Tuesday, February 28, 2006

College Politics

I've seen Christina Trefzger's post on liberal bias at state schools mentioned in a few different places now. Here is the pertinent passage for me:
One time I complained to one of my engineering friends how liberal my classes were and asked her if all of her professors were liberal too. To my astonishment, she said that she had never had a liberal professor. When I expressed my shock, she said, “We’re engineers; we deal in reality. We don’t have the luxury of being liberal.”
Frankly, I went through four years of college and then grad school without much of a clue about my engineering professors' politics. I'm sure some vote Democrat and others vote Republican. It didn't come up much because we were too busy learning objective methods to solving problems.

Engineering is not a profession for political idealists. It is a profession for empirical realists. Generally when the politicians get overly involved bad things happen. No amount of wanting will make a bad design work well just as no bill passed by Congress can repeal the Law of Gravity. The tools we use to solve problems are not cutting edge scientific research, but often simplified rules of thumb and a healthy respect for past solutions to problems.

I have to admit my experience with the PoliSci department was different from Christina's. I found my PoliSci profs to be liberal but relatively unbiased. They had something of an objective academic outlook on politics as if they were studying chimpanzee behavior or something. When I took Intro to American PoliSci, my prof pointed out things like "Democrats historically get re-elected by bringing home the pork while Republicans historically get re-elected for fighting the good fight." We discussed how Newt had brought the Republicans success in the 1994 election by reinventing the party platform using the Contract with America. And she was a total hippie that went to Woodstock. When I took Third World PoliSci, my prof pointed out that all the third worlders transitioning to First World status were capitalists. He was a little upset about the failure of Communism but he had to admit it had failed where capitalism had succeeded.

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