When the Select Committee on Academic Freedom was created by the Pennsylvania Legislature in 2005, the legislators observed,“Academic freedom is likely to thrive in an environment of intellectual diversity….” Temple University, which is one of the three major public institutions of higher learning in the state, does not include a declaration like this among its academic policies and its academic programs regularly violate the principle.
For instance, Temple provides a “writing-intensive two course sequence” called “Intellectual Heritage” which is required of all Temple students and which includes a focus on Enlightenment, Romantic and Revolutionary Thinkers. The Revolutionary Thinkers include Darwin, Marx and Freud, but not Adam Smith whose revolutionary ideas underpin the society in which Temple students live. Professors involved in the course post guides for students on a department webpage called “Faculty Perspectives on Marx.”1 Most of the faculty guides provided, however, are explications of Marx’s writings without critical comment. In all, there are about 30 sample exam and study questions provided which relate to Marx. Every one, without exception, prompts students to explain what Marx said in the way you would expect students to explain the theories of Isaac Newton, whose hypotheses were confirmed by real world experiments. Since all Marxist experiments have failed one might expect some mention of this fact. But one would be disappointed if one did.
Here is a sample guideline: “Marx presents an astute understanding and critique of Capitalism. Is it convincing?” The professorial question does not say, “Marx analyzed capitalism. Is his analysis convincing?” Instead, the student is told what to think: Marx wrote a wise critique of capitalism. And then asked: Are you convinced? What if you’re not convinced, and suppose you encountered the question on an exam. Are you going to contradict your professor and risk a possible repercussion to your grade? This is not education; it is indoctrination.
As noted, not one of the faculty-provided guide questions asks students to consider that all economies run by Marxists have failed – and have failed catastrophically. Marxist regimes have caused the economic impoverishment of billions of people. They have produced man-made famines and human suffering on an unprecedented scale. Yet, to judge from the available evidence, not one professor contributing to the Temple Intellectual Heritage Department bothered to note this historical fact.
In fact, the chairman of the Political Science Department, who has provided an extensive study guide for students on the Intellectual Heritage Department website, explicitly denies that the acts committed in the name of Marx have anything to do with Marx or his ideas. “The collapse of authoritarian communism,” he writes, “means the death of Marxist-Leninism [which] has little to do with classical Marxism.” This would be news to Vladimir Lenin. Nonetheless, the professor raises a legitimate point: Marx thought socialism would occur in developed capitalist societies. But Marx also wrote that backward Russia might be the first country to implement his ideas. The point is that these are controversial issues, and yet what the Temple faculty has done – as reflected on this website -- is to remove the controversy from the curriculum and present a one-sided view of Marx, which fails to make students aware that there are very different alternative views.
The faculty treatments of Marx on the Intellectual Heritage Department website lack the basic apparatus of academic inquiry. No critical literature on Marx and Marxism is offered. There is no confrontation with the most serious question that a thinker like Marx poses, since his ideas have had a vast and vastly destructive impact on the history of mankind, namely: Did these ideas lead directly to the murder of 100 million human beings and the poverty of billions? Judging from the Intellectual Heritage webpages, Temple students are not even aware that this question needs to be asked.
To be fair, Professor Stephen Zelnick, who teaches this course, has provided a guide which indicates how capitalist societies have responded to Marx’s challenge in a way that reflects positively on their flexibility, and negatively on Marx’s analysis.2 Professor Marc Stier has also provided a guide-page called “Failure of Revolutions” which faces the fact that Marx’s predictions about revolution have been refuted by history. But this is the way Professor Stier sets up his discussion and defines how it will proceed:3 “We can understand the failure of a revolution to occur as Marx predicted in Marx’s terms. The conditions that Marx expected to bring about a revolution did not arise. And we can give a powerful social class based explanation of the failure of those conditions to arise.” In other words, even though Marx was wrong, he was right, and we can all be Marxists – or neo-Marxists – now.
An intellectually defensible discussion of Marxism, one suited to an academic classroom, might include the following question, “If Marx failed to foresee the conditions he predicted would end capitalism correctly, might not his entire theory of capitalism be false, including the ‘powerful social class based explanations’ of capitalism he offered?” One explanation for the missing question lies in the guideline provided by the Political Science Department chairman on this website. “One of the main problems in studying Karl Marx,” he explains, “is that most contemporary theorists interpret Marx in their way -- the point is to interpret Marx in his way.” In other words, students are to approach Marx not as critics of Marx but as students of Marx.
The Intellectual Heritage program is not the only Temple sequence that fails to observe basic academic guidelines. The First-Year Writing Program at Temple describes itself as having been designed “to provide Temple students with a comprehensive experience of writing to learn and learning to write.” Because it is intended as a course to teach students the basics of English composition it is provided by the English Department. The one-year course is covered by “English 40” and “English 50” and is taught mainly by graduate students in English whose professional expertise is the English language and literature.
However, the First-Year Writing Program also has an ideological agenda that has nothing to do with expertise in the English language. This is the “writing to learn” part of the course. Its goal is to indoctrinate students in radical views on gender, and to a lesser extent on race. Nor is this agenda concealed from Temple administrators or the students themselves. The First-Year Writing Program handbook clearly states: “English 40 focuses on writing within a single theme (gender) and disciplinary approach.” (English 50 adds a research component to the theory provided in English 40). In fact a few sections, called English 40R, have an explicitly racial theme, which fulfills a university requirement that all Temple students take a course in race.
