Social sciences at uni: political bias and young minds?

(26 Posts)
Lessstressy Tue 17-Dec-19 06:50:36

This doesn’t seem to be a problem with STEM degrees in the same way, but it appears that an extraordinarily high percentage of social science and arts academics are ‘liberal’-left leaning, some of whom are happy to have young minds for 3 years to convert to their way of thinking by demonising those with other views.

A Cardiff uni academic has been exposed for this but I know how widespread this is from my own children’s experience.

The hypocrisy of privileged ‘liberals’ in academia who spout vitriol against those who have a different (but equally valid) view is astounding.

It is something to bear in mind when your DC choose unis and courses and who they will be exposed to for 3 years. They are a very poor example to our children.

I’ll find the link

OP’s posts: |
Lessstressy Tue 17-Dec-19 06:54:18

OP’s posts: |
thefluffysideofgrey Tue 17-Dec-19 07:14:46

They're not children for a start.

There is a reason that academia tends to be full of lefties, but you won't like it or believe it.

Why do you think this, is?

GCAcademic Tue 17-Dec-19 07:28:50

I don’t know why those two have been singled out. Academic Twitter is sadly full of this kind of comment at the moment.

I teach in one of the fields you’ve identified. There are undoubtedly some academics who see their role primarily as being some kind of social justice warrior. They are usually very active on Twitter. The rest of us have the view that our role is to develop expertise that is underpinned by rigorous research, and then to allow those findings to be tested through debate, peer review, and other means. I am lucky in that my department can tell the difference between these two kinds of academics and gives the Twitter mantra-chanters and bullies a wide berth when hiring.

There are a lot of academics who do not use Twitter and who roll their eyes at the way that some of their colleagues carry on there. A lot of us are concerned about freedom of speech. The pressures on that are coming just as much from students, who demand the cancellation of talks on Israel, Hong Kong, women’s rights to single sex spaces, etc, and also from outside lobbies. Some academics are scared about teaching certain topics (particularly gender) because they run the risk of students making complaints if the discussion veers from certain fashionable orthodoxies. The backlash for voicing certain views can be vicious - some staff have been made to fear for their safety. What I’m saying is that there is a general problem in universities of an increasing intolerance of different viewpoints, and it’s not properly explained by a staff-student power dynamic.

Also worth noting that some subjects are worse than others for harbouring “correct thinking”. Sociology is one of the worst, in my view. In my department, we like a good debate! Two of the professors are on the opposite side of the political spectrum and often argue about politics, but in a respectful and productive way, and they are good friends. I think the bst thing to do, as always, is to look very closely at the individual department.

GCAcademic Tue 17-Dec-19 07:31:30

There is a reason that academia tends to be full of lefties, but you won't like it or believe it.

If the answer to this is that more intelligent people are left wing, I feel I should point out that the most brilliant mind in my department belongs to someone who votes Conservative (not me, on either front!).

BubblesBuddy Tue 17-Dec-19 08:08:03

I think that any potential student choosing these subjects should look closely at the core and options available. Clearly some subjects are going to be left leaning. If they are options, choose something else if it’s not for you. Decent universities should offer a choice and not just leftie leaning studies.

Having said that, lecturers are not always right!

SarahAndQuack Tue 17-Dec-19 09:35:39

The hypocrisy of privileged ‘liberals’ in academia who spout vitriol against those who have a different (but equally valid) view is astounding.

Oh, yes, we're all so privileged. You know we take our salary home in the form of gold bars, right?

I recently got a job outside the UK, but since 2014 I've been teaching in HE, and for a lot of that time my pay worked out to less than minimum wage, and I had no job security. This is true of a very large number of young academics. There is a reason why we tend to be left-leaning, and also a reason why we tend to talk to our students about precarity and casualisation in the workplace.


BubblesBuddy Tue 17-Dec-19 10:10:25

Yes, but you didn’t have to do this job. You could presumably have chosen a different career. You could even have had another career and become an academic later. I think many academics continued to study and that’s funded by lower pay. It helps you get to be an expert and get a great job eventually. It’s like a training programme. You are not the finished article! However none of this is a reason to bring sour feelings and bias into the lecture room - unless you are teaching it of course.

