In the Face of Indoctrination: Fight, Not Flight

“The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.” – Abraham Lincoln

By the time an American kid graduates from high school, to what extent has he been exposed to left-wing racial and gender ideology? Furthermore, how does this leftward indoctrination affect the student’s political views and attitudes toward others? Two fellow political scientists, Zach Goldberg and Eric Kaufmann, delved into these important research questions in a co-authored analysis of a survey of over 1,500 Americans aged 18 to 20. Their findings, published by the Manhattan Institute, are alarming.

No Learning Environment is Insulated

Goldberg and Kaufmann conceptualize left-wing cultural socialism as “Critical Social Justice” (CSJ) and operationalize CSJ through eight concepts encompassing both Critical Race Theory (CRT) and radical gender ideology. These concepts include:

1. America is a systemically racist country.

2. In America, white people have white privilege.

3. In America, white people have unconscious biases that negatively affect nonwhite people.

4. Discrimination is the main reason for differences in wealth or other outcomes between races or genders.

5. America is built on stolen land.

6. America is a patriarchal society.

7. Gender is an identity choice, regardless of the biological sex into which you were born.

8. There are many genders, not just male and female.

Treating CSJ as “applied,” “bite-size expressions” of high CSJ theory (the scholarly work of prominent critical theorists), the authors were able to measure the degrees to which school-aged American children encounter “the uncritical teaching of academic concepts” in various school settings.

In general, their study found that CSJ teaching was prevalent in school: 93% of survey respondents reported being taught or hearing about at least one of the eight CSJ concepts listed above, and 90% reported being taught or hearing about at least one of five CRT-related concepts during their time in high school. 52% were taught the idea that discrimination causes disparities, while 45% were taught America is built on stolen land.

Source: School Choice is Not Enough: The Impact of Critical Social Justice Ideology in American Education, Zach Goldberg and Eric Kaufmann, Manhattan Institute

Although many concerned parents consider private schools, school choice, or homeschooling as ways to circumvent indoctrination, the study warns against the efficacy of the “exit” strategy.  The authors found that among those surveyed, 73% of parochial schoolers, 82% of non-religious private schoolers, and 83% of homeschoolers reported being taught at least one CSJ concept, which is “statistically indistinguishable” from the 85% rate among public schoolers.

The omnipresence of CSJ instruction does not discriminate on the basis of race, geography, local partisanship, or political leanings. On average, white students reported being taught or hearing about 4.2 CSJ concepts, compared to 4.9 for black students and 4.5 for Hispanic students. The slight difference between white and non-white students can be partly explained by the slight reduction of CRT instruction in schools in whiter areas. The authors write, “moving from zip codes in which whites comprise 20% of the population to zip codes in which they comprise 80% of the total results in a 0.32-unit decrease in the number of concepts respondents report being taught in class.” The small-scale changes indicate that no zip code is immune from the invasion of cultural socialism.

Additionally, the effect of local partisanship—measured by the percentages of a county’s votes for Biden and Trump in the last presidential election—is not meaningful, debunking the notion that conservative areas can provide strong protection against CSJ. After all, 32% of respondents in even the most conservative counties are taught at least one of the eight CSJ concepts. 73% of white Republicans and 89% of non-white Republicans reported being taught at least one CSJ concept.

CSJ is Propagated as Truth

With nearly 7 in 10 students being implicitly or explicitly instructed that CSJ is the only “correct” answer to the phenomena they discuss in class, controversial racial and gender ideology is inculcated not as one perspective among many, but as unchallenged truth. The high level of indoctrination does not vary much by race, political orientation, or type of high school.

The more students are exposed to the ideology, the less likely they are to encounter competing theories or opposing arguments. 28% of students who were taught one CSJ concept, 33% of those who were taught two concepts, 36% of those who were taught three concepts, 40% of those who were taught four concepts, and 48% of those who were taught five concepts also reported that they were told there are no respectable counterarguments. To make matters worse, even the 32% minority of students who reported being given alternative explanations are not less likely to endorse CSJ ideas because in many school settings, counterarguments are not presented in a balanced or convincing manner.

