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HR 3077 - unprecedented federally mandated intrusion into the content and conduct of university-based area studies programmes.
April 16, 2004 5:02 PM   Subscribe

HR 3077 - "unprecedented federally mandated intrusion into the content and conduct of university-based area studies programmes."

"There is a great deal at stake for American higher education and academic freedom. If HR 3077 becomes law - the Senate will review the bill next - it will create a board that monitors how closely universities reflect government policy. Since the legislation assumes that any flaw lies 'with the experts, not the policy', the government could be given the power to introduce politically sympathetic voices into the academic mainstream and to reshape the boundaries of academic inquiry. Institutional resistance would presumably be punished by the withdrawal of funds, which would be extremely damaging to Middle East centres especially."

you didn't have reason to call your congressperson tomorrow? you do now. frightening.

via the excellent openbrackets.com
posted by specialk420 (67 comments total)

 
I, for one, don't have a problem with this.

There's more than one side to this story. If you don't they way the program is run, you don't have to take the government's money.
posted by Rob1855 at 5:40 PM on April 16, 2004


More here.
posted by Rob1855 at 6:13 PM on April 16, 2004


When one turns to the Middle East, all sorts of strange perspectives emerge. This is probably good. Columbia U is currently doing a study of its ME dept for the many complaints being lodged against what is alleged to be a very biased and anti-semitic and anti_Israel perspective.

The author of the piece is a child of Holocaust survivors and seems anti-Israeli. I note that in one of her publications she says terror will end when Israel gets out of the land taken in war.--perhaps terror ought to end first and then negotiations follow. That is how it works when you lose land in a war.

As for govt inteference, one commenter put it in a nice way: don't take the money from the govt if you don't want to govt to oversee how it is getting spent. You can't take it and then feel that you can do anything you want. As we used to say in the hills of Arkansaw: he who pays the fiddler calls the tune.
posted by Postroad at 6:26 PM on April 16, 2004


But even people that take money from the government are entitled to free speech, no? Haven't Universities always been able to teach as they see fit, even if they got govt. money?
posted by amberglow at 6:34 PM on April 16, 2004


This bill has been in front of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee since October, and I don't see any action on it scheduled in the near future. By all means write your senators, but you can probably wait 'til next week.
posted by yami_mcmoots at 6:58 PM on April 16, 2004


openbrackets is good. thanks.
posted by andrew cooke at 6:58 PM on April 16, 2004


you didn't have reason to call your congressperson tomorrow? you do now.

You're right. I'll be calling to support.

But even people that take money from the government are entitled to free speech, no? Haven't Universities always been able to teach as they see fit, even if they got govt. money?

Absolutely, but that's not the issue. While universitites that receive federal money certainly have the right to teach whatever they want, that doesn't mean there's an entitlement to the government money. It's not a deprivation of free speech -- it's just the U.S. government choosing not to fund "scholarship" that is based on anti-U.S. theory and that, in turn, actively opposes other types of higher education funding (specifically the NESP program). Area studies programs can continue to teach "as they see fit."
posted by pardonyou? at 7:00 PM on April 16, 2004


Postroad is an Arkansan? Boy, the things you learn.

I would call my Congressman if he were not Jim McDermott.
posted by y2karl at 7:05 PM on April 16, 2004


Lets start an israel / palestine argument, its been what, like 10 minutes right? Here, ill start: Screw israel. They pull stupid and mean shit off on the palestinian people too.
posted by Keyser Soze at 7:11 PM on April 16, 2004


Anyways, I do not support the bill.
posted by Keyser Soze at 7:12 PM on April 16, 2004


There is (IMO) a fairly serious problem in US Academia. "Free speech" is fine so long as it agrees with professors - the vast majority of which tend towards the liberal persuasion. (I had a 4.0 average going into my senior year of undergrad studies ... until I refused to write a paper on the topic "How capitalism encourages rape").

But this legislation is idiotic, and will not solve anything. And, by the way, doesn't stand a chance in hell of passing. Write your representatives if you want, but chances are good they haven't even heard of it.
posted by MidasMulligan at 7:15 PM on April 16, 2004


MidasMulligan: I had a 4.0 average going into my senior year of undergrad studies ... until I refused to write a paper on the topic "How capitalism encourages rape"

And did you bring this to the attention of your friendly local grievance procedure? Or did you feel that the anecdote would have so much value as a trolling point on internet discussion boards that you just accepted victimhood?
posted by yami_mcmoots at 7:37 PM on April 16, 2004


perhaps terror ought to end first and then negotiations follow. That is how it works when you lose land in a war.

