By Ben DeGrow | Special to Colorado Watchdog
DENVER — A dog-bites-man — or Watchdog-bites-man — story typically doesn’t make good fodder for engaging online conversation.
But when that story suddenly adds a little extra bite… well, readers are more prone to take notice.
My Watchdog colleague Todd Shepherd didn’t exactly turn conventional wisdom upside down with his new report finding that professors on 27 publicly supported college campuses have contributed far more to President Barack Obama than to presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. It can be helpful to learn, for example, that employees at our own University of Colorado have given Obama only six times as much as they’ve given Romney.
Color me jaded in the name of fairness and balance, but I fully would have expected that ratio to be closer to 10 to 1 or higher, especially compared with the numbers Shepherd uncovered from places like Maryland, Minnesota and Rutgers. Maybe the data have gaps, or maybe some professors are holding back and waiting.
But I just wasn’t jaded enough to expect the free-flowing hubris of Emory University professor Drew Westen. With a blunt, “what-else-did-you-expect” sort of tone, the academic was quoted as explaining how conservative economic policies just don’t add up and, of course, how “Democrats tend to believe in science” — with the obvious implication being that Republicans are more likely to subscribe to certain unacceptable supernatural religious beliefs.
In a few provocative sentences, Westen put a simplistic gloss on a wide spectrum of debates. Such an approach makes quotable appearances more likely.
Yet Westen’s claim that “math professors are just as pro-Democratic as sociologists” doesn’t line up with two wide-ranging surveys cited in Stanley Rothman and Robert Lichter’s essay in the highly recommended 2009 volume “The Politically Correct University.”
The North American Academic Study Survey and Politics of the American Professoriate found that liberals and Democrats outnumbered conservatives and Republicans in virtually every academic field. However, sociology and other social sciences are considerably more ideologically unbalanced than their science, math and engineering counterparts.
But then again, being more provocative than precise has its own advantages. Because if that professor gig doesn’t work out, one can always fall back on being a radio shock jock. Now there’s a career field that’s unbalanced.