Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Real Academic Diversity Problem

Over at Right Reason, Steve Burton notes that for all the talk about Republicans and conservatives being underrepresented on college and law school faculties, in fact, they are not nearly as underrepresented as believing Christians are:

One of the studies I mentioned previously, that by Rothman & Lichter, makes glancing reference to this phenomenon, when they note that Christians, like conservatives and Republicans, "teach at lower quality schools than their professional accomplishments would predict." But they offer no details and do not pursue the issue. What I am suggesting here is that what Rothman & Lichter have detected are not two separate phenomena, but, rather, two aspects of one and the same phenomenon: the relative under-representation of believing Christians in academia.

Indeed, I suspect that jewish and non-religious Republicans and conservatives may have little or nothing to complain about; if anything, I suspect that they, like their Democratic and liberal colleagues (though perhaps not to the same degree) are over-represented on campus, in comparison to their numbers in the population at large. Just do the math: Jewish and non-religious Republicans make up less than 2% of all Americans. I fear that those of us who spend a lot of time in the "blogosphere" may be prone to an exaggerated idea of how many jewish and non-religious conservatives and libertarians there are out there. The answer is: not many - but we seem to engage in a disproportionate amount of internet chatter.

Having changed majors in college a number of times and going to a few schools, I see a lot of truth in Burton's argument, particularly when it comes to socially "conservative" (or even moderate traditionalist) views. I think that liberal and libertarian intolerance for these ideas is actually the main reason there are not many believing Christians on campus. I'd bet that Orthodox Jews and moderate, believing Muslims are similarly underrepresented as well. This is a real disservice to the worthy goal of academic diversity.