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8.10.03

Academic political bias

In discussing academic discrimination based on political views, Jacob Levy says:

The actual argument developed in a lecture is likely to be a serious matter, and not as likely to create the appearance of hostility to views other than the professor's own. (After all, it's an argument.) It's the little jokes, one-liners, casual asides, and obviously-everybody-knows comments that you've got to watch out for. This is a familiar point with regard to hostile environments against, e.g., women. But it's also true as regards whether the classroom is experienced as a place open to political disagreements. The more a prof's lecture is peppered with these little asides and dicta, the more the impression is created that views other than the prof's own won't be given a respectful hearing.


I've noticed a lot of these little asides this semester (more so than usual). My GIS professor likes to compare simple Ordered Weighted Average techniques to Reaganomics. My Geography of Fire professor refers to the President as "Georgie."* My Resource Geography professor opened class today by pointing out that the fact that Arnold Schwarzenegger won the election in California proves that Americans are too stupid to govern themselves. On the one hand, these kind of things are probably not terribly discriminatory in effect simply because there are so few conservatives at Clark (and even fewer among the grad students), and both the liberals and the Marxists can agree that George Bush is a terrible president. But sometimes they even annoy me, and I agree with the sentiment behind them.

* This is one of my pet peeves: people disparagingly referring to public figures by mocking nicknames. The 2000 election was not between "albore" and "$hrub," and California's new governor is not "Ahnuld." If someone has to resort to such childish tactics, I begin to suspect they don't have a real argument.

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