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8th Jun 2011, 07:17 PM
8th Jun 2011, 07:53 PM
I didn't read the article, but I have to say from experience in the U.S. there is a LOT of liberal bias in the classroom. I went to college as an adult (37 when I started), so my political views were already formed. I got sick from hearing all the way through school and into my Master's program about the evils of republicans and the wonders of the democratic party.
I went on to teach at the college level and one of my text books which dealt in the history of mental health, incarcerated populations, and disadvantaged people was rife with liberal bias. It covered all the administrations from FDR. According to the text all the wonderful things done by the democrats was destroyed as the republicans sought to destroy the mentally ill and financially disadvantaged. I did my own research and, determined to never let the students even know my political views, made certain to highlight the good things done by all administrations. I did this even when I disagreed with the actions. I pointed out the intentional and unintentional consequences of each presidential action. But, I repeat, had I taught strictly by the book, I would have been sprouting liberal propaganda masquerading as truth.
As a student, I often had to be careful to regurgitate the opinions my teachers gave me as if it were fact in order to maintain a decent grade. I resented it and I still resent professors (and they are many) who demand strict adherence to their views and opinions as facts **stepping off soap box**
8th Jun 2011, 09:59 PM
I was blessed to have a science teacher this year that actually took a passive approach on global warming. He showed us how both extremes (no such thing and of course there is) manipulate the data and how it's much more political agenda than science. In short the answer is that we have no idea whether there is man-made global warming or not. I can't say I've seen a meaningful liberal bias in the classroom but maybe I just haven't noticed....
8th Jun 2011, 10:14 PM
I've never really felt any compulsion to regurgitate any of my professors' opinions to get a grade when I was going to college, and the only time I ever had any issues with those grades were when I failed to attend those classes or if the material itself was more difficult for me than the rest (I just don't get along with the sorts of memorization of names that goes with biology. I understand it, but a lot of my bio was all memorization that was just difficult for me then and probably still would be now.) Did I have differences of opinions with instructors? Sure, starting all the way back before college. And just like before I got to college (and obviously like years and years after college) I never had a problem expressing a difference of opinion and getting an excellent grade. Not once. Not ever.
Sure, I've ran into fellow students who obviously felt that they had to just pass along every paper as a restatement of the professor's every hanging word, but really, that's been bullshit since third grade. If you've got an opinion that's worth having, that can withstand scrutiny and that you can support, I've never found anyone anywhere who wouldn't at least grudgingly allow you that opinion with respect, even if you haven't changed their minds and you haven't changed theirs. I know *I* don't mind it - in fact I respect someone even more if they've got an opinion that's well-sourced and derived, and completely wrong of course, but I can understand that it's a reasonable, logical opinion given weight and consideration. But I'm not going to respect your opinion and views even if you agree with me, if you've got no basis for those views, or if the only views you've got are the ones I've installed into you.
Perhaps it's something I do that allows me to be contrary without reprisal, or perhaps I just haven't been exposed to the anecdotal supports to the opposing arguments. Or maybe it's just that people expect to be taught in a way that a lot of professors aren't necessarily expecting to teach. I admit, I've used a fair amount of care to not purposefully antagonize professors beyond the needs of the contrary opinion - whether it was the post-colonial feminist literature professor who had ridiculous notions about what constituted "good" writing (but who introduced me to Gabriel García Márquez) or my Economics professor who really really hated it when I'd take everything they presented and turned it around to support my own position (but who, at the end of the day, would stay after class with me to try to convince me, adding a lot of math to my repertoire that I might not otherwise have gotten by simply taking notes.) Just because someone is wrong doesn't mean they're stupid, and just because I think they're wrong now doesn't mean I can't be convinced to another position with enough support.
Or it might just be that I'm so comfortable with people disagreeing with me that it often fails to register. Most of the time when people believe obviously ignorant things it's best to simply ignore them and do the work. I mean, that's how most of my work place environments work out - with whole buildings full of barely competent morons and me sitting around not quite feeling up to the task either, but unwilling to dare to try to learn anything from the idiots around me lest I end up with some malfunction of my core intelligence. Sometimes you shut your ears off and pretend that the people around you aren't talking about "what a smart woman Sarah Palin is" or "nuclear power from Japan caused Susie's miscarriage," and for their part they recognize that they don't really want to ask me what I think, because what I think is that they deserve a severe dressing down for letting the human race down and reverting to termite-grubbing, poo-tossers. But that's because you can't reason with the mob, individual professors are a different sort of interaction.
8th Jun 2011, 10:23 PM
I do think there is a liberal bias in academia, but I don't think this is a good example. I frequently hear from very religious people that psychology is bad/wrong, and religious people make up a large portion of those who consider themselves conservative. I also hear conservatives discounting the existence of a mental disorder, such as ADD, OCD, etc. more often than I hear liberals discounting these things. I think this is why conservatives are underrepresented in psychology.
I do think that conservatives are generally underrepresented in academia, though. Particularly in public schools. When I was in public school, I had almost no conservative teachers, and the few I had were generally discreet about their politics, whereas the liberal teachers were often teaching their politics as correct. Now that I am in college, the bias isn't as strong, but that is because I go to a unique college that has an unusually large number of conservatives and, especially, libertarians. I actually didn't know it before I came here, but it was pleasantly surprising to find many other libertarians.
I will say that my experiences probably have a lot to do with the fact that I live on the east coast in the metropolitan area. If I were living in Texas, I'd probably find a much more conservative bias in public schools. I do think that across the country, though, there is more liberal bias than conservative.
9th Jun 2011, 05:00 PM
I agree with everything Mistermook has said.
