After we commented on Cass Sunstein’s article about The Problem Of All Those Liberal Professors we recognized that we failed one of the standards of archival research. You should aways check the original document(s). The original document that Cass referred to is: Homogenous: The Political Affiliation of Elite Liberal Arts College Faculty by Mitchell Langbert. It was posted on the National Association of Scholars (NAS) website. NAS is:
[A] network of scholars and citizens united by our commitment to academic freedom, disinterested scholarship, and excellence in American higher education. Membership in NAS is open to all who share our commitment to these broad principles. We publish a journal and have state and regional affiliates.
Yup, that basically makes them conservatives. It is not a surprise that Mitchell’s article showed up at NAS. Other outlets might not be interested.
We were concerned that Cass understated the impact of the lack of conservatives on faculty because the faculty run the place. They set the curriculum and the related courses. They determine the research standards. They hire (sometimes with a little help) administrators. Most administrators were former faculty. These administrators set accreditation standards. In short, faculty run the place although not all faculty are equally involved in such activities.
So let’s see what Mitchell said about the impact of the lack of ideological balance in colleges and universities:
So pervasive is the lack of balance in academia that more than 1,000 professors and graduate students have started Heterodox Academy, an organization committed to increasing “viewpoint diversity” in higher education.4The end result is that objective science becomes problematic, and where research is problematic, teaching is more so. [Site added]
To an academic it is reasonable to include curriculum development in teaching but we don’t think that the general public does. We think it is important to understand that faculty have somewhere between an extensive to exclusive say about what classes are taught and how, what research is acceptable, what outside speakers come to campus, and almost everything else that happens on campus.
Mitchell notes that West Point and Annapolis are two outliers in that they are more balanced that almost all the other schools. We took a look at the history curriculum for Annapolis (US Naval Academy) and a local school that we have access to. It should give you a feel for the differences between a school with balance (Annapolis) and one without balance.
Examples of history themes from the US Naval Academy:
Examples of topics include piracy, the development of national identities and the growth of capitalism.
Sidebar: We really, really want to take the course on the history of pirates. Especially on International Talk Like a Pirate Day. End Sidebar
Here are some selected history course titles from a regional state school (yes we are aware that Mitchell was surveying Liberal Arts schools):
Women in the Modern United States: 1890-Present
History of Motherhood in the United States
U.S. Reform Movements
You can check the sites and see if you agree with us that the curriculums are very different. Even when the titles are similar, Peace and War versus History of The Technology of Peace And War, we are willing to wager that the courses are very different. Mitchell recognizes the connection of balance to research. Without approved research a faculty member is highly unlikely to earn tenure. If Military History is not part of the curriculum then military historians need not apply. Too bad Victor Davis Hanson. But the impact of the lack of balance is even more. It is what happens in the classroom. But it is also the classes that get taught, the speakers that come to campus, and the other services offered by the university.
Cass and Mitchell are right to identify the problem. It is just bigger than they think. It has an impact on every student in every major in every way.