The approved required texts for the First-Year Writing program are ideological texts whose agenda is to articulate and defend the views on gender held by radicals in general and by radical feminists and race theorists in particular, even though some allowance is made for other views.4
From the perspective of academic freedom, there are two things strikingly wrong with this course, which is required of all Temple students. The first is that it is unprofessional. English teachers are not experts in the sociology of gender or race. The official course handbook for the English composition sequence candidly acknowledges the complexity of its subject: “We will be using gender [and gender roles in American culture]…because it is both relatively simple (everybody has one) and extremely complex in terms of how gender impacts people’s lives and identities, feelings, and behaviors.” But if this is an extremely complex subject, why is it being taught by amateurs who have no professional training in the subject, and why do the readings overwhelmingly reflect one side of what is a controversial issue? If the task is to teach students how to write, the texts should be composed of writers who know how to write, not writers picked for their political views on race and gender.
Another university-wide program administered by Temple, which fails to meet the most basic test of intellectual diversity and academic professionalism, is the Temple University summer reading program, for all incoming freshmen.5 Freshman are assigned a text to read over the summer which is then discussed in class in the fall semester, often with the author being invited to campus. The program was created in 2002 and three of the four texts which Temple has required its freshmen to read since then have represented radical leftwing viewpoints, while the fourth, fits fairly comfortably a leftwing frame of reference. In other words, the principle of intellectual diversity has again been ignored.
In 2002, for example, Temple’s required summer reading book was Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser. The author was invited and paid a substantial fee to speak to students on campus. Fast Food Nation is an assault on the fast-food industry by a leftwing ideologue at war with the free market system. Fast Food Nation was selected by the London Guardian -- a well-known left-wing newspaper -- as one of the top ten “anti-capitalist books.”6 The principles of academic freedom of course do not preclude the inclusion of anti-capitalist books on student reading lists. What they do preclude is force-feeding students one-side of a controversial issue as though it were the only one.
The Temple required book for 2003 was Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loewen, who was also invited to Temple to speak and was part of a panel sponsored by the history and social studies and education departments. 7 This book is a radical diatribe against the United States. According to Loewen, the lies teachers told him result from facts being “manipulated by elite white male capitalists who orchestrate how history is written.” A typical Loewen chapter is called “1493: The True Importance of Christopher Columbus.” Loewen summarizes the achievement of Columbus in these words: “Christopher Columbus introduced two phenomena that revolutionized race relations and transformed the modern world: the taking of land, wealth, and labor from indigenous peoples, leading to their near extermination, and the transatlantic slave trade, which created a racial underclass.”
Again, the problem is not assigning a book, even one as historically wrong-headed (Columbus did not originate the practice of conquering lands and the destruction of indigenous peoples for example – ask the Greeks who were victims of the ancient Persians) or as malicious as this one. The problem is that it is the only book that Temple freshmen were given that year with the imprimatur of the institution itself – in other words, that no texts with alternative viewpoints are required.
The Temple required book for the following year, 2004 was Caucasia, a novel by Danzy Senna and was part of an official theme for the 2004 freshman year titled “Color and Character.” Senna was invited to campus and forty professors took part in leading small discussion groups with freshmen during the first three weeks of the semester.8
Caucasia is a narrative told from the viewpoint of a girl name Birdie in the 1970’s who is dealing with the racial issues of the time, but again from a narrowly leftwing perspective. The book’s political agendas are carried by the main characters. Birdie’s mother is an anti-capitalist radical on the run from the F.B.I., and her father is a “Black Power” intellectual. A main character says, “We got to raise our children to know how to fight. There’s a war going on…we got pigs in the White House, and pigs patrolling the streets.” (page 15). Birdie’s Mother describes immigration authorities as “Fascist murderers, monsters,” (page 21) and laments television news for “Spreading lies about Castro.” (page 50). She justifies terror, praising the actions of a radical who blew up a police car, saying, “We live in disgrace. We slaughter our own and we slaughter people overseas who don’t think or look like us…and the only way to get people’s attention is to do something drastic.” (page 86) Birdie herself says, “My mother swore that I’d be the first child raised and educated free of racism, patriarchy, and capitalism.” (page 138)
The extremist views in this book parallel the leftwing ideas of the Loewen text of the previous year and the Schlosser text of the year before that. Caucasia is presented to all incoming freshmen with the imprimatur of Temple University and no text with an alternative viewpoint is provided.
The fourth in the chronological sequence of four Temple required freshman texts, which was assigned this year, is West of Kabul, East of New York by Tamim Ansary, who was also invited to speak on campus.9 Like Caucasia, this book is an autobiographical account of the writer’s experiences in a bi-racial family; his mother is Caucasian and his father is Afghani. This book is not an ideological text like the others, but neither is it a conservative text that would provide some intellectual diversity to this program.
It may be objected by some that the radical texts are merely the occasion for stimulating discussion. But certain facts mitigate against such a generous interpretation. If these books were meant to stimulate critical discussion, why aren’t critical questions about them formally included in the syllabus? Why aren’t critics of these books also invited to campus to stimulate such a discussion? At the same time, a number of scientific studies have shown that at schools like Temple, professors with a conservative or libertarian viewpoint are a vanishing breed. In some areas like sociology, anthropology and the humanities, fields whose representatives are likely to be included in these programs, the ratio of liberals to conservatives ranges from 10-1 to 30-1. Ratios like this are not conducive to stimulating discussions exploring diverse points of view.
