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The fictional Thought Police of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four are alive and well and being paid handsome salaries these days, thanks mainly to oblivious taxpayers and unwitting parents. Safely ensconced behind ivy-covered walls, often living comfortably in housing provided for them, today's pursuers of thought crime are called College Professors.
Not content to teach students how to think, modern-day college and university faculties teach students what to think: about politics, the environment, gender, race, capitalism—you name it. And in case there's any doubt about their point of view, David Horowitz and Jacob Laksin spell it out for us in their book, One-Party Classroom: How Radical Professors at America's Top Colleges Indoctrinate Students and Undermine Our Democracy. They explain:
The roots of the present situation lie in the political history of the 1960's and its aftermath. The cultural upheavals of that era saw the accession to academic tenure of a generation of activists who regarded the university as a platform from which to advance their political mission.
Of course, this doesn't apply to every college professor in America. But according to a 2007 Harvard study, 95 percent of professors on liberal arts faculties are "likely to share liberal or left-wing approaches to social issues." No doubt there are liberal professors who don't attempt to impose their worldview on the young minds that have been entrusted to them. But the evidence is overwhelming that much of what goes on in college classrooms across the country is nothing less than indoctrination. On far too many campuses, scholarship has been replaced with ideology, informed debate with Newspeak.
Consider a course called "Environmental Justice," taught at the University of California, Santa Cruz. The course title alone is a dead giveaway that there will be little if any dispassionate discourse on either the environment or justice. One of the questions students in this course are asked to consider is whether "environmental justice movements actually dealt appropriately with issues of race, class, culture and gender inequalities."
One required text in this course is called Dead Heat: Globalization and Global Warming. Despite the fact that there is genuine scientific disagreement over the causes, severity, and consequences of global warming, the authors have no use for debate and no tolerance of dissent. "The skeptics can go to hell," they write, "and we're basically going to ignore them." That attitude sums up much of what Horowitz and Laksin found in their survey of college offerings from coast to coast. To an alarming extent, students are, in effect, asked to check their skepticism at the classroom door.
Lest you think that "Dead Heat" is an anomaly among the courses taught at UC Santa Cruz, consider these two other classes that California's taxpayers help pay for: First, there's "Feminist Theory," a course based on the idea that "we [humans] have never been human," to quote the professor. She apparently believes, in accord with feminist theory, that human beings are no different from animals and that to believe otherwise is a form of what she calls "human exceptionalism."
Second, there's "The Politics of the War on Terrorism." Perhaps not surprisingly, students who elect to take this course do not get a fact-based overview of the subject matter. The syllabus actually denies that al-Qaeda carried out the attacks of September 11, 2001, and brazenly asks: "How did Bush and Cheney build the fiction that al-Qaeda was a participant in the 9/11 attacks?"
Again, there is no pretense in these courses that any informed debate is expected, or would be welcomed. Like so many of the courses described in One-Party Classroom, these two are no more than platforms for the professors to espouse their particular, if peculiar, perspectives.
The Duke Debacle
Duke University in Durham, North Carolina is commonly ranked among the top ten institutions of higher learning in the country, with undergraduate tuition fees of $45,121. In March of 2006, Duke was thrust into the national spotlight over what became known as the Duke lacrosse scandal. A black stripper accused three white members of Duke's lacrosse team of rape, sexual abuse, and using racial epithets against her. Even before indictments could be issued, to say nothing of guilt or innocence proved, 88 members of the Duke faculty signed a full-page ad in the university newspaper essentially condemning the lacrosse team and accusing the school of fostering racism.
A Duke professor of English and African and African-American Studies wrote a letter referring to the "abhorrent sexual assault, verbal racial violence, and drunken white male privilege loosed amongst us." He referred to the lacrosse team's "racist assaults" and "violent racism," calling the young men symbols of "white, male, athletic privilege." Another professor, who teaches a course called "Language of Constitutional Law," published an article in a journal called "The Scholar and Feminist Online," in which she wrote that "judgments about the issues of race and gender that the lacrosse team's sleazy conduct exposed cannot be left to the courtroom."
Reaction to this perfect storm of gender, race, and class quickly went from politically correct outrage to mob mentality. "Innocent until proven guilty" was too good for these guys. The climate on campus turned so hostile that the team was eventually moved for its own protection.
As it happened, the case against the lacrosse team fell apart. The accuser, who turned out to be a drug-addicted criminal, repeatedly changed her story; the district attorney withheld exculpatory DNA evidence (and was eventually disbarred); and one year later, the students were completely exonerated.
Patricia Dowd, mother of one of the original suspects, wrote an email to the 88 professors after the exonerating evidence came to light. According to Horowitz and Laksin,
Dowd forgave the professors for their earlier rush to judgment, and asked only that they now step forward to concede that the facts exonerated the students. "Our paths may have been different, but I am sure all of us seek the truth and justice."
Professor Houston Baker wrote back:
LIES! You are just a provacteur [sic] on a happy New Years [sic] Eve trying to get credit for a scummy bunch of white males! . . . umhappy [sic] new year to you . . . and forgive me if your [sic] really are, quite sadly, mother of a "farm animal."
