February 03, 2005


Hard on the heels of the alarming Knight Foundation survey of U.S. teens DIRELAND previously discussed, showing our high-schoolers' disdain for the niceties of the First Amendment, comes now a survey of the attitudes of first-year college students with some more bad news.

Sponsored by the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California/Los Angeles, the just-released survey shows, among other things, that:

~ a solid majority (58.6%) of freshmen think colleges should prohibit racist/sexist speech on campus, which shows little understanding of what the First Amendment really means--as does the finding that 43.7% believe that colleges have the right to ban extreme speakers;

~making marriage equality for same-sex couples legal is supported by only a minority (48.3%) of first-year college males--which strongly suggests this could still be a hot-button electoral issue for years to come--while 38% of male freshmen believe it is important to have laws prohibiting homosexual relationships, a disturbingly large number.

~a slim majority (50.4%) believe that affirmative action in college admissions should be abolished (the number is higher among males at 56.1%)

~only a slim majority (53.9%) believe that abortion should be legal

~A significant majority believes there is too much concern in the courts for the rights of criminals (58.1% --but among males the number jumps to 61.0%), which indicates that demagogic law-and-order themes will still bring electoral profit with the coming generation.

Moreover, as the Chronicle of Higher Education noted in its report on the survey, "A growing number of students appeared unlikely to have a diverse set of friends in college. Only 63.1 percent reported that they expected to socialize with people outside their own racial or ethnic group, the lowest level since the question was first added to the survey in 2000.

"'Social groups may indeed be less diverse at some public universities in large states like California, where the recent demise of affirmative-action programs means that fewer minority students are gaining acceptance,' said Sylvia Hurtado, director of the institute at UCLA.

"'The diversity in classes at a lot of the large public universities has decreased,' said Ms. Hurtado. 'Just in the University of California system alone, the number of African-American students attending has gone down incredibly.'

"Yet students said they cared less than ever before about those issues. Only 29.7 % cited 'helping to promote racial understanding' as an 'essential' or 'very important' goal for them, compared with 46.4 percent in 1992."

"More students also said they believed that racial discrimination was no longer a problem in America, with 22.7 percent agreeing with that statement, the highest level in the history of the survey...."

Clearly, the society's dominant conservative values have been beaten into the brains of so many kids entering college that education may have a tough time eradicating many of these kids' prejudices and the myths they've bought into--and remember, they'll be voting from now on, too...

Related Reading: In Friday's Chicago Sun-Times, Tom Lipscomb has a salutary op-ed discussing the Knight Foundation survey and the decline in high school newspapers and the indifference of school administrators has combined to reduce civic literacy about, among other matters, the Bill of Rights and the First Amendment. To read it, click here.

Posted by Direland at 10:14 PM | Permalink


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I'm a Berzerkeley alumna...alum... alumni (?) AH HECK! I went to Berkeley in the 70's fresh out of the cervix... er.. service and Vietnam. Does it show? With no hooks for hands and no reasonable need to climb the nearest tower to shoot people I found that I fit right.. er.. left (?) in. Back then the GI Bill was a WONDERFUL thing! Now my DP works there... should I fear for her safety? GODS! I hope not!

Posted by: JulieDee | Feb 7, 2005 8:32:06 PM

As a current college student (third year), I have to say that the significant reduction in the number of freshmen who consider it "essential" to "help promote racial understanding" is quite possibly due to the fact that "promoting racial understanding" is a goal that is beaten into college students brains via absurd, politically correct core requirements, constant advertisements for forums discussing "issues of race and gender" and the still very loud leftist student activist groups who do nothing but shout and prance around like it's still the sixties.

And I say this as someone with relatively liberal political values. Some of the findings of that poll, particularly the stuff about the First Amendment and gay rights, I consider abhorrent and a little disturbing.

However, academia, and the American left in general, has to move beyond this preoccupation with race. At this point, with more pressing issues around, it's counterproductive. There's not much else the government can do to reduce racial discrimination, anyway. Academics spend so much time jabbering on about race and discrimination that I sometimes wonder what they would do if there actually was complete racial equality. If something is shoved down your throat enough, the fact is that eventually you just becomed desensitized to it.

Posted by: Vin | Feb 5, 2005 5:16:37 PM

This is dribble, it does nothing to take into account those in the age group that can't afford to go to college, which we all know is merely a racist institution meant to filter out competition for jobs that rely none at all on a college education. It's OK, they still vote.

Posted by: Jon | Feb 5, 2005 11:53:51 AM

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