Do Liberals Dominate Higher Education

In the interest of full honesty, I need to point out that I am generally (but not always) left-of-center. Despite that, I don't much care for liberal writers. On the other hand, conservative George F. Will is a writer I will generally read, even though he and I often do not see eye to eye.

I will read George F. Will for a couple of reasons. One, I like his logical flow.

I don't always agree with his premises nor conclusions, but I cannot generally find a flaw in between the two. And even more than that, Will doesn't always toe the party line. When he objects to what other Republicans are doing, he says it. That is a critical attribute for any political pundit, and even, any citizen: if everyone is thinking the same way, who's thinking? However, I disagree with a current topic that George has taken up. He contends that higher education is dominated by liberals, and improperly so. Consider that the branches of the US Armed Forces comprise a larger share of the US budget than any other office; add in Veterans Affairs, and it is even larger.

Well, the Military, and perhaps as significantly, the many industries who support and earn a living from those Military dollars, are dominated by conservatives. Why isn't that a problem? Likewise, huge conglomerates exert great influence over us, and they are almost uniformly conservative. They sell their wares-- and their lifestyle-- in the constant advertisements that surround us. In recent years, large corporations have also bought out much of our media, and so our news has also slipped to the right.

That life-long educational input easily overwhelms the brief years of college, but conservative pundits are not so concerned about that partisan influence as they are about liberal college professors. And then there are our temples of worship. Christian Americans lean heavily to the right, and certainly the teachings of the church are a force to match higher eduction.

But George isn't so concerned about that influence. Are George Will and the other conservative writers worried that our colleges are overly partisan? Or just that it's someone else's party? With that, we need to consider analytical thinking, critical to America, but also to the doctrine of Free Will. If teenagers and young adults only experience conservative concepts then have we circumvented their Free Will? If our students are not exposed to liberal ideas, have we extinguished the student's ability to think objectively, in order to serve contemporary (and possibly transitory) political ideas? Consider the implications. If as I have contended, the bulk of private life is dominated by conservative corporate messages, when will young adults have the opportunity to hear other viewpoints? If we believe that our young people need to consider all viewpoints-- and we do, in our deepest American and religious convictions-- if our universities don't play Devil's Advocate, who will? Certainly Mr.

Will is supportive of Providential free will, and the unfettered flow of ideas in a democracy. Nor can he argue that this arrangement has hurt the democracy. Even though liberals dominate higher education, the electorate regularly alternates between the two parties, and the two political stances.

suggesting that, in fact, they are sufficiently exposed to different ideas, that they are thinking for themselves; and that exposure to different doctrines produces a stronger, not a weaker, citizen. Last, we need to consider what a university is for. If, as the name suggests, conservatives 'conserve'-- i.e., defend the traditional-- then obviously, our universities need to be liberal. Our universities are our primary institutions of research, which means that one of their primary missions is precisely to question the traditional, to examine what is currently believed.

If progress is a matter of constantly questioning the accepted and the obvious, then to be effective, our universities will always place themselves in opposition to conserved ideas. And so, to be effective, our universities must be liberal. With deference to George F. Will, we should not be asking our universities to be anything other than liberal.

That standpoint is critical to progress, and to our way of life.

Joseph N. Abraham, MD is the president and founder of, the NPO bookstore listing over 2,000,000 books. He is also author of Happiness: A Physician Biologist Looks at Life, a synthesis of biology, medicine and Zen.

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