In this connection, the testimony of Stephen Zelnick before the academic freedom hearings in Pennsylvania is instructive (Zelnick is a former Vice Provost of Temple University and former chairman of its English Department): “As director of two undergraduate programs, I have had many opportunities to sit in and watch instructors. I have sat in on more than a hundred different teachers' classes and seen excellent, indifferent, and miserable teaching... In these visits, I have rarely heard a kind word for the United States, for the riches of our marketplace, for the vast economic and creative opportunities made available for energetic and creative people (that is, for our students); for family life, for marriage, for love, or for religion.”
If a department at Temple taught exclusively from a “German perspective” that that Germans were a global community bound by blood and Germany was the center of world history what would be the reaction? Suppose that there were a German American Studies Department at Temple that had an introductory course required of all majors, which stated its teaching philosophy in these words:
As Aryan people, our strengths are found in the creation of communities. Whether these communities are on Broad and Erie [in Philadelphia], in Mesopotamia, on South Street or the classroom, we are building Aryan communities. Our energy, spirit and blood bond us as an Aryan community. As an Aryan community, during this course, we will engage many topics that will aid us in the further liberation of Aryan people. The goal, first and foremost, is to allow these experiences to contribute in our growth and development as Aryan people. The classroom is the community, the reading materials are our map, and Aryan consciousness is our guide. Let us continue the process of Aryan liberation!10
Of course, Temple has no German American Studies Department. The paragraph quoted is verbatim the stated “teaching philosophy” of the introductory course in “Afrikan American Studies” at Temple University.11 The statement actually reads: “We are building Afrikan communities…the reading materials are our map, and Afrikan consciousness is our guide. Let us continue the process of Afrikan liberation!”
This is the program of a political and racial movement (replete with the spelling of “African”), not the description of a course of academic study, which would necessarily include different and conflicting perspectives on Africa and on the descendants of Africans. Forging a blood community across continents and historical epochs is not an academic or scholarly enterprise and has no place in an institution of higher learning, particularly one funded by the taxpayers of Pennsylvania.
The Department of African American Studies at Temple has long been notorious for its ideological narrowness, its racism, and its lack of credible scholarship – all present from the moment it was conceived as a department. But it has always been protected by the Temple Administration, fearful of applying credible academic standards to this racial fiefdom. Several books have been written about the travesty of Temple’s African American Studies Department by eminent classical scholars from across the political spectrum. These books have demonstrated the fraudulent nature of its scholarship and of its central doctrine of “Afro-centricity,” which has been exposed as a racist idea based on made-up history. The most famous of these authorities, Mary Lefkowitz, the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities, emeritus, at Wellesley College, was instrumental in bringing women into the leadership of the American Philological Association, the professional association of classical scholars and ancient historians in the United States.
In her book Not Out of Africa, Lefkowitz characterizes “Afro-centricty” as the teaching of “myths disguised as history.” Professor Lefkowitz’s summary of these myths is as follows: “There is little or no historical substance to many of the Afro-centrists’ most striking claims about the ancient world. There is no evidence that Socrates, Hannibal, and Cleopatra had African ancestors. There is no archaeological data to support the notion that Egyptians migrated to Greece during the second millennium B.C. (or before that). There is no reason to think that Greek religious practices originated in Egypt…. Other assertions are not merely unscientific; they are false. Democritus could not have copied his philosophy from books stolen from Egypt by Anaxarchus, because he had died many years before Alexander's invasion [of Egypt]. Aristotle could not have stolen his philosophy from books in the library at Alexandria, because the library was not built until [fifty years] after his death. There never was such thing as an Egyptian Mystery System (which is a central part of Afro-centrist teaching).”
The curriculum of the African American Studies Department at Temple does not merely feature a course in Afro-centric theory. By its own account this Department is devoted to promulgating Afrocentric theory, its mythologies, falsehoods and racist ideas , and credentialing the next generation of professors to spread its cult to other schools. Three of the courses offered by the Department are: “Introduction to African American Studies;” “Dimensions of Racism;” and “Psychology of the African American Experience.” Professor Karanja Keita Carroll has taught each of these courses.
On the 2004 syllabus for his course “Introduction to African American Studies,” Carroll implores students to “continue the process of Afrikan liberation!” and acknowledges that the course will emphasize the conceptualization of “Afrikan American Studies within an Afrikan conceptual framework (ie. the Afrikan worldview) via the paradigm of Afrocentricity.”
For his course “Introduction to African American Studies,” Carroll requires students to read the book Introduction to Black Studies by Maulana Karenga. Karenga, a self-proclaimed “African socialist,” is the founder of the 1960’s militant black power organization United Slaves. He is also the creator of the African American holiday Kwanzaa and its underlying philosophy called Kawaida. According to Karenga, Kawaida, which is covered in the required text, borrows from “early Chinese and Cuban socialism,” with Kawaida practitioners believing that one's race “determines life conditions, life chances and self-understanding.” In the preface of the book Introduction to Black Studies, Karenga admits that the text is “self-consciously Afrocentric,” and “demands that Black Studies root itself in the African experience.”
On both his 2003 syllabus for “Psychology of the African American Experience” and his 2004 syllabus for “Dimensions of Racism,” Carroll begins with a quote from Afrocentric psychologist Amos N. Wilson, in which Wilson states:
I have to warn my students time and time again that when you enter my classes you are not going to be comfortable…I am here to make you suffer because, if you are in any class, particularly a social science class and you are comfortable, chances are that you are being lied to. It is in these classes that you must attain a confrontation with yourself, with reality and where you must attain a confrontation with the lying world that has created you in terms of who and what you are now. You must confront the nature of this beast called education, of which you are a part, and how it is going to transform you into a beast; how you then must become conscious of what it is doing to you, and against you, so that you may escape its planned destiny for you.
