Do American Universities Discriminate Against Conservatives?

Two scholars discuss the ups and downs of life as a right-leaning professor

“I don’t think I can say it too strongly, but literally it just changed my life,” said a scholar, about reading the work of Ayn Rand. “It was like this awakening for me.”

Different versions of this comment appear throughout Jon A. Shields and Joshua M. Dunn Sr.’s book on conservative professors, Passing on the Right, usually about people like Milton Friedman and John Stuart Mill and Friedrich Hayek. The scholars they interviewed speak in a dreamy way about these nerdy celebrities, perhaps imagining an alternate academic universe—one where social scientists can be freely conservative.

.. If anything was a common theme among all the different camps you describe, it’s distaste for mass culture—a populist conservatism.

.. Green: You isolate a lot of area studies and identity studies: Women & Gender Studies, Africana studies, fields that focus on race and intersectionality issues. You say in your book that even moderates wouldn’t be welcome there, let alone dyed-in-the-wool conservatives. Why do you think it is that conservatives aren’t welcome in those fields—or, perhaps, why aren’t conservative academics interested in those fields?

Dunn: With some of them, there’s a political orientation built into the field itself, so that’s what excludes conservatives. If conservatism doesn’t line up with the orientation, then conservatives aren’t going to be welcome and are not going to be fit. But I don’t know that it’s the case that conservatives aren’t interested in sex and gender or race.

.. They’re much more likely to gravitate toward the natural sciences as undergraduates; they’re much more likely to gravitate toward economics.

.. There’s a survey that was done at the University of Colorado which found Republicans much more likely to feel uncomfortable in the classroom in the social sciences.

..  I think they don’t like the way those topics are studied. They don’t like the theoretical machinery brought to bear on them—things like intersectionality. Their critique of intersectionality would not be that it’s interested in gender and race—it’s this clunky machinery that doesn’t fit very well with the empirical world. It can’t explain why black men are doing so much worse than black women, or why women now get more college education and more college degrees.

.. For many conservatives, they view great works of literature as a source of wisdom that we should be grateful for and approach humbly. They think that some of the focus on race, sex, and class—they call it the holy trilogy—seems to denigrate these great works and minimizes them.

.. It took sociologists a long time to come around to the view that two-parent families were good for children on average. One reason is that they thought that social institutions are inherently oppressive things: Traditional marriage is necessarily coercive, and it stymied our liberty and freedom and it was an institution that promoted gender inequality.

.. With Regnerus, I don’t know that many people would want to engage in the same kind of data gathering that he did, lest it lead to results that aren’t palatable to others in their discipline.

.. Whig history: There’s been this natural expansion of liberty, and if you look at the progressive movement, there were the good people, who were the progressives, and then there were those who try to obstruct them. It turns out that it’s much more complicated than that, and it’s only recently that scholars, economists, and historians have explored some of the darker parts of the progressive movement. The eugenics component of the progressive movement, for example, has largely been unexplored


Whig history (wikipedia)

Whig history (or Whig historiography) is an approach to historiography that presents the past as an inevitable progression towards ever greater liberty and enlightenment, culminating in modern forms of liberal democracy and constitutional monarchy. In general, Whig historians emphasize the rise of constitutional government, personal freedoms, and scientific progress. The term is often applied generally (and pejoratively) to histories that present the past as the inexorable march of progress towards enlightenment. The term is also used extensively in the history of science to mean historiography that focuses on the successful chain of theories and experiments that led to present-day science, while ignoring failed theories and dead ends.[1] It is claimed that Whig history has many similarities with the Marxist–Leninist theory of history, which presupposes that humanity is moving through historical stages to the classless, egalitarian society to which communism aspires.[2][3]