Nice Catch 22, that, considering the occupation incites the terror.
posted by Ty Webb at 7:45 PM on April 16, 2004


Wow, yami, you've been a member of MeFi for all of two weeks, and you're already misusing the troll label. You'll fit right in here!
posted by pardonyou? at 7:47 PM on April 16, 2004


Well, I try.
posted by yami_mcmoots at 7:54 PM on April 16, 2004


"Free speech" is fine so long as it agrees with professors - the vast majority of which tend towards the liberal persuasion.

You got screwed on your grade, I guess, but how do you propose to keep teachers from trying to impose their points of view on their students? Education is necessarily an authoritarian enterprise.

I don't know about where you went to school, or if that class was a requirement, but usually you can smell courses that'll bring up "how capitalism encourages rape" stuff from miles away, and avoid.
posted by furiousthought at 8:11 PM on April 16, 2004


Haven't Universities always been able to teach as they see fit, even if they got govt. money?

Not when they're being paid to do a specific thing for a specific reason. Then it makes sense that if you're not doing the thing, or at least not well, you don't get paid for it.

If area-studies people think this is intrusive management, let them try getting grants audited.

Institutional resistance would presumably be punished by the withdrawal of funds, which would be extremely damaging to Middle East centres especially.

What do you expect, the Feds to keep funding programs that do stuff they don't like? That's downright silly. If you want to do stuff the Feds don't feel like funding (which is an awful lot of stuff), go bust your ass and get private endowments like everyone else.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:13 PM on April 16, 2004


Or did you feel that the anecdote would have so much value as a trolling point on internet discussion boards that you just accepted victimhood?

The professor that assigned it was on the bloody grievance board (or at the the nearest thing to one my university had). And I'm not a victim of anything. (Plus, internet discussion boards didn't really exist when I was in college). I was trying to use an example to make a point. The overwhelming bias in the American academy is not exactly news (I forget the exact numbers, but something like 70% to 80% of full professors self-identify as liberals).

The bias would not matter if universities contented themselves with teaching students how to think - but a line is crossed when professors presume to teach students what to think ... and make grades dependent upon agreement with what is really a personal ideology.

My best political science professor was - by the way - a vehement liberal. He studied under Herbert Marcuse, and was a classmate of Angela Davis. But he took his profession seriously - and was always careful to differentiate between conclusions he had arrived at within his own thought, and his duty to provide a wide variety of perspectives. He's as liberal as they come, and is also the guy that introduced me to the whole Austrian school of economics. His students could read his assigned readings, arrive at conclusions diametrically opposed to his own, and still get A's ... because he judged the clarity of thought, and coherency of arguments - and was actually "open-minded" enough to understand that people could legitimately come to valid positions very different than his own.

There are still liberals (and - believe it or not - conservatives) like that in the world ... but their numbers seem to be diminishing as time goes by - and academia is not only not stopping the decline, but rather, appears to be encouraging it.

That said - I do believe that legislation is certainly not the answer ... and will likely do little other than polarize things even further. I believe there is a problem that could use some addressing ... but do not consider throwing gasoline on a fire to be a ratioinal means of addressing a problem.
posted by MidasMulligan at 8:18 PM on April 16, 2004


1) you're already misusing the troll label.

No, I think that the accusation of intent was pretty clear. And I haven't seen a refutation, either (on preview, yes I did, but strangely the point still stands). Midas, once again, sites his vast worldly experiance as a statement of truth ... with little backup indeed. But call him out on that, why you liberal accusator, who accuses, with accusation that accuses, in an accusatrory manner, that smacks of accusation. Truthfully, I think Midas to be correct about the liberal bias of college profs, but any anecdote is open to questions (even those of trolling), and the accusation of trolling in this circumstance is little more than an effort to tell another to STFU. Poor form, pardonyou?


You'll fit right in here!

Would you folks, please, for the love of all that's holy, quit insulting the entire Mefi community based on your poor damaged egos? Holy Shit, that's annoying.

And also on preview, I again find myself in agreement with Midas. Which doesn't discount pardonyou?'s purchased currency in BS.
posted by Wulfgar! at 8:30 PM on April 16, 2004


I think those in favor of this bill are missing the point-- someone has to decide what is acceptable and what is not. There are lots of consequences to this that you may not be thinking about. What is considered "anti-US" today is orthodoxy tomorrow, and what is not raised by government funds may be raised by other government's funds.

It is never, in my opinion, a good idea to set up Government-monitored, politically-correct thought panels.

Many conservatives support this legislation but they are thinking short-term. What happens when there is a shift in power, and the board that decides what can be taught and what can't goes over to the other side? Any time you mix politically-correct beaurocrats with the pursuit of knowledge, you lose. Academic freedom is what has made America great.
posted by cell divide at 8:47 PM on April 16, 2004


My underlying point (which I forgot to actually, er, make, as I was distracted by pattern-recognition from other discussions on the subject with other people, very poor form, tsk tsk!) was that while a political bias will often manifest itself in a professor's choice of material and tone, accusations of such blatant and purposeful viewpoint discrimination are a different beast. Grading a student down because of ideological differences would be considered a violation of professional ethics by most educators I know, whether it occurred through conscious propagandizing or a negligent failure to correct for the teacher's own biases. If you're going to imply that this sort of thing is common practice it would be nice to have some evidence.

