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Friday, 30 December 2005


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Rich Puchalsky

There is a hidden post ("MLA: Where am I?") which I happened to run into by trackback from the Valve; it doesn't appear if you look at the site directly, and can't be commented on. Obviously it is in a half-published state. So I'll comment on one line from it here:

"Much talk at different panels about the conservative drift of the student body"

As I point out here, statistics for freshman overall show no such thing. Is this belief permitted by some kind of innumeracy problem compounded by naive acceptance of conservative propaganda? (The first I'd find it easy to believe, but if cultural studies doesn't protect you against the second, what good is it?) Or is there some real effect in English departments that is camouflaged by the overall statistics? (That would imply that humanities students are getting more conservative while students in other departments are getting more liberal. Possible, I suppose.)

Scott Eric Kaufman

I noticed someone had hit that I deleted it. (Because the joke may have been a little too acephalo-centric, with me walking in on people having sex blah blah blah.) But this is something I'll discuss when I outline that panel a little later, but my short answer would be thus: it may be a matter of perspective. For a far left literature professor, a drift to the center, or toward libertarianism, constitutes "a conservative drift." Anecdotal evidence suggests to me that there has been a drift among my students toward something resembling libertarianism, which would be rightward. I'm a little pressed for time now, but I'll write about this in more detail later...and I'll provide an account of Gillespie's article on the "Political Literacy" panel, which John and Sean and I all attended.

Rich Puchalsky

Maybe. It would require some kind of unusual though not impossible trick of perspective to reconcile the survey that Gillespie pointed to with a rightward drift.

The survey used was the CIRP Freshman Survey run by HERI at UCLA. The results for 2004 indicate the following:

Far left: 3.4% (a record number)
Liberal: 26.1%
Middle-of-the-road: 46.4%
Conservative: 21.9%
Far right: 2.2% (also a record)

So maybe it's just that far right students are more newly visible, even though there are actually more far left ones.

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