The California public university system prides itself as an open marketplace of ideas with one caveat: ideas must be liberal or otherwise have no place in the classroom. We all know that it exists on campus. Start talking politics with your professors during office hours if it isn’t already blatantly obvious, or simply view the recent documentary “Indoctrinate U.”
The reason for this bias is self-explanatory — liberal administrators select professors that agree with their politics. If you have any doubts whatsoever, take a look at the statistics. According to a recent study, 72 percent of American university professors are “liberal,” while just 15 percent are conservative. In addition, 80 percent of psychology professors are Democrats. What is a conservative student (or professor, for that matter) to do?
Unfortunately, it isn’t very likely that this trend will change, even in the long-term. As Professor Richard Vatz of Towson University observes, “college and university administrators and faculty throughout the United States cannot reconcile their support for diversity with their discriminatory policies against conservatives, and there is no source motivating them to do so.”
The word “diversity” ultimately omits any political consideration. Naturally, conservative professors are less likely to speak out in the classroom as to avoid any future conflict with their peers or the administration that hired them. This means students will probably hear the same leftist arguments regurgitated in their classes over and over again.
And as University of Virginia social psychologist Jonathan Haidt points out, liberal professors are wildly overrepresented: Polls illustrate that “approximately 40 percent of Americans are conservative and 20 percent are liberal.”
Regardless, the mere number of liberal professors hired every year is not the real matter of concern; rather, liberal-slanted course curriculum and restricted course offerings are more problematic. In theory, even a liberal professor can teach a class about conservative principles.
Education is all about having an open mind, right? And one doesn’t need to be a Reaganite conservative to discuss how Communism fell. More conservative hires would ultimately increase the odds of conservative-based course offerings, but I prefer to think realistically.
Currently, political science classes almost completely exclude conservative ideas. There is only one class offered at Cal Poly that highlights conservative thinkers, and it isn’t even offered on an annual basis. Meanwhile, economics courses glorify Keynesian principles, humanities courses denounce traditional values and sociology classes tell us we should blame society for all our problems.
Before you start crying over this academic travesty, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Yes, with the advent of new technology, conservative thought may have found a new academic means to enrich college students — online education.
The popularity of online education has skyrocketed. The Babson Research Group reports that “the percentage of college students taking at least one online course has risen from 12 percent in 2003 to 25 percent in 2008.” In an age where presidential elections are largely influenced by Facebook and Twitter, this is no surprise. The computer is a part of a college student’s natural habitat, and the convenience of e-courses is unmatched. As CSU Stanislaus President Hamid Shirvani said, “Online education is the future.” Indeed, about 1,330 students took online courses at CSU Stanislaus during the Spring 2011 semester.
The Internet has a tendency to make everything a bit more “democratic,” and its effect is no different for the education world. As a result of online education, conservative professors have new opportunities to make a difference, and the availability of conservative courses is bound to increase.
Ultimately, whether these courses count for anything is at the discretion of the university, but the fact that these courses are online surely eliminates a great deal of bureaucratic interference and resistance. It becomes incredibly difficult for universities to reject credit without completely admitting their bias to the world. In fact, many online classes are open to the general public. Wouldn’t it seem just a bit suspicious if a university rejected credits for a conservative class that was advertised to the world (especially to its conservative benefactors)?
The seemingly endless California budget crisis further supports this trend. Traditionally, public universities have been forced to choose between raising tuition and cutting classes. Universities typically disfavor the latter as it damages their national ranking. At the same time, raising tuition generates criticism by those who believe a public education should be affordable. The ultimate solution: offer access to (or credits for) online courses.
Online professors are often contract employees and thus do not receive the same benefits as professors. This saves the school a lot of money.
It will be interesting how this phenomenon plays out these next few years. Will the world of academia finally start to offer a more balanced education for free thinkers? With the university administration steadily losing its influence, the future looks brighter.
“Rightly” or wrongly, students will have increasingly more discretion over their course selection.