Sunday, November 28, 2004

George Will Silliness


(George Williness?)

I'm not going to dismiss concerns about political diversity on campus, but it is pretty obvious that certain personality types are drawn to careers in higher education - and the low salaries that go with most professorships. Actually, Will more or less sneers at that notion:
But George Lakoff, a linguistics professor at Berkeley, denies that academic institutions are biased against conservatives. The disparity in hiring, he explains, occurs because conservatives are not as interested as liberals in academic careers. Why does he think liberals are like that? "Unlike conservatives, they believe in working for the public good and social justice." That clears that up.
Will seems to think he's insightful when he writes,
that the "first protocol" of academic society is the "common assumption" -- that, at professional gatherings, all the strangers in the room are liberals.
I wonder if he would write a similarly insipid and whiny column about the overrepresentation of political conservatives at professional gatherings of business executives.

4 comments:

  1. (Or, for that matter, a meeting of military officers. Perhaps Will could whinge about how a greater representation of liberal Navy officers could have prevented the Tailhook scandal....)

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  2. Re: Your last post

    Actually, according to no less an authority on the subject than Andrea Dworkin, liberals are just as likely to engage in that sort of behavior as conservatives. What you needed to avoid Tail Hook was more empowered (read, those in agreement with Dworkin) feminist females.

    Also, you do seem to be dismissing Mr. Will’s concerns about a lack of intellectual diversity. Which is kind of strange considering your negative reaction to a certain law professor who told her class that her strict policy of including attendance in her grading system would not apply to people who were absent while attending political rallies for a cause she believed in . . . of course in that case I suppose it could have been the naked hypocrisy which offended you. : )

    CWD

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  3. I commenced my post by expressly noting, "I'm not going to dismiss concerns about political diversity on campus" - so, well, I'm not. That's a fair subject, but one Will simply didn't address very well. And no, I don't find Dworkin any more compelling - I'll take your reference to be more of a comparison of the oversimplification / caracaturization of "liberals" and "conservatives" by both authors.

    You might have also mentioned that another of my law professors promised that he wouldn't take politics into consideration when grading exams, loaded his exam with political issues, and then graded based on politics to an extent that... well, it is simply hard to imagine that he wasn't lying about his intentions. (Although he was pretty clueless.) I don't want to leave any ambiguity here - the guy was way out in left field.

    You could also have mentioned that some of my (and I believe our) favorite law professors were politically conservative. They were paleoconservatives, so they seemed far less interested in indoctrinating us with an agenda than in teaching us the law. (I would not hold my breath for similar objectivity from "neocons".) And for the most part they dumped on the work, while demonstrating a mastery of the material that made you feel ignorant even if you studied around the clock. We also had a very liberal professor who fit that bill, and who was perhaps the most tolerant of diverse (and even stupid) opinions of any of our professors.

    And, to cap things off, in most of my law classes politics were not at center stage - with the exception of the professor you noted, and the one I initially mentioned, I didn't feel any real pressure to conform my politics to a professor's politics. (There would have been some exceptions had I chosen to take classes from particular professors, but I chose not to.) Granted, you can extent the definition of "politics" to mean a particular philosophy of law, in which case there was a broader need to conform, but the philosophies at issue didn't really fit well into a classic liberal/conservative mold, and many were rather orthodox.

    Finally, I didn't see any real "harm", even to staunch conservatives, from this supposed overrepresentation of liberals in higher education. Did you?

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  4. Ellen Goodman, in the Post, has added some thoughts to the debate:

    Still, I find the attention to campus politics rather charming. The only ones who take universities as seriously as universities take themselves are activists on the right. When Harvey Mansfield, a Harvard conservative, was asked about the difficulty conservatives had getting tenure, he sighed ironically, "Well, I guess they'll have to go to Washington and run the country."

    Want to talk real power? If the faculty clubs are blue, corporate management offices are red. In the name of diversity, let's trade some liberal sociologists for conservative oil executives.

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