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Scholars: Higher Ed Leftist Bias Helped Obama Win

If conservative lawmakers want to win elections, they better pay attention to and address youth voters currently swayed by leftist professors who indoctrinate them for Democrats with cherry-picked lesson plans and biased lectures, several prominent educators told The College Fix.

“If those who value America’s deeper traditions hope to win future elections, they had better get serious about higher education,” said Peter Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars. “Ceding the colleges and universities to cultural and political progressives has led to generations of graduates who have scant knowledge of our nation’s founding principles, a distorted understanding of its ideals, and settled patterns of disdain for genuine intellectual diversity.”

And that’s affecting how they vote, bigtime.

President Barack Obama won re-election with the help of 18- to 29-year-olds. Sixty percent of voters that age broke for Obama, compared with the 37 percent in that category who supported Republican contender Mitt Romney, exit polls showed. Those figures were especially hard felt in key swing states Romney needed to win the election, as young voters came through for Obama in Ohio, Florida and Virginia, where he led by margins of about 20 to 30 percentage points against Romney among 18- to 29-year-olds.

While popular culture and Obama’s hip image played a role in that outcome, what young people learn from their professors is just as influential, several scholars told The College Fix.

“The character of our universities and the make-up of the faculty certainly has a lot to do with the turn-out of young people for Barack Obama,” said Paul Rahe, a history professor at Hillsdale College. “To a degree that is shocking, the professoriate has become openly, even ostentatiously partisan in recent years. … In the last decade or so … academics of a conservative disposition have almost entirely been shut out.”

Wood notes many students don’t even realize they’re being fed partisan politics from the podium.

“College professors have an out-sized influence on their students, though the students often fail to realize it,” Wood said. “The influence surely has as much to do with the attitudes teachers convey and the ambiance they create on campus as it does the specific substance of what they say. A great deal is conveyed by what professors choose to ignore or to treat dismissively.”

For example, notes Emory University English professor Mark Bauerlein: “If a course in freshman composition examines the Civil Rights movement but includes no readings coming from those at the time who worried about issues of states’ rights and federal intervention (but might otherwise have been entirely free of racism, such as Barry Goldwater), then we have a skew to the left but none of the 18-year-olds notice. Here we can’t really get input from students about the effects because students aren’t even aware of them.”

These influences by omission, as well as outright propagandizing by professors, take their toll on students, Wood said.

“A great deal of contemporary higher education aims at drawing students in the opposite direction—away from personal responsibility and towards images of themselves as members of groups whose only meaningful actions arise from participation in those groups’ struggles,” he said. “The campus is, in this sense, among the least diverse places in American life. A dreary uniformity of opinion pervades it, all the drearier because the campus authorities and increasingly the students proceed under the self-willed illusion that they are robust individualists who just coincidentally all think the same thing by margins of eight or nine to one.”

And while the role of higher education is vital in shaping young people’s minds – and thus the future of America – popular culture and what’s held up as important by secular society also pervades how college students think, the educators said.

“Most adolescents enter college already solidly in the liberal camp, though not in an informed way,” Bauerlein said. “The culture they consume on TV, in youth music, in movies, and on the Web is altogether anti-conservative. Traditional authorities are mocked and rebellious teens are glamorized. … After years of Lady Gaga, Friends, and the rest, conservatism strikes them as authoritarian and backward and irrelevant. With his interviews in Rolling Stone and appearances on The Daily Show, Obama seems a whole lot more hip and timely and multicultural than a white guy in a suit. That influence means a whole lot more than the leftist twerp in Sociology 101.”

Rahe offered similar sentiments.

“There is another reason … why college students may have sided with Barack Obama,” he said. “He presented himself as the great defender of the sexual revolution – which began on American campuses in the late 1960s when I was a student and which has its primary home there today. My generation of students was the first generation that was self-righteous about its vices, and today’s students have inherited our propensity to foolishness. Barack Obama used that foolishness to play on them like a fiddle.”

Bauerlein also didn’t offer a lot of confidence in young people’s discernment either, saying of the youth vote: “Of course, we could also chalk it up to teenage stupidity, the chumps. After all, the climbing debt is THEIR debt more than anyone else’s.”

