Saturday, May 15, 2004


What Liberal University? (Part II)

Yesterday I suggested that the assumptions made by my fellow instructor and her students about the media inevitably led to making the self-same assumptions about the university: if the CEO of a corporation that owns a major media outlet is conservative--or even pro-business--then that bias is going to trickle down into the newsroom and make itself felt in the broadcasts we watch. In the scenarios they imagine, this is usually accomplished by edicts from the top telling the reporters what they can and cannot report on, what sort of spin to give any given issue, etc.

Anyone with half a brain can see that this doesn't happen. While there may be stories here and there regarding a parent company that one of the suits might have problems with, the general tenor of the news--with the exception of Fox--is liberal left. This is certain true of the big three and their anchors, and it's been true of the local news in pretty much every city I've ever watched the news in.

Given the liberal left biases of schools of journalism, this should hardly be a surprise. Journalism, like my own field, is pretty self-selecting when it comes to political bent, and, unlike my own field, it's a hell of a lot harder to hide your politics in journalism. A student of my wife's was in the journalism program at my current university. He was black and conservative, a deadly combination for his white, liberal instructors. He was actually given an "F" on an assignment in which he argued against an increase in state taxes; his instructor told him point-blank that there was no logical argument against an increase in taxes. His support of Bush garnered him similar criticism. He had a few conservative colleagues, but for the most part, he was surrounded by students who thought just as their instructors did. Eventually, he transferred to another university.

But, back to yesterday's posting.

The fact of the matter is that the instructor in the classroom after me and the Director of Composition are both leftists, and they do use the classroom and the composition program as a platform for their own politics. I've given you a couple of examples of the instructor's behavior, and will also add that they watched a video on the riots in Seattle told exclusively from the rioters' perspective. As for the Director, the textbooks we are allowed to choose from are ones which approach the favorite topics of the left--race, class, gender, the environment, etc.--and the essays included either present the left perspective to the exclusion of all others, or, if a perspective from the right is included, the editors of the textbook make their disagreement with the ideas in the essay quite clear.

We were told by the Director at a meeting back in 2000 that it was perfectly acceptable to use our classrooms to talk about the election, particularly given the crisis we would face if the election went the wrong way. This last Fall, I walked out on the meeting when the Director began discussing how we might best discuss Iraq in our classrooms, and how to handle it when students disagreed with the enlightened opinion we were providing them.

The leads me to present two theories regarding the Alterman book and the ideas my colleague was presenting in her class.

The first is that liberals assume that a media owned by big business must necessarily present a conservative perspective because liberals--or, more accurately, leftists--when placed in a position where the can pursue their political program, will inevitably do so. The accusation of conservative bias is there precisely because liberals cannot imagine not taking advantage of a position of power and using it to further their political goals.

From my own observations, such a theory makes sense. I have taught, over the years, at many, many institutions with many different instructors. There has almost always been a direct correlation between how vocally liberal an instructor was and the extent to which that instructor used his or her class as a political platform. Vocally conservative instructors (the few I've actually met), generally did their best to keep their classrooms politically neutral, preferring to assign topics that would not delve into politics, or choosing textbooks that were as balanced as possible (hard to do, given that these textbooks are almost always edited by liberals). I'm not saying this is always true; but there is a pattern.

My second theory is that liberals accuse the media of a conservative bias in order in order to divert the public's attention from the truth of the media's liberal bias. This theory is shared by many who have taken issue with Alterman's book, and it does make sense. Certainly, Fox News provides more than enough examples to make a case for conservative bias, and those who are already sympathetic to the liberal cause are often willing to take a small set of examples (the Washington Times is also touted out, and sometimes the WSJ) and accept that they are representative of the whole. They will also cite a single conservative columnist on the editorial page as evidence that the paper itself has no bias, ignoring the fact that the remainder of the paper--particularly the highly editorialized front page--is biased to the left.

The second theory requires that the left engage in a deliberate attempt to trick. The first is a bit more charitable, as it assumes that their reaction to this issue is predicated on their own experience of the world and their own philosophy.

Either way, they are a deluded bunch. Yet they remain in charge of the humanities and social sciences, and they have a tremendous effect on the thought processes of the 18-22 year old camp.

I have an idea for trying to change this, though I have no idea what the feasibility of this idea is, and it is, in the end, a bit self-serving. I'll get to this later . . .

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