Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Who Will Reform the Reformers?

Today's AEI conference, "Reforming the Politically Correct University," claims that it will have original research on the "problem" of too many liberals in academia. The first of the Klein and Stern essays is simply a restatement, with a little more historical data and qualifications, of their previous studies.

The second of Klein and Stern’s essays, on groupthink, is rather ironic for a conference where essentially only conservatives were invited to participate. Klein and Stern’s argument has no real evidence, except to say that Klein’s George Mason University’s economics department is dominated by classical liberals and engages in ideological hiring to maintain this, so therefore all other economics departments, which in his view do not adequately represent classical liberalism, must also be engaging in ideological hiring. But there’s no actually evidence to support this.

Peter Wood of the NAS claims that all of these studies prove discrimination. But they don’t. According to Wood, there are “dozens” of “talented, conservative academics” denied academic jobs. Only dozens? I bet we could find hundreds of talented, liberal academics denied academic jobs. Welcome to the job market, and it sucks for everyone. Whether conservatives or liberals face more job discrimination requires studies far beyond bean-counting, and there simply isn’t any evidence beyond anecdotes to support either position (except, of course, that atheists such as myself are banned from jobs at hundreds of religious colleges, while no fundamentalist Christians are banned by any college).

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