Is There Bias in the Classroom?

Posted: September 27, 2005 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Maura Kelly

School of Public Policy Professors A. Lee Fritschler, Catherine Rudder and Jeremy Mayer, along with Fritschler’s former colleague from the Brookings Institute, Bruce L.R. Smith, have been awarded a $100,000 grant to examine the role that political and religious ideology plays on university campuses.

They received the funding from the Richard Lounsbery Foundation.

“Three or four studies released in the past few years have indicated that university faculties have not been living up to standards of openness and academic freedom,” Fritschler says, describing how the idea for the research came about.

“We are trying to better understand what is going on at educational institutions and will likely propose a major survey of our own that will be different from the others that have already been conducted.”

Mayer points out that studies like those done by political scientists Robert Lichter of George Mason and Stanley Rothman of Smith College have once again raised the issue of faculty bias.

“Lichter and Rothman’s report claimed that faculty are more liberal today than 25 years ago, when they were already much more liberal than the general population. Moreover, they claim that conservative and Christian faculty members are discriminated against in hiring and tenure.”

Mayer explains that the team wants to examine three broad areas of potential bias. “First, bias in the classroom setting involving professors who are politically biased in grading, in lecturing and curriculum or in class discussions. Second, bias in the campus climate involving student-to-student pressure outside the classroom, student groups and guest lecturers. Third, bias in hiring and promotion.”

In addition to the potential survey, the team of professors will be conducting site visits and a meta-analysis of existing studies, as well as hosting focus groups. They also hope to hold a conference on the topic at George Mason in 2006.

This article originally appeared in a slightly different format in SPP Currents.

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