Bias is out, numbers are in
July 03, 2008
The baby boomers are on the way out of the nation's colleges and universities. The New York Times reports that liberal professors birthed into academia in the 1960s and 70s are retiring--and being replaced by younger and more politically moderate academics. This shift has had numerous effects, not the least of which is the exit of ideology in the way academics understand and study public education.
Michael Olneck, a professor from the University of Wisconsin and the article's token old guard professor, introduced the syllabus in a class last year entitled, "Race, Ethnicity and Inequality in American Education" with the following: "Schools in the United States promise equal opportunity. They have not kept that promise. In this course, we will try to find out why." By contrast, Sara Goldrick-Rab, his new guard replacement, embraces a more empirically based approach. Her class on inequality and opportunity in community colleges will have an "emphasis on the critical evaluation and assessment of current up-to-date research".
The renaissance of data will undoubtedly have a great impact in the field of education. With colleges full of professors who haven't lived through the Civil Rights Movement, Brown v. Board, and a host of other educational milestones, we may be able to move into the future rather than stagnating in the past. While these events had incredible political impact and undoubtedly should not be forgotten, the visceral reaction they created in a generation of professors has fundamentally impeded the ways in which we discuss education policy today by substituting emotion for good common sense.