Bias, Blah, Blah

— Jim Henley’s meditation on the leftist academic bias controversy is by far the most interesting thing I’ve read on the matter.

By the way, I think that a lot of the leftish academic bloggers are simply in bad faith on this one. They know. But they LOVE things they way they are. They’re at home. They don’t want it to change. They like it. But if they really admitted how systematically shabbily and disrespectfully non-left students are treated, they know they’d have to change. I don’t much blame them. But they know.

I’ve heard professors discuss techniques of subtle psychological manipulation to shame students out of their bourgie prejudices. They know that the cartoons they plaster on the office door make conservative students uncomfortable, and that’s part of why they do it. I mean, it’s hard to resist. When I was TAing for Intro to Phil, and we were doing theism vs. atheism, it was all I could do to not make faces of exasperation and disapproval at the nuttily religious students. Now and then I caught myself doing it. It’s hard work to treat people with respect and to scrupulously address what they’ve said, even if its a crock. That is, to actually teach them something, and to be an example of clear thinking, and not just emote at them when they run afoul of your little community’s norms. I love philosophers because for the most part they feel bad when they fail to be fully respectful and rational. And lots of non-philosophers are like this too. They know it’s their job. But they mess up from time to time. And because most academics believe much the same things politically, their mess ups contribute systematically to an atmosphere that is unfriendly to students (and faculty) who believe quite different things. They know. Of course they do.

And if I knew a job candidate liked the same music that I did, I’d probably feel just that much better about her, even if I knew that to be an irrelevant consideration. If several of us felt just that much better about her, it could swing a toss up her way, because we might not know why we felt a bit better about her. It’s just impossible that people with detectable politics of which most faculty disapprove don’t in general tend to do worse at the margin. I find it just surreal that anyone would bother to deny it.

Also, just curious, does ANYONE really believe that IQ or academic achievement reliably tracks moral or political truth? Because I sure don’t!

Author: Will Wilkinson

Vice President for Research at the Niskanen Center