Perhaps I am a bit naive to believe that the academic community will curb its own worst excesses, but I do think you should've raised a stink about that paper - particularly if the incident was as clear-cut as you're telling it.
posted by yami_mcmoots at 9:03 PM on April 16, 2004


MidasMulligan: The bias would not matter if universities contented themselves with teaching students how to think - but a line is crossed when professors presume to teach students what to think

What's the difference? One man's content is another man's framework.
posted by Gyan at 9:28 PM on April 16, 2004


My best political science professor was - by the way - a vehement liberal. He studied under Herbert Marcuse, and was a classmate of Angela Davis.

I had similar experiences (but backwards, of course, being a librul myself). I went to a school whose most well-known faculty were a certain cult of anarchocapitalist economists, and the overwhelming mood was definitely "conservative," but I didn't find that the perspectives of the professors (including the more liberal and sometimes Marxist ones in my department) ever got in the way of the learning or of my addressing things from my own perspective. I think that shitty professors are more of a problem than is any one flavor political identity. And I think the problem is shittiness generally, not political shittiness specifically.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 9:36 PM on April 16, 2004


There are four precepts to classical education, that is, what can be called education as opposed to indoctrination, the teacher and class relationship.

The first of these is that a teacher must maintain discipline in their class; without discipline, no lesson can be taught.

The second is that the teacher cannot perpetually be at odds with their peers or administration; a class may seem to be an island unto itself, but it is a small part of a greater whole, the curriculum and the complete education of students.

The third is that the teacher cannot perpetually be at odds with their students, their student's parents, or their community; schooling has a purpose beyond the school, and students should not be saddled with punishment for having had a "bad" teacher--one who promulgates intentionally offensive, disruptive or illegal behavior.

The fourth, and most frequently violated rule is that a teacher is hired to teach, not soapbox. A teacher who cannot control their passion to preach, not teach, should not be retained, and evaluation based on prejudice is grounds for dismissal.

When an educational institution insists on following these four principals, the faculty, students, parents and community get the maximum benefit. The only people who are upset are those who wish to use the institution and the students as pawns to further their own agendas.

Ideally, when a student has matriculated from such an institution, they should be intellectually capable to make their own judgements about their actions, not be crippled by an intentionally deficient or malevolent interference in their education.
posted by kablam at 9:41 PM on April 16, 2004


Midas, once again, sites his vast worldly experiance as a statement of truth

Er, an anecdote about my college days is part of a "vast worldly experience"? I do - quite often - use personal anecdotes to make points. I actually happen to think this more honest than a more normal tactic here ... that of having an equally strong opinion, and finding a half dozen web sites (that are often filled with little other than highly questionable statistics, and other people's anecdotes). Would you prefer me to engage in that sort of subterfuge? Should I have posted this instead of a personal anecdote?

I do not think it is intellectually honest to have arrived at a decision, and then simply Google a couple of keywords to find couple hundred thousand web pages (many of them highly questionable) that agree, and attempt to claim that doing so is carries any more weight than personal anecdotes do.

You want to talk about "back up" Maybe examine the FPP article itself. "Since the legislation assumes that any flaw lies 'with the experts, not the policy', the government could be given the power to introduce politically sympathetic voices into the academic mainstream and to reshape the boundaries of academic inquiry. Institutional resistance would presumably be punished by the withdrawal of funds, which would be extremely damaging to Middle East centres especially."

See that? "The government could be given"; " Institutional resistance would presumably be punished"; "which would be extremely damaging ...". None of these are anything but pure opinions and rank speculation ... the author is not claiming they did happen, nor even that they are likely to happen ...

In fact, the title sentence of the FPP is "unprecedented federally mandated intrusion into the content and conduct of university-based area studies programmes." ... taken directly from the article.

What isn't in the title is the entire sentence: "And, although the bill states that the board is not authorised to 'mandate, direct or control an institution of higher education's specific instructional content, curriculum or programme of instruction', it is authorised 'to study, monitor, apprise and evaluate' a sample of activities supported under Title VI. Which amounts to the same thing: unprecedented federally mandated intrusion into the content and conduct of university-based area studies programmes."

The author clearly has a serious personal interest ... she's one of those that is used to the total freedom to say anything she wishes, and futher, to require students (if she wishes) to comply with her beliefs or fail her classes ... she's the one that currently "intrudes" upon the "content and conduct" of university studies - and if anyone (such as, for instance, the federal government ... that represents that taxpayers that help pay her salary) dares say they even want to "study, monitor, apprise and evaluate" what she is doing, suddenly the apocalypse of thought is at hand.

