Sunday, July 6, 2008

The real reason there is less conflict among faculty at today's universities

A recent article in the New York Times claims that as the Boomers leave faculty ranks for retirement and Xers start to make up more and more of the U.S. college and university professors, that old rifts are fading. While I agree this is true, the NYT does not understand the real reason why. Here's a bit of the article:

Yet already there are signs that the intense passions
and polemics that roiled campuses during the past couple of decades have begun to fade. At Stanford a divided anthropology department reunited last year after a bitter split in 1998 broke it into two entities, one focusing on culture, the other on biology. At Amherst, where military recruiters were kicked out in 1987, students crammed into a lecture hall this year to listen as alumni who served in Iraq urged them to join the military.

In general, information on professors’ political and ideological leanings tends to be scarce. But a new study of the social and political views of American professors by Neil Gross at the University of British Columbia and Solon Simmons at George Mason University found that the notion of a generational divide is more than a glancing impression. “Self-described liberals are most common within the ranks of those professors aged 50-64, who were teenagers or young adults in the 1960s,” they wrote, making up just under 50 percent. At the same time, the youngest group,
ages 26 to 35, contains the highest percentage of moderates, some 60 percent,
and the lowest percentage of liberals, just under a third.

The article basically argues that the younger people - mainly Gen Xers - are simply more moderate than than the Boomers. While that may be true, I think the real reason is that Xers are more likely to take a "let's agree to disagree" attitude.

Karen Ritchie wrote in Marketing to Generation X that Boomers feel their position is the correct one and if they can just put together the right words, they can convince you they are correct. Meanwhile, Gen Xers don't really think they can change your opinion. I'm a perfect example. My best friend and I are polar opposites in our political views. We've never argued about it. We've never insulted the other's view. We both believe there is room for both of our opinions in the world. I find it difficult to see an ultra liberal Boomer woman and an ultra conservative Boomer woman being best friends.

So for all our Gen X glib remarks - and our sarcastic poking at others in the name of humor - we do seem to be able to live peacefully with a bunch of different views and opinions. At least in academia...


Unknown said...

This was my philosophy for dealing with conflict at work:

I know I'm right. There is no reason to argue about it. You'll come around to my thinking, or not. Whatevs. Either way this whole place is f--ked. Let's go have a beer.

Anonymous said...

I know this is off topic, but this is another example of a Boomer not wanting to leave the party! Enough already!

Mo Morrissey said...

Interesting topic and I think you're probably right on target...again.

Kristina said...

Another spot-on analysis...