SarahAndQuack Tue 17-Dec-19 10:15:21

Oh, sure, I absolutely could do another job. But I really enjoy teaching.

I don't think I am 'sour' about pay, but it's one of the things I feel quite strongly about. I feel angry that students are paying a huge sum of money for an education that is delivered by people who aren't paid properly and aren't secure. I feel angry that research and education, which have been important parts of the UK's economy, are getting downgraded. It worries me.

None of that is about me feeling 'sour' or thinking 'damn, why on earth didn't I retrain as a lawyer'.

There is absolutely no guarantee of a 'great job later'. I don't follow you there, and don't know what you mean by 'I think many academics continued to study and that’s funded by lower pay'? Could you clarify?

strawberrieshortcake Tue 17-Dec-19 13:08:23

@GCAcademic so your own department is representative of all of academia. Your anacdote means absolutely nothing.

GCAcademic Tue 17-Dec-19 13:27:37

Did I say it was, strawberries? It certainly doesn't fit the OP's caricature of academia, though, that I can say for sure.

Feel free to add some useful points of your own.

Xenia Tue 17-Dec-19 13:55:39

My son and I have regular very interesting conversations about his subject and like all my children we all have very different views from each other which is lovely. I did ask him what would happen if he wanted to put a contrary view on one essay topic to what the lecturer espouses. He said he would be free to do so if he wanted but nothing on the reading list for that topic would then be appropriate. (However at least he would have been free to issue contrary views).

I certainly remember as part of the Federation of Conservative Students at my univesrity in the ealry 80s how hard it was to get Tory politicians the freedom to speak so I doubt much has changed. Luckily most people grow up and adopt a variety of views.

SarahAndQuack Tue 17-Dec-19 16:19:46

I would think it very unlikely any student wouldn't be allowed to argue their own case in an essay, xenia. Usually part of the work is finding books to read away from the reading list, too. So for example if I'm teaching a course on gender and the reading list is all about women (because that's my personal research subject), it wouldn't remotely offend me if a student chose to research masculinities and had to go find their own reading list. I'd expect that, usually, it'd be swings and roundabouts and the next topic, they'd find the reading list fit better and it'd be another student who was having to do a bit of solo library work.

The only exception I can think of would be if a student were presenting a paper to the class, and the content was monumentally offensive (eg., arguing for white supremacy).

tinselvestsparklepants Tue 17-Dec-19 16:32:12

Students should be going to University hoping to experience views of all sorts, and to learn to think and act critically. No one lecturer is going to damage their minds by having an opinion. In fact, most seminars are about challenging opinion, learning to argue and to consider different points of view, and critical thinking is encouraged. Certainly every lecturer I know encourages this as the best possible outcome to teaching - I don't know any who are looking for political converts.

WhatsNextMrsLandingham Tue 17-Dec-19 16:52:11

Isn't the point of these types of degrees to read around the subject and question points of view? If you strongly disagree with, for example, Katie Hopkins then isn't the job of the academic to challenge the stance and encourage debate?

badgermushrooms Tue 17-Dec-19 17:07:25

* I did ask him what would happen if he wanted to put a contrary view on one essay topic to what the lecturer espouses. He said he would be free to do so if he wanted but nothing on the reading list for that topic would then be appropriate.*

Perhaps this isn't the same across all subjects but in order to write an essay do you not need to have a grasp of all the relevant literature, rather than just the stuff that agrees with you?

In my subject we were expected to go beyond the reading list as a matter of course, but also the reading list would be a good introduction to the main points of view about that particular topic. So for example if you were writing an essay about whether the British Empire was good for its subjects then yes it's very likely your lecturer would fall on the side of "no!" but you'd definitely be pointed in the direction of the small number of historians who think it was all cricket and tiffin. Then in your essay you would need to show you understood both sides of that before reaching your own conclusion. Disagreeing with your lecturer, if you felt they were wrong, was actively encouraged.

TheMarzipanDildo Tue 17-Dec-19 17:17:27

Bloody hell. As a humanities student I must say that’s rather patronising OP. I may be young but I’m not a child and I’m perfectly capable of critical thinking thanks.