For his course “Dimensions of Racism,” Carroll requires students to read a book authored by Wilson, titled Falsification of Afrikan Consciousness: Eurocentric History, Psychiatry and the Politics of White Supremacy. The objective of the book is to expose, “the role Eurocentric history-writing plays in rationalizing European oppression of Afrikan peoples and in the falsification of Afrikan consciousness ... [and contends] that the alleged mental and behavioral maladaptiveness of oppressed Afrikan peoples is a political-economic necessity for the maintenance of White domination and imperialism.”
The individual most accredited with bringing Afrocentricity into both the public sphere and the classroom is Temple University professor Molefi Asante. An “African-American liberationist,” Asante served as Chair of the African American Studies Department from l984-1996, and remains a professor in the program. It’s been reported that Asante was at odds with his replacement, Joyce Ann Joyce, because she was not an Afrocentrist.
In his creation of the African American Studies graduate program at Temple, Asante acknowledges that it was his intention to specifically impart in the curriculum the theory of Afrocentricity. Asante has said:
Using the programs I had written for UCLA and SUNY I drafted a graduate program in African Amercan Studies to be submitted to the Graduate Committee of the College of Arts and Sciences. There already existed Masters programs at Cornell University, Ohio State University, UCLA, Yale, SUNY-Albany, and Atlanta University. What was different in my conception was the elevation of the Afrocentric paradigm as the instrument to guide programmatic development.
In her book Not Out of Africa, Mary Lefkowitz observed that Asante, in his heralding of Afrocentricity-proponent Cheikh Anta Diop, is calling for students to turn a deaf ear to any theory that is not grounded in Afrocentric tenets. Lefkowitz writes:
‘This is the age of Diop,’ Molefi Kete Asante assures us in Kemet, Afrocentricity, and Knowledge (1990). In Asante's view, Diop's achievement was to free people of African descent from their dependence on Eurocentric frames of reference, by arguing that ‘the objectivity of knowledge referred to by European scholars could not be separated from the consciousness of the social-cultural world and that Europeans brought that consciousness with them whenever they discussed Africa.’ Asante appears to be saying that no one need believe anything that any European says about Africa.
What follows is the syllabus for the graduate level course “Egyptian Language and Culture,” in which Asante seeks to address “the language and culture of ancient Kemet,” by advancing, “[a]n Afrocentric methodology applicable to an Africological interpretation of cosmological, epistemological, axiologicial and aesthetic phenomena…”
Egyptian Language and Culture Course Description
This is a graduate level discourse on the language and culture of ancient Kemet. Ancient Egyptian Language and Culture is not strictly a language course but rather an Afrocentric experience in ferreting out the interstices between language and action in a Nile Valley culture. Since we have an abundance of material, more written documents and scripts than ever produced by any ancient civilization, we are constrained by the generosity of the ancient Egyptians and must be selective in dealing with the corpus. Therefore, I have chosen to deal with selected trans-generational concepts that can be found in the Archaic as well as the Middle and New Kingdoms. This is not strictly a Middle Egyptian intensive although we will use Faulkner for some of our discussions. The work of Dr. Troy Allen on Egyptian Kinship Systems will be used as well as the work of Dr. Mohammed Garba on the relationship of the Vulture-glyph to other African languages. Did the Eurocentric Egyptologists make a mistake? Special attention is given to the philosophical concepts (Dr. Cynthia Lehman’s work on ancient Egyptian rhetoric) and ethical bases (Dr. Maulana Karenga’s work on Maat) of the Kemetic culture. An Afrocentric methodology applicable to an Africological interpretation of cosmological, epistemological, axiologicial and aesthetic phenomena is demonstrated through linguistic, historical, comparative, and ethical data. Students completing this course should have a general overview of the history of ancient Kemet, an appreciation of the major cultural achievements of early Kemet in terms of language development and dissemination throughout the Nile Valley; knowledge of the basic glyphs, and an appreciation Kemet’s place as one of the classical civilizations of Africa. (Emphasis added.)
But as the syllabus makes abundantly clear, the course goes far beyond a “general overview” of the Kemet culture. The essential foundation of the course is the controversial claim that the Kemet was really an African civilization, a view that students are expected to share.
It is important that Kemet be placed in its African context otherwise almost none of the concepts that we discuss in this course will make any sense to you as they did not make any sense to many of the early European Egyptologists. Indeed, as we shall see, many contemporary European writers on Kemet have little understanding of what they see because they have refused to see Kemet for what it was, an African civilization.
Only by discounting altogether the views of mainstream historians -- who regard Kemet as an Ancient Egyptian and Greek civilization -- can the course advance as received academic wisdom the much-disputed view that Kemet is really an “African civilization.” Apart from its dubious debt to history, the identification of Kemet with Africa is also grammatically suspect, as Robert Morkot, an archeologist specializing in Egypt, has recorded in his book The Egyptians:
Kemet means “black” and is generally taken to mean the land that is covered by silt during the inundation of the Nile. Many Afrocentrist writers have argued that Kemet defines Egypt as “the land of the people,” but this is a grammatically incorrect reading. That Kemet means land rather than people is further confirmed by its use in contrast to DeSHReT, the “red,” a term for the areas beyond cultivation, continuing into the deserts.
