Sunday, August 05, 2012

Liberal profs admit they'd discriminate against conservatives in hiring, advancement

'Impossible lack of diversity' reflects ideological intimidation on campus

It's not every day that left-leaning academics admit that they would discriminate against a minority.

But that was what they did in a peer-reviewed study of political diversity in the field of social psychology, which will be published in the September edition of the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science.

Psychologists Yoel Inbar and Joris Lammers, based at Tilburg University in the Netherlands, surveyed a roughly representative sample of academics and scholars in social psychology and found that "In decisions ranging from paper reviews to hiring, many social and personality psychologists admit that they would discriminate against openly conservative colleagues."

This finding surprised the researchers. The survey questions "were so blatant that I thought we'd get a much lower rate of agreement," Mr. Inbar said. "Usually you have to be pretty tricky to get people to say they'd discriminate against minorities."

One question, according to the researchers, "asked whether, in choosing between two equally qualified job candidates for one job opening, they would be inclined to vote for the more liberal candidate (i.e., over the conservative)."

More than a third of the respondents said they would discriminate against the conservative candidate. One respondent wrote in that if department members "could figure out who was a conservative, they would be sure not to hire them."

Mr. Inbar, who volunteered for the Obama campaign in 2008, cautions that the finding reflects only what respondents said they would do - not necessarily what they actually would do in real life.

Generally speaking, the more liberal the respondent, the more willingness to discriminate and, paradoxically, the higher the assumption that conservatives do not face a hostile climate in the academy.

To Massimo Pigliucci, chairman of the philosophy department at the City University of New York-Lehman College, the problem is not that conservatives face discrimination; it's that any hint of political bias, whether conservative or liberal, necessarily flouts the standards of objectivity to which scholarship must adhere.

"It is to be expected that people would reject papers and grant proposals that smacked of clear ideological bias," he says. Mr. Inbar and Mr. Lammers, he says, should have examined the extent of bias against liberal-leaning papers and grant proposals. If the degree of bias against liberals and conservatives is similar, maybe the data on discrimination against conservatives would not be so alarming after all.

But Harvey Mansfield, a conservative professor of government at Harvard University, argues that the anti-conservative bias is real and pronounced. He says conservatism is "just not a respectable position to hold" in the academy, where Republicans are caricatured as Fox News enthusiasts who listen to Rush Limbaugh.

Beyond that, conservatives represent a distinct minority on college and university campuses. A 2007 report by sociologists Neil Gross and Solon Simmons found that 80 percent of psychology professors at elite and non-elite universities are Democrats. Other studies reveal that 5 percent to 7 percent of faculty openly identify as Republicans. By contrast, about 20 percent of the general population are liberal and 40 percent are conservative.

Mr. Inbar and Mr. Lammers found that conservatives fear that revealing their political identity will have negative consequences. This is why New York University-based psychologist Jonathan Haidt, a self-described centrist, has compared the experience of being a conservative graduate student to being a closeted gay student in the 1980s.

In 2011, Mr. Haidt addressed this very issue at a meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology - the same group that Mr. Inbar and Mr. Lammer surveyed. Mr. Haidt's talk, "The Bright Future of Post-Partisan Social Psychology," caused a stir.

The professor, whose new book "The Righteous Mind" examines the moral roots of our political positions, asked the nearly 1,000 academics and students in the room to raise their hands if they were liberals. Nearly 80 percent of the hands went up. When he asked whether there were any conservatives in the house, just three hands - 0.3 percent - went up.

This is "a statistically impossible lack of diversity," Mr. Haidt said.


Education: No Longer a Panacea for Blacks

A recent article in the Washington Post highlighted a particular segment of the nation's struggling unemployed. That is in itself is not surprising. After all, black unemployment exceeds the unemployment level for handicapped people and many other challenged groups within our nation. The group that the Post profiled was people with Ph.D.s in the sciences. An increasing number of chemists, biologists and other scientists who have invested heavily in their education are finding themselves jobless. Of those who are employed, thousands are doing lower-wage "post-doc" work in laboratories, as opposed to heading up research projects or teaching in universities.

I have always believed that education is one of the vital keys to upward mobility and overcoming poverty. Ph.D. unemployment however, is a startling fact for African Americans who have been taught that education is the great racial equalizer. They have been encouraged to sell or sacrifice almost anything to achieve the highest levels of education. The Washington Post, however, shows us that the most sought-after Ph.D.s may not be the great career makers. Those who are advising today's students often imply that a college or graduate degree is some sort of financial guarantee. The Post article noted the loud clamoring by groups like the National Science Foundation and the current administration for more American students to pursue advanced degrees in the sciences.

These groups fail to mention that highly-trained students may not find jobs in their field when they finish their degrees.

I'll never forget a discussion I had with my father at the ripe old age of 12 years. He told me that he was not going to give me a traditional inheritance. He informed me that there would be no money left. Instead, he would give me my inheritance now. My inheritance would be in the form of him financing my entire education as far as I chose to go. The only thing that he asked in return was that I would commit myself to being the best I could be at whatever career path I chose. I thank God for his wisdom and because of his guidance I excelled in a private high school, a private college and in Ivy League graduate school. I will never forget that somebody had to pay for my schooling and I will never forgot that Dad had to work very hard to pay it off.

