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Edumacation: Political Leanings in American Universities
By Patrick Hogan October 10, 2003

During orientation week at LaSalle University, a Catholic liberal arts university, my fellow freshman honor students and I were set apart from the rest of the students and brought to a special session where we were told by the older upperclassmen honors students what we should expect from our honors curriculum. The first thing our forerunners did was to warn us of the freshman honors English professor, an elderly PhD. whom I will refer to in this essay simply as Dr. M.

"You really need to be careful around her. She has some opinions about which she feels very strongly," a junior biology major warned me.

"It's the freakiest thing you'll ever see. She's old enough to be your grandmother, but she's obsessed with sex!" a sophomore communication major added.

"Let me put it this way," a senior, the oldest of the group, said calmly, "If you consider yourself to be a conservative or a republican, it's best if you just keep your mouth shut for a year."

"She doesn't like boys," was the only comment a fellow male student had.

Flash forward to the next semester, the old mild-mannered honors history professor was going on research leave for the rest of the year, so in an unusual move, the freshmen honors students were assigned a new professor for their history classes, a teacher whom I will refer to as Dr. S.

"Let me get one thing straight right here and now," he said in our first class. "I don't know what sort of liberal nonsense my colleagues have been teaching you up until now, but in this class we're going to do things my way, hence the right way." We didn't need to be honors students to know that the word "right" had multiple meanings for him.

As my fellow students and I quickly learned, we should be ready to expect this sort of bias whenever we walk into a general liberal arts class. While the majority of the liberal arts teachers did seem to lean towards the left, what the ones on the right lacked in numbers they made up for in volume. The liberal teachers would be sure to extend invitations to everyone to the latest anti-war protests, and would be more than happy to distribute free "No war for oil!" posters to anyone who asked. When the conservative teachers would hear of this, they'd spend up to ten minutes of class time launching barrage upon barrage upon their liberal colleagues.

Even worse then the classes were the ways that student events were subverted by the faculty into methods of advancing their own personal agendas. During a special symposium on the war in Iraq, when the panel opened up to questions from the students, the first five or so people standing in line behind the microphone had beards down to their bellybuttons. Consequently, a symposium on world religion degenerated into a bash fest when the Muslim and Jewish experts started trading barbs on the Palestine-Israel situation.

I guess if I had to pick, I would say that the liberal side has a greater influence in our education. Shortly after the beginning of the current Iraq conflict, the honors program director arranged for all the students to attend a special poetry reading, conducted by two poets who were Vietnam War veterans. During the two hour reading, I think more time was spent bashing the current administration then actually reading the poetry. Very culturally enlightening, huh?

On the other side, the more specialized classes, at least in undergraduate education, seem to be free of the vitriol of the partisan politics seen in the liberal arts education. As a Communication major, my courses emphasize two main fields, human communication (how people transfer information) and mass communication (media and journalism). All the professors I've had in both fields have stressed nothing but completely divorcing ourselves from the politics of the day.

"If you're going to get in this field, you need to be in this field and nothing else," my Introduction to Mass Communication once told us, a professional reporter herself. "There's a reason reporters don't vote, and that's because the press is not meant to be colored by any side of politics."

This teaching methodology could also be seen as a negative approach, for while it may train impartial reporters, it doesn't necessarily make for good citizens. It encourages cynicism with respect to all things having to do with the government, which in a way is a bias all on its own.

Either way, it is preferable to the chaotic political wars that can be found in liberal arts education.

Copyright © 2003 by Patrick Hogan

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