Is higher education biased against traditional Christians?

A college professor warns the anti-Christianity bias at elite universities limits the talent such schools can recruit and fuels the mistrust traditional Christians have of higher education. (AJC File)

Robert Maranto is the 21st Century Chair in Leadership in the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, and serves on the Fayetteville, Ark., school board.

Maranto has written several pieces for the blog. (Here is one.)

In this one, Maranto explores research on the inner workings of academia that suggests anti-Christian discrimination, saying the bias is akin to college racial discrimination in decades past. Such discrimination produces “like results: alienation and distrust of academic and media expertise, which can be exploited by demagogues like Mr. Trump,” says Maranto.

Maranto’s piece comes in the wake of a new survey by the Pew Research Center that found sharp divides in how Republicans and Democrats view higher education in America.

According to Pew results released last week:

A majority of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (58%) now say that colleges and universities have a negative effect on the country, up from 45% last year. By contrast, most Democrats and Democratic leaners (72%) say colleges and universities have a positive effect, which is little changed from recent years.

As recently as two years ago, most Republicans and Republican leaners held a positive view of the role of colleges and universities. In September 2015, 54% of Republicans said colleges and universities had a positive impact on the way things were going in the country; 37% rated their impact negatively.

By 2016, Republicans’ ratings of colleges and universities were mixed (43% positive, 45% negative). Today, for the first time on a question asked since 2010, a majority (58%) of Republicans say colleges and universities are having a negative effect on the way things are going in the country, while 36% say they have a positive effect.

With that background, here is Dr. Maranto’s piece.

By Robert Maranto

In “Inside Graduate Admissions,” her study of graduate admission decisions at elite universities, University of Southern California education professor Julie Posselt relates the case of “Maria,” a minority applicant from a historically black college. Posselt observed a committee of professors judging Maria and other applicants. Although Maria scored in the 99th percentile on the verbal section of the Graduate Record Exams and the 82nd percentile of the quantitative section, “her educational background clearly had induced skepticism, and they subjected her file to a more stringent review.”

In jocular fashion, the committee chair and other professors berated Maria’s college and questioned her intellectual fitness, discounting standardized test scores and other objective criteria. Not surprisingly, the faculty rejected Maria, and though reluctant to judge fellow academicians, Posselt lamented, “whether Maria had received a fair hearing was debatable.”

African-American conservatives like Thomas Sowell would urge Maria to apply to a number of universities, to adjust for discrimination from one or two. (In fact, Sowell offered exactly that advice to Asian American applicants in his classic “Choosing a College.”) African-American liberals like Lani Guinier would urge Maria to support affirmation action and sue for compensation.

Dr. Robert Maranto

While disagreeing about solutions, Sowell and Lanier might agree that such discrimination helps explain African-American suspicions of predominantly white institutions, and of the expertise therein.

No reasonable person would say the professors treated Maria fairly, given the details provided.

As it happens, I changed one of those details. In fact, Maria did not attend a historically black college, but a Christian college. She was not a racial minority, but within academia, a religious minority, a traditional Christian.

Compared to racial and gender discrimination, this kind of religious discrimination gets little attention from researchers. Professors do not find the topic interesting, which itself is telling. Yet the extant research findings are concerning.

Back in the 1980s, J.D. Gartner found Christianity reduced the chances of admission to psychology doctoral programs. Using 1999 data, “The Still Divided Academy” by Stanley Rothman, April Kelly-Woessner, and Matthew Woessner offered strong statistical evidence that (typically religious) socially conservative professors must publish more to get the same academic posts.

More recently, George Yancey’s “Compromising Scholarship” showed that in many academic fields, significant numbers of professors, more than enough to blackball hiring decisions, express reluctance to hire evangelical and fundamentalist Christians.

None of this makes secular professors bad people. As psychologists William O’Donohue and Richard E. Redding argue, people generally express willingness to discriminate against those of other political or religious ideals. The danger comes when individual institutions lack ideological diversity, enabling an arrogant tendency to dismiss dissenters as unacceptable people with unacceptable opinions.

As Stanley Rothman documented in four decades of research culminating in “The End of the Experiment,” for cultural elites like professors, moviemakers, and reporters, traditional religious views are beyond the pale. People like Maria suspect as much.

This bigotry has at least four costs to academia, and society. Like other biases, anti-Christianity limits the talent we recruit. Maria might have made a great professor, if she had the chance.

