March 25, 2006


The Real Bias in the Classroom (Scott Jaschik, 3/20/06, Inside Higher Ed)

A new study — soon to be published in PS: Political Science & Politics — finds that students are the ones with bias, attributing characteristics to their professors based on the students’ perceptions of their faculty members’ politics and how much they differ from their own.

The authors of the study say that it backs the claims of proponents of the Academic Bill of Rights that students think about — and are in some cases concerned about — the politics of their professors. [...]

Liberal or conservative isn’t the key factor, Kelly-Woessner says; the real disconnect comes in the difference between the views of student and professor. “It’s pretty much the same either way,” she says. “The thing that matters is the difference between them.”

In the research being published in PS: Political Science & Politics, findings included the following:

* Most students feel confident that they know their professors’ political inclinations and that they are not hidden. Asked if they knew their professors’ leanings, 15 percent said that they were “positive,” 32 percent said that they were “very confident,” 40 percent were “somewhat confident,” and only 11 percent were “not at all confident.”

* Students considered 77 percent of their professors to be left of center, and 7 percent right of center. (While the authors of the students didn’t verify that the professors indeed held those views, they note that such findings would be consistent with other surveys of the profession.) While more students in the survey identified themselves as liberal than as conservative, the split was such that the student body in this study was more conservative than the professors — as perceived by students.

* Professors who students think are conservative are generally rated more favorably by students on whether they present material objectively.

* Professors who students think are liberal are generally rated more favorably by students on whether students are encouraged to present their own viewpoints, whether grading is fair, whether the learning environment is comfortable, and whether they care about the success of students.

And the children in these classes will get more conservative as they grow up, while the professors are permanently stunted.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 25, 2006 8:19 AM

A quote from the Thomas Sowell editorial/interview in today's WSJ">">WSJ, They (students) expressed appreciation for the course but added, "We still don't know what your opinion is on Marxism." He took it as an unintended compliment.

Those students didn't know how privileged they were to be taught by Mr. Sowell but in the future, they may well remember that course as a high point in their college careers.

I wish Sowell had taken on the Department of Education. With his bona fides, he might have been able to loosen the teachers unions stranglehold on our schools.

Posted by: erp at March 25, 2006 9:27 AM


He would have absolutely hated the job but, you're right, he could have done a lot of good.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at March 26, 2006 3:47 AM
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