Not only does the course make no effort to apprise students of the controversial nature of its claims about Kemet culture, but it actively excludes alternative scholarly perspectives, in effect stifling students’ capacity to reach independent conclusions. This is at once inimical to the spirit of free debate that Temple claims to uphold and is the very definition of academic indoctrination.
Another readily apparent feature of Temple’s African Studies department is the widespread influence of political activists in the faculty. For instance, the department until recently offered a course called “Mass Media and the Black Community,” which was described as an “examination of the peculiar role mass media plays in the African American community.” The course was taught by Professor Ella Forbes, since retired, whose apprehension of the media’s role may well be described as peculiar: she believes that American media outlets are institutionally biased against blacks and promote solely the interests of whites. “From our own experience of oppression we've developed a much greater skepticism of the government,” Forbes has said. “The major media outlets are seen as just further extensions of the government and a puppet of white public opinion.” Professor Forbes is certainly entitled to her opinion; she is not entitled to make it the theme of her course, as the course description for “Mass Media and the Black Community” seems to suggest.
As a counterpart the African Studies program, Temple University also administers several research institutes through its College of Liberal Arts. Although nominally apolitical, these institutions in both the scope of their research and the nature of their organized events resemble nothing so much as political activist groups. Representative of this politicized function is the Institute for the Study of Race and Social Thought.
The institute was founded in 2005 by Temple philosophy professor Lewis Gordon, whose academic research interests include “Africana philosophy, philosophy of human and life sciences, phenomenology, philosophy of existence, social and political theory, postcolonial thought, theories of race and racism, philosophies of liberation, aesthetics, philosophy of education, and philosophy of religion.” Under Professor Gordon’s leadership, the center has become a university-sponsored outlet for his ideological prejudices, not least his determination to make political activism as an integral part of Temple’s academic curriculum.
The institute’s inaugural symposium, in the spring of 2005, was titled “Transgressing Racial and Sexual Boundaries in the 21st Century,” and its aim was described as seeking to “engage both theorists and activists on the importance of racial and sexual intersections in a trans-global economy and the necessity for building partnerships.” Also in 2005, the institute held a conference titled “Black Civil Society in American Political Life.” Organized around the polemical theme that blacks in America remain victims of societal injustice and that their liberation demands political activism in the name of “social change,” the conference featured panels under such titles as “Politics of Race and Gender and Class,” and “Urban Politics, Legislation and Social Change,” and included exclusively those academics whose work supported the ideological claim that racial and class oppression were unchanging elements in the life of black Americans, among them Harvard’s Martin Kilson and the Princeton professor Cornel West.
The institute has not wavered from this ideological course. In 2006, the institute dispensed altogether with the pretense of scholarship and played host to the “poet” Ewuare Osayande. According to a description provided by the institute, Osayande was an “independent scholar and activist” and a “central figure in the social justice movement” in Philadelphia. In fact, Osayande has never written a work of scholarship and he is far better known as a member of the Black Radical Congress, a Communist group, and his views that the United States is the “axis of evil,” that racism is “inherent” in the American system, and that the current U.S. government is guilty of the “re-enslavement of the African American community.”
Casting additional light on its underlying political biases, another event hosted by the institute was called “Heretical Nietzsche Studies.” It centered not on the merit of the philosopher’s work but on his influence on various movements associated with the political Left. Toward this purpose, the event concentrated on “Nietzsche’s political thinking, his views on religion, his relation to feminism and the critique of gender, his growing impact on race and postcolonial studies, and his ongoing contributions to French post-structural thought.” Demonstrating its commitment to the cause of left-wing politics, in 2007 the institute intends to host a lecture by Judith Butler, a professor at the University of California known for her left-wing political views.
At no point in its brief history has the institute included academics whose views on race, social or political issues do not accord with those of Professor Gordon. Consequently, although the institute’s mission statement states that it “supports and conducts inquiry into the dynamics of race and its relations to the social world,” in practice it -- like the African Studies department it promotes a straightforward ideological agenda.
The Women’s Studies program at Temple pursues a similar path. Its organizing theme is the idea that women’s roles in society can be explained by feminist theories of “gender.” According to its catalogue description, the Introduction to Women’s Studies course “[s]tudies the central institutions of gender-including family, sexuality and love, the sexual division of labor, the ideology of femininity, and the structural basis of this ideology – women’s social roles, and symbolic representations of women in culture.” These are ideological, not scholarly perspectives. Courses in the department are without scholarly content and often sound like a sectarian debate within the left:
R152/H195 The Politics of Diversity
What does cultural diversity mean to you? To some of us, it is an attempt to forge a new definition of pluralism and community in American culture. To others, it is an opportunity to re-examine American life based on new concepts about race, gender, and class. To others it implies the abandonment of the Western intellectual tradition. Some see it as a way to avoid dealing with racism in the United States by focusing attention on women, gays, the disabled, and white ethnic and religious minorities. This course will examine the current debate about diversity. We will focus our attention on cases that have been part of the controversy.
