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"We Liberals" Oppose Diversity of Ideas



(p. 11) We liberals are adept at pointing out the hypocrisies of Trump, but we should also address our own hypocrisy in terrain we govern, such as most universities: Too often, we embrace diversity of all kinds except for ideological. Repeated studies have found that about 10 percent of professors in the social sciences or the humanities are Republicans.

We champion tolerance, except for conservatives and evangelical Christians. We want to be inclusive of people who don't look like us -- so long as they think like us.

I fear that liberal outrage at Trump's presidency will exacerbate the problem of liberal echo chambers, by creating a more hostile environment for conservatives and evangelicals. Already, the lack of ideological diversity on campuses is a disservice to the students and to liberalism itself, with liberalism collapsing on some campuses into self-parody.


. . .


Whatever our politics, inhabiting a bubble makes us more shrill. Cass Sunstein, a Harvard professor, conducted a fascinating study of how groupthink shapes federal judges when they are randomly assigned to three-judge panels.

When liberal judges happened to be temporarily put on a panel with other liberals, they usually swung leftward. Conversely, conservative judges usually moved rightward when randomly grouped with other conservatives.

It's the judicial equivalent of a mob mentality. And if this happens to judges, imagine what happens to you and me.

Sunstein, a liberal and a Democrat who worked in the Obama administration, concluded that the best judicial decisions arose from divided panels, where judges had to confront counterarguments.

Yet universities are often the equivalent of three-judge liberal panels, and the traditional Democratic dominance has greatly increased since the mid-1990s -- apparently because of a combination of discrimination and self-selection. Half of academics in some fields said in a survey that they would discriminate in hiring decisions against an evangelical.

The weakest argument against intellectual diversity is that conservatives or evangelicals have nothing to add to the conversation. "The idea that conservative ideas are dumb is so preposterous that you have to live in an echo chamber to think of it," Sunstein told me..



For the full commentary, see:

Kristof, Nicholas. "The Dangers of Echo Chambers on Campus." The New York Times, SundayReview Section (Sun., DEC. 11, 2016): 11.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date DEC. 10, 2016.)


Cass Sunstein's research on the effect of political orientation on federal judges' decisions, mentioned above, was most fully reported in:

Sunstein, Cass R., David Schkade, Lisa M. Ellman, and Andres Sawicki. Are Judges Political?: An Empirical Analysis of the Federal Judiciary. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2006.







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