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Indoctrination U: Arizona State By: Jacob Laksin
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, October 12, 2006


[To view the four previous articles in this series, click here].

As previously documented by FrontPageMag.com, Arizona State University counts among its constituent faculties the School of Justice and Social Inquiry, a department nominally devoted to an academic inquiry into justice but in practice a training program in the sectarian orthodoxies of the political Left. In fact this department’s non-academic agendas reflect a more pervasive problem of indoctrination at Arizona State. Further inquiry reveals, similarly non-academic and politically slanted approaches to the curriculum informs entire departments and many courses at Arizona State.

Aside form being inappropriate for a public university, these programs are violations of Arizona State’s adopted guidelines of academic freedom. Recommended by the Faculty Senate and approved by the university in 1982, these guidelines grant professors broad latitude to conduct their classes. But they also include, among others, the following critical caveats: “In the exercise of this freedom, the faculty member should be careful not to introduce controversial matters which have no relation to the subject matter of the course. The faculty member is also obligated to encourage the free pursuit of learning by students. The faculty member adheres to a proper role as intellectual guide and counselor. Every reasonable effort is made to foster honest academic conduct and to assure that evaluation of students reflects the true merit of their work.” However, a recurring pattern of unprofessional conduct, ideological pedagogy, and one-sided course materials suggests that the school has deviated from these guidelines.

 

Women’s Studies

 

The department of women’s studies at Arizona State is a telling illustration of the extent to which the values of political activism have superseded those of scholarship. For instance, an introductory course on feminism, “Women‘s Studies 191: All About Feminism,” is in practice a defense of feminist activism.

 

Students are required to read only one text, Listen Up: Voices from the Next Feminist Generation. This is not an academic textbook. Rather, it is a collection of first-person political essays by feminist authors who argue in defense of “feminist values.” Students are presented no readings critical of feminist politics, as any academic course committed to the ideals of free inquiry would be expected to do. The expressly political character of the course is itself a coefficient of the politics espoused by the professor, Logan Rothschild, a feminist activist who sees her academic role as an extension of her political agenda. On a faculty website she describes herself as a “tireless advocate for women’s issues and gender equity” and also “dedicated to the retention and promotion of female faculty,” political commitments that, to judge by the syllabus for Women’s Studies 191, she also advocates in her classroom.

 

Beyond promoting political activism, a number of other courses in the department uncritically advance the ideological views of the political Left.

 

WOMEN IN CONTEMPORARY SOCIETIES

Instructor: Dr. Jill A. Fisher

 

Course Description

 

This course will examine such topics as the development of contemporary gender roles and stereotypes, women and work, sexuality, politics, health, and law. Through critical thinking about the world, our goals are to achieve some understanding of the ways that gender shapes experience in contemporary societies, to uncover our own hidden assumptions about gender, and to become aware of the complex interactions of gender with other variables, such as race, class, age, ethnicity, sexual preference, etc. This course emphasizes a sociological approach to women and gender studies with readings and discussions focusing on both American and international communities.

 

Comment: Its claims to the contrary notwithstanding, this course does not promote “critical thinking.” Rather, it promotes a number of theories informed more by feminism than scholarship, among them the claim that differences between the sexes are not neutral biological facts but a “social construction,” and that women in the United States are victims of a male-dominated system of “patriarchy.” Consonant with these tendentious claims, students are required in the initial section of the course, headed “Social Construction, Patriarchy, and Feminisms,” to read only those feminist authors who hold these particular views:


Readings
:

 

• Judith Lorber, “The Social Construction of Gender” (Reader)

• Allan Johnson, “Patriarchy, the System” (Reader)

• Lisa Maria Hogeland, “Fear of Feminism” (Reader)

• Michael Kimmel, “Real Men Join the Movement” (Reader)

 

Students are also required to read books by radical feminists such as Angela Davis, Barbara Ehrenreich, Joan Wallach Scott, Rigoberta Menchu, Naomi Wolf, and bell hooks, but are not assigned a single text critical of their views.