As a supplement to the Women’s Studies program, Temple offers a minor in “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Studies.” The intent of this program, according to its self-description, is to enable “students to become familiar with concepts, theories, history, literature, and political and sociological issues concerning the LGBT community.” To complete the requirements for the program, students can choose from several courses, each of them distinguished by their ideological preoccupations. These include: “The Politics of Diversity,” “Feminist Theory,” “Sexuality and Gender,” “Sexuality and Gender in American History,” and “Gender in Cross-Cultural Perspectives,” as well as a course on “Gay and Lesbian Lives.” For the latter course, students are assigned no scholarly texts but instead a broad range of personal writings, and are encouraged to consider complex issues like religion, ethnicity and society through the narrow lens of same-sex sexual preference:
Course Description: LGBT 0237 Gay and Lesbian Lives
In this course we will read autobiographical accounts (memoirs, essays, diaries, and poems) in which a significant portion of the narrative focuses on same-sex erotic attraction and/or gender difference, identified in contemporary society by the label Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender/ Intersex or the generic (and contested) Queer. The works were selected both to examine how gay and lesbian lives have been defined and altered over the course of the last sixty years and to provide a perspective of national, ethnic, religious, and racial diversity. Our main focus in the classroom will be discussion of these texts and their contexts. The classroom will be augmented by a research assignment focused on a “gay or lesbian” life we have not examined together in class.
A particularly blatant example of political indoctrination in the guise of academic work is the class “Urban Society: ‘Race,’ Class, and Gender in the City” (GUS R055) taught by Professor Melissa Gilbert. A review of Gilbert’s syllabus makes plain that the intention of the course is to promote a radical political perspective that considers race, class and gender hierarchies as the central structures of society, and thus to portray American society, whites people, and free-market capitalism as oppressive; and finally to propose radical activist movements as the programmatic solution to the problem of this systemic oppression.
The first section of the course is called “The Social Construction of ‘Race‘: Racism and White Privilege.” The idea is that a white oppressor group has created the concept of race in order to oppress non-white people. The assigned text exclusively subscribe to this perverse view. Among these texts is an essay titled “Defining Racism: ‘Can We Talk’” by Beverly Daniel Tatum. Its central argument is that racism is an omnipresent element in American society and that any suggestion to the contrary is a function either of ignorance or white racism. Here is a representative passage:
Prejudice is one of the inescapable consequences of living in a racist society. Cultural racism--the cultural images and messages that affirm the assumed superiority of Whites and the assumed inferiority of people of color--is like smog in the air. Sometimes it is so thick it is invisible, other times it is less apparent, but always, day in and day out, we are breathing it in.
Another reading assignment, Peggy McIntosh’s “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” makes an analogous argument:
It seems to me that obliviousness about white advantage, like obliviousness about male advantage, is kept strongly inculturated in the United States so as to maintain the myth of meritocracy, the myth that democratic choice is equally available to all. Keeping most people unaware that freedom of confident action is there for just a small number of people props up those in power and serves to keep power in the hands of the same groups that have most of it already.
The first thing to be said the views expressed in these assigned texts is that theya re themselves racist, and crudely so given their refusal to provide tangible evidence for the malicious charges they make about what whites allegedly believe and what motivates their actions. Moreover, they have nothing at all to do with the course’s nominal subjects -- geography and urban studies -- and their inclusion in this course is a testament to the political agendas of its instructor, Professor Melissa Gilbert.
And it is on the foundation of such transparently political and ideological claims that the entire course stands. The next section of the course is headed “The Social Construction of Gender and Defining Racism and Sexism.” The class lessons’ undisguised aim is to advance, without the ballast of contrary points of view, the ideological claim that differences between men and women, rather than biological facts implying no moral valuation, are “constructed” by society with the aim of oppressing women. (This is the central theme of Women’s Studies at Temple as well.) Students are accordingly compelled to read texts making the case for the “Social Construction of Gender” and the “Social Construction of Sexuality” as well as more polemical essays that assert the oppression of women in American society as an established fact. The opening sentence in one of these essays, “Oppression” by the feminist author Marilyn Frye, declares, “It is a fundamental claim of feminism that women are oppressed,” a claim which Frye proceeds to defend at some length.
Having established that race and gender are artificial constructs designed by white males to oppress non-whites and females, the course moves on to “The Social Construction of Class Inequalities and ‘Race,’” “Gender, and Class as Interlocking Systems.” Only then does it get to the “urban” subject matter of the course: “Internal Structure of U.S. Cities: Institutional Racism.” The lessons are buttressed by readings that portray the American educational and health care and justice systems, American employers, and American municipal structures as “racist” and oppressive towards women and non-whites.
Urban matters are then left behind for an aggressively one-sided discussion of globalization (i.e., international capitalism). Reading assignments for this section include an essay called “The Real 'New World Order': The Globalization of Racial and Ethnic Relations in the Late Twentieth Century,” by Nestor Rodriguez, in which slavery is described as an example of “historical capitalist influence on inter-group relations.” This essay sets forth the historical context for its discussion of globalization in the following way:
Through their institutional capacities, including religious institutions, northern European whites males were the primary architects of the initial structures of capitalist-related domination, that is, the intertwined structures of race, class, and state relations. To a considerable extent, the racist ideological foundations laid by northern European white males continue to frame issues of race relations today.
Where an intellectually conscientious treatment of globalization might have included contrary analyses -- for instance, books such as In Defense of Globalization by the eminent Columbia University economics professor Jagdish Bhagwati -- this course’s real concern is not understanding globalization but attacking the capitalist world order. All the required texts are critical of globalization, and in case some students have difficulty with written texts, they are also required to watch “Roger and Me,” an anti-corporate propaganda film Michael Moore.
