Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Liberal Academia Fails Again

A new study by Kyle Dodson of UC-Merced finds that, while student-student interactions have a politically polarizing effect (liberals push further left, conservatives move farther right), student-faculty interactions tend to moderate students (liberals and conservatives each move closer to the center). Obviously, something has gone awry in the liberal academy's indoctrination machine.

In all seriousness, while I'm not surprised by this finding, I do think it is worth kvelling over a little bit. Group polarization is a well-established phenomenon, and most professors are left-of-center, so one might expect that student engagement with professors would push left-wing students further left. That this doesn't happen even granted the political composition of the professoriate speaks very well of our professionalism and sense of intellectual mission.
With regard to political views, academic engagement promoted moderation. "[T]he results indicate -- in contrast to the concerns of many conservative commentators -- that academic involvement generally moderates attitudes," Dodson writes. "While conservative students do become more liberal as a result of academic involvement, liberals become more conservative as a result of their academic involvement. Indeed it appears that a critical engagement with a diverse set of ideas -- a hallmark of the college experience -- challenges students to re-evaluate the strength of their political convictions."
I'm not a fan of moderation for moderation's sake, but I'm a big fan of getting people to reassess their political priors and consider the validity of views-not-their-own. So go us!

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