IMAGE: Bertoz/Flickr

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About the Author
Fix Editor
Jennifer Kabbany is editor of The College Fix. She previously worked as a daily newspaper reporter and columnist for a decade in Southern California, and prior to that held editorial positions at The Weekly Standard, Washington Times and FrontPageMagazine. She is also a Robert Novak Journalism Fellowship recipient and has contributed to National Review.

Add to the Discussion

  • bpuharic

    This makes no sense. There are systemic biases in differential areas of culture. That’s why Evangelical Christians tend to be hard right on pre-marital sex and not care about infant mortality. The Evangelical mindset is authority based, reliant on a pseudo-inflexible reading of Scripture.

    Scholars tend to question assumptions. That’s their job. The relentless, reflexive dogma on the part of the hard right turns off independent thinkers. For example, there was a pretty even split in the recent election between the 2 candidates, but those with post graduate degrees went for Obama by a 55/44 margin.

    The driven focus on sex is part of this bias. As Richard Posner’s noted, the American Christian right has become obsessed with sex. Normal people don’t think the means of re-production have to be govt. property, but the right does (Scalia, for example, favors criminalizing homosexuality, as he noted it was ‘illegal for 200 years.’)

    These different cultural values mean that the right really has nothing to say to a majority of independent thinkers. Trying to convince us that the gay guys down the street should be jailed while 10,000 people just lost their jobs due to Wall Street malfeasance is a non starter. You keep trying to make this argument and you’re going to continue to lose elections.

    • JM

      “This makes no sense.”

      Laughable. Really. To anyone, *anyone* who is active on a college campus, it is simple reality. As for sex-obsessed, it is not conservatives who keep sex front and center, believe me. As a conservative professor, I would LOVE for my sexually active students to shut up about it. No such luck.

      And on questoning assumptions, it is the conservatives right now who are questioning assumptions, and the establishment scholars who are busy telling their students “of course” we are for hope and change and anal sex. Everyone just assumes, after all, that we have no choice but to be the way we are, right?

      Finally, Scalia does not “favor” criminalizing homosexuality, unless you want to furnish the reference. God, however, is on record as outlawing it, much to your outrage, I am certain. Who is the Creator, after all, to mandate such things, damn it?

      Funny how liberals caricature Conservatives as doctrinaire. That s not false, but there is no one as self-righteous as a convinced “tolerant” person. He is right, his opponents fools. I don’t think you are a fool, but you sound, more than just a bit, like a jerk. Now I need to go take a pie to the gay guys down the street.

      • bpuharic

        Ever hear of Mourdock, Akin, Kathryn Jean Lopez? Maggie Gallagher? Brian Brown? They’re hardly liberal! And it was Richard Posner, a nice, conservative judge, who remarked that American Christians are sex obsessed, as Andrew Sullivan has noted as well.

        What assumptions are conservatives questioning? That being gay is wrong? Hardly new. As to Scalia, well, yes, here’s a reference:


        I don’t care what your view of God is. God seems to have favored alot of things, including slavery (Eph 6:5), so your view as to what God ‘wants’ is skewed unless you’re ready to attack Ft Sumter again!

        So go ahead, tell us how favoring slavery, criminalizing gays, and wanting the govt in the bedroom is ‘tolerant’.

    • I’m an Evangelical. I believe in the authority of Scripture and God, and I support the legitimate institutions of the state. I believe that premarital sex is wrong because it is a distortion and cheapening of the gift of human sexuality given by man’s Creator. I have never heard a single Christian leader, member of the clergy, or layperson say anything that could be interpreted as an attitude of not caring about infant mortality. That is an accusation so reckless that it borders on being scurrilous. As for myself, I’m 54 years old and went back to school at a medium sized state university 2 years ago. Most of my professors have been fairly unbiased, with the exception of a Sociology teacher who threatened to have me expelled because I objected to having to sit through two consecutive class periods of watching a Michael Moore schlockumentary with no time allotted for discussion or debate. When I placed some flyers on a table in the back of the room informing students where they could find some information about the other side of the issue, that’s when the fur flew. I was told I could get in a lot of trouble for doing what I had done and, in fact, a faculty member has been chastised for the same reason. When I attempted to bring up the First Amendment and the right to free speech, I was told, “this (a college campus) is not a democracy”.

