Sunday, 28 August 2005

Campus bias

Matt Stinson has a lengthy post on how conservatives and libertarians should attack bias in the academy. He starts out, however, with a point lost on many outside academe:

The notion that conservatives are inherently opposed to the scientific method seems targeted at ID proponents, but in my discipline, political science, the loudest “anti-scientific” voices come from the left. The “perestroika” movement, a group that rejects the behavioralist turn in the social sciences, is primarily the vehicle of postmodern leftists who deny the existence of objective truth and a scientifically verifiable reality. They have some conservatives on their side, mostly classicists who prefer historical analysis to number-crunching, but it is more generally an outgrowth of the rebellion against “reality” that has been a preoccupation of far left academics since the end of World War II. While the postmodernists are a grumpy minority at research schools, they utterly dominate and thus render “un-scientific” the entire discipline of liberal arts at the top colleges and universities in the United States. Would the Pitt professors similarly scorn left-wing academics for un-scientific views?

For further evidence of Matt’s point, see Jeff Goldstein. Or that Edward Said disciple Rashid Khalidi has a plenary speaking spot on the APSA program—the only plenary awarded to an organized section of the association (the Not New Political Science section).

That’s just a small snippet of Matt’s post; go forth and RTWT. And, while you’re at it, see Jim Lindgren and Stephen Bainbridge; note that a similar sort of the “file-flagging” Bainbridge refers to goes on in other academic fields as well, not just law.


Any views expressed in these comments are solely those of their authors; they do not reflect the views of the authors of Signifying Nothing, unless attributed to one of us.

You know, had the Pitt profs not couched their argument in terms of research schools, I was prepared to call them brazen liars. As-is they’re still pretty close to lying through their teeth. The bottom line: the “softer” the science in a social science college or department, the more the left tends to dominate. Every libertarian and conservative I knew at FSU—and there were some in my cohort and the cohort that followed—accepted quantitative methodology. It was the Marxists and PoMo guys who bandied about catchphrases like “systemic racism renders our methods of operationalization racist” and “it is impossible to accurately measure phenomenon without including one’s own gender, racial, and class biases in that measurement.” Ergo, science is, like, for the deluded.


Assuming everyone here is properly differentiating between “liberal” and “left,” let me add to the chorus.

In my dept., the anti-quantitative arguments come from the LEFT (two self avowed socialists and one self proclaimed Maoist). And the arguments made by them closely resemble the example made by Stinson in the comment above.

One bizarre example of the anti-quant sentiment: I once presented some research on the impact of public opinion on public policy with regard to local economic development in one of our departmental faculty research seminars and the Maoist commented, “I don’t see how this is related to political science.”

I WISH I were kidding.


Yeah, Scott, I definitely make that distinction. I should have been more clear in saying that by “left,” I mean the leftover left and the self-styled radicals of today. After all, they don’t consider liberals as their allies. To them, liberals are part of the “right.”


Matt: (chris knows I like this book)

Have you ever checked out “The Dark Side of the Left: Illiberal Egalitarianism in America” by Richard Ellis? Somewhat controversial, but Ellis, a self-described “Liberal,” does a great job of dissecting the hypocrisy of the (leftover/radical) LEFT. He regularly points out how liberals, seeking what they believe to be TRUE egalitarianism, are cast by the LEFT as giving aid an comfort to the enemy, at best, or downright villainous, at worst.

All around, an enjoyable (and easy) read. I probably wouldn’t assign it to my undergrads, however. It takes all 4 years just to get them to realize that “left” and “liberal” are not interchangeable, much less make sense of this critique!

[Permalink] 5. Rick Almeida wrote @ Tue, 30 Aug 2005, 11:09 am CDT:

I think, by and large, that these comments ring true, but I will say without reservation that the loudest and most frequent opponent of what he called the “quant-heads” at my phd institution (Missouri) came from a vocal Republican conservative.

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