While the faculty's unchecked and unfounded attacks are appalling, they are perhaps better understood in light of some of Duke's course offerings. The Department of African and African-American Studies, for example, offers a course called "Plantations," in which students are asked to consider questions such as, "What is a plantation and why do some citizens of Durham view Duke as a plantation?" Horowitz and Laksin write: "It is difficult to regard this curriculum as anything other than an attempt to stoke racial tension between the university and the mostly black neighborhoods of Durham."
The Department of Sociology offers a course called CompRace/Ethnic Studies. Here's a portion of the course description: "Central to this discussion is understanding that 'racism' is not 'prejudice,' 'ignorance,' or a 'set of beliefs' but a comprehensive historical system of racial domination organized by the logic of white supremacy." Again, it is abundantly clear that critical thinking is not the goal here: mindless acquiescence is.
Ward & Warner
The University of Colorado may be best known for taking two years to fire Ward Churchill, the Ethnic Studies professor who called victims of the World Trade Center attacks "little Eichmanns," and, in an ensuing investigation, was found guilty of plagiarism, of falsifying historical evidence, and of inventing historical events. Taxpayers who help support this state-funded school are probably less familiar with the details of some of the courses it offers.
The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Studies Program offers a class called "Queer Rhetorics: Program for Writing and Rhetoric." One of the two required texts is The Trouble with Normal, by Michael Warner. According to Horowitz and Laksin, "Warner is best known for his defense of gay sex clubs and sex with anonymous partners at a time when both were contributing to high rates of HIV infection and AIDS-related deaths in the gay community." Warner himself writes:
The phenomenology of a sex club encounter is an experience of world making. . . . It's an experience of being connected not just to this person but to potentially limitless numbers of people, and that is why it's important that it be with a stranger. Sex with a stranger is like a metonym.
Horowitz and Laksin write that Warner's book is not assigned to expose students to good, clear writing, "but to school students in the politics of an extreme queer sect."
"Expose & Intimidate"
Despite the fact that real-world experiments with Marxism have not only failed, but have caused greater poverty, famine, and human misery wherever they have been tried, many college professors continue to tout Marxist theories with religious-like zeal. At the University of Arizona, Associate Professor Kari McBride offers a course in "Feminist Theories" under the aegis of the Women's Studies Department. Her students are required to read An Introduction to Marxism, written by McBride herself. Here's a sampling:
[A] capitalist system is dependent on ideologies like meritocracy . . . that mask the realities of exploitation and privilege and keep the proletariat (working class) subjugated to the bourgeoisie (middle class) who grow rich on the surplus value of lower class labor.
For the record, McBride's degree is in English literature, not economics.
At the University of Texas, the introductory course for the Center for Women's and Gender Studies assigns one text that is actually critical of radical feminism, Professing Feminism, by Daphne Patai and Noretta Koertge. In the book, the (still feminist) authors explain that "they left Women's Studies because the field was devoted to political ideology rather than academic scholarship." Students, however, are not expected to critically evaluate the authors' arguments or to consider any of the book's possible merits. Instead, they are baldly told in the course syllabus: "prepare to refute it."
Horowitz and Laksin give countless examples of course descriptions that make perfectly plain the professors' political assumptions and their expectations that students embrace them. No enforcement is necessary as long as students wish to pass such courses. Two articles published in the journal of the American Association of University Professors, Academe, make this quite clear. Pamela Caughie wrote the following in her article titled "Impassioned Teaching": "I feel I am doing my job well when students become practitioners of feminist analysis and committed to feminist politics." Horowitz and Laksin describe another article, by feminist professor Julie Kilmer, this way: "[She] describes how it is necessary to publicly expose and intimidate students who 'resist' such indoctrination, while providing suggestions as to how to do it."
It was not always so. The modern research university was created about a hundred years ago, according to Horowitz and Laksin, replacing religious institutions that had dominated the field of higher education.
Under the new dispensation, teachers were expected to refrain from imposing their religious or ideological prejudices on students in their charge, to teach according to the precepts of scientific method and not according to what the philosopher Charles Peirce referred to as the "method of authority."
In 1934, Robert Gordon Sproul, then president of the University of California, defined what the mission of a university should be.
The function of the university is to seek and to transmit knowledge and to train students in the processes whereby truth is to be made known. To convert, or to make converts, is alien and hostile to this dispassionate duty.
Such standards have eroded over time, thanks to activist professors unchecked by administrators, regents, taxpayers, and tuition-paying parents.
One-Party Classroom makes a convincing argument that students pursuing a liberal arts degree on many campuses run the risk of graduating actually believing that Marxism is both valuable and viable, that gender is a purely social construct, that America is systemically racist and sexist, and that capitalism is evil. But perhaps even more worrisome is the possibility that many will graduate not knowing how to think, how to question, how to consider the other side of an argument, or even that there is another side of an argument.
It is frightening to contemplate the prospect of a generation trained to be followers, and rewarded for accepting their professors' biased rhetoric as truth. Horowitz and Laksin contend that if this educational trend continues, "it will most certainly spell the end of the modern research university as we know it." Perhaps even more frightening are the ramifications for a democracy that depends on an informed electorate capable of critical thinking and sound judgment. •
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