Second, exiling dissenters retards research. On subjects from family life to foreign policy, academia has scores of professors asking questions of interest to the secular left for every one doing so from the religious right. This limits our understanding of a complex world.

Relatedly, when intellectual elites celebrate the traditionalism of most Muslims and Hindus while castigating it among some Christians, their support for multiculturalism seems highly selective, even hypocritical.

Finally, an unrepresentative intelligentsia leads many of our fellow Americans to distrust us, and our research. When traditional Christians find academic, media, and cultural institutions closed to people like them, they see little reason to believe those authorities. Not surprisingly, recent polls show that Republicans, who are disproportionately traditional Christians, have increasingly lost faith in higher education.

To return to racial examples, the all-white elite universities of the past often avoided or disparaged African-American perspectives. Naturally, African-Americans reacted with distrust, and some fell prey to anti-white demagogues.

Today, traditional Christians perceive elite contempt for them. In reaction, some reject the expertise of the media and academia, instead falling in with demagogues like Mr. Trump.

If my fellow cultural elites actually knew and respected those “deplorables,” we could find truces in our seemingly endless culture wars. Such compromises require negotiation, and for that, we must allow people who disagree with us to have seats at the table, including the university seminar table.

 

Reader Comments 0

72 comments
fimoza
fimoza

You have a pay~pal account. in the event if you do you can add an additional 650 a week to your check just working on the internet 2 hours per day. look at this page >/>/>/>/www.ask-cash.com

Robert Karma
Robert Karma

Imagine if Maria was from a Flat-Earther or a Geocentric believing background and professed adherence to those beliefs? Should universities ignore that very profound issue and admit her? Fundamentalist Christians discount the use of critical thinking skills and pursuing the evidence known to the logical conclusion in favor of their faith-based worldview. They can certainly excel in areas that do not challenge their faith. I know some right-wing Christians who became excellent engineers because their college education did not conflict with their faith-based worldview. When it comes to the Liberal Arts that require having an open-mind and a willingness to examine one's presumptions, beliefs and understanding of and about the world in a critical manner, fundamentalist Christians (and fundamentalists of other faiths) are at a distinct disadvantage. There is a difference between people who follow a Conservative political philosophy and those who espouse a Conservative Christian worldview. There is a long and respected tradition in higher education by politically Conservative scholars, writers and philosophers. It is the faith-based worldview of Conservative Christian fundamentalists who have decided to reject the secular Enlightenment values and practices of higher education that led to this "discrimination." I grew up in a fundamentalist Conservative Christian church and know all too well how this worldview promotes faith-based beliefs over a Liberal Arts education. Unlike race and gender, a person's religious belief is a choice. Conservative Christians need to drop this persecution complex as they are in this position because of their personal choice. Living with the consequences of our choices is a long cherished Conservative belief. 

dbm1
dbm1

@Robert Karma 

That consideration may be appropriate in deciding which faculty to hire, although even there people should be evaluated as individuals, not as members of collectives of any kind.

Isn't it a good idea to admit all well-qualified students, in hopes that the experience may open their minds to at least some extent, or in hopes that they will at least provide an additional challenge for the other students? And again, people should be evaluated as individuals, not as members of collectives of any kind.

RazorbackGuru
RazorbackGuru

@Robert Karma I'm a bit shocked at your statement: "Fundamentalist Christians discount the use of critical thinking skills and pursuing the evidence known to the logical conclusion in favor of their faith-based worldview."


Do you really believe this? That all people who are fundamentalist Christians are like this? What a huge stereotype. 

quickdigits
quickdigits

I am not so sure about all this? I am a member of a Very Liberal church (we conservatives there just keep our mouths shut most of the time.....lol) and yet, we are the Biggest believers of God and the Bible you'd ever want to meet!

metitotktodd
metitotktodd

Republicans are just out to Make America Dumb Again.  God forbid the young people get critical thinking skills.  Instead, we need to brainwash them with conservative propaganda so they can continue to be manipulated by FOX Noise to vote for a sick racist narcissist liar bully Fascist traitor hypocrite egomaniac like Trump

popgun
popgun

@metitotktodd I don't know what planet you live on, but the point Maranto is making is valid. The brainwashing is coming from the left now my friend; not the right. Look no further than the lack of tolerance for guest speakers who might challenge the liberal narrative. Once upon a time the debate of the issues was one of the primary ways critical thinking was taught. Not so at too many colleges and universities today.

Bill D.
Bill D.

