Friday, March 14, 2008

The veering path to a Ph.D

In response to this interview, WSJ readers have opined a variety of reasons for the phenomenon of liberals dominating conservatives, number-wise, in higher education (case in point: doctoral degrees).

  • The interviewees themselves, Matthew Woessner and April Kelly-Woessner, both Ph.Ds, blame "the path to the doctoral degree itself" - i.e. "an additional five to seven years of schooling." This obstacle affects mainly "family-oriented college students."

  • Charles S. in NY: "[T]enure. We don't aspire to protected-species status."
  • Nan M. in Raleigh, NC offers a rather detailed explanation of an odd phenomenon:

    When university professors see they're stuck in a system that does not necessarily reward hard work, many come to scorn the system that does -- capitalism. And because university professors know that to advance they must invent a new theory -- or reinvent an old one -- many choose to wage war on capitalism and to argue passionately for income redistribution. In academe, leftist notions sell, and Marxism revisited has become a highly profitable enterprise in universities nationwide.

    Graduate students and untenured faculty catch on quickly. They must admire, or seem to admire, the ruling orthodoxy -- liberalism -- or risk being tagged "reactionary," which could wreck their prospects for employment or tenure. Grantors, taxpayers and tuition-paying parents then become unwitting patrons of scholars who sneer at the very ones who guarantee income, tenure, benefits, and the prospect of a lifelong pension. Only in academe can a young professional rise to stardom by exploiting the very system he or she claims to detest.

  • James B. in Durham, NC: "Academics tend left because in a prosperous society ideas can be divorced from action..."
  • R. P. in Lynchburg, VA thinks along the lines of J. B.: "University culture is rooted in part in the liberal tradition of the Enlightenment...in other words, change. Change tends to be an anathema to conservatives who honor tradition, convention, and time-honored practices (Edmund Burke, etc.)."
I know I have quite a long road ahead of me, uphill all the way. But the challenge, I think, will make it at least a little bit fun.

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