What Bias?

Tolerant Faculty, Intolerant Students

Leave it to those Social Scientists.

Faced with repeated and backed-only-with-anecdotes accusations that universities are simply indoctrination grounds for the DNC or some other treasonous group, decided to conduct a study to see if it’s true.

It ain’t.

According to the study’s data, students are more intimidated by their fellow students than by their teachers, and the reports of bias among teachers were relatively evenly distributed among accusations of anti-liberal and of anti-conservative dispositions.

While I’m tempted simply to do an end zone dance and leave it there, I was disturbed by this finding from the article:

This finding may be significant because many Georgia students indicated that they don’t want to be challenged on their views by their courses. Thirty-one percent of students said it was somewhat or very important to them that instructors not challenge their personal beliefs. (While some had no opinion, 52 percent said that to be exposed to new ideas, they thought it was important to have their beliefs challenged by what they learned.)

My initial reaction was something along the lines of, “THEN WHY ARE YOU IN COLLEGE, YOU KNOT HEADS?”  But then I remembered that this is the 21st century. The thirty-one percent are here to put a line on their resumes, too much booze in their yaps, and their tail ends in some football bleachers.  I suppose I should be glad that over half of students expect to learn something new in four years.

It ain’t much, but it is over half.

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14 Comments

Filed under Political Entertainment, teaching, UGA

14 responses to “What Bias?

  1. Jonathan

    Was that study done just in Georgia? Not to be a pest, but I just ain’t buying it (atleast not on a national scale…although I’m sure there are exceptions). Although, the study does bring up a good point about students being intimidated by other students. I think that is probably very true.

  2. Yes, the study was limited to Georgia, but the study was conducted by the University System of Georgia, so that makes sense.

    I can’t speak intelligently about national trends (the only schools I’ve attended outside of Georgia have been relatively conservative Christian colleges), but I do know that Horowitz has made a point of targeting the University of Georgia in some of his campaigns, hence the USG study.

  3. vaindeludingjoys

    I can’t really get angry at that 31%; I had everything decided when I was 18 years old as well.

    Then the wet mop that is life smacked me in the face, knocking the beer from my hand (I picked it up again) and reminding me that there are realities outside of my experience.

    If college classes don’t challenge them, then the lives they lead while at college will. It’s inevitable.

  4. Well, I can and will get mad at the 31%.

    So there.

  5. I’d be rather curious to see this same type of study done on seminary populations. If similar results held (as I believe they would, but based purely on anecdotal evidence), it would rather significant, I think.

  6. vaindeludingjoys

    Anger is your right, gilmour. I suggest shaking your fist as a sign of your disgust.

  7. Don’t think I haven’t, El Ick.

    Mark, what do you imagine as the significance of such a study in a seminary setting? I have an inkling of what you might be headed for but not much more than that.

  8. It’s easier to speak out of my current context, although I suspect it’s true elsewhere to differing degrees. Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA is oddly positioned when it comes to the “liberal/conservative” spectrum: too liberal on some issues for the conservatives, and too conservative on some issues for the liberals (I always toss in the disclaimer that “conservative” or “liberal” depends entirely on what one is talking about).

    Since I work as an assistant to many faculty members in the School of Theology, perhaps I’m a bit biased myself, but my impression has always been very strong that most professors here are very fair about how they treat students of differing opinion. However, (and this is where the anecdotal stuff comes in) I’m likewise aware of more than a few students (usually appearing to represent one extreme “wing” or another) that feel that they are treated unfairly because of their beliefs.

    Whatever else is true, an actual study could bear out whether or not such allegations are true, or whether a similar “don’t challenge my existing beliefs” mind-set is taking place.

  9. Oops. One more (important) aspect. If students studying to be church leaders exhibit this same tendency to not want their existing beliefs challenged, I’d argue that says something about our churches in general.

  10. Mark, you could have been describing Emmanuel School of Religion, my own seminary. I also worked as a grad assistant for theology professors, and having served close to them, I can say without hesitation that they did not only respect but loved the fundamentalists as much as they did the post-liberals. With regards to our “political” position in our movement, the hardliner sectarians still refer to it as “the liberal seminary,” and the big divinity schools, when they think of us at all, think of us as slavish traditionalists. I think of us as a seminary that still requires six semesters of biblical languages and a substantial thesis for an M.Div, thank you very much. 🙂

    I also agree with you that the fear of change (or at least resistance to it) can’t but be symptomatic of larger trends. As I’ve written elsewhere, I do think that the rise to prominence of certain media that cast the world in terms of “us” and “them,” usually in terms of federal electoral factions, has to be at least a factor in such a fear–after all, if you stop being one of “us,” you must by definition have become one of “them.”

    Thank you for reading and for your comments, Mark. I hope that I’ve shown myself worth continued reading.

  11. amberpeace

    Emmanuel Orientation starts tomorrow morning!
    While the study was confined to one state, I think it says something about the results coming from a Southern state. While we can speculate on if a Northern or Western school is indeed more “intolerant” of conservative views – there is a higher chance that so are the students. I think a southern state is an excellent beginning to such a study.
    I remember a story told to me by a friend who was working in the admin office of Milligan. A mother (in 2004) saw Dr Ruth Cook’s Kerry bumper sticker. The mother stated, “Oh, I thought this was a Christian college!” I

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