Monday, November 3, 2008

Liberal Profs and the MythBusters

An interesting story this a.m. in the NYTimes about the influence liberal professors have on their students (, which the study finds is minimal. A friend last week complained bitterly to me in an e-mail that his daughter had come home from college full of these socialist ideas implanted by her Commie profs and he was pissed and wasn't going to take it any more. I just sent him the link.

Seems "three sets of researchers recently concluded that professors have virtually no impact on the political views and ideology of their students." And that, lovely people, doesn't just go for those of us on the left, but the right-leaners, as well. If you want anecdotal evidence, simply visit the Liberty University campus, the center of the world for the Christian right. There are left-leaning students on campus and they're not hiding behind the pew.

We're dramatically underestimating young people when we believe that the only--or even the most important--influence in their lives is a college professor. Teachers at all levels are an influence, as any person in a position of authority would be, but the influence is not always positive, not always high in impact and rarely lasting. Students are far more influenced by their immediate environments, including friends, family and jobs--a short lifetime of those. When I was college-age, I would have been--by today's standards--considered a conservative. I thought, in the early stages, that the Vietnam War was necessary to stop Communist aggression.

It took time, took listening, reading, experiencing to determine that what I believed didn't fit me. I'm from a poor family and I was espousing a kind of Republicanism that was counter to my instincts, needs, basic beliefs. I got that from the people around me; their arguments were constant if not necessarily persuasive upon examination. Conservative teachers helped form it, as well. But they didn't lock me into anything.

So, forget the fear of the professor. These people are simply one element in the growth process. Your children are going to be what they are going to be and no single element in their lives will shape that. Thank God.

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