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Neil Gross Does Some Nice Debunking in the NYT

March 4, 2012 by and tagged ,

I know, I know, exposing Rick Santorum as hack, a hypocrite, and a pompous know-nothing is like shooting fish in a barrel but some people seem to believe he makes sense but the whole myth that commie college professors brainwash their students (if only!) and turn them into liberal socialo-feminazi zombies is so widespread that it is still worth debunking. It is a dirty job and someone has to do it. Neil Gross does it today:

First, the facts:

“But contrary to conservative rhetoric, studies show that going to college does not make students substantially more liberal. The political scientist Mack Mariani and the higher education researcher Gordon Hewitt analyzed changes in student political attitudes between their freshman and senior years at 38 colleges and universities from 1999 to 2003. They found that on average, students shifted somewhat to the left — but that these changes were in line with shifts experienced by most Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 during the same period of time. In addition, they found that students were no more likely to move left at schools with more liberal faculties.

Similarly, the political scientists M. Kent Jennings and Laura Stoker analyzed data from a survey that tracked the political attitudes of about 1,000 high school students through their college years and into middle age. Their research found that the tendency of college graduates to be more liberal reflects to a large extent the fact that more liberal students are more likely to go to college in the first place.

Studies also show that attending college does not make you less religious. The sociologists Jeremy Uecker, Mark Regnerus and Margaret Vaaler examined data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health and found that Americans who pursued bachelor’s degrees were more likely to retain their faith than those who did not, perhaps because life at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder can be rough in ways that chip away at religious belief and participation. They report that students “who did not attend college and two-year college students are much more likely — 61 and 54 percent more, respectively — than four-year college students to relinquish their religious affiliations.””

Then, the explanation:

“Conservatives have been criticizing academia for many decades. Yet only once the McCarthy era passed did this criticism begin to be cast primarily in anti-elitist tones: charges of Communist subversion gave way to charges of liberal elitism in the writings of William F. Buckley Jr. and others. The idea that professors are snobs looking down their noses at ordinary Americans, trying to push the country in directions it does not wish to go, soon became an established conservative trope, taking its place alongside criticism of the liberal press and the liberal judiciary.

The main reason for this development is that attacking liberal professors as elitists serves a vital purpose. It helps position the conservative movement as a populist enterprise by identifying a predatory elite to which conservatism stands opposed — an otherwise difficult task for a movement strongly backed by holders of economic power.”

Of course, none of this analysis will matter to an audience that listens to words as emotional triggers rather than parts of logical arguments, which is why the Republican audience seems to be doing. Which is why it is somewhat pointless to think that points are scored every time a lie gets debunked as the truth has become irrelevant. Truth is what makes them feel good and righteous. And these feelings are sustained by activating anger and resentment not through facts (the Tea Party people belong to privileged demographics) but through emotional trigger points, as when Senator Kyl told a while back that 90% of what Planned Parenthood does is abortion. It was easy enough to debunk and Kyl quickly admitted that he did not mean the statement to be factual. And on that he was right. The statement was an emotional trigger. It worked. That is the way we should interpret Republican rhetoric.

This is why, again, it is pointless to think points have been scored by showing the truth to be, well, not conservative. It is important to do it for the record and, hopefully, for public discourse (the mainstream media are rather hopeless in that department, I am afraid). But no one in the conservative side will change their minds based on a logically constructed argument supported by facts.

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