Thursday, December 14, 2006

College professors still respected by public

College Professors are not losing public respect, according to a recent gallup poll. I was surprised to see that we did so well. The results show that we are given ratings for honesty and ethics on par with the clergy (though I have to admit there is some irony in that).

The figures show that 58% of those polled rate us very high or high for our ethics. Only 7% rated us low or very low. The charts also give a bit of historical breakdown, showing that these numbers are slightly better than they were in the early 1990s.

I would have expected that with all of the bad press that we have been getting from Horowitz, Nass, and others that our ratings wouldn't have held up.

This is definitely good news for our profession and higher education in general!

1 comment:

lammers said...

Winnie Bloggo wrote:
"College Professors are not losing public respect, according to a recent gallup poll. I was surprised to see that we did so well."

I suspect that questions such as "Who do you trust?" or "Who do you respect?" are largely answered on the basis of long-standing stereotypes. The person polled rummages through memory and thinks about different kinds of people: "Rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief / doctor, lawyer, Indian chief ..."

In the mind of many folks, the category "college professor" is a deep-rooted symbol of intelligence, rational thought, critical analysis, objectivity, etc. Think Russell Johnson on "Gilligan's Island." I think that image of us is deeper than any short-term "current events" mud that may get flung on the image.

Furthermore, I think you vastly overrate the ability of pundits to sway actual deep-rooted opinions. Just because the volume is cranked up and the song is played frequently doesn't necessarily mean everyone is listening to it.

Many folks might listen to such pundits and critics for amusement, may even join in with a "Yeah! You go!" on occasion. But opinions and attitudes based on a lifetime of experience are not easily altered by divergent bits of recent data. Yes, sometimes doctors or nurses abuse or or cheat or murder patients and it gets a lot of ink, but that does little to alter the widely embraced view of medical professionals as caring and trustworthy.

"The results show that we are given ratings for honesty and ethics on par with the clergy (though I have to admit there is some irony in that)."

I don't know why there would be any irony. All you're doing is falling prey to the same sort of superficial thinking that you worry others will give in to. The clergy and academe have a great deal in common. Both seek to understand life and how it operates; both seek to improve the world and the lot of those in it, because they care about others and how they do in life; both professions take a great deal of advanced education, critical thinking, problem solving, etc. We have different assumptions, principles, and methodologies, but our goals and interests are very similar.

Frankly, the view you evince of clergy is as flawed as the view of professors for which you criticize others. You are plagued by the same sort of simplistic blavck -and-white thinking, it seems. Both the clergy and academe are plagued with the occasional pushy demagogue with political aspirations and ulterior motives. That does nothing to invalidate the essential goodness and rightness of either profession.