Opinion

IZUMI: Breaking The Liberal Monopoly On College Faculties Will Take More Than Hope

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Lance Izumi Pacific Research Institute

As President Trump delivered his well-received patriotic Independence Day tribute to America, the braying leftist college professoriate erupted in social-media fireworks, underscoring the importance of offering saner higher-education alternatives to young people.

UC Berkeley professor and former Clinton labor secretary Robert Reich compared Trump to a dictator glorifying himself with a military parade.

Duke University professor Kieran Healy added, ‘Maybe have the Marines goose step, while you’re at it.”

On and on it went, with the Twitter-sphere filled with the gaseous emissions of woke whining wiser-than-thou windbags.

But the college faculty problem is much more insidious than just anti-Trump social-media tantrums.

Worrisomely, the number and type of leftist faculty on campus has changed dramatically over the last several decades.

Robert Reich’s UC Berkeley colleague Steve Hayward, one of the few openly conservative faculty members at that university, recently noted, “no matter how bad you think things are, it’s invariably the case that when you look closer things are even worse than you thought.”

Hayward pointed out that the number of conservative professors on America’s campuses has been cut by two-thirds in recent years.

“Colleges are even more of an echo chamber than they have ever been,” Hayward observed.

However, the problem is much deeper than the sheer number of leftists on college faculties. It is the type of leftist who now populates the faculty lounge.

UC Berkeley law professor John Yoo, a former deputy assistant attorney general in the George W. Bush administration, points out that while college faculties have been left-leaning for a long time, old-style liberals, who saw value in having a diversity of philosophical viewpoints, have been replaced by leftists professors “who do not believe in ideological diversity.”

These newer faculty leftists “won’t hire conservatives,” says Yoo, because “you would never have people [on faculties] who think the wrong thing.”

Thus, he says, “Faculties are constricting what are considered legitimate points of view,” and he doubted that another conservative would replace him when he retired.

President Trump’s 2019 executive order promoting free speech on campus states: “Free inquiry is an essential feature of our Nation’s democracy, and it promotes learning, scientific discovery, and economic prosperity.”

Yet, how can such unfettered intellectual discovery take place when so many college faculty members actually oppose free inquiry, labeling opposing viewpoints as “hate speech”?

Thus, while the president’s order is needed and worthwhile, efforts also need to be directed at addressing the near-total left-wing ideological bias of college faculty.

To increase viewpoint diversity in higher education, Hayward recommends creating competition within universities. He cites two examples of schools created specifically to balance out the prevailing left-leaning orthodoxy on campus.

The James Madison Program at Princeton University promotes teaching and scholarship focusing on American constitutional law and Western political thought, including federalism, the moral bases of private property and free enterprise. Arizona State University’s School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership focuses on the study of great works of civic, economic, political, and moral thought, with an emphasis, according to the program, “on the guiding principles of America’s founders and the leaders who have inspired us.”

More revolutionary, Hayward advocates the creation of an alternative to the bachelor’s degree as a proxy for a modern educated person.

Students could, for example, use educational technology to take alternative courses online, which he says would “create a competitive avenue” for learning.

Hayward’s idea is similar to that of noted Ohio University economics professor Richard Vedder who recommends overhauling the conventional university model where students enroll in a single university and take classes exclusively there.

Vedder envisions a system where accrediting agencies accredit courses, not universities, so that students can take classes from a variety of colleges and universities and then get a degree based on the aggregate of the courses they have taken.

One of the advantages of these proposals is that they would give students opportunities to avoid being stuck taking biased courses from leftist professors at the particular university at which they are enrolled and choose less-biased alternatives someplace else.

Too many colleges and universities have devolved into ideological indoctrination centers driven by leftist professors and administrators. We need solutions that will break up the higher education monopoly that fosters ideological uniformity and conformity.

Lance Izumi is senior director of the Center for Education at the Pacific Research Institute and author of the new book, “Choosing Diversity: How Charter Schools Promote Diverse Learning Models and Meet the Diverse Needs of Parents and Children.”


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.