Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Georgia Bias on My Mind

The State of Georgia has conducted an excellent survey about bias in the classroom (especially when compared to the terrible surveys done by ACTA and routinely misrepresented by Anne Neal).

One interesting finding: more Republicans (88.7%) felt they got an excellent or good education than Democrats (83.5%).

Students generally reported being able to freely discuss issues in class. A majority (52.8%) reported that students have no respect for views other than their own. Interestingly, 12.9% saw an anti-Democratic bias, and 10.1% an anti-Republican bias.

Only 13.3% said that professors inappropriately presented their own political views in any class, and 26.3% cited criticism of the president/Republicans/conservatives (vs. 3.5% criticism of Democrats/liberals). More Republicans (17.1%) than Democrats (9.7%) reported such a thing happening. (More Democrats than Republicans reported a professor inappropriately discussing religion.) 62% said they had argued with the professor when this happened, which is an encouraging number. Of course, students are not always the best judge of when a professor's criticism of the government is "inappropriate."

63.9% of Republicans (vs. 73.8% of Democrats) said they felt free to discuss public issues in class, but that probably reflected choice of majors. Only 18.5% of Republicans majored in the liberal arts, compared to 33% of Democrats (which also shows a smaller pool of Republicans to go into graduate study in these fields). Interestingly, more Republicans than Democrats reported a variety of student groups representing many political viewpoints. More Democrats (22.8%) than Republicans (16.8) reported "low" respect for the political views of all students.

Only 4.2% reported that a professor inappropriately inserted religious views in the classroom, and of that small number, 26.4% were being anti-religious or ridiculing other religions, while 53% were cases of pro-religious speech. In other words, only 1% of students in Georgia reported that any professor in class had ever ridiculed or denounced religion, a remarkably (actually disturbingly) low number.

Only 23% of students reported having to agree with a professor to get a good grade, and about half of these involved thinking like the professor. 25.2% of Republicans (vs. 19.3% of Democrats) reported this. For two-thirds of the students, this only happened once in college (and it was less likely to happen frequently to Republicans: 1.8% of Republicans, but 6.2% of Democrats, reported it happened 5 or more time). Only 12% of those students (or 3% of all students) cited political reasons.
Part of the party difference may reflect a desire by Republicans not to have their views challenged. Only 40.5% of Republicans (vs. 59% of Democrats) considered it important for instructors to challenge their beliefs. We also don't know whether these kinds of numbers included, say, religious students in biology class feeling forced to agree with evolution.

52% said their campus had a free speech zone, and 64.5% felt it served a useful purpose.

Another interesting finding: Students at community colleges reported the best academic experience, even though they had the fewest classes with a discussion component. They also reported the lowest amount of students with little respect for disagreement and the lowest levels of professors discussing political views. (Some of that data may be skewed by the fact that students there had fewer classes than four-year college students.)

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