This sentiment is not only agreed with, and posted with no alternative perspectives as an FPP, but particular sentence fragments that amplify her rhetoric introduce the FPP. This is not a "troll", but any opposing viewpoint is?


There, in the article itself, is a whole host of claims with no backup - which you apparently don't find worth examining ... but when a comment uses a single anecdote to portray a different view ... that is something you should attack and dismiss?

And even further - it is (as usual) bizarre to be accused of trolling when the framing of the FPP itself is a troll to anyone other than someone that agrees with the perspective. "you didn't have reason to call your congressperson tomorrow? you do now. frightening." ... this is not trolling, but a personal anecdote, from an opposing perspective, is?

The allegation that the government is going to "reshape the boundaries of academic inquiry" by using money to enforce a particular perspective is not trolling, but the allegation that "academic inquiry" already enforces a particular perspective is?

I agree:
"Holy Shit, that's annoying."
posted by MidasMulligan at 10:06 PM on April 16, 2004


Well, the US government is already funding flawed, biased, bullshit scientific studies that just tell them what they want to hear, no sense leaving the social sciences and humanities out of the deal.
posted by Space Coyote at 10:16 PM on April 16, 2004


It is never, in my opinion, a good idea to set up Government-monitored, politically-correct thought panels

When you're trying to figure out who gets how much of a relatively fixed pot of money, such a panel is always going to exist. In the absence of an Advisory Board, the primary "thought panels" would simply be the authorizing committees and Appropriations subcommittees in the House and Senate. With an Advisory Board, the same is true except they have the AB for some political cover.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:38 PM on April 16, 2004


"The author of the piece is a child of Holocaust survivors and seems anti-Israeli" (postroad) - anti-Israeli, anti-Israel, anti-semitic or anti-Zionist ? They all have different connotations.
___________________________________________

"I had a 4.0 average going into my senior year of undergrad studies ... until I refused to write a paper on the topic "How capitalism encourages rape" " - I just learned that I am a "traditional liberal" (woo woo), yet I agree with Midas nearly 100% on this one :

1) There are many in academia - still - pushing ludicrous ideologically driven agendas.

2) Using federal legislation to apportion our tax dollar to advance a FEDERAL ideological agenda at universities is far more odious still, and probably likely to merely provoke greater ideological strife.

"Grading a student down because of ideological differences would be considered a violation of professional ethics by most educators I know" yami_mcmoots, so it would be (I'd agree). But also I believe Midas' experience of ideologically driven discrimination was faithfully and honestly told.
posted by troutfishing at 6:40 AM on April 17, 2004


...this legislation is idiotic, and will not solve anything.

Once again, I agree with Midas.
posted by y2karl at 7:00 AM on April 17, 2004


Woud anyone have a problem if we just did away with the program entirely?

The intent of the program was to produce people with language skills, that the government might have a larger pool of potential employees for translation jobs. If that goal is not being achieved -- indeed, if students are being actively encouraged by program administrators NOT to work for the government after graduation -- what's the point of funding the program?

Politics aside, it sounds like we're funding a field-trip program for spoiled, rich college kids with our tax dollars.

If the program isn't accomplishing it's stated objective, why shouldn't it be discontinued?
posted by Rob1855 at 7:27 AM on April 17, 2004


Dr. Lysenko...paging Dr. Lysenko...
posted by gimonca at 8:40 AM on April 17, 2004


at the end of the day i do not want someone like the despicable daniel pipes deciding whether or not someone like chomsky can teach whatever he wants at my university or my hypothetical childrens university ... absolutely not. nor the reverse.

if there is anything less american than this type of thought policing, i am having a tough time imagining what it is.

this is not trolling, but a personal anecdote, from an opposing perspective, is?

i'll work on fairness and balance in future posts. i promise >:) .
posted by specialk420 at 9:04 AM on April 17, 2004


But even people that take money from the government are entitled to free speech, no?

Shut up, punk, or that 300 dollars Bush gave you as a "tax refund"? GONE.
posted by rushmc at 10:08 AM on April 17, 2004


Ever think that maybe the "How capitalism encourages rape" paper was supposed to be a test of how well you could argue the opposite of what the desired answer appeared to be?

Who'd you rather have deciding what can be taught: professors, who have the education and experience; or politicians, who have... well, no redeeming qualities whatsoever, usually.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:20 AM on April 17, 2004


The NR's Kurtz just loves this bill. Funny how the party of 'smaller government" and "state's rights" has no problem with this federally mandated brownshirt shit.

I love this bill because it exposes the conservatives for the cowards and hypocrites they are. I guess having all three branches and the media aren't enough, now they want to make sure political correctness is made on the university level.