Having indoctrinated her students, Professor Gilbert now turns to recruiting them for leftwing causes. In the course’s concluding segment students are required to read political propaganda written by radicals about their organizations and movements. After watching the documentary “Poverty Outlaw,” which is premised on the claim that insufficient welfare payments are the driving cause of urban poverty, students are required to read “Building Coalitions among Communities of Color: Beyond Racial Identity Politics,” by Manning Marable, a Marxist professor of History and Political Science at Columbia University and a member of the central committee of the Committees on Correspondence, a Communist splinter group headed by Angela Davis.
Continuing their activist indoctrination students must read an article titled, “Interrupting the Cycle of Oppression: The Role of Allies as Agents of Change,” by social activist and self-described “anti-racism educator” Andrea Ayvazian. In the article, Ayvaziand despairs of what she regards as the ubiquitous oppressiveness of American society, asserting: “Many of us feel overwhelmed when we consider the many forms of systemic oppression that are so pervasive in American society today. We become immobilized, uncertain about what actions we can take to interrupt the cycles of oppression and violence that intrude on our everyday lives.”
Professor Gilbert also requires students to read an article titled, “A Clean Sweep: The SEIU’s Organizing Drive for Janitors Shows How Unionization Can Raise Wages” by socialist Harold Meyerson. In the article, Meyerson writes approvingly of the Service Employees International Union, the largest labor union in the AFL-CIO, because it “has understood that the only real power of the poor is the power to disrupt. And no other union has channeled that disruption in so brilliant and productive a way.” The only other article assigned by Gilbert, called “Sweats and Tears: A Protest Is Sweeping US Campuses to End the Use of. Sweatshops to Produce College-Endorsed Clothes,” another book prescribing radical activism as a solution to the injustices ostensibly attributable to globalization.
According to her website, Professor Gilbert approaches her subject through the frameworks of “feminist geography” as well as “feminist and critical race theory.” Her course’s emphasis on left-wing political activism is academically justified (at least at Temple) as “service learning.” Service learning is a growing academic program at universities across the country. For Professor Gilbert this means encouraging her students to join “community activist organizations,” particularly those committed to “grassroots efforts at social transformation,” a euphemism for radical agendas.
Much as the study of Geography and Urban Studies has become, under Professor Gilbert’s direction, a left-wing political project, so too has the study of history, in the classroom of professor Ralph Young. An anti-war activist who has staged department-wide teach-ins to protest the Iraq war, Young uses his classes to espouse his interest in what he calls political “dissent.” As his course “Dissent in America,” (History 184) shows, this is not a study of dissent so much as it is an immersion in radical politics with the idea of becoming a radical oneself. For instance, students learn about the anti-war movement in its opposition to various American military engagements, the feminist movement in its opposition to American patriarchy, radical and Communist movements in their opposition to American capitalism, and gay liberation movements in their opposition to American heterosexism. In the final section of the course, titled“Contemporary Dissent,” students are required to study musical acts distinguished by their vocal opposition to some aspect of American society -- such as the rantings of groups like Rage Against the Machine, Mos Def and Public Enemy. Students are introduced to the heroic stances of anti-war organizations like Veterans Against the Iraq War, left-wing special interests like the ACLU and Amnesty International, and even the environmental terrorist organization, the Earth Liberation Front.
One might easily conclude, on the basis of this course, that there is nothing commendable or even defensible in America’s founding, and that the authentic American tradition is that of anarchists, Communists, and other nihilistic opponents of its founding principles. These agendas are transparent in the course description which asks: “Why is it that some people never ‘buy into’ the ‘American Dream’ perceiving it not as a Dream, but more like a Nightmare?” Perhaps because they have taken courses with Professor Young.
Another Young course, “History of the United States Since 1877,” (History C068) has an identical focus. The only assigned text is Created Equal: A Social and Political History of the United States, Volume II, a history textbook that Professor Young notes he has selected for its special attention to the following topics:
Political Corruption and the Decline of Republican Idealism; American Imperialism; Radical Politics and the Labor Movement; Marcus Garvey and the Persistence of Civil Rights Activism; Colonialism and the Cold War; The Impact of Nuclear Weapons; Who Is a Loyal American?; White Resistance, Black Persistence; Boycotts and Sit-Ins; Mobilizing for Peace and the Environment; From Civil Rights to Black Power; The New Left and the Struggle Against the War; Cultural Rebellion and the Counterculture; Women’s Liberation; The Many Fronts of Liberation; “Reaganomics” and the Assault on Welfare; An Embattled Environment; The Rise of the Religious Right; Dissenters Push Back; The Widening Gap between Rich and Poor; Labor Unions; The War in Iraq.
What all these themes have in common is that they are consistent with Professor Young’s radical politics and that they are grossly inappropriate for any history course aspiring to more than a training course in radical politics.
Another Young course is History 271, “20th Century U.S. History.” Not the least of the defects of this course is that it reduces the complex history of the United States to a narrative about the opponents of the American “power structure” (Professor Young’s description). As the study program of an activist organization, Professor Young’s curriculum would be understandable. As the intellectual basis for an academic course it is preposterous. And so far from dispelling myths about American history, the course manufactures its own. Here, for example, are the areas of concentration in the course:
Workers’ Rights Anti-War sentiment during the Filipino Insurrection, WWI, WWII, Vietnam, Iraq The Women’s Movement: From Suffragist to Feminist The Struggle for Civil Rights Cultural Dissent: The rise of a counterculture from Beatniks to Hippies Right Wing Dissent: From the KKK to Paramilitarism. Environmentalism. Gay Pride, AIM, La Raza Unida.
