Tag Archives: indoctrination

Diversity Overreach at American University

American University’s pervasive left-wing political climate has not prevented nasty racial incidents, but it sure has facilitated official overreaction antithetical to academia. AU is rapidly moving further than many other colleges and universities to enshrine ideological indoctrination into the curriculum in the name of diversity and inclusion.

Racist Incidents on AU’s Campus

The campus witnessed two dramatic racist events during the past academic year. A white student threw a banana at an African-American student in her dorm room and scribbled obscene graffiti on her door’s whiteboard. Later, during final exams, someone hung nooses with bananas marked with racist messages, including one attacking the African-American sorority of the new student body president, at three separate locations on campus, and vicious white supremacist attacks on her followed.

Both incidents were widely and laudably condemned by students, faculty, and administration alike in a positive exercise of free speech. The student who perpetrated the invasion of another student’s room was caught and disciplined by the university. AU has enlisted the FBI’s assistance and vowed to catch and to punish the other guilty parties.

But as those who follow campus news well know, racist or sexist events rarely end with punishment or a return to normality. They often trigger cries of “systemic” racism or sexism, curable only by reform programs, usually mandatory, to reshape the attitudes of all students.

Required Indoctrination Courses

Framed as courses designed to help students “transitioning into their first year of college,” two courses to be taught by diversity staff—not regular faculty– will focus heavily on ideological indoctrination. The themes of AUx2 emphasize the correct viewpoints on marginalization and victimization:

This is a bare-bones outline of one course:

Theme 1: Getting to Know Our Social Identities & Key Concepts

  • Identity Grid: Exploring Our Social Identities
  • Class Agreement: Supporting Respectful and Productive Dialogue
  • Bias Discrimination and Racial Formation
  • White Privilege vs. White Disenfranchisement

Theme 2: Intersections of Social Identity: Race in America

  • Code Switch Video Game About Multiracial Identity
  • Manifest Destiny and Native American Touch Points Group Presentations
  • Slavery’s Realities & Resonance Through Poetry
  • Allyship, Abolition, and Early Women’s Movement
  • Immigration, Exclusion and Shifting Definitions
  • Letter to Civil Rights Leader
  • The Complexity of Contemporary Identities

Theme 3: Letter to a Former Stranger

  • Research the Life & Stories of a Former Stranger
  • Informal Reading of Letters

AUx1 also contains four full weeks on promoting “A Culture of Inclusion” with topics such as “Diversity, Bias, and Privilege.”

The allocation of university resources for these required courses is considerable. According to AU’s website, there are 19 instructors, all staff rather than faculty, as well as an even greater number of peer leaders. The administration has also expanded with the addition of a director and program coordinator, as well as seven full or part-time staff people to assist AUx.

Expanding Indoctrination into Regular Classes

The university is now in the process of converting AUx into regular classes and beyond. The Senior Director for the Center for Diversity & Inclusion (CDI) has suggested “Allowing students’ participation in the seven-week Intergroup Dialogue program to serve as an alternative to another assignment/project or extra credit. I look forward to hearing the administration’s explanation to parents who pay phenomenal sums to send their kids to AU when they find out that a student managed to get out of a math assignment to attend a discussion group.

The two Intergroup Dialogue topics for Fall 2017 are “Islamophobia” and “Black Issues & Experiences on and off Campus.” There are also three segregated dialogue groups, creatively named as “intragroup dialogue” open only to “those who identify within Black/African diasporic communities” on three topics: “Immigration & Nationality,” “Stay Woke: A Dialogue on the themes of ‘Get Out’,” and “Whiteness & Anti-racism.”

“Allyship” refers to the proper role for heterosexual whites—secondary, passive and supportive of leadership. In plain language, it means doing as you’re told.

My guess is that an African-American student who questioned affirmative action would not be deemed “woke” even in his segregated safe space. In the AUx classes themselves, one cannot help but wonder if repeated challenges to the official dogma on “white privilege” or “allyship” might not harm the student’s grade in these mandatory diversity courses.

Beyond promoting Intergroup Dialogues in place of academic work, the Center for Diversity & Inclusion also encourages faculty to “incorporate CDI programs into their syllabus” by “Inviting Rainbow Speakers Bureau to host a panel in your class” or “Requesting a workshop/training or Diversity Peer Educator session.”

Not a bad way to get out of grading and teaching if you can stomach the agitprop.

Faculty Reaction

Faculty reaction to the initial AUx proposal was somewhat muted. Arts and Sciences Dean Peter Starr co-chaired the committee in charge of it, and Provost Scott Bass pushed it heavily, so people were none too keen on futilely challenging the people who determine their salaries or become identified as an opponent of diversity.  Nevertheless, faculty feedback included complaints about AUx inculcating a political viewpoint.

Despite ritualized requests for feedback, Starr made clear that he was uninterested in more than cosmetic changes. Here is the official short summary of changes made to AUx:

“AU Experience I & II: Course content is being developed for an online platform by faculty members with expertise in each area. Both courses will blend academic content and discussion methods, much the way traditional courses do. AUx2, in particular, now focuses on inclusion, with the explicit goal of creating a community of learners. The staffing of discussion leaders for AUx is a complex concern involving other campus initiatives such as the Reinventing the Student Experience (RiSE) project, and will likely be solved outside of this proposal. That said, all discussion leaders for AUx1 & AUx2 will be highly credentialed and complete training in advance of leading these courses.”

