After arriving in the United States with a diploma from Leningrad University (a university with such alumni as Vladimir Lenin, Ayn Rand and President Vladimir Putin), I realized that I had the extremely unmarketable skills of a Marxist-Leninist philosophy professor. Moreover, English was not my strong suit. So I became a staff writer for a Russian newspaper in San Francisco and free-lanced for émigré publications in New York and Los Angeles. Eventually, I decided “To bring my English to the level of my Russian" (as the Russian-born American novelist Vladimir Nabokov quipped) and enrolled at San Francisco State University. I majored in creative writing.
I couldn’t believe what I found.
Imagine the utter amazement of a refugee from a Communist country, where Marxism was forced on all students, now having to sink in a puddle of socialist propaganda again -- but this time in the middle of an American university!
Imagine the astonishment of a person who, after fighting the KGB and being a refusenik, finally comes so close to her dream of receiving a real education instead of indoctrination, only to find herself, once again, in the middle of a socialist brainwashing machine -- but this time in San Francisco.
Unfortunately, at San Francisco State University, meeting with members of the monolithic left-wing faculty, who are still soaked in the delirium of the Marxist-Socialist utopia, is an everyday necessity for the average student.
Very few SFSU faculty members separate their political platforms from the professor's podium. When a professor in the Philosophy department teaches Marxism with the zealotry of a new convert, it is totally understandable; but when a Linguistics professor pushes socialist ideas instead of explaining sentence structure, or a Geography professor slaps slogans of the extreme left-wing organization International ANSWER on her office door (paid for by taxpayers with differing political views), it becomes another matter altogether.
Obviously, being busy with teaching and promoting world change, these professors have overlooked the well-known fact that Marxist ideology failed the test in every country where it was applied. Completely unchastened by the failure of socialism, these individuals still harbor the dream of a Union of American Socialist Republics. It is not my duty to enlighten them about the events of modern history or to correct their outdated '60s-era radical political views. But unfortunately, their obsession affects their job performance and ruins education systems all across the county.
These academics assume that all the students have the same anti-American and anti-Bush opinions they uniformly hold. So instead of the material listed in the syllabus, they present soliloquies about American imperialism.
Last summer, one of my professors started every class with Orwellian "Five-Minute Hate" condemnations of President Bush. The instructor did not understand how ridiculous he looked: a 50-year-old guy in sandals and a worn-out jacket with hanging threads, who didn't make it to an Ivy League university, giving hysterical speeches calling President Bush "a moron" and "a good for nothing idiot."
This confused me. Was the professor referring to the George W. Bush who was elected governor of Texas and then the president of the richest and most powerful country in the world? Was he referring to the George W. Bush who graduated with a B.A. from Yale and an M.B.A. from Harvard, who made $14 million in the baseball business, who was a military pilot and acted with courage and nobility as a leader during one of the worst moments of American history on September 11?
"What is this?" I asked myself.
At least this professor can be credited for giving me my well-deserved grade of C. Another professor, who hated President Bush because he, like Bush, also graduated from Yale, gave me an F with a note saying that I would never overcome the language barrier.
I couldn’t help reflecting that, at the same age as Bush, this professor had achieved little more than a few divorces and five children spread all over the country -- information that he poured on us before even learning our names, which, by the way, he never managed to do.
Considering how irritated he was by my essay, which ridiculed his leftist views, this professor was not conducting himself in a fair and unbiased manner. Obviously, I was not the only student who complained about my grade. As a result, the English department quickly changed my grade of F to "no credit." The following semester, I repeated the same class with a famously tough teacher, receiving a B+ and many compliments on my writing. It seems that I had overcome my allegedly insurmountable “language barrier” after all.
I noticed a recurring pattern in SFSU's anti-American professors: the degree to which a professor condemned American “imperialism” was usually in direct proportion to his lack of personal hygiene and steady decline in personal appearance.
I was especially fascinated by one middle-aged guy who had alcoholism written all over his face, in bathhouse flip-flops revealing dirty overgrown toenails, and with his belongings stuffed in a plastic grocery bag. If I hadn't seen him behind the teacher's desk, I would have mistaken him for one of San Francisco's deranged homeless, lost on the campus having wandered from the neighboring shower program. Instead of his subject, African Studies, he was teaching that America was rich only because it dishonestly made money on rebuilding Europe after WWII. If not for that lucky strike, he argued, this country would be even more terrible than it is now. He never had notes or a clear structure for his lectures; he just improvised on his well-worn, beloved topic of anti-Americanism.
Over time I found the inverse proportion worked as well: the more well-kept and professional the teacher was, and the harder he worked, the less inclined he was to get himself into the mess of quasi-political discussions instead of the work he was paid to do: teach.
One female instructor, who had no idea how to fill the three hours of class, used to spend 40 minutes taking attendance and often started her lectures with the sentence, "In this country. . . ." Instead of discussing literature, she would consistently praise socialism and what she considered to be the Soviet workers’ paradise. Only my cobra-like gaze and "rude" remarks made her choke on her words. For this offence, I received a D, even though my essays were so good that she told me she didn't believe I was the one who wrote them.
Immediately before the war in Iraq, I watched two different kinds of professors at SFSU: both of them, naturally, antiwar. Some of them did their work with professional integrity even though their hearts were on the antiwar side, trusting students to make their own political decisions. Some others not only served as ideologues to the anti-American mob organized under their patronage, but also agitated and incited students to leave classes for antiwar demonstrations.
This pointed out the major difference between my education in the Soviet Union and my education at SFSU. When I wanted to transfer credits from my Leningrad University degree to SFSU, I was told by the International Admissions Office that it couldn't be done, because as a professor of Marxist-Leninist philosophy, I had only gone through "indoctrination." I find this fascinating, because the difference between Leningrad University and SFSU is that my professors in Leningrad were forced to teach socialist propaganda for fear of brutal punishment; here a bunch of aged hippies, who put students through forced indoctrination instead of academic work, were materially rewarded for their radical activism. Not only am I as amazed as Alice in the Socialist Wonderland of San Francisco State University, but I feel as though I need to attend a third university to receive a real education. At SFSU, I've merely had my second Marxist indoctrination.