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Our aim in this study is to examine whether there is political or ideological bias in American higher education.We want to evaluate the criticisms of universities for being too left or liberal and to undertake the task in a systematic , fair-minded, and nonpartisan fashion. We know that we cannot fully answer all of the questions surrounding this topic, but we hope at least to chart the terrain sensibly. By making a convincing start, we hope that other scholars can develop the subject further. More answers will emerge as colleagues (and citizens) debate the issues, and, of course, there will be no final answers on some of the broadest questions. It is also important, as part of the inquiry, to discuss how universities should address what we call the civic education and citizenship issue—that is, what should colleges and universities be doing to prepare students better for effective citizenship in our democracy. This concern broadly relates to the teaching of political philosophy, values, rule of law, professional ethics, and what it means to be a citizen, matters that call for reasoned argument but do not lend themselves to scientific truth. We represent in our study team a broad range of the political spectrum,from Republican to Democratic to a shade of Green,although it is probable that none of us would qualify as among the most fervent of partisans. If we could manage to achieve a measure of agreement among ourselves, we hoped to be able to provide research results that our fellow citizens and our academic colleagues of all political persuasions might find useful and worthy of consideration. 1 Introduction 1 ch01 intro 6/30/08 10:45 AM Page 1 Because the topic is difficult, we chose to approach the task through a variety of methodologies and angles of vision. We examined carefully previous studies to identify what has been proven and not proven and what new approaches might be fruitfully pursued. We sought to avoid mere eclecticism and anecdote, although we have not been afraid to draw on the “tacit” knowledge we have gained through long experience in the trenches as teachers, administrators, and policy analysts. The subject of faculty political attitudes and ideology has been much studied and written about, in systematic and less systematic ways, since at least the 1950s by scholars from a number of disciplines. We make no pretense that we can fully resolve the contradictions, the inconsistencies, and differing interpretations found in previous studies. Achieving convincing methods of studying the topic entails not only the challenge of gathering data but also the challenge of drawing sensible conclusions and interpretations once we have agreed on the“facts.”But we are convinced, and believe that our colleagues and fellow citizens will come to share our belief, that it is possible to discuss the issues civilly and, in the process, to achieve a deeper understanding of how the universities can serve society. Our overall finding, it is only fair to tell the reader up-front, is that we do not find evidence of rampant bias in the universities or of liberal bias in the conventional meaning of the term.We find evidence of an“antipolitical ”bias in much of what the modern research universities do. That is to say, most professors, like most Americans, have an aversion to politics and find ways to avoid thinking seriously about politics and political issues. There is a tendency to take refuge in forms of specialized and “objective” knowledge, which is thought to be a more lofty intellectual endeavor than trying to cope with the muddy normative issues of politics. There may also be a kind of reflexive utopianism in the thinking—or non-thinking—that professors bring to political matters. Professors are not always aware of the political and philosophical assumptions concealed in their thinking. In this sense, we argue, the universities are not permeated with politics; in fact, they do not have enough political awareness or the right kind of political engagement. The alleged negative effects of too much politics are not in evidence when one looks at the universities. Professors, even conservative professors, do not generally think that they are discriminated against in hiring (according to the responses to our survey questionnaire). Nor do they believe that they are biased in the classroom. This is perhaps not surprising since nobody likes to think he or she behaves unprofessionally. If professors were the only ones to think that they are not biased in the classroom...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780815701866
MARC Record
OCLC
567901425
Pages
278
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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