The above is an impressive example of managing to write a whole paragraph saying nothing. The short summary sent to the Faculty Senate notes, however, that “In addition to focusing on psycho-social development, AUx1 will include attention to academic freedom and freedom of speech.” The sole class on free speech remains heavily outweighed by the far greater number spent indoctrinating students on white privilege, bias, and exclusion.

The Faculty Senate approved the changes to the general education curriculum, including the AU experience, unanimously—not really surprising, as the faculty contains many promoters of this approach and is normally cowed by the administration anyway.

Never Enough, so the Cycle Repeats

Ironically, albeit utterly unsurprisingly, these changes were deemed wholly insufficient by student protesters who berated the administration and faculty alike at an administration-organized public meeting and during a student takeover of a Faculty Senate meeting. The response of both faculty and administration has been to double down.

During the Faculty Senate takeover, one student complained about the response of a fellow student on Facebook that included a photo of a noose. Provost Scott Bass took down the name of the offending student. Others demanded the immediate firing of faculty for racist comments and expulsion of students for racist actions.

The Faculty Senate immediately adopted a resolution calling for a permanent university commission on discrimination with a mandate to create a “cutting edge model of campus inclusivity” as well as creating a related Faculty Senate committee, which was immediately constituted by four volunteers. Apparently, this is on top of the Faculty Senate Ad-Hoc Committee on Diversity & Inclusion.

Fortunately, the university shortly thereafter adjourned for summer break but one imagines that AU’s cultural revolution will continue as the Fall Semester proceeds and the AUx curriculum goes into full swing.

Yes, Campus Indoctrination is Real

Robert Maranto and Mathew Woessner are not alone.  They are two political scientists who assure us that leftist domination of the faculty does not mean that college students are coming away from their campuses indoctrinated in progressive ideology.  Maranto and Woessner’s latest version of this argument was published in The Chronicle of Higher Education as “Why Conservative Fears of Campus Indoctrination Are Overblown.

Their basic point is that students are “not ideologically pliable.”  Their evidence for that comes from survey research that show “relatively minor” shifts in student political attitudes over four years, with “the typical student” becoming “slightly more progressive on social issues while becoming slightly more conservative on economic issues.”

I don’t doubt the integrity of their research or that of other social scientists who have gone looking for measurable evidence of such changes in student attitudes.  In fact, for several decades social scientists have been looking at this question and for the most part coming up with answers similar to that of Maranto and Woessner.

But they, like many others, are profoundly mistaken. Their conclusions follow their research, but that research inevitably focuses on certain kinds of data, which unfortunately do not get to the heart of the problem.

In their Chronicle article, Maranto and Woessner reference The Still Divided Academy, a book published in 2011, which includes an analysis of “Students’ Political Values” based on the 1999 North American Academic Study Survey (NAASS).  That eighteen-year-old data means something, but does it mean that today’s college students are barely touched by the forces of campus indoctrination?

Related: How a University Moved from Diversity to Indoctrination

In the 1999 survey, 45 percent of college students said they did not believe homosexuality is “an acceptable lifestyle.”  The survey did, however, pick up a shift of seven percentage points in favor of acceptance of homosexuality by the senior year:  a shift the authors interpreted as the students moving towards the views of their professors and administrators.  The NAASS study has not been repeated, but we do have the annual survey conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI)at UCLA, which includes some relevant data. The HERI survey of college freshmen in 2015, for example, found 81.1 percent of freshmen at all baccalaureate institutions endorsed gay marriage.

That dramatic shift, from 45 percent opposed to homosexuality “as a lifestyle” to more than 80 percent favoring gay marriage, tells us nothing about whether colleges indoctrinate students.  These were freshmen surveyed in 2015—mostly innocent about their professors’ attitudes.  But the shift testifies to the need for caution in relying on 1999 figures to decipher today’s trends.  It also testifies to the astonishingly rapid transformation of American youth during this period.

We don’t have very good grounds for thinking that college students today respond to the social and political cues of campus life in the way they did a generation ago.  In fact, the opposite.  The most recent HERI data from fall 2016 found “the fall 2016 entering cohort —  of first-time, full-time college students — has the distinction of being the most polarized in the 51-year history of the Freshman Survey.”  The year before, the HERI surveyors found that a third of the freshmen (33.5 percent) self-identified as liberal or “far left”—the highest percentage since 1973, the height of the Watergate scandal.

Related: Indoctrination in Writing Class

Anyone who has taught freshmen knows that their self-labeling is not necessarily the best indication of their political orientation.  The 2015 HERI data yielded some other clues about the leftward orientation of these freshmen.  A record 8.5 percent of these students said there was a very good chance they would participate in “student protests while in college,” i.e. they were ready to protest before they could possibly have any cause to do so.

HERI also found a record number (74.6 percent) of freshmen who said that “helping others in difficulty” was very important or essential to them.  An orientation towards helping others sounds very good in the abstract, but that figure might also signal the degree to which activism aimed at advancing progressive ideas of “social justice” had become a baseline social attitude for late Millennials entering college.

The HERI data is full of other material that suggests that today’s entering college students bring with them dramatically different attitudes than the freshmen of yesteryear.  Anyone interested in the sociology of college students will find it eye-opening.  But HERI doesn’t resolve the question of whether or how much four years of college education changes students’ political and social attitudes.

