5 March 2019
If you have been watching and reading the same reports that I have, you have probably heard that the viewpoints of college faculty and administrators are notoriously one-sided.
Specifically, you might have heard that self-professing liberals far outweigh conservatives on campuses across the nation.
Even more specifically, as recent as 2009, it was found that liberal faculty and administrators outnumbered their conservative counterparts by – in some areas – as many as 20 to one.
Similar numbers were presented in 2011, and again in 2018 by Professor Joshua Dunn Chair of the Political Science department here at UCCS.
No matter where you stand on the political spectrum, numbers like these should be concerning. After all, it is these administrators who create our curriculum and decide what we are going to learn while in college.
Just last year, a trio of scholars and researchers conducted an experiment on bias in academia.
Their conclusion – to the dismay of some and the applause of others – was that review boards in academic journals specializing in the humanities were willing to publish obviously questionable research that agreed with their political ideology. Those boards, just like American colleges, are also very much left-leaning.
What is at play here is something called confirmation bias, and it is especially prevalent in groups with homogenous viewpoints – i.e. college higher-ups and journal review boards.
The risk is that, if academic journals publish shoddy research based on bias, and colleges teach from these journals based on their own bias, then the information students learn is more similar to fake news than it is to actual fact.
This is part of the reason why Dunn, in his TED Talk, mentioned the benefits of “viewpoint diversity,” or diversity of thought. Such diversity helps prevent echo chambers of confirmation bias from essentially corrupting the education of students across the country.
We live in a very diverse society, and it is easy to find someone who disagrees with you. One benefit of this is that we can all challenge each other to think about and question what we believe, be aware of our own biases and make sure that investigations into reality are done in a fair and objective way.
Colleges would do well to try to reflect this diversity in the viewpoints of their faculty and administrators.
College is where we go to learn. Not just about history, math and science, but about ourselves, others and the world around us.
If colleges took steps to diversify viewpoints, then they could assure us that what we learn comes with the input of more than a single view. That way what we learn is not merely the projection of another’s opinions, but the product of an honest and objective investigation into the world we live in.