      • bpuharic

        Mississippi has the highest rate of church attendance in the country. It has the highest rate of infant mortality in the country. Res Ipsa Loquitur. It’s not an accusation, it’s a fact. As to bias in college, when I was doing my graduate work in chemical engineering thermodynamics, we were studying the accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant. The professor remarked that ‘If we had a right wing press, instead of a left wing press in this country, they would have played up the conspiracy angle more than they did’. There’s bias on both sides.

        But my point remains. Evangelicals don’t care about infant mortality. The facts speak for themselves.

  • James Lawson

    The latest manifestation of Leftist power on campus is not found among the faculty but in the administration: The Diversity Dean. Every university and college in the US has a Diversity Dean. The tiniest, most remote community college has a Diversity Dean. Invariably the person who occupies the position of Diversity Dean is an exemplar of some protected group and an activist for the Democratic Party. The existence of an administrative office and staff that supports Democratic Party political views and radical political views is not lost on impressionable young students.

    I suggest that citizens take action against the institution of Diversity Dean when it exists at state supported institutions. Citizens should inform their legislators of the activities undertaken by these offices and demand that they be restricted in the services that they supply. These offices should be restricted to aiding students as they navigate the genuine requirements of their college careers. These offices should be forbidden from sponsoring “appreciation days” for various protected groups. (There is nothing wrong with appreciation days but the office of Diversity Dean should not be sponsoring them.)

  • Daniel

    “Prominent educators”. Take 5 minutes, research the National Association of Scholars and Hillsdale College. Is Mark Bauerlein a “prominent educator” or just someone who thinks everyone under 30 is a moron?

    Either way, I don’t see any prominent educators quoted. Nor do I see any attempt to bring balance or counter-argument to the piece. How old is the writer of this garbage effort? Under 30….if so I may be more inclined to agree with Mr. Bauerlein.

  • Stacey

    This is hilarity at its best. The conservatives first problem comes from them not recognizing non christian, non euro-centric ideological and historically disenfranchised as not ‘Real’ Americans. To the conservative you are not not only unimportant if you aren’t conservative you are a threat to their way of life and an enemy to the country. Trust me when I say on a lot of issues I would agree with conservatives but conservatives would oblige me to follow a religion I don’t believe in, accept my marginalized place in society for not considering Western Civilization to be the greatest model of human thought to ever grace the surface of the Earth, I was not born with money and embrace the belief that I am an innate savage whose impulses are held in check just barely by the civilizing effect of slavery because my ancestors did not hail from north of the 42nd parallel. This is what hurts the conservative party. The change Obama spoke of was not something he was bringing. It was something he was harbinger of and change is antithetical to conservative thinking.

    • HBninjaX

      This caricature of conservatives you’ve fabricated is hilarity at its best

  • loonz123

    The article is pure BS. When I went to college ten years ago there were very few instances of political discussions. Most of my classes involved engineering, math and science and the few classes where politics was touched upon the professor tried to stay out of it. There was no attempt to indoctrinate anyone.

    People tend to change their worldview as they encounter different people, places and experiences. College is the first place where young people step out of the cocoon and finally see the world. They become influenced by the people around them; not the professors. The only way conservatives are going to get young people on their side is to keep them isolated from the rest of the world.

  • mikeheart

    Y’know, the “right” was making this argument in the 90s when Clinton was elected. When the party represents the people, they vote for it. Right now there are more Independents in California than there are registered Republicans. Given the ethnic and social makeup of California’s 38 million people, do you really think the professors are setting the agenda?

  • Russell Seitz

    Newton is just the thin edge of the wedge- the slippery slope of elitism leads on down past Leibniz ,Locke , Hume and Hegel to Trotsky, Colbert and Bill Maher.

    The only way to stop the erosion is to draw the curricular line in the middle ground between Aristotle and Aquinas , and consign all authors thereafter to the bonfire of the vanities.

    Beware of the man with more than one book- it may not have been published by Regnery!