That question has actually been a research topic for many years, perhaps best codified by Ernest T. Pascarella and Patrick T. Terenzini in a series of massive volumes, How College Affects Students.  I have relied on Ernest T. Pascarella and Patrick T. Terenzini’s Volume 2:  A Third Decade of Research, published in 2005, but there is 2016 edition with new editors, How College Affects Students: 21st Century Evidence that Higher Education Works, Volume 3.  Pascarella and Terenzini, synthesizing the work of numerous other scholars, reach some interesting conclusions for students in the 1990s:

  • “Freshmen-to-senior year shifts in political identification were associated with the peer and faculty environments of the institutions attended.”
  • The shifts “were more than mere reflections of changes occurring in the larger society.”
  • The shifts were not simply “artifacts” of the attitudes students brought with them to college, and they couldn’t be explained as part of “normal, maturational processes.”

Related: An Update on the Mess at Bowdoin

As often happens when social science researchers roll up their sleeves and dig deep into a problem, these researchers discovered the obvious.  Of course, “peer and faculty environments” shape students.  If anyone continues to doubt that, I recommend What Does Bowdoin Teach?  How A Contemporary Liberal Arts College Shapes Students (2013), the top-to-bottom ethnography that my colleague Michael Toscano and I wrote about the “peer and faculty environment” at one of the nation’s top-rated liberal arts colleges.

What that study showed more than anything is that Bowdoin’s left-wing bias was all pervasive.  It wasn’t conveyed just by a few dozen hard-core leftist faculty members, though they did their part. It was embedded in the curriculum as a whole, residence life, extra-curricular activities, pronouncements from the college president, self-declared college crises, invited speakers, student awards, and more.  And just as important, that bias was made to seem normal by the absence or near absence of alternative views.  It doesn’t feel like “bias” if you are surrounded with people who all agree. The courses not offered, the professors not appointed, the speakers not invited, the student clubs that are not formed:  the nots are the real key to campus bias, especially because they are usually invisible to the students.

At one Bowdoin event, a student stood up and half-in-resentment, half-in-perplexity, challenged me:  “We have everything we could possibly want at Bowdoin.  What’s missing?”  He had absolutely no clue as to what ideas and opinions existed outside the “Bowdoin bubble.”

In such an environment, even those who call themselves dissenters tend to absorb the premises of the prevailing view.  They will quibble about details and typically fail to realize how much they have conformed to the campus Zeitgeist. At Bowdoin, we found “conservative” students who were wholly taken in by the premises of multiculturalism and diversity and perfectly supportive of efforts to muzzle free speech.

Rendering Much of the World Invisible

This is where Maranto and Woessner go most wrong.  “Indoctrination”—if that is the right word—is not mainly about the domination of academic fields by leftist professors.  That happens, and it is part of the problem.  But the larger problem is a campus culture that renders much of the world invisible.

That is not to say the college students today are blankly unaware that a great many Americans hold views at odds with their own.  They know Donald Trump was elected President and that many millions of Americans voted for him.  And progressive ideology provides a whole gallery of stock villains with which to picture the oppressors and those who are not yet “woke.”  The Alt-Right, the cis-gendered privileged, the one-percenters, and so on are the cartoons that take the place of any need to understand conservative ideas.

This doesn’t make every college student an incipient leftist.  Probably the most common political orientation among college students is a soft libertarianism that tolerates anything that doesn’t get in the way of the student’s preferred social activities.  These students have no fondness for the hard left radicals with their Bias Response Teams, Title IX tribunals, protests, and occupations, but neither do they have much interest in putting up a fight. The soft libertarians seldom give a thought about the longer-term consequences of the left’s initiatives, and they are entirely satisfied with the consumerist curriculum they have been offered.

To my way of thinking, this libertarian silent majority on campus has created the condition in which a radicalized minority can exert its tyranny. College administrators don’t worry about the leave-me-alone crowd.  But they are ever eager to placate Mattress Girl, Black Lives Matter, and the students who want to run Charles Murray into the Vermont forest.

So, pace Maranto and Woessner, no, conservative fears of campus indoctrination are not overblown. Sometimes conservatives over-simplify their case by focusing too much on the wild declarations of extremist professors or the exclusion of conservative faculty members.  But taken all in all, contemporary American higher education does indoctrinate students in progressive ideology.  And it does it so well that most of the graduates don’t even realize it.

The Coming Decline of the Academic Left

indoctrination.jpgIt is no secret that what passes for an education at most of the nation’s colleges and universities is suspiciously akin to indoctrination. An asterisk: With the exception of a few areas–specifically, climate and the environment, certain fields within biology and medicine, history of science and the interaction between science and public policy–the rot that infects the rest of academia has been averted in science and engineering schools. A student who seeks a higher education in the unsullied areas of science and engineering can obtain truly the finest technical education that can be found on our planet at innumerable universities throughout the United States.

But when surveying the remaining disciplines in academia, as well as
the administrative structures that direct the nation’s academic
enterprise, one can say that today’s students are subject there to an
unsubtle, mind-numbing, conformist indoctrination. Numerous polls
conducted in humanities and social sciences departments–at elite, state and minor universities–reveal a stunning skew between liberals
and conservatives at least as distorted as 90%-10%. The inherent bias
spills over into classroom presentations, selection of curricula, and
grading. Moreover, it has been thus for at least two generations.

