Wonders never cease and miracles can truly happen! In the land of academic delusions there just might be a ray of intellectual light beginning to penetrate the dark psychology of political bias on college campuses.
At the annual conference of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Jonathan Haidt, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia, addressed about 1,000 of his colleagues on the topic of academic discrimination against conservative faculty and conservative viewpoints.
Jonathan Haidt, who studies the intuitive foundations of morality and ideology, began his presentation by asking his colleagues where they placed themselves on the political spectrum. It turned out that 80% of the audience identified as liberal. Only a few dozen identified as centrist. And only three out of the 1,000 academics in the auditorium identified themselves as conservative.
Haidt’s reaction to the results of his impromptu poll pulled no punches:
This is a statistically impossible lack of diversity. Anywhere in the world that social psychologists see women or minorities underrepresented by a factor of two or three, our minds jump to discrimination as the explanation. But when we find out that conservatives are underrepresented among us by a factor of more than 100, suddenly everyone finds it quite easy to generate alternate explanations. New York Times
Haidt concludes that since only 20% of Americans describe themselves as politically liberal, academia needs to address the obvious discrimination against conservative faculty and their research. Haidt believes that social psychologists form a tribal-moral community united by sacred values that can hinder research and damage their scientific credibility. The recruitment of non-liberal faculty is viewed by Haidt as integral to scientific integrity. Well, no kiddin!
If a group circles around sacred values, they will evolve into a tribal-moral community. They’ll embrace science whenever it supports their sacred values, but they’ll ditch it or distort it as soon as it threatens a sacred value.
Haidt went on to compare the academic life of non-liberal faculty on campus today as akin to the closeted world of gays and lesbians during the 1980s. He described the realities of non-liberal graduate students who felt they needed to remain safely closeted in order to ensure career advancement and acceptance by their peers.
I’ve read Haidt’s book, The Happiness Hypothesis, and although I don’t agree with all his tenets, I do feel he is contributing some very interesting and cutting edge research. The guy also has some guts.
And the other miracle that goes hand in hand with this story is that this article appeared in the New York Times of all places. Ah, that wheel of life is turning once again.