War and Dissent: The Political Values of the American Professoriate

By Shepherd, Gordon; Shepherd, Gary | Journal of Higher Education, September-October 1994 | Go to article overview

War and Dissent: The Political Values of the American Professoriate


Shepherd, Gordon, Shepherd, Gary, Journal of Higher Education


13. Bulloch, J., and H. Morris. Saddam's War: The Origins of the Kuwait Conflic and the International Response. Winchester, Mass.: Faber and Faber, 1991.

14. Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The Condition of the Professoriate: Attitudes and Trends. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1989.

15. Chirot, D. Social Change in the Modern Era. New York; Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1986.

16. Chronicle of Higher Education, 34 12 (1991), 1, 14-15.

In the preface to their landmark study of the politics of American college professors, Ladd and Lipset [45] comment on the political ascension of university academics and intellectuals in modern history. They argue that as an occupational category college professors have come to occupy a central place in the political structure of advanced industrial and postindustrial societies. College professors not only instruct the young in specialized areas of knowledg necessary for the continued functioning of modern society, they also advise leaders of government and industry and contribute importantly to social change through the discovery and analysis of new ideas. Consequently, the political orientations of academics and their apprentices merit serious study and attention. In Ladd and Lipset's words, "no examination of American politics . . . can properly ignore the place of those groups in the population located aroun the application of trained intelligence" [45, xiv].

Ladd and Lipset's study was based on national surveys of the American professoriate conducted in 1969 and 1972 during the throes of the Vietnam War, time when many American universities had become centers for the counterculture and antiwar movement of that era [2, 29, 34, 40, 49, 67, 75]. Among other thing their findings showed that the political orientations of college faculty as a whole were significantly more liberal than those of other occupational groups. This was not only true for academics during the Vietnam era, but data from othe studies support similar conclusions about the relatively liberal views of college professors in American society throughout the twentieth century, especially during times of national turmoil and conflict [2, 5, 46, 52, 59]. Although exaggerated caricatures of the prototypical "liberal professor" are unwarranted [28], data from our own survey, to be discussed later in this article, support the conclusion that, statistically, academics tend to be relatively liberal in their political, economic, and cultural orientations.

The relative liberalism of many academic intellectuals may, in part, be attributed to the nature of their training and the expectations of their disciplines, which typically place a premium on questioning, innovation, and th critical analysis of conventional forms of thought and practice [6, 36, 68]. Bu beyond these generalizations, Ladd and Lipset's analysis also drew attention to the diversity and range of political values within the ranks of the professoriate. They demonstrated how varying political attitudes were systematically linked to structural divisions in academia based on such factors as the types of academic institutions in which individuals trained and worked, the subject matter of their particular disciplines and fields of specialization and their age cohort associations. For example, Ladd and Lipset's data showed that faculty and students at elite colleges and major research universities wer more liberal than those at primarily teaching institutions; that productive scholars and scientists were more liberal, on average, than than those who were not actively engaged in doing research; that faculty and students in social science disciplines and humanities were more liberal than those in physical science, business, or any applied fields of study such as engineering, nursing, or education; and that younger faculty were typically more liberal than older faculty. [For similar findings from studies of the same era, see 4, 17, 29, 71] These kinds of statistical patterns are of considerable importance to theories of political socialization among academics in American society and conceivably could be linked to current ideological contentions within the academy over issues of so-called "political correctness" and the proper functions of the university in a culturally diverse society [9, 12, 16, 23, 31, 36, 37, 42, 61]. …

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