Continue reading The Coming Decline of the Academic Left

The Radicalization of the University of California

University_of_California_Seal.svg.pngAre the 234,000 students enrolled in the massive University of California system receiving an education or a re-education?

It’s the latter–or something fairly close–according to “A Crisis of Competence,” a report just released by the California Association of Scholars (CAS), the Golden State affiliate of the National Association of Scholars. The devastating 87-page report addressed to UC’s Board of Regents, concludes that leftist political indoctrination represents a significant portion of the curriculum at the nine UC campuses that admit undergraduates. Here are some major points:

— UC-Santa Cruz offers no fewer than five introductory courses devoted
exclusively to the thinking of Karl Marx. You can take a basic course on
Marx in the politics, sociology, community studies, legal studies, or
history of consciousness departments–or if, you wish, take all five
courses simultaneously in all five departments, several of which also
offer advanced courses on Marx’s works. “Adolescent Marxist nostalgia
still evidently reigns on campus and impedes a return to reality–but
where are the adults who might be pointing out that it is time to grow
up and move on to thinkers who have been able to withstand the test of
time and to remain more relevant to modern life?” the report asks.

Continue reading The Radicalization of the University of California

The Perils of the “Common Reading” Assignment

Of the criticisms directed toward the contemporary academy, the charge of “indoctrination” strikes me as the most overhyped. The phenomenon certainly occurs; the most obvious recent example came in the “dispositions” controversy, when education students around the country could choose between agreeing with their professors’ political opinions and finding another career path. But it’s relatively rare to see professors browbeating students, in class, regarding overtly political matters.

Far more common–and pernicious–is the attempt (especially in the humanities and social sciences) to exclude topics on grounds of their “traditional” approach. Or the efforts, documented by FIRE, to restrict freedom of speech, freedom of association, and due process on campus. Or the financial impact of sprawling college bureaucracies, most notably those devoted to student life or to promoting certain types of “diversity.

Continue reading The Perils of the “Common Reading” Assignment

The Minnesota Case—An Institutional Diagnosis

KC Johnson has spoken well of the Minnesota teacher education initiative, and his analysis of the op-ed by the dean of the College of Education, Jean Quam, identified the thorough disregard of claims of indoctrination made by columnist Katherine Kersten in the Star-Tribune. Quam’s defense is so feeble and misleading, in fact, that it deserves more scrutiny.
Just compare her summary statements about the initiative’s “diversity awareness” aims with actual statements made in the “Race, Class, Culture, Gender” report posted on the Minnesota blog on September 14th.
Regarding the focus on “issues of race, class, culture, and gender,” Quam says, “Our belief is that acknowledging these issues is essential to teacher and student success and that ignoring them will not make them go away.” Note the reasonable word “acknowledging,” an action that doesn’t prescribe how you acknowledge the issues and what judgments you make about them.
But one “OUTCOME” of the “Race, Class, Culture, Gender” report extends far beyond acknowledgement:
“Our future teachers will be able to discuss their own histories and current thinking drawing on notions of white privilege, hegemonic masculinity, heteronormativity, and internalized oppression.”
In case anyone believes that “drawing on notions of white privilege etc.” leaves open the possibility that one might conclude that “white privilege” is a mistaken, tendentious, errant, or irrelevant notion, another “OUTCOME” allows no such answer:
“Future teachers will recognize & demonstrate understanding of white privilege.”

Continue reading The Minnesota Case—An Institutional Diagnosis

Video of the Worst College Program Ever

Don’t miss this video on the notorious freshman indoctrination program at the University of Delaware. It was produced by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and is in the running to make the top ten most-watched videos of the month. It includes the program’s leading hits, including mandatory hatred of America, the importance of talking with marshmellows in your mouth and the teaching that all whites are racist. Also check out this prize-winning article on the program by Adam Kissel of FIRE: “Please Report to Your Resident Assistant to Discuss Your Sexual Identity—It’s Mandatory!” and my own Minding the Campus article on the subject “Brainwashing 101”.

The Left Reacts To Horowitz

Whenever David Horowitz issues a broadside against leftwing bias in higher education, academics have a ready reply. He packs his sallies with pointed illustrations but the record is feeble, they say. He cherry-picks evidence and magnifies a few bad cases into an epidemic of malfeasance. He relies on indirect documents (for instance, course descriptions) but never enters classrooms to witness how teachers actually teach. And he casts as ideological claptrap respected thinking in fields that has evolved through professional rites of research and peer review.
His latest book, One Party Classroom: How Radical Professors at America’s Top Colleges Indoctrinate Students and Undermine Our Democracy (Crown Forum, $26.95), co-authored with Jacob Laskin, they will maintain, does the same. It profiles radical pockets at 12 universities, examining more than 150 courses in Women’s Studies, Sociology, English, Rhetoric, African American Studies, and several other departments. The conclusion: “An alarming number of university courses violate existing academic regulations that have been designed to ensure that students receive professional instruction” (p. 5). While every statement of principle by academic organizations advocates open-minded, evidence-based, John Stuart Mill-like marketplaces of ideas, in these heated hives “Curricula are designed not to educate students in critical thinking but to instill doctrines that are ‘politically correct'” (5).
Consider the Women’s Studies department at Penn State. Its Web site proclaims, “As a field of study, Women’s Studies analyzes the unequal distribution of power and resources by gender” (quoted, 93). Political inequality, then, is not one of many aspects of women’s history, literature, art, employment, etc., to study, but instead the basic premise and purpose of the field.

