ONTD Political

Does the college experience *decrease* racial understanding?

1:56 pm - 04/10/2012

HIGHER LEARNING: College Makes People Care Less About Racism
BY HAMILTON NOLAN APR 10, 2012 11:06 AM 5,718

Could it be that all of the facile Republican rhetoric about college being for snobbish elites who don't want to connect with real, moral America is absolutely true? Yes. Well. In the sense that college makes you more racist. Though Republicans should support that! So much cognitive dissonance today.

According to a new study, going to college makes people care less about "helping to promote racial understanding." To be perfectly clear about this: they polled people about their attitudes on this issue when they got to college, after one year at college, and when they finished college, and found that, across all races, people cared less and less and less about promoting "racial understanding" the further they went through college. Read all about it in Inside Higher Ed.

Let's just briefly enumerate the stereotypes which would appear to be shattered by this data:

1. College is a politically correct haven which brainwashes kids into politically correct thinking.
2. College makes people more liberal.
3. College-educated people are less racist than everyone else.
4. College is a place to meet new types of people and experience new cultures and gain understanding of people outside of one's own cultural bubble.

Yes, this issue may be slightly more complicated than this, but don't upset our groove. Republicans should all be sending their kids to college, whatever the cost! The battle to destroy racial understanding in America can't be won by stupid articles in various right-wing publications alone. Get your kids out of church, and send them... to F.S.U.!

Go 'Noles! Divide and conquer!

Backwards on Racial Understanding
April 10, 2012 - 3:00am
By: Scott Jaschik

One stereotype about college is that the experience encourages students to be more interested in diversity and promoting racial understanding. To some this is a great virtue of higher education; to critics, this suggests academe is too focused on diversity. What if they are all wrong?

A new study being presented at this year's annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association suggests that as undergraduates progress in higher education, they become less interested, on average, in promoting racial understanding. The study finds that this is true across racial groups -- although it finds some characteristics of the college experience that may make students more interested in racial understanding as they proceed from freshman to senior year.

The study is by Jesse D. Rude, a principal research analyst at NORC at the University of Chicago; Gregory C. Wolniak, a senior research scientist at NORC at the University of Chicago; and Ernest Pascarella, the Mary Louise Petersen Professor of Higher Education at the University of Iowa. They used survey data of students at 6 liberal arts colleges and 11 universities collected by the Wabash National Study of Liberal Arts Education.

Students were asked: "How important to you personally is helping to promote racial understanding?" The researchers write that they selected this as the question because, unlike questions about "openness to diversity" or "other more abstract notions of tolerance," this question "attempts to capture respondents’ personal commitment to improving racial understanding and may be less prone to social desirability bias." Students were asked the question upon arriving at college, at the end of their freshman year, and at the end of their senior year.

Ranking the importance of promoting racial understanding on a four-point scale, African American students started off with the highest score (above 3.2), followed by Hispanics (just below 3.2), Asians (around 2.9) and whites (just under 2.5). All four groups were lower at the end of their freshman year, and lower as well by their senior year. Asians showed some rebound between the end of freshman year and senior year, but still ended up at a lower point than where they started.

Importance to College Students of Promoting Racial Understanding, on Scale of 1-4
Group Start of Frosh Year End of Frosh Year Senior Year
White 2.47 2.32 2.31
Black 3.26 3.18 2.95
Latino 3.13 2.93 2.82
Asian 2.88 2.63 2.74

The researchers write that "contrary to our expectations, the average change in racial attitudes during the first year and over the entire four-year period is in a negative direction." In between the start and end of freshman year,  30.5 percent said that promoting racial understanding was less important at the end, while only 17.3 percent thought it was more important. (The rest didn't change.) Between the start and end of college, more students "trend negative" (33.8 percent) than positive (21.4 percent), the study finds.

The paper's authors say these data challenge the conventional wisdom about college and race: the findings suggest that for most students, being in college has no impact on a desire to promote racial understanding, and that those who change do so in the direction of being less committed to intergroup understanding.