I do think there is a problem with free speech at unis but telling lecturers to shut up is surely defeating the object.

BubblesBuddy Tue 17-Dec-19 18:23:51

Sarah: students are not paying large sums of money for university tuition. The government is and at the moment won’t get 50% of it back. So in effect it’s the taxpayer that’s paying up front. At least understand how universities are funded.

Students reasonably expect high quality tuition. They should have balanced and unbiased tuition.

Sarah: I could have guessed you were teaching gender. I think it’s a passion for you and you are paid to enjoy your research and teach it. As long as your subject is taught, why wouldn’t you have a job? Why wouldn’t it last for life? Why would it disappear? It’s a fairly new subject but one people like to study.

I’m not quite sure what you don't understand. You are still able to do research and refine your specialism and be in a job. Many people take a lower salary until they are fully qualified. So that can be years after graduation. My DH employs engineers and they can take years to get Chartered. I don’t see lecturing as different to that and there are full time salaried posts with pensions at the end. You should be able to get one. I know people who have! So you don’t need to be on zero hours contracts for ever. Also if you like what you do, and want to keep doing it, you have to accept the conditions of work. Don’t think lawyers get an easy ride either. They work all hours for their money and gender studies might not qualify you for that job either. It’s dog eat dog to get the training contracts. Why not aim high in the role you have?

SarahAndQuack Tue 17-Dec-19 18:45:14

True, the government pays. But, to be fair, a lot of students worry about the debt, however much we say they won't pay it back. They ought to get a better deal for the money, IMO.

I think you maybe don't know how university teaching works (and why should you?). A huge amount of the day-to-day teaching (and some research) in UK universities is done by people who don't have permanent jobs. The vast majority of those people will never get permanent jobs in academia. In my subject (which is a period of English/History, as it happens), there might be perhaps 10 permanent jobs advertised each year. You can imagine there are far, far more than 10 people with PhDs in hand who want to get those jobs.

I am fully qualified, btw. Why do you assume not?

SarahAndQuack Tue 17-Dec-19 18:46:13

(Oh, and btw, I am absolutely not knocking lawyers or implying their job is easy - it only came to mind because when I was deciding what to do with my undergraduate degree, one thing that I thought of was doing a law conversion course. It's quite a common path for English grads.)

badgermushrooms Tue 17-Dec-19 18:48:12

Bubbles I think you're misunderstanding. Being a lecturer isn't training for a "proper" job, it IS the job. Universities are moving more and more towards most academic staff being on these precarious contracts with only a minority ever making it to the point of the full time salaried posts with pensions, years down the line.

I really doubt there are engineers working term time only part time (but full time workload) contracts well into their 30s in the hope of maybe one day having chartered status bestowed upon them.

Xenia Tue 17-Dec-19 19:35:39

In my case I am paying so my sons can be immersed in left wing philosphy which I as a Conservative know to be wrong.....(I fund them without student loans) just as I jokd when my son was at school that I was payig school fees so he could be inculcated with the moral values of rural Pakistan - - their school was majority non white with lots of boys from that area - fee paying. however it gave them the ability to assert their views on rights for homosexuals and rights for women to the extent they have them against many of those other classmates so not a big deal.

I think my son calls me to get a very different view point on some views which are taken as read on his course eg he might think the planet is better if animals and humans are preserved on it and I don't see why rocks are held as lower than say preservation of a tiger or worm. Anyway all good fun

ChristmasSpiritsOnThRocksPleas Tue 17-Dec-19 19:58:41

@thefluffysideofgrey it’s because they’re public servants. The centre/right are also ostracised. It’s very difficult to get a good position in a university in Britain if you are not (or at least don’t pretend to be) left leaning).

OP this is an issue in most disciplines, see above. Social sciences merely presents an opportunity to spout personal views. So do subjects like law or history. STEM not so much (not that some don’t anyway)

JamesBlonde1 Tue 17-Dec-19 20:03:12

A lot of students go through this stage, a bit deep.

Then the very real world of work and family hits and they realise there isn't time to fanny about.

BubblesBuddy Wed 18-Dec-19 23:03:41

Law is personal views??? I assume that’s a joke or someone woefully informed! Try passing a high quality law degree or the GDL with personal views.

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