I am usually a fan of Nicholas Kristof’s op-eds in the New York Times. But as a recovering academic, I must take issue with his latest.
As its title suggests, the op-ed argues that academia is, despite its vaunted tolerance, intolerant – of conservatives. At first glance, Kristof appears to have the facts on his side. Especially in the humanities and social sciences, faculty members skew strongly liberal: only 2% of English professors identify as Republicans; 18% of social scientists claim to be Marxists. Most of the faculty members of every linguistics department I know are liberal. According to Kristof, faculty members express in surveys a preference for liberal colleagues. Most despised of all are evangelical Christians: according to another survey, this one conducted by an evangelical Christian sociologist, “59% of anthropologists and 53% of English professors would be less likely to hire someone they found out was an evangelical.”
Well, that sounds pretty intolerant, making academics look deeply hypocritical – demanding openness of others but creating for themselves closed societies of similar thinkers. Kristof goes on to suggest that, since “universities should be a hubbub of the full range of political perspectives” (because a necessary part of education is exposure to a spectrum of ideas), academia is the very worst place for such intolerance to exist. How embarrassing! Continue reading