Is Liberalism Contagious?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Conservative critics of American universities have often said that liberal professors indoctrinate their students with their liberal political views. We look into whether that’s true. A. Lee Fritschler is professor of public policy at George Mason University and co-author of the new book Closed Mind? Politics and Ideology in American Universities.


A. Lee Fritschler

Comments [15]

Bernard McElhone

Leonard Lopate abetted his guest in mis-stating the question. It is already established that the vast majority of faculy members in the liberal arts and social sciences are liberals. A 2005 inquiry into their voter registration preferences has made that clear.

In focusing on the faculty's influence on students' politics, as interviewer and interviewee did, they ask an unanswerable question. They asked, in effect, how far has the faculty moved the students to the left? Finding that the students are not moved far after four years of college, they found the faculty innocent of the charge of bias.

The more correct question is: has the discourse on campus been so skewed by the near-universal political stance of the faculty that some positions are never even brought to fair debate?

That one might be answered in part by looking at the political correctness that governs camus life, the "speech codes" that are enforced (and regularly found to be unconstitutional), and the criminal acts that greet conservative speekers when they do appear on campus (see: David Horowitz at the University of Chicago).

While it might be true that the liberal faculties do not move students (much) to the left, who knows where those students would stand if they were exposed to the sort of open debate that faculties and administrations so resolutely embargo.

Dec. 11 2008 04:17 PM
George Bendemann from Manhattan

Come on db from NYC. (comment 13)

You are a smart liberal person. No need to resort to name calling of those who disagree with you.

Also to Sara from EUS. (comment 3)

Your comment appears offensive.

Hey L.L. staff, can you purge these folks from the message board?


Dec. 11 2008 02:13 PM
db from nyc

I wonder if the notion of a "liberal environment" on campus is being confused for an "intelligent environment" instead.

Consider Sarah Palin's diminished I.Q. and her rise in the GOP. The right's frustration my be misplaced. Conservative frustration may not not be with professors fomenting some kind of "liberal" secret agenda but more simply; educated folks are less likely to support the GOP's moronic offerings and policies.

Dec. 11 2008 01:59 PM
George Bendemann from Manhattan

The liberal professor points out that the most controlled institutions are on the right side of the political spectrum. Examples given are the religous institutions such as Bob Jones Univ.

Left out from Dr. Fritzler's comments is the heavy liberal influence peddled by many more professors. Such folks often serve in nonsectarian institutions especially amidst the Ivies. There are far more nonsectarian institutions and left leaning professors.

Interview was well conducted and fair. To present the isasues more fully, perhaps Mike Barone who was thankfully referenced by Leonard could also be invited on the show.

Dec. 11 2008 01:56 PM
KO from Westchester

Academic standards should be conservative by definition, if knowledge is to be conserved and any standards to be maintained. Of course we can continue to graduate high school students who can't read, write or think in the name of some kind of liberalism. Listen to the English of professional media on the air and you can hear the results of loss of language, the loss of standards. Same argument happens in science where conservative scientists scowl over distortion of facts on global warming as presented for political reasons. The left is as dogmatic as the right when knowledge is promoted under a political umbrella, as true for physical science as for social science and education. Wisdom has been lost in the shuffle of "point of view"

Dec. 11 2008 01:53 PM
Brooke Allen from Glen Ridge New Jersey

What is the definition of Liberal or Conservative in this discussion?

I attended a conference in February on what makes a Liberal/Conservative at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (Publishers of Science magazine).

They defined Conservative as someone who thinks best practices are to be found in the past and Liberal as someone who believes that best practices are yet to be discovered.

If we use these definitions, would we not hope our universities are liberals - after all we look to them to light the way, and we'd hate them to be populated by people who think their work is done.


Dec. 11 2008 01:45 PM
George from Bay Ridge

Can you do a segment on "liberal media bias?" And how is the conservative accusation of bias equal to conservative accusations of rampant liberalism on campuses?

Dec. 11 2008 01:43 PM
KO from Westchester

It is so obvious that a university history course is left of center, that to claim otherwise is pathetic. The proof is that if you study history, you will see history as left of center relative to the American mainstream, because America is so right of Britain, which is right of Europe. My viewpoint as a graduate history student/historian spans the full political spectrum at different times, and even when I am taking a far left point of view, I am extremely uncomfortable with how left history is as presented by our wonderful CUNY professors. Maybe CUNY is not mainstream America but we are not off the charts left wing. (I am a CUNY student, not a CUNY professor). To present history from left of center is not the same things as prostletizing so let's be to the point on that. Another vital related issue is the general dumbing down of education in America, including the rumor that Harvard textbooks have been re-written to be easier to digest. Academics and PhD's in general should be more openminded but the common man knows that too much "book learning" makes people foolish

Dec. 11 2008 01:40 PM
Elisabeth from New School Free Press

I'm the editor of the New School Free Press, and I'm so glad to hear that you are covering the Bob Kerrey story on your program! Check out for continuing coverage.

The student body is critical of the administration because of their refusal to disclose where the endowment is being invested.

Dec. 11 2008 01:38 PM
tom s from Manhattan

Any relationship to the "gender gap" and the affirmative action being used to bring American boys into universities?

“...Girls are so outperforming boys in school right now, one statistician said he took it out to its absurd endpoint and said at the present trend, the last man to get his bachelor's degree will do so in 2068....”

Dec. 11 2008 01:35 PM
Voter from Brooklyn

Somehow the same people claiming the United States ‘ colleges and universities are full of liberal elites are processed by this wholesale institution of brain-washing indoctrination and remain unscathed.
The question is, is anything conservatives claim true…
Welfare queens
The Liberal media
Abortion on demand
The war on marriage
And on, and on, and on.

Dec. 11 2008 01:34 PM
Jeffrey Slott from East Elmhurst

What does it mean anyway, to be "influenced"? Are college professors, no matter what their politics, strapping their students to iron chairs and forcing them to listen to Marxist speeches? Just being exposed to something does not necessarily mean one is automatically going to adopt it for his or her own. It all depends on what else was and is going on in one's life. Unless you're the type of person who really wants to repeal the first ammendment, the accusation of "influence" is so incredibly bogus.

Dec. 11 2008 01:34 PM
Sara from UES

It is hypocritical to think that if Universities are Liberal as right wingers claim, If most Universities were of the right wing variety then they would be not be making suck allegations!

Dec. 11 2008 01:32 PM
Peter from Sunset Park

It is my opinion that many professors are not at fault for sharing liberal views, but are at fault for teaching or tolerating the dismissal of other views. For example, I recently was editing the thesis of someone I know who was graduating from a major NYC university on the topic of human rights. The author (my friend) used terms like “right wing radicals” or “American terrorists” to describe some of the groups voluntarily patrolling the US border. When I suggested to my friend that he cite or explain why these groups were “radical” or acting in a “terrorist” fashion, my friend replied, “I don’t have too. My professors agree with me.” When I protested and said that I had never heard of the groups in question and that the thesis should take the time to explain what the groups did (with citations if possible), and why they should be considered "American terrorists," my friend just said that everyone knew the groups in question were just a bunch of right wing nuts. Of course, his thesis was accepted and he got his degree and I am left wondering what he learned.

Dec. 11 2008 12:42 PM
Samuel from Neverland Ranch

This is an interesting article-

Dec. 11 2008 09:51 AM

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