But as any serious historian would recognize, these assorted movements together represent only a miniscule and mainly marginal chapter in the epic narrative of America’s history in the 20th Century. Not only is the importance of these movements exaggerated beyond measure, they are not considered in a way that could be remotely described as scholarly or academic. On the evidence of the course guide, students are encouraged to embrace the movements studied, without a critical assessment of their merits:
Oral History: Each student is to interview someone (relative, friend, acquaintance, former teacher) who participated in some way in any form of activism: the civil rights movement, the anti-Vietnam war movement, the counterculture, feminism, gay pride, environmentalism, anti-Iraq war demonstrations. Often we are surprised, and deeply touched, by what we learn from these interviews.
And, apparently, never chastened or appalled.
In the fall of 2006, Temple University introduced a new course, offered through the philosophy program, titled “International Ethics.” (PHIL 491/PS 468) The course is taught by Marxist-feminist professor Carol Gould, who has argued that in certain cases the “demands of social justice”-- a favorite conceptualization of left-wing academics -- “should override democratic process.” If the course description for “International Ethics” is a reliable guide, Professor Gould also believes that the demands of “social justice” should override the academic process.
This course addresses key issues that arise in international affairs concerning the ethics of war and violence; the requirements of global justice, democracy, and human rights; the recognition of cultural differences; and the elimination of harms to women…. The course gives special attention to the philosophy of human rights and considers the tension between the recognition of diverse and sometimes oppressive cultural practices on the one hand and cosmopolitan or universal frameworks of human rights, including women’s equality, on the other. [In other words, should Western ideas of rights for women over-ride cultural imperatives like “honor killings” of women who embarrass their families.] Alternative ethical approaches will be analyzed, including consequentialist and needs-based theories, communitarianism, and feminist care ethics. [But certainly not any ideas that might be construed as conservative.]
What the course makes no attempt to do is the first order of academic business which is to discuss complex issues from a detached and scholarly perspective. Instead, the course misleadingly frames the issues so that the right attitudes towards them is always on the left. In so doing, the course clearly subverts the academic enterprise in favor of political activism.
One last course to be mentioned (though this by no means exhausts the list) is Sociology RO59 the “Sociology of Race and Racism,” taught by Professor Anne Shlay. In its description this course repudiates ideology in principle only to promote it in practice:
In the U.S., we think we know race and ethnicity because we can see different skins colors, hear different languages, and have been told that our “people” came from either here or there. But this type of knowledge is really ideology – a set of ideas that come from a particular social vantage point, not truth per se. And it is the sociology of race and ethnicity that can add layers of understanding about ever changing ideas about difference and identity.
The existence of this ideology that defines race also gives cultural legitimacy for race relations including racial and ethnic inequality. A social hierarchy defined by race and ethnicity validates patterns of privilege and disadvantage, and therefore, makes race and ethnic inequality seem both appropriate and valid. Race and ethnic inequality appear natural, normal, and taken for granted. Race ideologies perpetuate social and economic inequality among racial and ethnic groups.
In this class, you will learn about the construction of racial and ethnic identities, the roots of different forms of prejudiced thinking, the historical record on discrimination, immigration trends and policies as fuel for more inclusive or discriminatory practices, and how religion and ethnicity have blended to create a new racial concept – Whiteness. We will examine selected racial and ethnic groups in the U.S. including Native American Indians, African Americans, Latinos, Asians, and Jews. Along the way, we will continue to examine the concept of White privilege as it evolves with the changing status of these different groups. Along this analytical and historical journey, we will hopefully let go of preconceived but erroneous perceptions of race and ethnicity and come away with how these differences are socially constructed and politically utilized for the gains of some at the expense of others. And while learning about our less than perfect racialized world, we will also study policies and recommendations that can be tools for reducing racial and ethnic inequality and for promoting informed tolerance for difference.
So according to this supposedly non-ideological course description, American society is organized around a “social hierarchy defined by race and ethnicity,” and race itself is “constructed” (by the rulers of this hierarchy) to oppress the ruled. The claim is not only ideological, it is also false: de jure racial hierarchies were eliminated with the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments and the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960s. The concept of so-called “White privilege” is also an ideological claim. In an academic course this extreme leftwing point of view might be debated. In this course it is the only view taught. Sociology R059 is a textbook example of indoctrination, in which a fringe ideology is drilled into a captive and defenseless student audience as a truth beyond dispute.
Just as the course’s rejection of ideology proves deceptive, so too does its claim that it takes an “analytical” approach to the issues under discussion. In fact, this course features only three books, each of which echoes the ideological and political premises of the course. These books include, Rethinking the Color Line: Readings in Race and Ethnicity, from which students are required to read essays by the Marxist anthropologist Marvin Harris, pro-Castro educator Jonathan Kozol, Marxist historian Howard Zinn, former Black Panther Angela Davis, and radical law professor David Cole. The central theme of another required book, White Privilege: Essential Readings on the Other Side of Racism, is that whites in the United States enjoy “privileged” positions in society by virtue of their skin color and concurrently discriminate against non-whites. From this book, students are assigned readings by radical feminists Peggy McIntosh and bell hooks, as well as Marxist journalism professor Robert Jensen, along with radical race activist Tim Wise. No perspectives at odds with this consensus are assigned.
It is mark of how far political agendas have undermined academic standards at Temple that a course proposing to provide settled answers to controversial questions about race and ethnicity is taught by a professor, Anne Shlay, who can claim no special academic insight on either subject. Professor Shlay’s academic areas of expertise are listed as “urban policy, child care, women and cities, discrimination, housing finance, poverty, homelessness, program evaluation.”