From courses to commencement speakers, does your school fit this profile? Adam Tragone reports for Townhall Magazine.
As students go back to school this month, some will be facing a completely new environment: a college campus. For freshmen, the adjustment is huge: being away from home, fending for yourself when it comes to meals and doing laundry, and balancing the late hours of studying and writing papers with an exploding social life.
Then there’s the actual classroom environment. College is a laboratory of ideas, where countless viewpoints are argued, discussed and evaluated. Conservatives, however, often find themselves in an environment hostile to their opinions. From the things they are learning in class, to who they are learning from, to the groups they join, to the speakers who come to campus, it’s a seemingly never-ending barrage of liberal tripe.
Parents are extremely invested in their children’s education, often emotionally and financially. Yet conservative parents can likely expect three things for their child in those four years: one, people that don’t share their beliefs, whether peers or professors; two, a school administration not terribly concerned with fostering debate; and three, classes that waste their kids’ time and their parents’ money on topics that range from the harebrained to the openly hostile.
Just a cursory look at course listings at the top 50 private, public and Ivy League schools, according to U.S. News and World Report, will find countless examples of classes that will make parents ask why they’re sending a child to that school. Take, for instance, a class at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill titled “Paying for Green Government: Financing and Implementing Sustainability Initiative.” The course description says the class is “designed to provide an in-depth introduction to planning and funding greener government operations.” It gets better:
“The Environmental Finance Center will lead a participatory workshop that focuses on the finance and policy challenges that arise when local governments consider implementing energy efficiency, green building, fuel efficiency, waste reduction, alternative energy projects, and other sustainability initiatives. Participants will learn how to select green projects for their community; what basic finance tools are available for green projects; how to leverage third-party equity to take advantage of tax credits; and how to apply for guaranteed energy savings contracts. The course will also cover relevant information on how to apply federal stimulus money to greener government.” Solyndra, anyone?
That’s only the start. At Georgetown University, a class in its Women and Gender Studies program titled, “The Breast: Image, Myth and Legend,” is where students will analyze how the breast has been depicted in Western art and culture. If that’s not something your son or daughter should be “exposed” to, maybe show them what’s going on over at Dartmouth College, where they can take a class called “Queer Marriage, Hate Crimes, and Will and Grace: Contemporary Issues in LBGTQ Studies.” In this course, a student will examine, among other things, “how pop culture movies like Basic Instinct, Scary Movie, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and television’s Will and Grace and Six Feet Under both reflect and shape popular opinion.”
Young America’s Foundation’s study, “The Dirty Dozen,” provides a collection of the worst classes offered by Ivy League, public and private schools. At Harvard University, students can take a course called “Inequality and American Democracy.” The course description talks about how inequalities of wealth and income have grown since the 1970s, and it asks how changing social and economic inequalities influence American democracy.
Conversely, Stanford University took a bold step forward with their “Moral Foundations of Capitalism” course, but it didn’t last long. In that case, the popular class was discontinued because, as the school claimed, they wanted to refocus resources elsewhere. However, the Stanford Review reported Brown University invited the course’s professor to give the same class at their school.
If the courses are skewing Left, the professors are the driving force. Granted, not all professors push their own ideological slant into their curriculum, but recent research backs up the claim that students are dealing with a decidedly liberal plethora of teachers.
In 2007, political scientists Neil Gross and Solon Simmons wrote a paper titled “Social and Political Views of American Professors” that found 34 percent of the professors polled self-identified as liberals, while only 8 percent identified themselves as conservative. An even more recent poll by Young America’s Foundation looked at 284 professors nationwide, and the results mimicked the work by Gross and Simmons: 57 percent of professors identified themselves as liberal and 16 percent as conservative.
One can also look at money given to presidential candidates as a fairly easy indicator of ideology among those in higher education. In the 2012 presidential race, the company with the most employees, employee’s families or company PACs contributing to President Barack Obama was the University of California school system. The massive system’s employees contributed more than $1 million. And it wasn’t the only school on this list. Either the employees, their families, the organization PACs or some combination thereof at Harvard University, Columbia University, Stanford University, the University of Michigan and the University of Chicago all came in the top 20, contributing a combined $3.5 million to President Obama.
Critics will say that contributions and courses being offered are not indicative of how a professor will teach in the classroom or what materials he or she will use to educate the students, but that is hard to defend when liberal professors admit to bias against conservative colleagues. A September 2012 study published in the Perspectives on Psychological Science journal found that, when polling academics and scholars in social psychology, more than a third of the individuals polled would not hire someone who was a conservative.
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