Continue reading The Left Reacts To Horowitz

Why I Left Academia

By Anonymous
In March 2008 I reluctantly made the decision to leave academia. After six years in graduate school and three years as a professor, it was clear to me that the discrimination I faced was so pervasive that there would be no escaping it in the years ahead. Don’t misunderstand what I write in the paragraphs that follow. I am not bitter, vengeful, enraged, or anything of the sort. My experience as a professor was disappointing and saddening, but not for me. I feel sad for the students and taxpayers. My leaving was the latest in a long string of departures that stem from the discrimination I describe below.
I was a good professor, well liked by students (third highest student evaluations in my department of 18), productive scholar (2 books, 6 articles, and 10 book reviews in two years while teaching a 4/4), member of a university committee, and the advisor to a campus organization.
The proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back” occurred a week after I approached the university lawyer to notify him that I would be running for a seat on the county commission. As a political scientist, it seemed appropriate for me to have some experience in the subject I taught and loved. I also discussed my plan to challenge the incumbent US Senator in 2010. It may seem an ambitious endeavor, but ambition is something of which I have an abundance.

Continue reading Why I Left Academia

Ideology In The Classroom

Closed Minds? Politics and Ideology in American Universities, published in September to little fanfare, has caught on amid its intended audience: those who believe indoctrination of students is a figment of the conservative imagination and not really a factor on our campuses. The New York Times, calling indoctrination “an article of faith” among conservative critics of the universities, gave the book a boost in a November 2nd article.
The authors of the book, George Mason professors Bruce Smith, A. Lee Fritscher and Jeremy Mayer, acknowledge that the professoriate leans the to left–with Democratic party registration reaching 9 to 1 over Republicans at some universities– but argue that this imbalance has no appreciable effects, since most academics tend to avoid political controversy altogether. On the basis of questionnaires, the authors report that 95 percent of professors claim to be trying to be “honest brokers among all competing views” and 81 percent believe ideology plays no role at all in faculty hiring.
Asking professors to state whether they are classroom propagandists or fair-minded teachers does not seem to be a rigorous methodology. Just as earnestly, the authors asked professors if students elsewhere on their campus got unfair grades because of their political views. Only one percent said it happens frequently or often. The authors say self-censorship of political and religious views, out of fear of negative reactions, was just as common among very liberal professors as among very conservative ones. And –in another counerintuitive leap–“discrimination against non-Christians appears to be more widespread than discrimination against conservatives.”
The authors spend a good deal of space deploring Ward Churchill on the left and David Horowitz on the right, while depicting faculties as moderates nestled in the middle, so not to worry. Although the universities have become more moderate since the 1990s, the book says, “The media have much preferred the narrative of the lefties in academe taking over.” But this is hardly the preferred narrative of the mainstream media, which have a long record of denying or ignoring patterns of coercion on campus, often giving the issue their full attention-as the Times did with Closed Minds?- only when some study dismisses the issue.

Continue reading Ideology In The Classroom

Delaware Indoctrination: You Haven’t Heard It All

The Foundation For Individual Rights in Education is set to release (mid-day Friday) a compendious report by Adam Kissel on the Delaware Residential Life Program. If you haven’t followed this rank system of indoctrination (now happily suspended) the FIRE report is a comprehensive and sobering account of the roots and influences of the Delaware system.

Most importantly, and disquietingly, the FIRE report exposes the extent to which the Delaware program was by no mean isolated – it was simply the most forceful implementation of explicitly political “educational outcomes” encouraged by the American College Personnel Association for all colleges. Once instituted, the Res Life system became, most egregiously, a model for the ACPA and other “res life” professionals. Here’s Kissel on the topic:

ResLife was so proud of its achievements that the University of Delaware began to hold annual Residential Curriculum Institutes for trusted counterparts from around the United States and Canada. Over 70 people from more than 35 schools registered for the first one in January 2007, which focused on the university’s cutting-edge “curricular approach.” The institute was cosponsored by the ACPA, which sent its president, Jeanne S. Steffes, to be the opening speaker. Then—University of Delaware President David Roselle was on hand to welcome the participants, and the keynote address by Marcia Baxter Magolda of Miami University of Ohio was sponsored by Delaware’s Office of the Provost and its Academic and Student Affairs Council.

Residence Life staff, some of them sporting Ed.D. degrees from the university’s own School of Education, also began publishing articles about the cutting-edge methods of the curriculum—without quite revealing the sustainability agenda. For instance, in the November–December 2006 issue of About Campus, a magazine for college and university educators, Kerr and Associate Director of Residence Life James Tweedy published “Beyond Seat Time and Student Satisfaction: A Curricular Approach to Residential Education.” In that article, Kerr and Tweedy discuss their desired “learning goals,” which include requiring each student to, among other things, “explore societal privilege and the experiences of those disadvantaged in our democracy,” “explore social identity privilege,” and “explore class privilege.” They also—creepy as it sounds—discuss potential improvements to the program, such as “the possibility of identifying behavioral factors that can be observed and recorded by hall staff members.”

The Delaware program may be gone, but its advocates are still legion. The report is essential reading on an impulse to indoctrinate still far from dormant. Check in for the full document tomorrow.

If you’re unfamiliar with the story, catch up with John Leo’s “The Worst Campus Codeword”.

