Can Liberal and Conservative Academicians Learn from Each Other?
According to a recent study, almost 19 percent of the voters responsible for President Obama’s reelection are young people between the ages of 18-29. This Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement research has lead to the authoring of several articles, one in particular by Stanley Kurtz of the National Review, on how college students, brainwashed by their liberal professors, are to blame for Obama’s reelection.
It is true that members of the academic community are often times left leaning. However, a study, published in the journal Social Forces, and brought to bear after Rick Santorum made similar claims about higher education, says that the opposite is true. The majority of students who enter college with conservative or religious beliefs actually maintain them better than people of the same age who do not attend college at all.
Truth be told, academia is overwhelmingly liberal because it stands for open-mindedness and the transfer of new ideas, which are overwhelmingly liberal goals. Therefore, colleges and universities simply attract more liberal people, who enter college as liberals and remain relatively set in their ways throughout.
Universities across the nation, including our own, claim to be places where students can challenge themselves and their long held political or religious views; however, if the above statistics are correct, most students who graduate college maintain a similar belief system to the one they held when they enrolled.
The liberal side of this can simply be explained by the fact that most professors are liberal (14 percent according to a study done by the University of British Columbia), and most students are liberal. Therefore, the ideas being discussed in the classroom are usually left-leaning. Their views are rarely challenged, and if so, not by enough voices to make a difference.
For the most part, conservatives, on the other hand, attend college to fulfill the American dream by getting their education and graduating as soon as possible. They are warned by the Republican world that liberal professors and students are going to try and destroy their beliefs at every turn, so they enter the world of higher education determined not to make any ideological changes.
Both sides of this situation have work to do if a full learning experience can be achieved. Diversity of every kind, including political opinion, contributes to a better learning environment, and it is rarely harmful to know both sides of an issue.