Some observers see American academia as a bastion of leftist groupthink that indoctrinates students and silences conservative voices. Others see a protected enclave that naturally produces free-thinking, progressive intellectuals. Both views are self-serving, says Neil Gross, but neither is correct. Why Are Professors Liberal and Why Do Conservatives Care? explains how academic liberalism became a self-reproducing phenomenon, and why Americans on both the left and right should take notice.
Academia employs a higher percentage of liberals than nearly any other profession. But the usual explanations—hiring bias against conservatives, correlations of liberal ideology with high intelligence—do not hold up to scrutiny. Drawing on a range of original research, statistics, and interviews, Gross argues that “political typing” plays an overlooked role in shaping academic liberalism. For historical reasons, the professoriate developed a reputation for liberal politics early in the twentieth century. As this perception spread, it exerted a self-selecting influence on bright young liberals, while deterring equally promising conservatives. Most professors’ political views formed well before they stepped behind the lectern for the first time.
Why Are Professors Liberal and Why Do Conservatives Care? shows how studying the political sympathies of professors and their critics can shed light not only on academic life but on American politics, where the modern conservative movement was built in no small part around opposition to the “liberal elite” in higher education. This divide between academic liberals and nonacademic conservatives makes accord on issues as diverse as climate change, immigration, and foreign policy more difficult.
Neil Gross’s Why Are Professors Liberal and Why Do Conservatives Care? enters the ongoing debate about the position and role of the academy in American life at a high-stakes moment… Until now, the characterization of a staunchly liberal professoriate has annoyed progressives and disturbed conservatives, while remaining a curiously underexamined trope in American political life. As Gross’s study shows, it is a product of long-standing misguided assumptions and overdrawn conclusions about American academics’ politics. Gross offers an impressive range of hard social scientific data to soften the hyperbole and help set straight the terms of our debate.
The question is not whether college professors are liberal… The much more interesting question is why college professors are liberal, and sociologist Neil Gross has studied it for years. His results are worth considering… Gross is at his best when he’s explaining his surveys and experiments and using them to evaluate competing theories of professors’ liberalism—and fortunately, he spends a lot of time doing that. Readers will gain a nuanced understanding of the subject, and conservative readers in particular will find many interesting nuggets here.
[Gross] registers clearly the overwhelming ideological slant of higher education… [His thesis] leaves conservative critics with a disarming irony, though: The more critics expose liberal indoctrination and intolerance, the more they reinforce the image of academia that makes young conservatives shun it.
Gross does what really good scholars do—namely, research, research, research. Through reflection on existing data and that gathered from studies of his own devising, he concludes that the liberalism of the academy is not nearly so pronounced as alarmists would like to believe, nor is it uniform.
A sound analysis of the sharply partisan issue of political imbalance among university faculty.
Persuasive… It offers a thoughtful riposte to ad hominem attacks on contemporary universities as hotbeds of radicalism.
Why Are Professors Liberal and Why Do Conservatives Care? offers a thoughtful, rigorous, and readable study of the causes and effects of liberal attitudes among college professors. Reading this book gave me an entirely new way of thinking about the interactions between political views, social attitudes, and life choices. Gross deserves a wide hearing.
In this engaging book, Neil Gross uses a dizzying range of evidence to take apart many common beliefs. He shows—among many other things—that professors are less liberal than pundits claim, that today’s younger professors are less radical than older ones, and that it is not so much that academia turns people liberal as that liberals are attracted to academia. The book cements Gross’s reputation as one of the most interesting sociologists of his generation.
A major contribution to debates about the politics of academia. Neil Gross blends cutting-edge research with old-fashioned reason to explain the cultural and economic forces that send liberals into the professoriate. This is a smart, surprising, and important book.
Neil Gross’s work is crucial for anyone who cares about higher education and who also cares about the facts.
- 400 pages
- 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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