Gradually, and then suddenly, I’ve realized something about higher education. I know more than a few women who are in leadership roles in online learning, instructional design, and academic computing - and who are also Republicans.
Based on my limited sample size and imperfect powers of observation, I’ll share 2 thoughts about the Republican women I know at the intersection of learning and technology:
1 - They Don’t Advertise Their Political Views:
I’m always somewhat surprised when I learn that one of my colleagues in digital and online learning is a registered Republican. This surprise says more about my sheltered existence and blindspots than it does about my colleagues, or the Republican Party.
The reality is that higher ed, at least the higher ed circles that I mostly travel in, tends to be populated with folks of a more liberal persuasion. There is an enormous amount written about the liberal bias of higher ed. I don’t want to be a part of that debate. So I’ll just own up to my own liberal bias.
The learning technology world also tends to be well represented by women. Every boss that I’ve had over my 20 year career in digital learning, save one, has been a women. Most of my colleagues at my institution are women. On a national level, it seems as women are much better represented on the learning side of the house of academic technology than the administrative side.
So it is not surprise that amongst all the women that I know in my world of digital and online learning, that more than a few are Republican. I only tend to learn about their political affiliations indirectly. Their politics almost never come up in conversation. Discussions about politics and policies only happen after an extended time period of collaboration - if at all.
2 - They See Higher Ed as an Engine of Opportunity:
The Republican women that I know who work in academia, and specifically in digital / online learning, are completely dedicated to the idea of higher education as an engine of opportunity. They are strong advocates for increasing access, lowering costs, and improving the quality of higher education. They view online education as a platform to drive social mobility, and to improve the lives of individuals and the communities in which they live.
Where Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, may differ is in how they think higher ed should operate. There may be disagreements about the efficacy of public financing or state level involvement. There may be disagreements about the proper role of the market, and of private companies, in higher education.
Or it may be that one’s political affiliation has very little to do with one’s opinions about the structure and future of our postsecondary system. There are many reasons to vote Democrat or Republican.
The point I’m making is that there is more common ground than contested space with the Republicans and Democrats of learning technology. Or maybe the point I’m making is that the Republican women who are my colleagues in digital and online learning are some of the smartest, empathetic, and effective leaders that I know.
Higher ed only benefits from diversity. This is as true of political diversity as any other type of difference.
I’d be interested in what the profession (discipline?) of digital education and learning innovation looks like from the perspective of a registered Republican?
I’ve chosen to mention the Republican women that I know about in my field, mostly because I know more Republican women in my field than Republican men. Would my observations hold true for the guys?
Is gender even relevant in this discussion?
Are you a Republican working at the intersection of learning and technology?