The research doesn't yield information on why the students change as they do, but the study looked for correlations between certain college experiences (in and out of the classroom) and found that any of these four circumstances increase the chances that college will leave students more committed to promoting racial understanding: interracial friendships, frequent discussions with other-race students, frequent discussions with faculty members whose views differ from their own, and taking courses that focus on diverse cultures and perspectives.

Those findings leave the authors seeing the possibility that college could be a force that encourages students to be more committed to promoting racial understanding. But if many students lack those experiences, they may not care.

"These findings cast doubt on research and conventional wisdom that argues for the liberalizing effects of higher education on racial attitudes. Instead, it suggests that, for some students, negative experiences with diversity may dampen the relatively progressive racial views they hold when entering college," write the authors in their conclusion.

But they add: "An implication of these findings for postsecondary institutions with racially diverse campuses is that efforts to broaden students’ racial views should extend beyond multicultural course requirements. Colleges that can take steps that promote environments conducive for cross-race friendship and other forms of positive interaction may have an even greater impact on students’ racial attitudes."

original source
obscure_abyss 10th-Apr-2012 07:05 pm (UTC)
Did they account for the type of majors these students chose? I can pretty much guarantee someone in say, and English or Women and Gender studies major would become less racist and more considerate/compassionate over time. I imagine someone in science, math, or business related fields would be less so, since they focus more on data.
redstar826 10th-Apr-2012 08:53 pm (UTC)
LOL so true. I needed an upper level economics class last semester and holy shit the economics department is on a completely different planet than the one I am familiar with
amyura 10th-Apr-2012 09:20 pm (UTC)
Not scientific at all (oh the irony), but I'm a math and linguistics major from a family of math majors, and have taught math (among, of course, math majors) at three different high schools, and all of us have become more open-minded over time. I was completely blind to my privilege in high school.

I think in general, a lot of people with strong math and science backgrounds realize how full of shit people like John Derbyshire are when they try and make their points with bogus statistics.

I think you're probably right about business majors, but I don't think it's a data thing. I think it's a personality thing. If you're majoring in a business or economics field, there's probably a better-than-average chance you're more interested in making money than thinking critically or pursuing social justice.
bushy_brow 10th-Apr-2012 09:48 pm (UTC)
I'm a chemist, and ITA with all of this.

ETA: Although my math minor is always making me think, at the back of my mind, "One counter-example disproves the theorem..." whenever someone dismisses anecdata. ;-)

Edited at 2012-04-10 09:51 pm (UTC)
roseofjuly 10th-Apr-2012 10:58 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I'm a research psychologist with a moderately strong quantitative background and I always cringe when people dismiss anecdata. Yes, one story does not a theory make, but that doesn't mean that it's unimportant. There's an entire body of sociological and psychological knowledge that's been formed upon qualitative research and case studies.
roseofjuly 10th-Apr-2012 10:56 pm (UTC)
Ummmm I don't necessarily agree with that. It's true that science and math focus more on data, but I'm not sure why a focus on data would make one less racist - especially since data has actually made a strong case for how fucked up this country is wrt to racism.
keeperofthekeys 11th-Apr-2012 01:38 am (UTC)
If people only cared to look at that data. I think the big issue is lack of exposure--especially with all the whitewashing that occurs in science textbooks (not that it doesn't in every other textbook ever, but since we're on the topic of science).
obscure_abyss 11th-Apr-2012 02:58 am (UTC)
I mean that someone in English and, I suppose moreso with Gender Studies, there would be greater exposure to other types of existence. As someone mentioned upthread, science texts are largely whitewashed. I would argue that many majors are whitewashed (though this is admittedly a huge problem in English departments, but, at least in my own, it is changing). At least for Gender Studies, students are exposed to a variety of people and any program worth it's weight in textbooks would stress the importance of intersectionality. Math, science, business...not so much.
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