“Well, Naturally We’re Liberal”: Why Your Professors Lean Left

This has nothing to do with Wesleyan specifically, but it has much to do with issues and patterns concerning higher education in general, and it’s a fascinating read.

In a compelling (and admittedly provocative) article for The Chronicle of Higher Education, Jere P. Surber, professor of philosophy at the University of Denver, eloquently tackles what the media loves to term the “liberal bias of the academy.” Surber considers the left-leaning tendency of liberal arts professors to be not a meaningless phenomenon of naïveté, but simply common sense given the nature of a liberal arts professor’s job, as well as the often skewed relationship between hir level of education and salary:

It is because we liberal-arts professors have a personal stake in our relative economic status; we have carefully studied the actual dynamics of history and culture; and we have trained ourselves to think in complex, nuanced, and productive ways about the human condition that so many of us are liberals. Most of us agree with President Obama that there is a “right side of history,” and we feel morally bound to be on it. Although we’d like to see some parity in compensation with our colleagues, we chose our fields with full awareness of the tradeoff. Part of our compensation lies in knowing that our studies can complement our standing on the “right side,” rather than having our basic commitments dictated to us by the limitations of other, narrower professions.

Surely the “phenomenon” extends to students as well as teachers of liberal arts, and God knows our fine institution is more often than not perceived as the pinnacle of undergraduate liberalism run amok. So what say you? Is our (or our professors’) political tenor intrinsically linked to the nature of our education itself?