Critical thinking is anathema to evangelical Christians. Selective Biblical interpretation is the only knowledge allowed, and everyone else is damned. That is how I was taught, and that is what I hear each of them saying now. Over the last few years, their orchestrated attacks on every aspect of secular education has forced academics to become defensive and protective of everything they know is right to teach. Evangelical Christians are fighting to destroy secular culture and we are supposed to apologize to them? I don't think so.

RazorbackGuru
RazorbackGuru

@Bill D. "critical thinking is anathema to evangelical Christians. Selective biblical interpretation is the only knowledge allowed, and everyone else be damned."

Do you really believe this about millions of people? Quite a stereotypical response, and not at all indicative of an understanding that people can be different even if they have the same faith.

JeffreyEav
JeffreyEav

Maureen. BC number 30. ND probably a little hire. Marquette. Xavier. St Joe's. Creighton. I could good on. None would carry the stigma.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

I want to point you to Thursday's piece by my AJC colleague Kyle Wingfield on Pew's finding that Republicans are increasingly skeptical of higher education: 

Wingfield wrote: 

The finding comes from a new poll by Pew Research Center, which asked whether "colleges and universities have a positive (or negative) effect on the way things are going in the country." In 2015, 54 percent of Republicans said colleges' impact was positive, compared to 37 percent who said negative -- similar to past years. This year they were nearly reversed: 36 percent positive vs. 58 percent negative.

Democrats continue to look favorably on colleges: 72 percent positive, just 19 percent negative. As with many other American institutions, then, public opinion is split along partisan lines. But this is a new development concerning colleges. What gives?

Again, this shouldn't be surprising to anyone who's been paying attention. Although colleges have for decades been viewed as liberal bastions, the ideological imbalance has gotten out of hand more recently.


http://kylewingfield.blog.myajc.com/2017/07/13/opinion-why-have-republicans-soured-on-americas-colleges/

Aquagirl
Aquagirl

It might help if "traditional Christians" accepted things like evidence and scientific consensus. When you think cavemen rode dinosaurs it's hard for others to suppress their laughter.

Baldur
Baldur

@Aquagirl You need to read the Bible wetlady.  Nothing in there is at odds with scientific study.  There are a lot of metaphors which may confuse someone as uniformed as you, though.


TheCentrist
TheCentrist

@Baldur @Aquagirl The most vocal evangelical Christians believe that science study is at odds with the Bible.  


There is a core who do not believe in medicine. This could be a theory as to why SOCONS are against Medicare for their elderly, Medicaid for their less fortunate and children, and-or being forced to purchase health insurance under any circumstance.

RufusATL
RufusATL

@Baldur @Aquagirl Read the Bible on your own time.  Or, go to church and knock yourself out. Why do christians insist on bringing those teachings into a secular, state-supported institution?

bu22
bu22

@Aquagirl Sounds like the professors were the ones who rejected objective data like test scores.  We don't laugh at them, but we do roll our eyes.

RazorbackGuru
RazorbackGuru

@TheCentrist @Baldur @Aquagirl Let's do us both a favor - I won't think that "the most vocal of liberals' opinions represent most liberals and you won't believe that the most vocal of evangelicals represent most Christians, k?

RazorbackGuru
RazorbackGuru

@RufusATL @Baldur @Aquagirl In Maranto's example, how did Maria do that? How did she bring Christian teachings into a secular state-supported institution? Or was it just by applying? And if that is the case, why don't you just hang a sign saying, "No Jesus lovers allowed" on your business? 

WPWW
WPWW

Absolutely the pompous academia in most universities look down their (collective) noses at (true) Bible believing/following Christians.

seriously44475
seriously44475

@WPWW Well when you believe in an invisible man in the sky, it's hard not to look down and pity the ignorant

WPWW
WPWW

@seriously44475 @WPWW So you Godless atheists have the market cornered on intellect huh?  Typical cacafuego from blowhard heathen.

TheCentrist
TheCentrist

@WPWW Could it be that pompous evangelical Christians look down their collective noses at academics who strive to learn, have a thirst for knowledge, or they consider there were "religious" teachings, customs, and laws long before Christianity that are worthy of consideration?

RufusATL
RufusATL

@WPWW Matthew 6:5   GOD'S WORD® Translation

"When you pray, don't be like hypocrites. They like to stand in synagogues and on street corners to pray so that everyone can see them. I can guarantee this truth: That will be their only reward.

bu22
bu22

@seriously44475 @WPWW I think you just proved WPWW's point.  And you fail to understand that believing there is no God and that the universe just "happened" requires a leap of faith as big as believing in God.  Atheists disparaging Christians is simply hypocritical. 

