Friday, April 08, 2005

That Ol' College Try

Kapil Kale '07 made a feeble attempt in yesterday's D to explain the presence of liberal bias among the professoratti. Feeble, I say, because he relied on words of wisdom he obviously cribbed from his Sociology 101 class explaining the strong correlation "between years of education and liberal political preference":
One of the first lessons taught in American government classes is that there is a strong correlation between years of education and liberal political preference. Education forces people to open their mind [Their collective mind? How Jungian!] to new ideas and ways of thought, encourages reasoned thought and fosters social awareness--tenets central to the philosophy of the Democratic party. . .Education inherently discourages belief in a just world [omitted part explains that Republicans base their beliefs on the "just-world bias"] by directly expanding the mind by teaching new perspectives and paradigms of though, essentially putting students in the shoes of others.
In other words, Kapil cuddles up to the stale belief that those of us who voted for Bush are less-educated; we haven't had our minds exanded; we must adhere to antiquated paradigms and perspectives; Well...

In the 2004 election, the Pew Research Center found the following for party group identification:
Republican Democrat
Below HS Grad21% 40%
HS Grad 28% 33%
Some College32% 31%
College Degree+33% 32%

Voting patterns for the 2004 election:
(% of total) Bush (%gain from 2000) Kerry
No HS (4) 49 (10)50
HS Grad (22) 52 (3) 47
Some College (32)54 (3) 46
College (26) 52 (1) 46
Post Grad (16) 44 (0) 55

These numbers obviously put a bit of a crimp in Kapil's argument, especially the relative sizes of the various factions. But let's complicate matters further with this analysis (down the page quite a ways) of education and race from the 2002 mid-term House elections:
(% of total) GOP Share
No HS (3) 53%
HS Grad (22) 56%
Some College (30) 61%
College Grad (26) 63%
Some Postgrad (20) 54%
No HS (7) 2%
HS Grad (25) 4%
Some College (38) 10%
College Grad (22) 16%
Some Postgrad (8) 19%
No HS (14) 27%
HS Grad (22) 31%
Some College (35) 35%
College Grad (18) 55%
Some Postgrad (11)40%

What's this I see!? As blacks become more educated a larger portion votes for the GOP!? And the same for Hispanics, until they reach the post-grad level!? Might wanna grab your eraser and return to the drawming board, Kapil.

He is right on one point: The liberal bias on campus is due in large part to self-selection. But his assertion that the correlation--which, according to these numbers, is certainly not "strong"--between education and political stripe has to do with fundamental changes wrought in the psyche, the expansion of the mind, as it were, is ridiculous. One of the first things taught in American government classes is that correlation does not mean causation.

Kapil's screed is just another instance of a pie-in-the-sky liberal talking down to Republicans and conservatives with little or no factual basis. Just another attempt to feel better about the bruising losses Democrats have suffered the last few elections at the hands of those of us mired in our ancient world beliefs. We Republicans just can't put ourselves in others' shoes, dammit, but somehow we manage to keep winning!

There are other aspects of the piece to be criticized--its stilted prose, the bits lifted from Krugman as Nathaniel notes in an earlier post, the pathetic appeal to authority ("as an ethnic minority in the greater society of America, I grant that..."), the failure to have even the most basic understanding of conservatism or Republicans ("...the central beliefs of the Republican party often are based on faith and sources other than accepted fact"), & co.--but such drivelling inanity deserves no more of my time.

Well, maybe just a little. Kapil closes with this gem: "If conservatives want to regain the support of academia, the Republican party itself will have to shift." Tell you what, Kapil, we'll happily cede academia if you let us keep control of the House, the Senate, the Presidency, and the state governorships.


Anonymous said...

He wasn't cribbing off a socy class, but Krugman op-ed which puts it a lot better.

Kapil Kale said...

Several points noted, Alston.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that those who attain graduate degrees vote liberal, and thus the selection pool for professors is slanted. As noted, this is indeed a correlation so causation must be careful, but I think it is clear that the post-doctoral educational process does influence beliefs.

I've never taken Sociology 101, but I have taken a stat class or two. The reason the statistics shown from the Pew center are somewhat unfair is that they do not remove the income factor from the equation. Wealthier individuals are more likely to get college degrees, and individual wealth itself is correlated with conservatism. Those who enter doctoral level education do not do so for the wealth, so the postgrad variable may more fairly explain educational effects by factoring out income.

The reason Republicans keep winning is far more complex than "putting ourselves in others' shoes". Creating harsh divisions over social issues, frequently on religious boundaries, in order to excuse fiscal irresponsibility is hardly my idea of "putting ourselves in others' shoes". True, central tenets of conservative philosophy are not centered around religion, but rather the ideal that the individual deserves respect and rights. Along with this philosophy comes the belief that individuals are fully responsible for what comes their way, which is why Republicans tend to have a just-world bias in the first place.

And for the record, I still know and love many Republicans.

Anonymous said...

To a large degree, your numbers support his point, don't they? The extra educational step of obtaining a post-graduate degree seems to shift people to the left, and colleges ought not to hire people who lack post-graduate degrees.

The fact, of course, is that one reason that conservatives don't pursue post-graduate degrees as often is that many (most?) such degrees are silly liberal fluff with no practical application. Post-graduate degrees are conservative unfriendly for three reasons: (1) most (by which I mean all of the sociology-derived fields, and much of the core humanities) are impractical, and conservatives tend to be practical; (2) the faculties teaching such programs are very powerful and very disposed against conservatives, so there is not much sense in trying to succeed in those fields anyway; (3) many of the fields have been doctrinally polluted to the point that no self-respecting conservative would still want to study them (English, for example, is no longer worth pursuing as a post-graduate degree if what you want to do is actually become a learned student of culture's great works).

I would not be surprised if the fields that have not been tainted by liberal bias (the hard sciences (particularly engineering), law -- to some extent, medicine) are disproportionately conservative. After all, real scholarship -- by which I mean non-ideological scholarship -- is as spat upon by liberals as evolution is by social conservatives. (See, e.g., liberal terror at Larry Summers' remarks.)

Conservatives generate the capital that allows society to have a leisure class like women's studies professors. That's not because they're stupid. It's because those that can, do, while those who can't, teach.

Anonymous said...

The distinction between post grads is that more Republican types believe in being productive, enterprising individuals in todays economy, while more liberals believe in being a parasitic pox on the pocketbook of society, ergo more Republicans take their undergrad degree and go get a real job, while more liberals go on to grad school, living off the public teat (though in a respectable intellectual way) getting paid to make excuses why everbody with an excuse of victimhood should be able to do the same (or learning to represent them in court). It is a self-selection process, which is only going to be reversed when more republicans see it as some sort of holy mission to become college professors.

Anonymous said...

Conservatives are more into making money than they are into teaching others.

Being a professor/teacher is not a lucrative business venture.