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Inside the Mind of an Ivy League Professor By: Frank Luntz
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, August 30, 2002


For all the talk we hear about "diversity" on college campuses, one would hope that the differences we are told to cherish run deeper than gender or skin color — and that diversity exists among the faculty as well as the students. One would hope that in addition to an ethnically diverse group of educators, America's colleges and universities would strive to assemble faculties that exhibit diversity of thoughts, attitudes, and political perspectives as well. One would hope that the Ivy League, representing the nation's educational elite, would lead the way.

Wishful thinking. A new survey of Ivy League professors conducted by the Luntz Research Companies on behalf of the Center for the Study of Popular Culture reveals an indisputable and painfully evident lack of diversity when it comes to the attitudes and values of Ivy League faculty. Not only is there an alarming uniformity among the guardians of our best and brightest minds, but this group of educators is almost uniformly outside of mainstream, moderate, middle-of-the-road American political thought. So much for diversity.

Findings

The survey covers many of the hot-button issues in contemporary American political life. We asked Ivy League Professors about missile defense, tax cuts, affirmative action, abortion, and education. We asked cultural and historic questions as well, inquiring about national events, presidential elections and the news media. The results suggest an education elite that is quite different in thought and perception than the country that supports it — and even the students they teach. The disjuncture is chilling.

  • Cleary, those on the conservative side of the political spectrum don't have much of a place in the Ivy League faculty lounges. Just 6 percent of Ivy League professors would describe themselves as either conservative or somewhat conservative, and only 3 percent consider themselves to be Republicans. So much for diversity.
  • Ask an Ivy League professor to crack open his or her wallet —odds are that you won't see any membership cards for the National Rifle Association, Christian Coalition or National Taxpayers Union. Given a list of nationally known organizations, zero percent identifies with the Christian Coalition and just one percent say that they most identify with either of the two other conservative organizations. By contrast, 44 percent say that they most identify with the ACLU.
  • The difference between the Ivy academics and the public at large on the topic of missile defense is night and day. With domestic terrorism still fresh on our minds, 70 percent of Americans told Gallup in October that the government should spend the money that would be necessary to build a defense system against nuclear missiles. Yet just 14 percent of Ivy Professors agree. Instead, 74 percent said that the government should not spend the money that would be required for research and development of such a system.
  • On economic issues the contrast is just as stark. In May 67 percent of Americans favored a substantial tax cut in this year's federal budget according to a Gallup poll released at the time. But Ivy League professors have a different idea of what the government should do with our money. Just 13 percent believe that the surplus (in any given year) should be returned to the taxpayers in the form of a tax cut, while a whopping 80 percent disagree.
  • As for slavery reparations, 40 percent of Ivy League professors agree that the federal government owes American blacks some form of reparations for the harms caused by slavery and discrimination. By comparison, just 11 percent of all Americans think that the U.S should pay reparations to African-Americans who are descendants of slaves.
  • On the issue of school choice, Ivy professors hate it while Americans support it. Just 26 percent of the academics believe that the government should give parents the option of using government-funded school vouchers to pay for tuition at a public, private or religious school of their choice. Contrarily, 62 percent of all Americans say they would vote for such a system.

On one hand, this survey is a barometer of the political persuasions of Ivy League professors, measuring issue-specific viewpoints and comparing them to the population overall. But the survey goes deeper to paint a richer portrait of these educators by capturing their attitudes and perspectives. Here, once again, the Ivy League is out of whack with mainstream America.

Take some of the more culturally and historically-based questions:

  • Just 21 percent of Ivy League professors believe that news coverage of political and social issues reflects a liberal bias in the news media. On the other hand, 51 percent think that most journalists are about the same, politically, or even less liberal than they are.
  • Turning to the op-ed pages…given the choice of either the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal, 72 percent of Ivy League professors say that they agree more with the editorial page of the Times, while just 5 percent say they agree more with the Journal.
  • Asked who they thought has been the best President in the past 40 years, the top four choices are all Democrats. Leading the list at 26 percent is Bill Clinton. John Kennedy came in second (17%), Lyndon Johnson third (15%) and Jimmy Carter fourth (13%). And the bottom five? All Republican: Reagan, 4%; George H. Bush, 2%; Nixon, 1%; Ford, 1% and George W. Bush, 0%.

Conclusion

One would hope that those who teach the nation's best and brightest are the nation's best and brightest. The elite educators who pass along knowledge and impart critical thinking skills to our country's finest students are entrusted with the precious task of shaping the hearts and minds of our future. What will that future bring if these students are routinely exposed to a monotone of opinion that is woefully out of tune with the American mainstream?

The findings of this poll are not news to Ivy League universities. In fact, one university was openly hostile to our efforts to complete this project. We think they were afraid of what we would find. But 151 professors from the social sciences and the humanities did complete the survey that was administered from mid-October through mid-November.

Peering down the Main Street of American politics, these results stick out like a diamond in the dust. It is assumed that the Ivy League faculty provides the intellectual roadmaps for our nation's future leaders, yet their thinking is out of step with the attitudes, values, viewpoints and expectations of mainstream American thought. Just as it is valuable for our nation's brightest students to encounter the perspectives of those of different races and religions, it is equally valuable for them to be exposed to a diversity of thoughts, ideas and attitudes.

Sadly, the Ivy League fails to deliver.




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