“Intergroup Dialogue” – The Latest Indoctrination Catchphrase

Aggressive diversity programs on campus now come with harmless-sounding names such as “sustainability,” “social justice” and the need for good “dispositions.” The latest in this series is “intergroup dialogue.” Who can oppose “intergroup dialogue”? Many of us, if the real meaning of the term is excavated.

“Intergroup dialogue” is the new euphemism for the oppression confrontations that used to be conducted sub rosa at freshman orientations and have now been spreading across the country as formal programs for almost a decade. The goal of an oppression confrontation is to put enough pressure on white males to convince them they are racists, homophobes and sexists. Role reversal is a conventional part of the program. Whites are asked to pretend they are black, straights part the part of gays. Insults and catcalls are supposed to sensitize the whites and reveal that they are living lives of unearned privilege in a system based on oppression. White guilt, the erosion of traditional values and a strong emphasis on identity politics are the conventional results sought in these exercises. In Blue Eyed, a filmed racism awareness workshop used at many orientations, white students, in the words of Alan Charles Kors, cofounder of FIRE, “are abused, ridiculed, made to fail, and taught helpless passivity to that they can identity with a person of color for a day.”

According to a July 16th report by Peter Schmidt in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Intergroup Dialogue deliberately stirs up conflict to expose students to different perspectives. The oppressiveness of American society is taken for granted in these programs and the “web of oppression” is one common exercise. Twelve to eighteen students from two or more identity groups take turns holding a web of string draped with labels that bear racist or sexist jokes or other statement “intended to spark discussions of power and discrimination.” “Talking about these topics can blow up if you don’t do it right,” said Patricia Gurin, professor emerita of psychology and women’s studies at the University of Michigan.

Gurin wrote the report on the educational benefits of diversity, seized on by Justice Sandra O’Connor, that tipped the Supreme Court toward accepting racial preferences in admissions at the University of Michigan law school. Her presence is a major figure in the Intergroup Dialogue movement shows that the program has the function of further justifying preferences.

Signs of resistance have appeared. Some students refused to be pigeon-holed in racial and ethnic categories, and are excluded from the program. And the National Association of Scholars has spoken out in opposition. Peter Wood, executive director of NAS said Intergroup Dialogue program is “overtly political” means of trying to indoctrinate students to see oppression all around them. (Since the Chronicle did not put Intergroup Dialogue in quotes or capital letters, it made Wood sound like a crank condemning all dialogue—one of the advantages of using a gassy euphemism for a pseudo-therapeutic oppression exercise.)

A nine-college collaborative is pushing Intergroup Dialogue—the University of Michigan, Arizona State, Occidental, Syracuse University, the University of Maryland, the University of Texas, the University of Washington, the University of Massachusetts and the University of California at San Diego.

Indoctrination In Writing Class

As Charlotte Allen points out here, required summer reading for college freshmen is often highly politicized. That goes double for freshmen introductory writing courses and textbooks. Teaching composition to new students ought to be an ideology-free effort, but for many years on many campuses it hasn’t been.

For example, take Ways of Reading: an Anthology for Writers, compiled by David Bartholomae and Anthony Petrosky of the University of Pittsburgh and first published in 1987. In its various editions (the eighth appeared this year), Ways has served up a steady diet of post-modernism, critical theory, post-colonial studies, identity politics, post structuralism, Marxism, hard-line feminism and other isms of the academic left. Featured authors have included Edward Said, Paolo Freire, Susan Bordo, Michel Foucault, Adrienne Rich, Stanley Fish and Patricia Williams.

Here and there, a mainstream writer appears: Virginia Woolf , Joyce Carol Oates and James Baldwin (all three gone in the current edition) as well as Walker Percy, who has survived several purges. But the ideological component is overwhelming, and meant to be. Ways of Reading is an immersion course for unsuspecting freshmen into the discourse and values of the academic far left. The basic message is: this is the way things are on this campus, so get used to it.

The essays are long and run from dense to nearly impenetrable. How freshmen, many of whom write poorly and need remedial help, are supposed to cope with this difficult, in-your-face anthology is obscure.

Assessments of the book are hard to find. In 2004, a freshman wrote to Amazon, “The book is basically a leftist handbook meant to tell the ‘proper opinion’ on every issue.” Presumably many professors adopt the book because it reflects their values and legitimates “transformative teaching” (indoctrination). Tom Kerr, writing in 2001 as an assistant professor at Ithaca College, saw the text “as a way not only of reading but also of proselytizing and subverting the mind-numbing, consumer/capitalist/fascist/sexist/racist/classist ideologies that surrounded us in the form of American mythologies and mass culture.” Kerr approvingly called the book “a kind of postmodern tough love,” “a cultural war machine” and “a multicultural boot camp.” (Not much emphasis here on teaching freshmen how to write.) Still , he thought the book’s negatives outweighed the positives. “For many in its highly diverse audience,” he wrote Ways of Reading is apt to yield more dutiful conformity than critical creativity and, as likely as not, leave the audience dumbfounded.” More importantly, imposing a one-sided ideology on a writing class is remarkably contemptuous of the students involved. Call it intellectual waterboarding.

Delaware Indoctrinators: They Just Won’t Stop

Substantial opposition to the proposed new version of the University of Delaware indoctrination program turned up at Monday’s meeting of the faculty senate. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the senate will take up the issue again next week and the indoctrinators may still win.

