The Myth of Liberal College Indoctrination
FlaglerLive | March 4, 2012
Cambodian reeducation camps, American universities ain't.
Neil Gross, professor of sociology at the University of British Columbia, in The Times
: “The Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum recently called President Obama a “snob” for supporting higher education for all Americans. “There are good, decent men and women,” he said, “who go out and work hard every day and put their skills to test that aren’t taught by some liberal college professor trying to indoctrinate them.” He also called colleges and universities “indoctrination mills” for godless liberalism. [...] It’s certainly true that professors are a liberal lot and that religious skepticism is common in the academy. [...] It’s also true that young college graduates are somewhat more likely to identify as liberal and to hold more liberal attitudes on social issues than their non-college-educated peers. But contrary to conservative rhetoric, studies show that going to college does not make students substantially more liberal. The political scientist Mack Mariani and the higher education researcher Gordon Hewitt analyzed changes in student political attitudes between their freshman and senior years at 38 colleges and universities from 1999 to 2003. They found that on average, students shifted somewhat to the left — but that these changes were in line with shifts experienced by most Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 during the same period of time. In addition, they found that students were no more likely to move left at schools with more liberal faculties. [...] Studies also show that attending college does not make you less religious. The sociologists Jeremy Uecker, Mark Regnerus and Margaret Vaaler examined data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health and found that Americans who pursued bachelor’s degrees were more likely to retain their faith than those who did not, perhaps because life at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder can be rough in ways that chip away at religious belief and participation. They report that students “who did not attend college and two-year college students are much more likely — 61 and 54 percent more, respectively — than four-year college students to relinquish their religious affiliations.” So why do conservatives persist in attacking higher education? [...] [A]ttacking liberal professors as elitists [...] helps position the conservative movement as a populist enterprise by identifying a predatory elite to which conservatism stands opposed — an otherwise difficult task for a movement strongly backed by holders of economic power.” The full column
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