My anecdotes: I can think of 2 professors in my 4 years of undergrad who ever said anything political. One did it very rarely and in a joking aside manner, and there was very obviously zero room in any of the assignments or exams to try inserting his (or your own) thoughts about modern politics. The other would probably fit the stereotypical hippie-liberal professor archetype and regularly dipped outside of the immediate subject of the class (genetics) to touch on more generally biological things (conservation/environmentalism, though that's not that unrelated, really) and occasionally straight-on politics. On the other hand, he also made it very explicitly clear that he want everyone to make up their own minds and none of the coursework was structured in such a way that students could be evaluated on absorbing his beliefs. He also did a quick disclaimer lecture in the first class when we were hammering down the basics --in this case, what falsifiable means, the broad definition of science-- and said that based on those boundaries, science cannot encompass every single thing (artistic beauty, for example) and trying to use science to disprove God/religion would be like deciding what sandwich to eat based on the color of the sky.
It's not necessarily a baseless correlation though. I have seen correlations drawn between education level political affiliation, i.e. with higher/more degrees obtained, chance of the person identifying as liberal goes up. Curiously, this is often interpreted as brainwashing and indoctrination rather than, say, broadening one's knowledge and perspective making one less likely to be absolutist on social issues.
If I were living in Texas, I'd probably find a much more conservative bias in public schools.
I was educated in Texas public schools* from kindergarten through my bachelor's degree; I have also turned out pretty liberal (at least by Southern standards-- more moderate overall). I never noticed much bias one way or another, except for annoying things like in 9th grade biology when the teacher had to give a short lecture before the evolution unit about it being in the curriculum and if you disagreed with it, sorry, but tough. In the other direction, my (fairly incompetent) chemistry AP teacher decided during a lecture on the laws of thermodynamics to include "and btw that's why evolution can't be real" which was disappointing not just for the fact that she brought it up but that it also demonstrated her profound inability to grapple with non-basic science. Sigh.
*ETA: in the greater Houston area and then Austin. I think urban vs rural is a better divide than northern vs southern, generally speaking. I probably would have had a different educational experience in a more rural county.
Of course, last I heard Texas was planning on conservative-ing up the textbooks and lectures which I guess could be considered "fair" except it would include almost eradicating Thomas Jefferson's role in forming the US and trying to assert the US as a Christian nation.
9th Jun 2011, 05:38 PM
I'll come back with something more intelligent later, but just wanted to pop in and say that, yes, there are more liberals who study and work within psychology (I've just finished my forensic psych degree hence why I've mentioned psych specifically) but this is pretty much solely because it attracts those sorts of people. If you work within psych you will deal with all sorts of people and therefore need to be open-minded and non-judgemental, thus those who are more conservative are unlikely to be attracted to such a job.
My lecturers will make their opinions clear on certain issues related to what they teach, but they never expect you to share it or favour you if you do. Example: one of my lecturers thinks Freud was an absolute wackaloon who hasn't made any useful contributions to psychology but he also makes it very clear that is just his opinion and he won't penalise anyone for having an opposing view point, or favour anyone for agreeing with him. All he cares about is that we understand the material.
10th Jun 2011, 01:45 AM
If you're conservative you're resistant to change, by definition. That means in any pure sense you'd avoid things that challenge you to change or expect you to be exposed to things that might change your worldview. The counter to this is the idea that progressives, by definition, adopt new behaviors simply because they are new, not because they are correct behaviors.
I think what muddles this is that very few people are perfectly conservative or progressive or whatever. I tend to defend the government and military to my extreme left friends, want to punch racial and gender conservatives, and feel really sorry for libertarians because they mean well but I generally think they lack significant education steps that might otherwise bring them back to some sort of more moderate position. So am I a good example of a Democrat or progressive? Probably not, at least by at some people's descriptions. I eat meat, support nuclear power, don't find it particularly troubling to have a significant defense budget OR using it sometimes? Sometimes I probably appear pretty damned conservative to some people. Worse, I'm pretty confident I could teach a class on business or economics that would come across as terribly conservative to some people, not to mention I'm the sort of person people call sir and have asked "are you sure you're not a cop" for ages now.
There are no perfect conservatives and there are no perfect progressives.
10th Jun 2011, 12:11 PM
Your last sentence sounds like conservatives are unlikely attracted to such a job, because they are close-minded and judgmental. It also implies conservatives resist change. Well, I'm sure the definition of a "conservative" would mean to resist change, but still, I'm pretty sure that people change their opinions. I do not think that it is fair to judge that everyone who is conservative is close-minded. I do not think that it is fair to judge that everyone who is conservative cannot change their opinions. Opinions are not fixed and ingrained in the brain. One of my professors says that people should listen to both sides of the debate. Sometimes, just by listening to the opponent's viewpoint, one changes one's political position.Sorry, that was a badly worded sentence and not what I was trying to say or how I meant it to come across. I don't think conservatives are judgemental and close-minded. Apologies for sounding like I did! What I was trying to say is basically Mistermook's first paragraph:
If you're conservative you're resistant to change, by definition. That means in any pure sense you'd avoid things that challenge you to change or expect you to be exposed to things that might change your worldview.A conservative, is more likely to have a firmly set idea of how they perceive the world and everything in it, and there is a much lower chance of changing this perception than there are with liberals. Within psychology (and all social sciences, although psych is technically a life science ;)) you will come across people, behaviours, phenomena, etc. which might not fall in line with your perception of the world, but because liberals are more open to change than conservatives then it is likely to appeal to liberals more than conservatives. And IMO it is this which causes the liberal bias rather than any deliberate discrimination. I shall use Oaktree's example of mental health to illustrate because I'm not sure I'm explaining myself very well: a conservative person who doesn't believe that mental disorders exist is unlikely to want to work with the mentally disordered.
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