Professor Jan Blits of the Delaware affiliate of the National Association of Scholars writes: “Things went much better than I had expected. The discussion will be continued next Monday. Most of the people who spoke (and there was a large number) were on our side. Students were very helpful. They will return next week. Everything seemed to fall into place. The odds are still against us, but not nearly as long as I originally thought.”

Both students and faculty spoke with some passion against the Residential Life proposal. Both argued vehemently that the concept of “sustainability” running through the voluminous ResLife prose has little to do with the environment and a great deal to so with imposing political dogmas.

A genuine howler came from Professor Matt Robinson, chairman of the faculty senate student life committee who presented the ResLife plan. “The concept of sustainability, that’s only speaking in terms of (the) environmental,” he said. Apparently he is not familiar with the
ResLife program’s listed goals for 2008-200. In these goals, no environmental concern is mentioned; everything revolves around the social plan behind the “sustainability” codeword -changing the beliefs and attitudes of students.

Adam Kissel of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) wrote a Monday open letter to the university faculty, saying “I strongly believe that ResLife is attempting to use the faculty to restore its highly politicized and unabashedly coercive ‘sustainability’ curriculum. It is intended to be indoctrination into an ideology. The proposal offers on meager, halting respect for the private conscience of UD students.” Kissel, a graduate of the University of Delaware, wrote that the ResLife officials took every opportunity – one-on-one sessions, bulletin boards, parties, etc. – to pressure students.

Kissel reports ResLife, which removed some potentially embarrassing material from its site last fall, has now removed yet another document. In the missing document, a diversity official under the plan is held responsible for “resource development” covering oppression, prejudice reduction, heterosexism, ageism, racism, HIV/AIDS awareness and “multicultural jeopardy,” whatever that is.

Alien Creature Not Yet Dead

The creators of the notorious indoctrination program at the University of Delaware are back with a new version of their astonishingly coercive plan. Call it Indoctrination II. This time around, they pose as respectful and hovering parental substitutes, promising to do something about student homesickness, offering helpful advice on how to study for final exams, sponsoring video game tournaments and even planning a show-and-tell day (Residents will be asked to bring one of their favorite material possessions to floor meeting and will have the opportunity to discuss what it means to them…). The idea that students might prefer to be left alone in their dorms, not regimented into a pseudo-educational program run by residential assistants and assorted bureaucrats (with no input from faculty) does not seem to occur to the busy indoctrinators.

In the original residential life program, attendance was mandatory, with penalties for missing a training session made clear, though the bureaucrats later claimed that the program had been voluntary all along. Now, with niceness as its watchword, the office of residential life says “Students will not face penalties, perceived or real, for failing to engage in residential activities and programs.” The proposed new program, which will be accepted or rejected by the faculty senate on May 5th, seems very much like the old one, with cosmetic changes to make it more palatable. The old one frankly pressured students into accepting the values that the university wanted them to have. (Sample: “students will recognize the benefits of dismantling systems of oppression.”) The new version is a bit more subtle and vague enough to deflect some criticism (“Exploring concepts of citizenship is a meaningless activity in the residence halls in the absence of solid strategies for the development of residential communities.”) The topic “Gay Marriage & Civil Unions” was changed to “How do you define love?”

Heavy emphasis is still placed on “sustainability,” the deliberately vague term that masks a liberal-to-radical cultural and social program that the residential life officials clearly believe should be accepted in toto by students. Adam Kissel, who analyzes the Delaware program for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) does not believe the new program will be open or optional. He writes: “Simply calling the indoctrination ‘optional’ does not absolve ResLife (and ultimately UD and its faculty) of responsibility for the coercive pressure on students to conform to a highly specific set of view on a wide variety of social and political issues. ResLife can no longer be trusted on such matters.” The Delaware Association of Scholars has weighed in too, arguing that the program usurps the faculty’s historic prerogative to oversee education at the university. A statement by the association called the new version “little more than a re-tread” of the old one. “The proposed program still tries to change students’ ‘thoughts, values, beliefs and actions,’ while focusing on ‘student learning outcomes.’ (It) simply hides the original program’s intent in different language. Old program, new words.”

Indoctrinate U At The Manhattan Institute

Last night the Manhattan Institute sponsored a screening of Evan Coyne Maloney’s brilliant documentary, Indoctrinate U. Some 400-500 people attended, laughing in all the right places. (It’s hard to explain why a film about campus repression is so funny, but it is.)

Not one campus administrator (on or off camera) even tries to answer any of Maloney’s questions about campus policy. Instead the normal reaction from a normal university bureaucrat is to call the cops. The lesson here, a familiar one to those who follow the issue, is that the people who run the universities are not willing to defend in public what they do in private. Instead, they are deeply affronted and want the ever-polite Maloney carted away for asking questions.

Indoctrinate U undercuts the usual reaction to complaints about campus repression–that anti-PC commentary relies solely on a few endlessly recycled anecdotes. Not so. Maloney makes clear that censorship and indoctrination run from coast to coast, from public to Catholic colleges, from elite universities like Yale to California’s Foothill College.

One memorable tale is the saga of Republican student Steve Hinkle, who was subject to vast pressure and abuse for trying to post, in a Cal Polytechnic multicultural center, a flier announcing a speech by black conservative C. Mason Weaver, author of It’s OK to Leave the Plantation. Maloney is too kind to mention the president of Cal Poly who presided over the mess that cost taxpayers $40,000 in a prolonged effort to punish Hinkle, but his name is Warren Baker, co-winner of my 2003 Sheldon award given annually to the worst college president in America.

