WASHINGTON – Most liberal arts departments in American universities claim that they offer students the unique opportunity to expand their horizons through unbiased teaching. They also claim to be neutral training grounds within which young minds learn the skills that enable them to test the value of different ideas. Through this wonderful, mind opening process the various opinions that will be formed down the line by each student will be the result of careful consideration enlightened by rigorous scholarly research.
The left dominates
Well, all this would be really nice if it were even remotely true. In reality most liberal arts departments in American universities are composed of academics who, whatever their scholarly accomplishment, made up their minds long ago on issues of “social justice”, “progressive politics”, “capitalism”, “oppression of minorities”, and what not. Most of them long ago embraced a left-wing view of the world, and this point of view is usually reflected in what they teach and how they teach it.
One point of view
Unfortunately, when it comes to the mind-set of those whose job is supposedly to help young people expand their horizons, we see that most of them share the same ideology. And this assessment is not just based on anecdotal evidence picked up here and there. We are about talking statistically proven quasi-unanimity.
Ivy League: 96% for Obama in 2012
Do you want some facts? Well, take this morsel, extracted from a longer quote cited in the WSJ. In his recent (May 29) Harvard commencement address, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg lamenting an increasingly intolerant environment in many American universities (intolerant of conservative opinions, that is) pointed out that “in the 2012 presidential race, according to Federal Election Commission data, 96% of all campaign contributions from Ivy League faculty and employees went to Barack Obama”.
There you have it: 96% for Obama!. These are majorities that only a North Korean leader can aspire to. From this data the emerging picture is that at Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Princeton, Dartmouth and other super prestigious schools there is only one point of view. In these great places of higher learning there is only one dominant ideology. Only the left has a voice.
Freedom of choice?
Of course, all Americans, including university professors and administrators, are free to believe what they want. But when in prestigious universities there is only one voice, I would say that it is hard for students to be exposed to diverse ideas, so that they can make up their own minds later on as to what they find more convincing.
Granted, Ivy League schools, by themselves are not all of America. But they are a very important piece of it. These are the quintessential elite schools attracting some of the best students on the basis of the superior quality of their faculty.
But how can there be superior teaching in an environment where everybody thinks the same? Virtual unanimity on political predilections suggests group think. Group think leads to indoctrination. And indoctrination has nothing to do with real teaching about analysis and scholarship. Finally, the rigid ideological make up of these places also suggests that conservatives need not apply.
But in the final analysis this depressing scenario of leftwing orthodoxy suggests something much worse. These universities by default have become the Western (perhaps milder but still dangerous) equivalent of the “party schools” of old communist countries. These were openly places of indoctrination. Their stated goal was to form the future loyal functionaries and party leaders. And we have seen the disastrous effects of forced orthodoxy.
Freedom of choice?
In America we are free to choose, of course. You do not have to apply to an Ivy League school, if you do not like how and what they teach there.
However, when many if not most high quality higher education institutions offer only one type of intellectual menu, I fear that we basically lost our freedom of choice, while we get the same results of soviet-era “education”: close-minded intellectuals who made up their minds long ago on almost everything.
These teachers are zealots. They do not help their students, and certainly they do not help us to better understand the larger social and human context they describe and analyze.