kerningPascal-Emmanuel Gobry looks at a study on the damage academia’s liberal bias is doing to the social sciences. It’s a problem without a great solution, except trying to change the discrimination mentality where it exists… but that’s harder to do now that the notion that truth “has a liberal bias” mentality has taken hold.

If not for your own sake, don’t smoke for the sake of your pets. Or something.

Good news! The UN is cool with keeping the Internet free… for another ten years. The globalization of Internet governance is just going to be terrific.

There may be a link between droughts and civil war, but according to the Royal Economic Society the evidence is that it’s a weak link.

Microsoft is getting into the pre-crime prevention business.

Randomized drug tests bad. Fraternities bad. What’s a good ole boy to think?

Getting kids to learn is hard. Making sure they show up, though, is less hard. So let’s measure that. I wrote of gameable metrics in 2011.

Well, that’s one way for private schools to recruit students in a rough market.

Women in Brazil are being warned not to have children, due to an outbreak of the Zika virus.

President Edrogan literally talked a man off the ledge. Well, it was a bridge, but still. That’s cooler than the whole speaking well of Hitler thing.

Joseph Lenoff writes of his experience as an American Jew in the Israeli military.

A wedding amid ruin.

Meet Alabama’s version of Marion Berry, convicted of stealing from the city but re-elected anyway. The local HBCU had a problem with a university president who was basically stealing money, made more complicated by the fact that she was the best university president they’d had in a long time and arguably saved the university from ruin.

The star-crossed love story between an inmate and a guard in Louisiana… kind of made socially safer by the fact that the inmate was male, I guess, and that we can blame for profit prisons or something.

An entire police department in Florida was arrested for money laundering.

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18 Responses to Linkluster CDXL

  1. I’m not sure what to think about the problem Emmanuel-Gobry talks about, and I agree that there’s not a great solution.

    It’s a real problem, both for the reason he cites (it restricts, sometimes unduly, what can be talked about in some social science and, I’ll add, in the humanities) and for a reason he doesn’t cite (it’s unfair to conservatives who want a career in the social sciences and humanities).

    At the same time, another part of the “problem” isn’t so much a problem as it’s a feature academia and academic disciplines work. Any discipline will have a range of questions and methodologies that its practitioners as a general rule accept as legitimate and others that its practitioners don’t accept as legitimate. What is accepted and by how many and who counts as a “practitioner”–these change over time, but slowly and fitfully and after much arguing. (This is what I take to be Stanley Fish’s argument about what makes something a discipline.)

    Questions that can be answered only from a perspective or methodology not widely recognized by the discipline’s practitioners face an uphill battle. Some of what can count as “conservative” claims fall into this description. The example Emmanuel-Gobry points out about reverse discrimination seems on point, although I’ve read only his summary of the study and not the study itself. In history, at least, and I imagine in other disciplines, it’s not only “liberal” ideology that militates against studying it. It’s also how the discipline has since the 1970s tended to look at issues of identity, so that claims that those in generally dominant or powerful position (e.g., whites) face discrimination from marginalized people are almost by definition assumed to be wrong and need to be more carefully and robustly defended.

    I’m not saying that default position is necessarily a good thing or bad thing. There are good and bad things about it, and frankly, we can all think of things that deserve to be subjected to hyper-scrutiny. But I am saying that the problem Emmanuel-Gobry describes is enmeshed with how academia works and while it’s not wrong to call it “liberal bias,” calling it so can tend to make the situation look more like a conspiracy by bad people than like a systematic set of assumptions that aren’t easily changed, but are still changeable on the margins.

    • Samuel Goldman at the American Conservative offers an interesting take on this issue. I’m ambivalent about some of what he says there, but I like his approach to the problem.

    • jhanley says:

      One of the problematic issues I think is a fundamental difference between left-liberal ideology and conservative ideology. Left-liberal ideology tends to point to large-scale social forces that they believe are changeable, so even if you’re a white male who is by that very measure classified as part of the problem, there’s a strong strain in left-liberalism that says “it’s not your fault, and you can help make things better.” Although in practice it does alienate conservative students, it can reasonably be argued that it’s not really attacking them personally.

      Conservative ideology on the other hand–that is, primarily social conservatism–sometimes focuses on groups as irredeemable. Gays are immoral, minorities are demonstrably inferior, women cannot be trusted with authority, etc. Often the members of the group are seen as irredeemable on the particular metric used, and so it’s harder to argue that social conservatism isn’t attacking students individually.

      Libertarianism, of course, has no problems and attacks no one personally, so should be the only ideology allowed in the classroom.

      • trumwill says:

        Libertarianism, of course, has no problems and attacks no one personally, so should be the only ideology allowed in the classroom.

        Well, that should go without saying…

      • I think I see it differently, at least as it applies to social conservatives. I agree that one can identify a tendency to say groups are irredeemable, but at least some strands of social conservative seem to think individuals are redeeemable. In that sense, they’re close to the “it’s not your fault, and you can help make things better,” except they say, “it’s your fault, but you can help make things better for yourself, your family, and your [local] community [and maybe even nation/world].”

        I admit it’s hard not to see the latter as a personal attack, but then, even the former (the liberal “it’s not your fault, and you can help make things better”) can be an attack, or at least a harsh judgment, if the person spoken to doesn’t try to make things better, or doesn’t agree with what “better” is.

    • trumwill says:

      It’s also how the discipline has since the 1970s tended to look at issues of identity, so that claims that those in generally dominant or powerful position (e.g., whites) face discrimination from marginalized people are almost by definition assumed to be wrong and need to be more carefully and robustly defended.

      While that’s not liberalism, it seems somewhat difficult to separate from it. It relies on a series of assumptions that can distort the inquiry.

      That said, I believe that history is narrative and narrative is never objective. So history more than most of the humanities, I am skeptical of any attempt to approach it in a manner of scientific inquiry. Ideological diversity still has a place there, but it’s a lot trickier.

      • I definitely agree, especially with the point about approaching history as a science. (And my original comment was too long already, or I would have acknowledged that that wasn’t solely “liberalism” as much as it was something else.)

    • KenB says:

      Agreed that this is something that overall would be very difficult to change, but one thing I could imagine coming out of this, if some of the more egregious instances of published bias get wide coverage, is the upper-tier social psych journals somehow integrating a “liberal-bias” review from a conservative into their process. In fact, if I were a conservative or libertarian humanities academic with time on his hands, I’d probably be pitching that idea to them and offering my services.

      • That might be a good idea. The journals from my own hobbyhorse (labor history) might not go for it, however. That’s not only because they’re ideologically resistant, but it’s also because those journals don’t tend to see things in terms of labor history vs. conservativism or vs. libertarianism. They might see things as labor history vs. business interests or vs. “liberal individualism,” however.

      • jhanley says:

        “if I were a … academic with time on his hands”

        Say what now?

  2. jhanley says:

    Re: tracking attendance. “When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.”

    Which says something about grading, too.

    • trumwill says:

      That’s what I’ve always thought about people saying that college admissions should ignore the SAT in favor of the GPA.

      • jhanley says:

        Whatever metric we choose to focus on will be gamed. But GPA is probably more easily gamed than SAT/ACT.

        • trumwill says:

          With the GPA, it’s in both the school’s and the student’s benefits that the latter get a good grade. That’s a real incentive problem. Class rank may be the hardest to game but that can also be a pretty misleading one.

  3. Peter says:

    Mosquitos carrying the Zika virus have been found in Mexico and Puerto Rico, and can survive in the southern part of the US mainland.

  4. Peter says:

    It’s a tragedy that on the bridge didn’t jump … and drag Erdogan down with him.

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