A week ago, Indoctrinate U. went on sale as a DVD. It’s available from the Indoctrinate U website for $21.99.

More Delawares?

The National Association of Scholars has a question: “How many Delawares are there?” The reference is to the indoctrination scandal at the University of Delaware, which is very likely not an isolated case. NAS executive director Peter Wood has announced an investigation to see whether Delaware’s “education program” in student residence halls (in plain English ” mandatory ideological brainwashing”) is happening at other colleges and universities around the country.

Delaware’s Program has been held up as a model for other campuses, and Wood notes that one of the key advisers who helped Delaware devise its program has had contacts with numerous other universities, ostensibly to provide similar advice. NAS will provide both short and long postings on its site as evidence comes in and will work toward a thorough systematic study.

NAS will also keep its focus on the University of Delaware, which has suspended but not canceled its offensive program. Peter Wood says: “We will know the University is serious about mending its ways when it replaces the administrators who created and condoned this debacle.” High on the NAS list of concerns is Delaware’s vice president Michael Gilbert who defended the indoctrination as fully in accord with the university’s mission “to cultivate both learning and the free exchange of ideas,” a truly Orwellian assessment.

The NAS investigation will be conducted by Tom Wood of the California Association of Scholars (no relation to Peter Wood). Tom Wood says the convergence of trends and views that gave birth to the Delaware program are “widespread, indeed almost normative” on many other campuses. He lists four such trends: 1) the view that minorities suffer from institutional or systemic racism, 2) many administrators now feel it is part of their duties to combat racism, 3) the view that education must be transformational for students, which opens the door to imposing views that the university wants to have embraced, and 4) the view that instruction must be integrated into dorm life as well as classroom life in a “total immersion” effort.

Tom Wood says: “All four components of this constellation were present at the University of Delaware, and each contributed to the fiasco of that university’s facilitation training program.” He asks for help: “If you are concerned about a similar program or campus that may be taking a walk on the wild side, kindly let us know.”

We suggest reports from campuses that supply officials to the American College Personnel Association’s commission for housing and residential life. That’s an umbrella group that promotes residence hall programs. It is chaired by Kathleen Kerr of the University of Delaware, a central figure in that university’s scandal. A list of ACPA officials and their institutions can be found here. Other groups in the field are the Association of College and University Housing Officers International and the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators.

Tom Wood can be contacted at nasonweb@nas.org
Peter Wood can be contacted at pwood@nas.org

J-School Propaganda

Nestled away in the heart of one of the most conservative Midwestern states is a publicly funded university radically at odds with its surroundings.

Universities are in theory, marketplaces for ideas and ideologies; centers for free expression as well as vigorous and informed debate; refuges for free and independent thought. But if the taxpayers who help fund this institution heard what certain professors in its school of journalism are teaching students, they might ask for their money back. To some extent, this is no surprise. Most universities and their journalism schools are notoriously left leaning in nature. However, the sheer ferocity of the indoctrination is astonishing. I know first hand. I spent much of the past year at this institution.

It was not a surprise that as a conservative, I was ideologically alone in journalism school. However, it did not seem like a gigantic leap to think that no matter their leanings, professors would keep their politics out of the curriculum and fellow students would be open to and accepting of dissenting voices.


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Brainwashing 101

More on indoctrination at the University Of Delaware.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) sent Patrick Harker, the president of the University, a voluminous set of papers on how their residence life program was run. “Hundreds of pages, without exception, are about how to indoctrinate students,” school of education professor Jan Blits told the campus student paper, the Review. “What’s surprising is how open they are about it.” Blits acquired the papers from the residence life program by simply asking for them. Kathleen Kerr, the director of residential life for the university “was so proud of the program she just handed them over,” he said. Blits, head of the university’s chapter of the National Association of Scholars, and another professor at the school of education, Linda Gottfredson, have been cooperating with FIRE to get the story out. Gottfredson said: “Residential Life has the whole person and they try to change beliefs – the heart and soul of a person – which is exactly what totalitarian institutions do. This is a national issue and FIRE is not finished.”

Kerr is currently chair of the American College Personnel Association’s commission for housing and residential life. ACPA’s site lists 28 residential life officers from colleges and universities across the country, including the University of Texas, Oberlin, the University of Maryland, Rutgers, Brandeis and Michigan State, though it is not clear that these institutions are engaged in any indoctrination. The national group’s ethical code says that “respecting the rights of persons to hold different perspectives” is essential.

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Indoctrination At Delaware

Many universities try to indoctrinate students, but the all-time champion in this category is surely the University of Delaware. With no guile at all the university has laid out a brutally specific program for “treatment” of incorrect attitudes of the 7,000 students in its residence halls. The program is close enough to North Korean brainwashing that students and professors have been making “made in North Korea” jokes about the plan. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has called for the program to be dismantled.

Residential assistants charged with imposing the “treatments” have undergone intensive training from the university. The training makes clear that white people are to be considered racists – at least those who have not yet undergone training and confessed their racism. The RAs have been taught that a “racist is one who is both privileged and socialized on the basis of race by a white supremacist (racist) system. The term applies to all white people (i.e., people of European descent) living in the United States, regardless of class, gender, religion, culture, or sexuality.”

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