Everyone who has been to college has had an activist professor or two and they come in every type imaginable (shall I write my senator about my 'chicago school' economics professor?). If you cant deal with someone with a viewpoint that isn't yours I'd say you don't deserve a degree.
posted by skallas at 11:45 AM on April 17, 2004


rushmc: Shut up, punk, or that 300 dollars Bush gave you as a "tax refund"? GONE.

Or how about all of us on loans and grants? Should we hold our tongues for the sake of conservative patriotic correctness because we're using guvn't money?

What's the next step after we silence professors? Students of course.

Again, I think this is a symptom of a much, much larger problem with the GOP, mainly that it has transformed itself into the party of censorship, big spending, warmongering, fiscal irresponsiblity on a level never seen before, etc. And because of this they fear popular outcry so that leads to more censorship and control.
posted by skallas at 12:09 PM on April 17, 2004


yeah, I'm with midas, troutfishing & y2karl as well... it upsets me that liberal professors turn against what seems to me a fundamental tenet not just of teaching but also of liberalism - open-mindedness. The most important thing in education is to teach people to think. Kant suggested three criteria for proper thinking: to think always for oneself (personal); to think always from the perspective of everyone else (universal); to think always consistently (rational). But on top of those I think it's important to always remember that opinions should be open to revision, that your answer won't suit everyone, and that certain underlying principles may just conflict (eg, tough love v. community involvement; all people are basically good v. some people are evil by nature, etc)

I taught a critical thinking class this semester, and was disappointed that, teaching in NYC, pretty much all my students were secular liberals. I did some devil's advocating for positions I don't believe in just to try to keep things interesting. I was surprised how many people seemed to believe that those with different opinions were just stupid or bad, without trying to understand how they might value or believe different things on some fundamental level.
posted by mdn at 2:19 PM on April 17, 2004


it upsets me that liberal professors turn against what seems to me a fundamental tenet not just of teaching but also of liberalism - open-mindedness.

I really think that it's better characterized strictly that these people are shitty professors and shitty teachers. I took classes with "activist" professors who made a point not to let their perspective conflict with fair assessment of their students' work. It's more like a high-school teacher who gives pretty girls better grades, or only lets the Christian fundy students do fun stuff, than it is some sort of political conspiracy. I contend that if everyone incompetent professor were magically fired at once, then every apparent agenda-pusher would be gone as well.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 2:30 PM on April 17, 2004


One man's content is another man's framework.

But in general, there's a consensus, across the ideological spectrum, about the best "framework" content, and not about the best "content" content. The disagreement on that issue runs across the intelligence/suckiness spectrum instead. (Which is, yes, subjectively determined by Me. But come on.)

Side note: this bill is bad.
posted by Tlogmer at 2:33 PM on April 17, 2004


It's more like a high-school teacher who gives pretty girls better grades... than it is some sort of political conspiracy

Heh, I'm guessing that you're not a liberal arts graduate student, right Ignatius? There is a political conspiracy, albeit a tacit and unconscious one. You'll find a good exposition on this topic from someone experienced in the issue here

I contend that if everyone incompetent professor were magically fired at once, then every apparent agenda-pusher would be gone as well.

Ah, but at the top institutions, being a "teacher" really has very little to do with your job description. So that's not a practical solution. Trust me, I'm a grad student at one of the top institutions in my field: none of my professors are "bad". But many, many of them are biased, because ("intellectual" or not) nobody has ever forced them to think objectively.
posted by gd779 at 2:44 PM on April 17, 2004


I'd particularly like to highlight this section from my link.

What, if anything, should we do about conservative underrepresentation? If you're conservative, I certainly hope you didn't say "force universities to hire more conservatives!" You're not an ideological conservative; you're an opportunist willing to sacrifice any principle as soon as it's your own ox being gored.

I'm in favor of the sorts of programs I'd favour for any group: set up scholarships and chairs for those of your ideological stripe, or for subjects you want to see covered. Harangue your college. Expose institutional anti-conservatism. Embarass those who create the embarassing conditions that drive conservatives out. But quotas? Are you barking mad?

posted by gd779 at 2:52 PM on April 17, 2004


But many, many of them are biased, because ("intellectual" or not) nobody has ever forced them to think objectively.

care to cite any specific examples?

"As people do better, they start voting like Republicans...unless they have too much education and vote Democratic, which proves there can be too much of a good thing."

- Karl Rove
posted by specialk420 at 11:31 PM on April 17, 2004


How droll...he admits that ignorance equates with voting Republican!
posted by rushmc at 9:29 AM on April 18, 2004


An professor friend once stated that "the fights in academia are terribly bitter, precisely *because* the stakes are so small."

He suggested that 98% of faculty problems are based in either the department chairman being ineffectual, or by university policies that sought to "democratize" departments(*) at the expense of the department chairman, thus rendering him ineffectual.

