Liberal Professors: Are Their Days Numbered?

There is a interesting story in The New York Times today about the changing of the guard among professors at colleges and universities. The article suggests that aging Baby Boomer professors, imprinted with the experiences of the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement, are more liberal in their outlook and that has effected how they teach.

What I found particularly fascinating about the article was the suggestion that young professors are not as ideologically driven and thus are more likely to embrace quantitative ways of research that include statistical analysis and randomized experiments.

That’s in contrast to the alternative of adopting an overarching narrative and then looking for evidence to support it. The reporter gave the example of a sixty-something professor at the University of Wisconsin who concluded that the fight over bilingualism and standard English was about power.

The evidence of this ideological gulf isn’t just anecdotal. A new study conducted at George Mason University and the University of British Columbia concluded that self-described liberals represent just under half of all professors ages 50 to 64, but less than a third of professors who are 35 years of age or younger. The highest percentage of moderates (roughly 60%) came from this youngest group of professors.

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