Thursday, April 07, 2005

Who's Left Teaching

Paul Krugman writes a "why are academics liberals?" column this week, and what he says makes plenty of sense: "Today's Republican Party -- increasingly dominated by people who believe truth should be determined by revelation, not research -- doesn't respect science, or scholarship in general. It shouldn't be surprising that scholars have returned the favor by losing respect for the Republican Party."

But I think he only gets it half right. There's also this--conservatives tend to be more interested in lots of money. Academia doesn't get you lots of money (generally speaking--sure some of the Nobel scientists and docs at med schools rake it in, but they're the minority), which is partially why there's tenure, so profs get in security what they lose in pure paycheck. (Oh, yeah, and then there's academic freedom, too.)

Those whose thinking moves leftward tend to want to give something back, and despite all their problems as institutions, at a university you still sometimes get to teach and help younger generations, and you might help create knowledge, too. Any conservative smart enough to earn that PhD often opts to go into business (or the business of government, where the revolving door of corporate offices and regulatory positions only makes you wealthier--do some research on a creepy place like Cargill if you don't believe me). Since the only evolution many on the right believe in is social Darwinism, which they interpret as survival of the selfish and which dovetails nicely with their bullshit Ayn Rand "philosophy" most grow out of after their frosh year in college (unless it provides convenient excuses for their comfort), the same folks who might be right-wing academics instead follow their hearts, which exist somewhere near their wallets. Whether they wear their wallets in coat pockets or pants pockets is up to how you want to anatomically see them. (And I know that makes them seem mostly like men, but most of the academics, at least tenure-track, are men, and the same is true for most big businessMEN, even if Lawrence Summers doesn't have a clue why.)

Just an over-generalized idea.


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