How to cope with your professor’s left-wing bias

How to cope with your professor’s left-wing bias

To get the best possible grade, students may need to pander to their professors’ left-wing ideology.

Professors are much more likely to be progressives than they are to be moderate or conservative. Law professors are no exception. Progressive professors view progressive views as a sign of intelligence, and conservatism as a sign of stupidity. For example, Prof. Robert Brandon, head of Duke University’s philosophy department, argued that conservatives are rare in academia because they are stupid.

So to get a good grade, moderate or conservative law students should pretend to be progressives when taking their final exam. That will make them seem more intelligent to their left-wing professors. They should echo their professor’s left-wing ideology in answering exam questions — such as questions about what a vague provision of the Constitution means, or about who should win a lawsuit where both sides have a plausible legal argument.

Parroting my professors’ left-wing ideology worked for me at Harvard Law School. For example, I got a good grade in my tort law class, because I parroted the professor’s male-bashing and left-wing extremism. I got a high grade even though I did not understand tort law as well as most of my classmates. When I failed to pander to my left-wing professors’ ideology, I got lower grades. I received only a B- in property law, which I understood better than many classmates. Why? Perhaps because I did not echo the anti-property-rights mindset of the left-wing professor.

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Moderate and conservative law professors themselves have advised students to parrot their progressive professors’ views to get a good grade on their final exam. Law professor Robert Anderson advises:

Law students: Remember to echo your professor’s ideology on your final exams! If you haven’t noticed this on Twitter, many profs are incapable of separating “is” from “ought,” acknowledging trade-offs, or recognizing the validity of counterarguments.

Law professor Orin Kerr agrees. He is America’s leading expert on computer crimes and the Fourth Amendment. He notes that while “there are exceptions,” what Anderson recommends “is often good advice. I took several exams in law school while rolling my eyes about the absurdity of the nonsense I was writing. But it worked.”

As he recounts, “My grades jumped considerably after [my first] year [in law school], when I realized that I should be infusing my exam answers with the professor’s ideology to do well.” His “law professors sure brought their politics into the classroom. For some of them, it was essential to understand their politics if you wanted to get a good grade.”

Kerr is conservative compared to the typical law professor, although he is not a right-winger. He was a law clerk to the moderate Republican Supreme Court justice Anthony Kennedy, the swing vote on the Supreme Court, and before that, he was a law clerk to moderate Republican judge Leonard Garth. Kerr belongs to the conservative-leaning Federalist Society. But he publicly endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2016 out of distaste for Donald Trump.

There are a few conservative professors. But not many. Professors are becoming more and more left-wing over time. As economic historian Phillip Magness notes:

[S]urvey data point to a sharp and overwhelming leftward shift in faculty political self-identification starting around the year 2000 and persisting to the present day. While self-identified liberals comprised a relatively stable plurality of about 40 percent [in the 1970’s], that number grew to a clear 60 percent majority in the last two decades. Conservative faculty, by contrast, dwindled away from one-third of the faculty as recently as 1984 to just 12 percent today. Furthermore … the recent shift does not come from gradual ideological drift toward mainstream left-of-center politics. Its primary driver is an explosion in the number of faculty who identify on the far left — a category that includes Marxists, socialists, and adherents of derivative ideological positions such as critical theory.

Even moderate Republicans are often deemed too conservative in academia. Moderate Republicans with Ivy League degrees and genius level IQs sometimes can’t find a job as a professor at a good university. One of my former bosses had a degree from the highest-ranked law school (Yale) and had published scholarly articles in multiple law reviews. He had also practiced law at a big-name Manhattan law firm. Yet law schools turned down his job applications and hired progressive applicants with inferior credentials instead. His intelligence was such that he later successfully argued a landmark Supreme Court case.

Hans Bader

Hans Bader

Hans Bader practices law in Washington, D.C. After studying economics and history at the University of Virginia and law at Harvard, he practiced civil-rights, international-trade, and constitutional law. He also once worked in the Education Department. Hans writes for and has appeared on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal.”


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