(*) "democratize", in this case, meaning "divide and conquer", from the point of view of the administration.
posted by kablam at 11:55 AM on April 18, 2004


being a very indecisive fellow, and poor fellow, I've found myself attending a number of community and technical colleges. if universities lean left, then community colleges (and pretty much every high school, but thats a post for another day) lean oppressively to the right. with a few exceptions, many of the students and professors I've known are like rush limbaugh's yak-bak. and I've seen special priveleges given to religious and campus republican groups. many times I've held my tongue in class discussions because I don't want to be inundated with talking points.

anyways, if I were a conservative, I probably wouldn't keep going on and on about how educated, academic types tend to be liberal. do you feel me?
posted by mcsweetie at 1:11 PM on April 18, 2004


if I were a conservative, I probably wouldn't keep going on and on about how educated, academic types tend to be liberal. do you feel me?

Ah, but that's the point. Educated, academic types don't tend to be liberal. Educated, academic types in the humanities tend to be liberal. The sciences, business schools, and engineering schools tilt a bit to the right but are about evenly split. Law schools and (I think) medical schools tilt a little to the left, but are about evenly split. But the humanities are, almost without exception, entirely liberal, with nary a conservative to be found.

So every area of the academy is distributed more-or-less evenly with the general population. Except the humanities, which skew way to the left. Now it's possible that's just random chance, just as it's possible that no conservative, ever, has wanted to specialize in literature and poetry. But it's also possible that conservatives are simply forced out of the humanities by a discriminatory intellectual monoculture.

do you feel me? Heh.

care to cite any specific examples?

Midas has already done the personal anecdote thing. I prefer to just let the numbers speak for themselves.
posted by gd779 at 1:47 PM on April 18, 2004


Ah, but that's the point. Educated, academic types don't tend to be liberal. Educated, academic types in the humanities tend to be liberal. The sciences, business schools, and engineering schools tilt a bit to the right but are about evenly split. Law schools and (I think) medical schools tilt a little to the left, but are about evenly split. But the humanities are, almost without exception, entirely liberal, with nary a conservative to be found.

I'm having trouble finding things on google to support this. but in all fairness, I'm having trouble finding anything anywhere about biases in school that isn't biased itself.
posted by mcsweetie at 2:04 PM on April 18, 2004


An professor friend once stated that "the fights in academia are terribly bitter, precisely *because* the stakes are so small." ... He suggested that 98% of faculty problems are based in either the department chairman being ineffectual

Your professor friend is wrong here. I've seen departments with strong headship systems that were absolute cluster-fucks, and other departments where the chair's powers don't amount to much more than being the public face of the department (all real decisions being made by an executive or governing committee with the chair as first-among-equals) that were productive and collegial.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:33 PM on April 18, 2004


So every area of the academy is distributed more-or-less evenly with the general population. Except the humanities, which skew way to the left. Now it's possible that's just random chance, just as it's possible that no conservative, ever, has wanted to specialize in literature and poetry. But it's also possible that conservatives are simply forced out of the humanities by a discriminatory intellectual monoculture.

It is also possible that a solid liberal arts education (not one distorted by agenda-driven PC crap) is the only truly well-rounded education, and that all other disciplines represent specialized training that does little to prepare one for apprehending the world as a complex, integrated whole.
posted by rushmc at 5:16 PM on April 18, 2004


How about we simply have the government STOP funding colleges entirely int his area of study. Surely thats fair and we can use the money for something else.
posted by soulhuntre at 6:03 PM on April 18, 2004


soulhuntre: what a terrible idea! High-quality humanities grads are one of the few things that make the US different and better than other First World nations. They really are the one thing we can produce en masse that no one else can produce at all.
posted by Ptrin at 11:09 PM on April 18, 2004


I find it interesting that most non-academics discussing this issue, as well as the larger issue of political bias or not in the humanities, always call professors "teachers" and fixate on the classroom experience as if university were just the next step of highschool. Professors are not teachers. While teaching is normally a part of their job description, many professors are hired as primarily researchers and thinkers. At many of the more prestigious universities, I think it would be safe to say that research outweighs teaching in both hiring and promotional practices. Teaching may pay the bills, but research puts the university on the map (and through grants pays even more of the bills).

Moreover, I don't know if these programs fund teaching at all - they are primarily funding research. I believe at my university much of this money goes towards graduate students to help them learn languages or travel overseas to conduct research. What Johnny does or does not learn in the classroom (and surely by university everyone is mature enough to make up their own minds without parents watching like hawks) is not at issue - academic freedom and honesty in research and writing is. Whatever one's personal opinion on the state of Middle-eastern studies (which should probably be formed by sitting down and reading some scholarly journals, and not by what one reads on the internet), any act by a government to dictate what can or cannot be written cannot be good for honest scholarship. If there is a problem with the scholarship that is being produced, than the way to combat that is to get out, do the legwork and produce your own, better scholarship.

