against right-leaning scholars and professors.
When he first floated the idea to his Facebook followers their contemptuous response, Kristof wrote, “proved the point:”
“’Much of the “conservative” worldview consists of ideas that are known empirically to be false,’ said Carmi.
“’The truth has a liberal slant,’ wrote Michelle.
“’Why stop there?’ asked Steven. ‘How about we make faculties more diverse by hiring idiots?’”
If that attitude doesn’t convince you there’s a bias, take a look at the data.
Four studies Kristof highlights found that the proportion of professors in the humanities who identify as Republicans ranges between 6 and 11%; in the social sciences, it’s between 7 and 9%.
Kristof called conservatives “virtually an endangered species” in anthropology, sociology, history, and literature, though they can be found in the sciences and economic departments.
In contrast, about 18% of social scientists say they identify as Marxists, according to these studies.
In a peer-reviewed study that suggests the scarcity of conservatives is due in part by discrimination, Kristof summarizes:
“One-third of social psychologists admitted that if choosing between two equally qualified job candidates, they would be inclined to discriminate against the more conservative candidate.”
“59% of anthropologists and 53% of English professors would be less likely to hire someone they found out was an evangelical.”
The conservative and religious professors Kristof interviewed likened their experience to one of “remaining in the closet” at the beginning of one’s career and then “coming out” as a conservative after receiving tenure.
This bias extends to other areas of academia as well. Kristof notes a friend studying for the LSAT exam to enter law school was advised by the test preparation company she is using that reading comprehension questions and answers typically have a “liberal slant.”
Just last year, a study published by Cambridge University Press found that in the field of psychology, political bias over time as actually “distort(ed)” the field as psychologists’ ideological sympathies shift over time:
The problem with this, according to the study, is that “liberal values and assumptions can become embedded into theory and method” and treated as objective truth.
But conservatives shouldn’t be welcomed into academia just for their own sake, Kristof writes, but for the sake of diversity of thought:
“The stakes involve not just fairness to conservatives or evangelical Christians, not just whether progressives will be true to their own values, not just the benefits that come from diversity (and diversity of thought is arguably among the most important kinds), but also the quality of education itself.
“When perspectives are unrepresented in discussions, when some kinds of thinkers aren’t at the table, classrooms become echo chambers rather than sounding boards — and we all lose.”
But judging by the comments section of Kristof’s article, his liberal readers aren’t convinced.