Friday, August 10, 2007

Fairness, Diversity, and Balance

Ward Connerly writes that there should be a Fairness Doctrine in America: not for broadcasters, but for academia. He's half right: the FCC's Fairness Doctrine is a terrible idea by the left, and there is an analogy to make in academia. After all, if leftists think that broadcasters using the public airwaves should be forced to offer ideological balance, exactly what principle distinguishes that idea from forcing public universities to offer ideological balance? Of course, the same logic applies to the Ward Connerlys of the world, who want to see intervention in academia but not in right-wing broadcasting. Maybe we could all agree to the principle of freedom.

One key misunderstanding by Connerly and other conservatives is the term "intellectual diversity." Connerly claims, "it is widely acknowledged that there is little intellectual diversity among university faculties." This is utterly false. There's plenty of intellectual diversity among faculty, far more than in any other field (such as talk radio). The problem is that there's not intellectual balance. There is a wide range of ideas on college campuses, and wide freedom to express them, but there are not equal numbers of liberals and conservatives. Welcome to the free market of academia.

The solution is simple: conservative leaders must convince young conservatives to give up lucrative careers in law, business, and medicine, in order to pursue academia careers with far worse job prospects and much lower pay; they must convince conservatives to seek out adjunct positions with even worse pay; and they must convince conservative speakers to come to campuses for far less money. Or, the conservative movement must seek a vast expansion in funding for higher education in order to raise salaries up to levels necessary to compete among the intellectual elite. Otherwise, in a free market, the greed of conservatives (which helps them dominate some many other fields) will cause them to abandon academia.


Anonymous said...

Ward did not propose "intervening." In fact, he said that would be a disease worse than the cure. What he suggested was that faculties "heal thyself." To those who say, let the market take care of it: that's what Ward is suggesting, but how many generations of kids must be programmed by the leftist professoriate, with little or no exposure to alternative views before some admit that there is a problem. "Conservatives should accept lower speaking fees?" They already do, by a wide margin, when they are invited to speak. But, therein lies the problem.

Anonymous said...

Sadly, I think people who like to cast "the professoriate" as Leftist simply confuse Leftists ideals with actual behavior. I've known lots of profs who claim to side with leftist who then enact and support VERY Conservative ideals and policies.

To me, this is simply a symptom of people confusing rhetoric with behavior...and the weakness of broad generalizations that may or may not hold water when examined en masse.