This is peer-review, and it works well because if there is one thing scholars are, it is opinionated and contrary. No matter if 98% of scholars in a given field have assumption A, there will still be some young wippersnapper or some old geezer with a chip on the shoulder to exclaim that assumption A is all wrong and you should go with assumption B. Then they argue about it, kill lots of trees, and bore many students. If you look closely through a given scholarly debate, you find that the apparent truth is somewhere between assumption A and assumption B. Sometimes the most reasonable proposition is that assumption A is basically good, but assumption B adds some important qualifications; sometimes it is the other way around. And sometimes the most reasonable explanation/model/theory is smack down the middle, or sometimes it is proposition C.

This process might not be perfect, but it's the best we have. We trust the peer part of it, because frankly I am not qualified to say why Prof. Smartypants molecular theory isn't right or Professor Obscruro's analysis of seventeenth century Chinese women poets is controversal, even if I did read the book (and liked it).

I'm not totally clear on all of what is involved in this move, but if the government gets involved with telling researchers what they do and do not want to hear, they will be shooting themselves in the foot. They will alienate the experts and emigre communities and only hear from yes-men. It is their right, of course, to choose what to fund and what not to fund. I just think it is a poor decision - and it has nothing to do with teaching.
posted by jb at 11:37 PM on April 18, 2004


Oh - and on the subject of the prevalence of liberals in the humanities, I think it would be accurate to say that they do dominate. But who else would be willing to give up years of their lives to live on a graduate student stipend (if they are one of the lucky few to have one) knowing that the prospects of lucrative employment are not very good? Most humanities graduate students, and thus most humanities professors (they don't spring from the head of Zeus, after all), had the grades and test scores to go into law, even some for medicine. They were at the top of their class, and could have found very good jobs in business. The fact that they conciously choose to spend their lives studying literature, art, history or society will certainly reflect certain values that will be common, though not absolutely dominant.

A friend of mine also made an interesting suggestion about how one's own life can affect one's political stance: that people, like many professors, who enjoy what they do they do for a living may feel more "lucky" to have had the opprotunities that they have, and so to feel like they ought to give back to society and to feel badly that others don't have as nice a job. But for people who do not like what they do as much or who find less satisfaction in it, they may focus on how hard they work (usually very hard) and be angry at what they see as other people not pulling their own weight. I thought it was an interesting proposition - though certainly only one of many factors.
posted by jb at 11:51 PM on April 18, 2004


High-quality humanities grads are one of the few things that make the US different and better than other First World nations.

Er, no. Canada is better than the US by a long shot.

And not coincidentally, what you typically call liberal in the USA looks pretty conservative to Canadians. And what we call conservative, you see as fairly liberal.

Which means that -- and your statement actually says this in a slightly different way -- the more liberal a country is, the better it is.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:02 AM on April 19, 2004


"the more liberal a country is, the better it is"

Canada? Let me know the next time Canada makes a world changing invention or discovery. Thanks :)

"what a terrible idea! High-quality humanities grads are one of the few things that make the US different and better than other First World nations"

How? I mean how many people do we need whose primary job seems to be turning out paper after paper trying to find all new ways to try and blame the US for everything from AIDS to hydrogen (the element itself) in a never ending competition to do a thesis blaming us for something no one else has blamed us for before?
posted by soulhuntre at 9:33 AM on April 19, 2004


Let me know the next time Canada makes a world changing invention or discovery.

If you are serious, you have just capably demonstrated your ignorance beyond any shade of doubt.

Either way, you've just reinforced the public perception that Americans are self-absorbed assholes with no clue that there's a world outside their own little domain.

Enough so that while I'm not going to respond with a direct "fuck you," I'm not going to bother to bring you up to speed, either.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:28 PM on April 19, 2004


pretty much my sentiments exactly fresh fish. i was suprised to hear about our republican governor visiting canada and its thriving bio-tech industry and begging for scraps of business this year.
posted by specialk420 at 2:42 PM on April 19, 2004


I'm not going to bother to bring you up to speed, either.

allow me!

let's see: the electron microscope, the light bulb, the pacemaker, insulin, java, plexiglass, the quartz clock, the prosthetic hand, tv, the telephone, the zipper, and the wireless radio.

I mean how many people do we need whose primary job seems to be turning out paper after paper trying to find all new ways to try and blame the US for everything from AIDS to hydrogen (the element itself) in a never ending competition to do a thesis blaming us for something no one else has blamed us for before?

um, have you ever been to college?
posted by mcsweetie at 3:04 PM on April 19, 2004


I just thought of something. while the organization you describe does not exist, what if there were a similar group of some sort whose sole purpose was to find new ways to blame all of america's ills on "the left?" it'd make a fortune!
posted by mcsweetie at 3:51 PM on April 19, 2004


That list doesn't even begin to list the biomed stuff Canada's so very good at. Nor a bunch of high-tech electronics and energy work. Nor some important stuff we've done to create simple but effective technologies that benefit third-world countries. Nor a bunch more research into stuff that doesn't create tangible products, but does help people (remedial therapies, predictive technologies, etc.)

