General Introduction to the "Indoctrination Studies" Section
By the time I made my university rounds, the refusal to hire conservative academics had led to a vanishing presence of conservative faculty members in many liberal arts disciplines. In the fields of sociology and anthropology, for example, the ratio of leftwing professors to conservatives was now approximately thirty-to-one. These two fields themselves had been largely transformed into exercises in leftwing ideology and bore little resemblance to scholarly inquiry. In these fields particularly, but in many others that still bore some resemblance to traditional academic pursuits there was a disturbing absence in university courses of assigned texts that did not validate or amplify with the professor’s ideological point of view. The net effect was to deny students access to alternative – and particularly -- conservative ideas that would challenge the course assumptions. The curriculum was thus transformed into a program of indoctrination.
The active suppression of conservative ideas extended to extra-curricular speaking and activities programs which supported almost exclusively leftwing viewpoints, and to required freshman reading programs, which assigned only leftwing texts, and to supplemental course offerings – the “house” program at Duke University is a striking example -- where professors voluntarily provided students with training sessions in Marxism and other radical creeds under the guise of enriching their academic “education.”
Another form of ideological suppression conducted by faculty ideologues was the abusive treatment of conservative ideas and conservative students in the classroom itself. A not untypical example of such behavior was reported by Penn State student Kelly Keehan in testimony submitted to the Pennsylvania Select Committee on Academic Freedom in Higher Education. This Committee conducted a series of hearings from September 2005 through June 2006 on the state of academic freedom in Pennsylvania’s public colleges and universities:
“I’m taking a Women Studies class because I thought it’d be a good class to take. Yesterday I was in class and people were giving presentations about women’s issues and one group decided to do abortion. The next thing I know, we’re spending the whole period learning about how abortion should be completely legal and that it’s a good thing for society to abort babies and that people need to learn how to say the word “abortion” because women should be proud of the fact that they’ve had one. The professor made us start chanting “abortion, abortion,” and to be honest, I started to cry. There was no place in that class for my pro-life opinion.”
When this and hundreds of similar cases were brought to light, far from generating an appropriate concern among academic authorities, the disclosure inspired a torrent of abuse from faculty spokesmen. These spokesmen were affiliated with the American Association of University Professors and assorted professional groups, all of which were firmly in control of the political left. The organizations dencounced the academic freedom hearings in Pennsylvania as a “McCarthy witch-hunt.” AAUP member Ellen Schrecker even wrote a feature article for The Chronicle of Higher Education calling this author and other proponents of intellectual diversity and educational reform “Worse Than McCarthy.” Students who complained about abusive treatment were referred to as snitches and compared to Mao’s “red guards” who had harassed teachers during China’s “Cultural Revolution.” Student testimonies similar to Kelly Keehan’s were challenged as “merely anecdotal” and the veracity of those who reported them were put under a cloud of suspicion.
The claims themselves– that leftists dominated the liberal arts curriculum, that conservatives were discriminated against because they were conservative -- were obvious and really needed no substantiation to anyone familiar with a university campus. Yet the claims were denied and those who raised them discredited, and only a handful of honorable exceptions stepped forward to challenge the denials. One of these is Alan Wolfe, a well-known academic liberal who recently wrote in The New York Times, “I’ve taught in at least two universities known for their leftism, and I know full well that those who teach at them strenuously oppose hiring conservatives and treat students who venerate the military, for example, as misguided…Left-wing domination of academia is an obvious fact…”
The campaign of stone-walling and vituperation with which the academic left greeted the academic freedom campaign forced its supporters to research questions whose answers should have been self-evident. The irony was that these defensive tactics produced, along with the documentation, a far greater exposure of the problems themselves.
The academic freedom campaign had begun with a simple observation – that conservative professors were a dwindling presence on liberal arts faculties. Academics who described their politics as “liberal” could have been expected to show some concern about this threat to academic pluralism and to offer constructive proposals as to how to remedy it. After all, liberals are sponsors of the idea that intellectual pluralism is central to a democratic education. Instead, the academic community turned met this fact with denial. As Elizabeth Hoffman, president of the University of Colorado told me in the fall of 2003 when I raised the issue, “we have no problem here.”
Since not even the obvious was going to be conceded, we devised a study whose purpose was to establish a prima facie case for our claim. We conducted a study of faculty members at 32 elite universities using party registrations to demonstrate that there was indeed an overwhelming disparity in the presence of Democrat-affiliated professors to Republicans in academic classrooms. We conceded at the outset that the methodology was not sophisticated, but it served our purpose of raising the issue.
The response of the academic left, however, was to dig in its heels, dismissing our results and claiming – falsely – that we wanted universities to hire professors based on their party registrations. This resistance – again to the obvious -- triggered a new round of studies, this time by social scientists using sophisticated methodologies to analyze the data. The studies by Daniel Klein, Stanley Rothman Robert Lichter and others confirmed our results, while indicating that the situation was probably even worse than we had described.
Since the disparity of perspectives among university faculty could no longer be reasonably denied, the opposition resorted to a second line of defense. They argued first that the disparity didn’t really matter and, second, that it was not caused by political discrimination but by the fact that conservatives were greedy, religious and dumb, and either failed to seek academic jobs or were not qualified to be hired for them.
This little history provides a necessary introduction to the series of studies of indoctrination in the academic curriculum that follows. It is a well-known principle of group psychology holds that when a room is filled with like-minded people the center of the room tends to move towards the extreme. This has been the case in university liberal arts departments for nearly thirty years. Without an in-house check on faculty zealots, the intellectual dialogue that should be the focus of a liberal arts curriculum has been steadily transformed in many academic departments into a narrowly conceived program of ideological indoctrination. Extremism has flourished to such a degree in the academic greenhouse that we now have an association of “Scholars for Truth” who are dedicated to the proposition that Dick Cheney blew up the World Trade Center on 9/11.
In launching the effort to address the problem of curricular indoctrination, I am again forced to rely on a methodology that is far from ideal. But once again this exercise serves the purpose of making a prima facie case. I am confident that fair-minded readers of this series will see that extensive ideological indoctrination is taking place in university classrooms across the country and at every institutional level.
The methodology that we have used is limited by the resources available to us. Specifically it is dictated by the lack of access that is available to us as university outsiders and personae non grata as a consequence of our previous efforts. In these circumstances we were unable to interview faculty or access some reading lists and syllabi. In other words, we were restricted in our research to faculty-provided course descriptions, syllabi and reading lists that are available to the general public. Fortunately, this source provided sufficient data to make the case.
In these studies, we have made no attempt to be comprehensive, identifying every course that qualifies as ideological indoctrination. Our intent was to demonstrate the existence of a significant problem, which should be a matter of concern to every member of the academic community who cares about the integrity of our educational system and the future of our democracy.
It is my hope that the publication of these studies will stimulate other researchers, who will pursue these issues with better resources at their command.
The academic standard we have adopted to measure what is an appropriate curriculum is provided in a classic statement by the longtime president of the University of California, Berkeley, Robert Gordon Sproul. This clause was inserted into the Berkeley academic freedom code in 1934 and remained there for 70 years until it was removed by radicals in the Berkeley Faculty Senate in July 2003:
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. Where it becomes necessary in performing this function of a university, to consider political, social, or sectarian movements, they are dissected and examined, not taught, and the conclusion left, with no tipping of the scales, to the logic of the facts….Essentially the freedom of a university is the freedom of competent persons in the classroom. In order to protect this freedom, the University assumed the right to prevent exploitation of its prestige by unqualified persons or by those who would use it as a platform for propaganda.
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