Education

The Hidden World of Campus Conservatives

"A good education should be offensive," says Claremont McKenna Prof. Jon Shields.

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"Diversity really is the religion of the university," says Jon Shields, co-author of the new book, Passing on the Right: Conservative Professors in the Progressive University. "I hope that we can start asking them to better practice what they preach."

A 2006 Politics of the American Professoriate survey found that even self-proclaimed Marxists outnumber conservatives in the social sciences by a five to one ratio. Overall, about five percent of faculty self-identified as conservatives.

Shields, an associate professor of government at Claremont McKenna University, is the co-author of the first book-length study of conservatives in academia. One finding was that free-market thinkers tend to feel less pressure to conceal their political beliefs than social conservatives.

"It's also the case that libertarians tend to gravitate toward economics," Shields told Reason TV. "It's a much more tolerant place than the rest of the social sciences."

But this wasn't always the case. Shields credits Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek for making free market ideas more accepted on college campuses.

Shields says that conservative rhetoric about the academy—Marco Rubio called colleges "liberal indoctrination camps" on the campaign trail—is overblown and counterproductive. "[T]he university is a much more tolerant place than movement conservatives and certainly Republican candidates often think that it is," he said.

One explanation: tenure. Many professors, though closeted early in their careers, open up once they have full job security.

"Writing this book and doing the research for it made us much more sympathetic to tenure," Shields says. "We saw what a difference it made in the lives of these conservatives."

Approximately 10 minutes.

Produced by Alexis Garcia. Camera by Paul Detrick and Alex Manning. Music by Podington Bear.

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