Students from wealthy or upper-middle class families may find themselves out of work for a while, but they likely have a support system to help them change course and find something else to do. Poorer students, however, particularly those who may be the first in their families to go to college, often borrow huge amounts of money just to obtain a bachelor's degree. And it is not just the students themselves who are affected: parents or grandparents have often co-signed for the loans, only to find themselves deeply in debt during their retirement years.

Education is an investment, and like any investment it requires thorough research beforehand. There is nothing wrong with majoring in social work, for example. But you should not borrow tens of thousands of dollars to obtain a degree that leads to a career with an average annual salary of $30,000. Students must research the job market, as well as the salaries they can reasonably expect to earn upon graduating before taking out loans that can cripple them financially for decades to come.

Nationwide, we are now facing almost $1 trillion dollars in student loan debt. A 2010 report from the College Board Advocacy and Policy Center revealed that black college graduates have more student loan debt than any other racial group. Twenty-seven percent of African Americans with bachelor's degrees are carrying at least $30,500 in student loan debt, compared to just 16% of their white counterparts and 9% of Asian American college graduates. The top 1% of all borrowers is facing over $150,000 of debt!

What is the consequence of all this debt? It hinders the very progress we want all students, and racial minorities in particular, to make. Debt ridden graduates are hindered from buying houses and delay getting married and having children. Common sense would indicate this has not helped our nation's slowing economy.

Many experts have offered policy proposals in response to the mounting student debt crisis. Some have proposed complete student loan forgiveness. Besides being impractical, this is markedly unfair to the adults who declined opportunities to attend high-priced prestigious institutions in order to avoid such debt. Others, including the Chronicle of Higher Education, have called for making four-year college free, just as K-12 education is. But that will still cost money.

Personally, I want to call on all education advocates to start being honest about what a college education is and is not. It is a vital part of improving one's prospects in life. It is not a magic bullet that guarantees financial security regardless of major or debt burden. Every family should research the most affordable option for college, as well as the job market for various majors. All students should make plans for how they will realistically use their degrees upon graduation.


Rise of the IGCSE: Hundreds of British state schools go for  tough new exam

State schools are turning away from the traditional GCSE and offering pupils a tougher exam based on O-levels, figures show.  The number teaching the international GCSE has soared by 300 per cent since Education Secretary Michael Gove gave them more freedom to do so.

Two-thirds of public schools already enter students for the IGCSE, which does not focus on coursework.

Labour had banned state schools from adopting IGCSEs in key subjects amid fears they would undermine the domestic version.

According to data published by the University of Cambridge International Examinations, which offers the qualifications, increasing numbers are offering the IGCSE instead of the traditional exam, with English, history and biology particularly popular.  Four hundred state schools now teach IGCSEs compared with 97 in 2010 and 220 last year.

Some 500 public schools are also using the exams, up from 302 two years ago and 350 in 2011. Overall, schools made 50,000 IGCSE entries this year, the exam board said.

Peter Monteath, UK schools manager for CIE, said the structure of IGCSEs, which means pupils sit exams at the end, rather than throughout the course, is popular.  'The feedback we are getting from schools is that they like the flexibility of these syllabuses, which gives teachers more scope to explore different topics with students,' he said.  'Their linear structure also gives students space and time to study topics in depth.'

The Department for Education said it was excellent news that schools were taking advantage of new freedoms and giving pupils the chance to leave school with the same set of qualifications as their peers at top private schools.

Government sources said the figures justified Mr Gove's plans to replace GCSEs with a tougher,  O-level qualification - which are being resisted by the Liberal Democrats.

'Employers and universities are desperate for the exam system to be fixed,' said one source.  'GCSEs and A-levels are not preparing pupils for work or further study. That is why we are restoring universities' role in A-levels and why we are fixing the broken GCSE system.

'Those complaining should spend a day in Oxford or Cambridge to understand the effects of the disastrous devaluation of exams over 20 years.'

Mr Gove, in an interview with the Catholic Herald newspaper, said he was passionate about reforming education because 'earned success is the route to happiness'.

'People say I want children to learn by rote. I don't. I want them to learn by heart,' he added.  'Think of musical scales. It's only when you really know your scales backwards, when they are ingrained, that you are able to be creative..... and to understand music.'

Mr Gove said he was unapologetic about his focus on discipline, rigour, standards and foreign languages.  'There are people out there who are victims of an invincible prejudice, who believe that teaching, for example, classical languages is ipso facto for the elite,' he added.

'But the synapses connect in a different way when you learn a foreign language. The mind is framed to assess knowledge.

'I simply want young people to be exposed to the very best that has been thought and written.  'There's no reason why children should be denied the opportunity to understand history, to discover the story of those who made them, on the basis that it is assumed they are incapable of appreciating it.'


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