Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Random Bias

If I've taught my methodology students anything, it's that one should own up to one's biases. When doing research -- and by that I mean real research, not the stuff students do in a library -- political scientists must identify their own biases in hopes that it will make their studies more scientific. That being the case, I have always identified to my students my political ideology.

I am a good Southern Democrat -- not a Dixiecrat, which is vastly different -- a social liberal and a fiscal conservative: I believe that we should help everyone in need, just not with my tax money.

But now, I find out, I can be kept from doing my civic duty of serving on a jury for the mere reason that I am an instructor, because everyone knows that teachers are notoriously liberal and will always find in favor of the defendant.

Okay, I will admit that traditionally there have been a greater number of liberals than conservatives in the teaching profession, and there's no concrete evidence as to why that is. Some say it's because only liberals would take such a thankless job at such low pay. Some say that only liberals feel the need to serve the community, whereas conservatives only serve themselves. Still others say that liberals become involved in education because it's the only place where their ideology can be indoctrinated into the young. Perhaps there's some small truth to any of those ideas, but that would hardly explain my Republican colleagues in the department.

As I did, these colleagues gave up the possibility of very lucrative careers to be paid very little of what they are worth -- both in terms of what it took to get their degrees and what they bring to the classroom -- and they certainly do not think their job is to counteract any liberal 'indoctrination' the rest of us are accused of instilling in our students. If anything, we all rejoice in the diversity of opinion that is expressed. One of my favorite courses as an undergraduate was team-taught by a conservative and a liberal, which made for a very interesting and informative course on War.

In my classes, it quickly becomes clear: I do not care what your political flavor is, you must be able to defend your position or opinion with logically presented evidence. I have played Devil's Advocate so many times, arguing alternatively the extreme right or the extreme left positions, that most of my students forget what my ideology is. In point of fact, one budding journalist, who visited my classroom when I had a guest speaker talk about his work in a Republican assemblyman's office, wrote that I agreed with all things conservative.

Which just goes to show that the other part of Deputy District Attorney Gregory Dolge's statement, that journalists are also notoriously liberal, is wrong. The young man reporting on my visitor's presentation was clearly of the conservative bent. He follows in the footsteps of other 'notoriously liberal' journalists: Pat Buchanan, George Will, and Bill O'Reilly, to name a few.

So, thanks to the California Appeals Court, I cannot do my duty as a citizen because most of the members of my profession are liberal. My students would recognize
this -- or should, else their grade in the course be subject to question -- as an ecological fallacy, which is the origin of stereotyping. Which in and of itself is a form of bias. That's okay, said the Appeals Court; society can discriminate against me because of my profession, so long as it doesn't consider my gender into the equation.

Oh, how I long for the day when I could be excluded from the jury pool because my degrees made me "too smart" for lawyers' comfort.
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