The observation of indoctrination comports with empirical evidence of K–12 teaching practices across the country, demonstrating that CSJ instruction is “a broader pedagogical phenomenon.” Frequently, contestable claims of land theft, structural racism, and systemic inequities are not contextualized in nuanced history. “Complicated causal-historical debate,” which examines other variables and mechanisms, is replaced by ideological conformity. The transition from fact-seeking to one-side moralizing can be seen in many educational reforms, from teaching ethnic studies in a way that highlights oppression, victimhood, and struggles to situating mathematics within a pursuit of equity.

Exposure Breeds Conversion and Fear

Given that most young people are yet to fully develop their political and social worldviews, the all-inclusive invasion of CSJ has disastrous effects on their future policy attitudes and partisanship. Schools and teachers that infuse CRT and gender ideology into their classroom instruction are well aware of this fact and utilize their authority to convert students into activists who will support radical policies. Goldberg and Kaufmann measure the effect of CSJ instruction on four outcomes, including two race-based policies and two white-responsibility statements:

1. Favor race-preferential hiring and promotion.

2. Favor government policies to help black people.

3. Feel that white people are ultimately responsible for the inferior social position of black people.

4. Think that white Americans are racist and mean based on how black people have been treated.

Respondents who reported maximum exposure to CSJ are 27 points more likely to endorse #1, 37 points more likely to endorse #2, 43 points more likely to embrace #3, and 32 points more likely to embrace #4 than respondents who reported no exposure.

Even having conservative parents does not significantly mitigate the influence of CSJ on a student. Respondents with a Republican mother who reported being taught six or more CSJ concepts are 21 points more likely to lean liberal than those who were taught no CSJ. In strong Republican counties, young people lean Republican by a 27% to 22% margin over Democrats, but in strong Democratic counties, young people lean Democratic by a larger 38% to 12% ratio. Exposure to CSJ in K–12 classrooms has a powerful effect on young people’s ideology and partisanship.

Not only is leftist indoctrination effective in shaping students’ political beliefs, but it also negatively affects students’ educational experiences. 63% of respondents who were taught at least one CSJ concept also expressed fear of being punished by schools or teachers for voicing opinions on controversial subjects, compared with 38% of those who were not exposed to CSJ. The fear factor is more salient for Republican-identifying young people, at 74%. Moreover, being captured by CSJ also impairs peer relationships, as 50% of students who were taught five or more CRT-related concepts reported feeling uncomfortable criticizing a black classmate, and 47% indicated feeling comfortable criticizing a white classmate. The discomfort in peer interactions could be detrimental for the intellectual growth of the very students CSJ seeks to “protect.”

Institutional Reforms in Public Education are Desperately Needed

Based on the alarming findings of this new report, the authors soberly suggest that gathering political energy and capital to fight indoctrination in public schools is a more sensible solution than voting with one’s feet. Considering the spillover of far-left ideologies from traditional government schools to charter schools, private schools, and even homeschool communities, they recommend that lawmakers and parents focus on championing the following system-level policy changes:

1. Adopt explicit political impartiality requirements in public schools to prevent partisan politics hijacking education and institute a balanced approach of opposing views.

2. Examine and audit Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) instruction, teacher-training, and other accreditation bodies for non-indoctrination.

3. Establish policy guidelines, education standards, and curriculum to ensure impartiality.

4. Urge for academic transparency and accountability.

In the face of endemic CRT and radical gender ideology in American schools, we must be willing to jump in the fight to save America and its next generation, whose malleability has been taken advantage of by woke ideologues. It is never too late.

Image: Adobe Stock

Wenyuan Wu

Wenyuan Wu is Executive Director of the Californians for Equal Rights Foundation. Twitter: @wu_wenyuan

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