JeffreyEav
JeffreyEav

There are a lot of Christian Colleges that aren't traditional. Catholic schools don't seem to have this problem of negative perception. Also Emory was founded by Christians and to this day boasts a well known theology school.

Lastly, I'm sick of hearing cultural elites need to be nice. What are we supposed to do? Forget this is a modern world with a lot of intricacies?

RazorbackGuru
RazorbackGuru

@JeffreyEav I think the point is that cultural elites should evaluate students applying for a college program based on criteria that doesn't discriminate based on the student's religious preference. That shouldn't be too hard for someone who is elite, right? 

Tanya Deems Hyman
Tanya Deems Hyman

How would admissions know about one's personal faith? Why would an applicant feel obliged to put it in an application? If admissions is basing their decision on previously attended universities, couldn't their decisions just be based on the reputation/ rigor of those schools more broadly?

AJC  Get Schooled
AJC Get Schooled

One of the studies the author references talked about students coming to grad schools out of Christian colleges.

Tanya Deems Hyman
Tanya Deems Hyman

AJC Get Schooled perhaps the rigor and reputation of the college matters more. Notre Dame is a Christian college as is Emory.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

Methodists founded Emory and some connection still exists. (There is the seminary.)  But I would not consider Emory religious in any other way:

Here is how Emory greets website visitors: 

Emory University, a top-ranked private institution recognized internationally for its outstanding liberal arts colleges, graduate and professional schools, and one of the world's leading health care systems, is located on a beautiful campus in Atlanta, Georgia's historic Druid Hills neighborhood. Whatever your interest in Emory, we would welcome your visit to campus.

Compare that to Liberty University:

Get a world-class education with the solid Christian foundation you’re looking for at Liberty University. Here, you’ll gain the values, knowledge, and skills you’ll need for success in every aspect of life.

Re Al A T
Re Al A T

Most of the "christians" today fall under the moniker of convenient christian conservatives. They are not christians in any sense of the word, that being Gods word. They practice the religion of politics, money and prosperity. Ministers are spokespersons for politics who scam billions of dollars meant for the sick and poor. Their followers believe that these cons can get them into heaven if they support them. Being this type of christian will get you a one way ticket into Hell.  

BUTERRIERHOCKEY
BUTERRIERHOCKEY

@Re Al A T I AGREE. You can tell who the phony ones are when they start a sentence with "I am a Christian" or "Anyone who does not support this cause is NOT a Christian."

BK37
BK37

There is no discrimination against Christians.  On the contrary, there are quite a few of them who want to use Christianity to discriminate against others.

redweather
redweather

Dog whistle ALERT.  And anyone who uses the term "cultural elite" has no credibility as far as I'm concerned. 

Crystal L
Crystal L

I think the main objection to hiring conservative Christians is the fear that they would be less likely to be tolerant of other views and also the fear that they would proselytize on campus.

Starik
Starik

@Crystal L Some feel compelled to force their views on other people. Remember compulsory school prayer?

dbm1
dbm1

@Crystal L Another issue might be wrongheadedness on subject matter, on points where there is overwhelming evidence.  It would be appropriate for a biology department to refuse to hire a creationist.  It would be appropriate for a physics department to refuse to hire someone who insisted the universe is less than one million years old, unless they could give an argument that stood up against the evidence for an older universe.

Unfortunately, some academics might mistakenly think this principle applies in matters where the case for the views of the academic majority is not so strong.  This could victimize not only conservative Christians but also people of very different views.

BUTERRIERHOCKEY
BUTERRIERHOCKEY

@Crystal L you could say the same about gays. They proselytize GAYism and the church of the Happy Shepherd.

BUTERRIERHOCKEY
BUTERRIERHOCKEY

@Starik @Crystal L Good point. Now what about GAYism and the monthly pride parade and the gay of the week conference. Does anyone really care if a gay pops out of the toaster and declares him/herself openly gay? Can we have someone claim they are openly straight?

bu22
bu22

@seriously44475 @BUTERRIERHOCKEY @Starik @Crystal L No, you are demonstrating hypocrisy.  He is making the point that Gays are free to promote their beliefs, but how dare Christians proselytize (when for some it is a fundamental part of their beliefs)!