The Chronicle of Higher Education has an article covering the findings of a survey that was conducted to explain why there is such a dearth of conservative minded professors and PhDs. The study was conducted by a husband and wife team that is described as a “bipartisan household” with the husband being a Rush Limbuagh -istening conservative and the wife a woman studies liberal—both of whom met and fell in love in grad school.
For example, liberal students reported valuing intellectual freedom, creativity, and the chance to write original work and make a theoretical contribution to science. They outnumbered conservative students two to one in the humanities and social sciences — which are among the fields most likely to produce interest in doctoral study. Conservative students, however, put more value on personal achievement and orderliness, and on practical professions, like accounting and computer science, that could earn them lots of money.
The Woessners also found that conservative students put a higher priority than liberal ones on raising a family. That does not always fit well with a career in academe, where people often delay childbearing until after they earn tenure.
It seems as though family values and earning power are pitted against theoretical creativity and intellectual discipline. There is something in the conservative ethos that is anti-intellectual, though it certainly isn’t anti-education. I have often wondered if this is because they find so many intellectuals hostile to their values in the university, which seems natural enough. Yet, I do think the idea of grad school, which trains students to contribute to a field of expertise, is ideal for liberal-minded individuals since there is such an emphasis on progress. Innovation is highly valued in academic studies and the idea of mastering and preserving tradition—something that is intrinsic to conservative thinking—just isn’t suitable in such a context. Nevertheless, it isn’t all that clear why there dearth remains.