Book Reviews

03.18.13

Why Are Professors Liberal?

At the Weekly Standard, Mark Bauerlein (who teaches English at Emory University) interestingly reviews a new book about the liberal tendency of academia: Why are Professors Liberal and Why Do Conservatives Care?

Why is academia liberal, then? Gross’s data indicate that it isn’t because liberals and conservatives have different values or mental habits, or that liberals discriminate against right-leaning graduate students and job candidates. Rather, it is because academia has a reputation for liberalism, and conservative undergraduates decide on their own not to continue in the field.

The key moment, Gross maintains, is the decision whether or not to go to graduate school. Young conservatives may not know all that much about academia at the faculty level, but popular stereotypes and a few off-putting experiences in class can sufficiently discourage them from pursuing academia as a site for success. A freshman orientation session that divides white males from everyone else, incessant talk about diversity, multiculturalist reading assignments, and so on may not bother them that much (and they can always find safe spaces such as College Republicans), but such things do convince young conservatives that staying on campus as a career move is foolish. An English major who reveres Great Books needs only one occasion of a teaching assistant ridiculing him for a dead-white-male fixation to decide, “I don’t need this.”