Tuesday, November 3, 2015

"Cheating" In College Academics ... Faculty Groupthink Is Dangerous to Both Students and Society as a Whole

College faculties are notoriously liberal. Encouraging student diversity in thinking, speaking and forming reasoned opinions is neither welcome nor taught.

This faculty and administrative tendency favoring groupthink and seeking government solutions to all problems results in many students never gaining a needed understanding of the connection between individual freedoms and free markets --- nor in the good feeling that comes from self reliance and a private sector job well done for an appreciative, free choosing and paying customer.

That intolerant and single minded point of view equates to denying students the well rounded education that they will need as they enter the job market.

Students are being cheated, in other words, and all too often they don't even realize it. In fact, they often unknowingly welcome it.

Groupthink, confirmation bias and a widespread lack of intellectual curiosity are the result, and we all suffer because of it.  Young graduates leave college with a poor or non-existent understanding of, and appreciation for, those sacred rights which serve as the foundation of America's world leading free enterprise system --- one which embraces individual initiative and the ownership of private property.

Academia's Rejection of Diversity provides an overview of what's happening in our 'hallowed halls' of higher learning:

"ONE of the great intellectual and moral epiphanies of our time is the realization that human diversity is a blessing. It has become conventional wisdom that being around those unlike ourselves makes us better people — and more productive to boot.

Why the imbalance? The researchers found evidence of discrimination and hostility within academia toward conservative researchers and their viewpoints. In one survey cited, 82 percent of social psychologists admitted they would be less likely to support hiring a conservative colleague than a liberal scholar with equivalent qualifications.

This has consequences well beyond fairness. It damages accuracy and quality. As the authors write, “Increased political diversity would improve social psychological science by reducing the impact of bias mechanisms such as confirmation bias, and by empowering dissenting minorities to improve the quality of the majority’s thinking.”

One of the study’s authors . . . put it . . . bluntly. Expecting trustworthy results on politically charged topics from an “ideologically incestuous community,” he explained, is “downright delusional.”. . .

In one classic experiment from 1975, a group of scholars was asked to evaluate one of two research papers that used the same statistical methodology to reach opposite conclusions. One version “found” that liberal political activists were mentally healthier than the general population; the other paper, otherwise identical, was set up to “prove” the opposite conclusion. The liberal reviewers rated the first version significantly more publishable than its less flattering twin.

The World Bank has found a similar phenomenon at work among its own staff. In a recent exercise, the organization presented identical data sets to employees under two different pretexts. Some employees were told the data were measuring the effectiveness of a skin rash cream, while others were told the same data measured the effects of minimum wage laws on poverty. The politicized context of the second question led to more erroneous analyses, and the accuracy of left-leaning respondents plummeted when the data conflicted with their worldview.

Improving ideological diversity is not a fundamentally political undertaking. Rather, it is a question of humility. Proper scholarship is based on the simple virtues of tolerance, openness and modesty. Having people around who think differently thus improves not only science, but also character.

Many academics and intellectuals see their community as a major force for diversity and open-mindedness throughout American society, and take justifiable pride in this image. Now they can be consistent and apply those values to their own profession, by celebrating ideological diversity."

Summing Up

We currently have far too much 'sameness' of thought and conversation in American higher education. This narrow minded approach is not conducive to new graduates being willing to listen to or seek out different ideas and views which frequently would result in them learning that what they 'already know' just isn't so.

Some of our biggest problems as a society result from an unwillingness or inability to properly and fully consider the merits of arguments and points of view which are different than our existing beliefs. Too many times we stand ready to 'fight' for the good guys and anxious to defeat the bad guys, not knowing that the believed to be bad guys may in fact be good guys, too.

Meanwhile, vote seeking politicians and single issue interest groups take advantage of this  groupthink and narrow-mindedness, as do talk show hosts and other 'in it for the money' pundits.

Taking the time to listen carefully to what other informed individuals have to say (especially those with different experiences and points of view than our own), is a necessary part of a live well lived, individual fulfillment and genuine happiness.

Colleges are failing to do what's right for our citizen leaders of tomorrow, and therefore are failing all Americans today.

That's a shame, but that's my take.

Thanks. Bob.

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