Higher ed and the general public

A new Zogby poll indicates that academia has a serious problem with its public image:

As legislation is introduced in more than a dozen states across the country to counter political pressure and proselytizing on students in college classrooms, a majority of Americans believe the political bias of college professors is a serious problem, a new Zogby Interactive poll shows.

Nearly six in 10 – 58% – said they see it as a serious problem, with 39% saying it was a “very serious” problem.


The survey also showed that an overwhelming majority also believe that job security for college professors leaves them less motivated to do a good job than those professors who do not enjoy a tenured status – 65% said they believe non-tenured professors are more motivated to do a good job in the classroom.

And if that weren’t enough:

Asked whether they think the quality of a college education today is better or worse than it was 25 years ago, 46% said they think it is worse, while 29% said it is better. Another 16% said the quality now is about the same as it was a generation ago.

There are more details at the original article and a methodological breakdown here. One figure that is very surprising: “While 91% of very conservative adults said the [political bias of professors] is a ‘serious problem,’ just 3% of liberals agreed.” The split between conservatives and liberals isn’t surprising — it’s the degree of separation. 88 percentage points? That’s huge. (How many of the liberals disagreed because they think that there is no bias, and how many disagreed because they do think bias exists but it not a serious problem?)

I happen to think that tenure doesn’t play a significant role being motivated to do a good job teaching — good teachers are typically motivated by internal, not external, rewards. And there is a great deal of debate to be had over the extent of liberal (or conservative!) bias and the overall quality of higher education today. But academia can’t ignore the evidence of this widespread public distrust much longer.

[Hat tip: Instapundit]

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