There's a theme to Canadian inventions and research, though: we're typically very strong, and often quite far ahead of the competition, where the technology has to do with benefiting people.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:50 PM on April 19, 2004


Oh, bleah. soulhuntre's comment was as dumb and uninformed as they come, but... yeesh. If you could be like Ed Begley and have a car powered by your own sense of smug satisfaction, you'd be set.

(other Canadian inventions include the Iraqi supergun and improved artillery tubes for South-Africa-in-the-bad-old-days, and they're inordinately proud of a high-altitude interceptor they never put into production; they're no more or less a bunch of fuckheads or saints than anyone else)
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:48 PM on April 19, 2004


I like the Canada arm myself - it's very anthropomorphic, and it has a maple leaf on it.

Yes, we Canadians can be a little too smug - we also like to claim inventions that really have only a tangetial connection, like the telephon. Bell was really a Scotsman who stopped and did a little bit of research briefly in Hamilton before going to the US to patent the phone. But mcsweetie also missed standardized time zones.
posted by jb at 8:02 PM on April 19, 2004


soulhuntre: are you aware of the concept of comparative advantage, or do you think we should all subsistence farm, too?

five fresh fish: I would argue that there is enough diffusion of humanities talent across the border (and a sufficient population advantage in the US :P ) to render that point moot. But you're right -- I was thinking mostly of the major European countries and their current higher education problems. I'm ignorant of humanities in Canada vs. the US -- do you have any links on hand, or should I Google on my own?
posted by Ptrin at 8:06 PM on April 19, 2004


By the "benefiting people" comment, I was giving acknowledgement to our, afaik, near-complete lack of military research and development. I don't think Canada does a whole lot of research into how to kill people better.

I think Canada more or less lives the humanities. South of the border there's all sorts of hullabaloo about nipples and socialized health care and hippy professors and all that.

Contrast that to the USA:

Tonight I watched an old Kids in the Hall. It had Full Nipple Exposure (a miniaturized character leaping from voluptuous breast to voluptuous breast during a fantasy sequence) and I don't recall Canada falling into a frenzy about that even during the original airing.

Our northern Conservative Right, even during the horrible Mulroney years, was often far to the left of even the most south's "liberal" Democratic Left. Heck, our Reform party ultimately failed to be truly conservative.

As for hippy professors, I give you Dr. David Suzuki, nationally syndicated icon of environmentalism who apparently garners endless respect from most Canadians. I don't think America has anyone even remotely similar.

That'd be the same Suzuki who appeared naked on the cover of a national magazine, covered only by a fig leaf, something that occassioned only mild tittering and rolling of eyes, not the strum und drang of the recent Superbowl halftime incident.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:30 PM on April 19, 2004


By the "benefiting people" comment, I was giving acknowledgement to our, afaik, near-complete lack of military research and development. I don't think Canada does a whole lot of research into how to kill people better.

Apart from the supergun. And the South African artillery, both designed by one G. Bull, Canadian. And the Arrow. And breeder-reactor research (CANDUs are basically the same as plutonium-production reactors; you think that's an accident?). And early, important research into building atomic bombs.

I mean, really. Asserting the moral superiority of any nation over any other is already a pretty goofy, asinine thing to do. To make that assertion between any two OECD countries, all of which are different shades of the same grey anyway, is stupendously dumb (or "patriotic," which is the same thing AFAIC).

I'll shut up now. This sort of nationalistic twaddle from anywhere directed at anywhere just irritates me to no end, especially when it's apparently done without any ironic intent. And I just read Robert Sawyer's Humans recently, which had me rolling my eyes through my enjoyment.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:07 AM on April 20, 2004


I want to live in canada.
posted by mcsweetie at 9:07 AM on April 20, 2004


G. Bull was an independent loon. I don't think he at all represents the Establishment. The other two items date back to the early Cold War days.

As far as I know, the Canadian government, including its military, do bugger-all in the way of weapons research.

Hell, we don't give our soldiers bullets, we put them aloft in crash-prone SeaKing helicopters, and our navy is rusting apart at the seams. If we were to put some money into military, I should hope it'd go into infrastructure, not research! Those poor bastards in our military are really getting the short end of the stick.

(Come to think of it, though, we do have CAE, which builds flightsims used by the US military, and Bombardier, which builds fighter jets.)
posted by five fresh fish at 9:28 AM on April 20, 2004


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