Born this way? Conservative bias on campus
For a long time, you wondered if you were different.
You looked around at your peers. They were all laughing at the same jokes, coming back from the weekends and talking about their DREAMs, their idols, and the boxes where they'd stuck their ballots.
People showed you pictures of Barack Obama. You didn't feel anything. "I know he looks fantastic emerging from the ocean," you muttered, "but it doesn't stir anything inside me, except the vague desire for more financial responsibility." On election night 2008, you felt oddly despondent. "But it's historic!" everyone around you yelled. "I know," you said, sighing. You went out and shouted "Change! Hope! Change!" but your heart wasn't really in it.
You went to convenience stores and bought copies of The New Republic, stashing them inside copies of Playboy and Jugs. You kept a copy of Ronald Reagan's memoir under your bed. Furtively, after your roommate went to sleep, you read it. You felt oddly excited. Small government? Individual liberties?
Some nights, you even dreamed about Sarah Palin.
One day, you came across the description of a conservative in a newspaper. As you read it, you began shaking uncontrollably. "That's me!" you murmured. "That's me all over!" You burst into tears, disturbing the other people in the checkout line. Suddenly the world made sense.
But you knew it had to be a secret. You couldn't tell your parents. They were professors at Berkeley, where the ratio of Democrats to Republicans among faculty was 9 to 1. They kept collections of Bushisms in the bathroom and brought them out at parties, and everyone laughed and talked about how necessary the EPA was and how wonderful the Clinton era had been.
You began reading every book about your condition that you could find. Apparently, people like you had existed throughout not just American history, but world history, too. There was Ronald Reagan. There was Teddy Roosevelt. There was Edmund Burke. There was Abraham Lincoln, who called conservatism "adherence to the old and tried against the new and untried." You liked the way that sounded.
One night you finally get up the courage to tell someone else. "I don't know quite how to say this," you murmur. "Everyone says it's wrong, but I -- I think I'm right. Leaning. Politically."
Your friends draw back from you in horror. "You what?" they scream. They tie you down and perform an exorcism. "You are trying to set this country back!" they shout. "Well, yes," you mutter. "But just a little, and not in a hateful way!" They send Al Gore in to stare disappointedly at you. "Can't we have a rational discussion?" you ask. "I think there are in fact some arguments on this side that have merit."
"Get out!" they shout. "I just did!" you yell. "Then get back in!" they scream.
You retreat to your room and tear down your Reagan poster, sobbing silently. "One day," you murmur, "I'll get out of here! I'll move to a red state, where people will accept me for who I really am!"
I've said it before. On campus, conservative might just be the new gay.
And now there's a study to prove it.
The New York Times reported earlier this week that, at a conference of Social Psychologists, Dr. Jonathan Haidt pointed out a new outgroup: conservatives. "Haidt," the article said, "told the audience that he had been corresponding with a couple of non-liberal graduate students in social psychology whose experiences reminded him of closeted gay students in the 1980s. He quoted -- anonymously -- from their e-mails describing how they hid their feelings when colleagues made political small talk and jokes predicated on the assumption that everyone was a liberal."
It's not just social psychologists. Much ink has been spilled on the question of so-called liberal bias on college campuses. Maybe it's not so-called after all. Across the country, the political leanings of the professoriate lack diversity. At elite universities, Democrats outnumber Republicans by six to one in the general faculty; a study of both elite and non-elite institutions found that Democratic psychology professors outnumber Republicans 12 to 1.
This isn't the open indoctrination that some conservatives fear. It's simply a pernicious assumption -- that everyone in the classroom is coming from the same political perspective and will laugh at the same punchlines. This is the creeping danger when any one group becomes more than statistically dominant. "But we all agree!" everyone says. "We must be right! And if anyone disagrees -- well, he's wrong, so it doesn't matter!" Maybe. But it's -- how do you say? -- statistically improbable.
It doesn't matter if you love him. Or capital H-i-m.
But if anyone finds out that "him" is spelled R-e-a-g-a-n -- well, I can't answer for your safety.
| February 11, 2011; 5:35 PM ET
Categories: Petri, That's awkward | Tags: Lady Gaga, Reagan, censorship, college, law of the jungle
Save & Share: Previous: Mubarak stepping down! His top eight new jobs
Next: Most impressive? The real message of the 2011 Grammys
Posted by: deepthroat21 | February 11, 2011 8:40 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Mowgli3 | February 11, 2011 9:26 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: samsara15 | February 11, 2011 10:16 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: xandersun | February 12, 2011 8:03 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: sold2u | February 12, 2011 9:23 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: kstack | February 12, 2011 10:01 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: nyrunner101 | February 12, 2011 12:45 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: fcs25 | February 12, 2011 12:52 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: pvilso24 | February 12, 2011 1:05 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: castellina | February 12, 2011 1:57 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: larryclyons | February 12, 2011 4:13 PM | Report abuse