 

            Feminist Voices of Color

            Instructor: Dr. Lisa Anderson

 

Course Content and Goals

This course will explore the contributions of African American, Native American, Chicana /Latina, and Asian American feminists to feminism and to critical race theory. We will address issues such as racism in feminism and sexism in communities of color; speaking and silence; feminists of color and the arts; alliances and bridges. The core of the course will be in-depth reading and analysis of three texts: Sister/Outsider, Off the Reservation, and Massacre of the Dreamers. These readings form the core of the course; as supplements, and to give us a broader range of feminisms of women of color, we will also be reading substantial sections of Haciendo Caras and other feminist works written by women of color. We will consider the issues taken up by feminists of color; differences in experience across ethnicities, and similarities which emerge out of living in a racially-marked body in the US. We will consider questions such as: About what do feminists of color theorize? What have feminists of color contributed to feminism? How does making race and ethnicity explicit change feminism? How do feminists of color deal with issues of sexuality?

 

Comment: The methodology of this course is not academic but ideological and political. What the course calls “feminism” is really a species of identity politics, which is in turn reinforced by the readings that promote so-called “black lesbian feminism” (Sister/Outsider), American Indian feminism (Off the Reservation), and Chicana feminism (Massacre of the Dreamers). Not one of these can be described as a work of disinterested scholarship. Critical race theory, another focus of the course, is an ideological construct of the political Left and not an academic discipline. Finally, this course forwards the sectarian view that women’s issues must be regarded from the perspective of skin color and race, another ideological claim.

 

American Indian Studies

 

Political activism is likewise the central focus of the courses in ASU's American Indian Studies program. In the course catalogue, the program is described as rigorously intellectual in orientation, with special emphasis on “scholarly expertise” and grounded in a “broad knowledge of American Indian nations and peoples.” In its programmatic goals, political rather than scholarly agendas rank high:

Goals

(This is an incomplete list.)

·        Establish courses and other forms of curriculum, including basic interdisciplinary coursework for the purpose of establishing sensitivity to and enhancing knowledge of cultural diversity in the general student body.

·        Identify and more adequately serve the needs of community, Indian nations and organizations.

 

“American Indian Rights: From the American Indian Movement to the Present,” a course offered through this program, is described as a “chronology of American Indian rights advocacy from the early 20th century to the present.” Insofar as it reduces the history of American Indians to a summary of political activism, such a course is on its face of dubious academic merit.

 

What makes the course noteworthy, particularly in the context of the intellectual corruption documented elsewhere in this study, is that it not only studies political activism but engages in it as well.

 

To this end, the course includes a section called “Colonial Justice and the Turn to Diplomacy,” itself a plainly political formulation that encourages the view of American society as imperialist and American Indians as its “colonial” victims. This section in turn includes a discussion of the case of Leonard Peltier, an American Indian activist convicted an imprisoned for life for the execution-style murder of two FBI agents. Instead of presenting a balanced presentation of the facts of Peltier's case, the course requires students to read tributes of support for Peltier from a number of activist websites that uniformly portray Peltier as an innocent victim of white racism and demand his release. Among them are:

 

http://www.freeleonard.org/case/index.html http://www.dickshovel.com/lsa23.html, http://www.aimovement.org/ggc/trailofbrokentreaties.html, http://www.freepeltier.org/churchill_agents9a.htm.

 

No readings with a different interpretation are provided. This is not scholarship. It is propaganda. Still another section of the same course has no obvious connection to American Indians, the main subject of the course, and seems to have been selected primarily for its accordance with the radical political views of the professor. Titled “Indigenous Diplomacy on the International Stage,” this section requires students to read the writings of Subcommander Marcos, the onetime leader of Mexico's Communist Zapatista guerilla movement. Not only are students provided no readings critical of Marcos, but the course description designates the Zapatistas as a “resistance” movement, a political valuation that has no place in an ostensibly objective academic course.

 

Chicana and Chicano Studies

 

The American Indian Studies department is not the only Arizona State to reject professional instruction in favor of advocacy for revolutionary Marxist ideals: The Chicana and Chicano Studies department is another example. Courses taught by ASU professor John Jota Leaños all revolve around his political commitments, which are elucidated in his departmental biography (one wonders whether ASU administrators are aware that they are running what Leaños’ faculty biography terms a “para-military institution”):

 

Mr. Leaños is an artist whose main research interests are in studying Digital Culture from Xicana/o, Latina/o perspectives as well as investigating how the university functions as a corporate-paramilitary institution. Mr. Leaños is also interested in the history and study of public art in the form of Xicana/o resistance, Tactical Media, and interventionism.

 

These themes may be appropriate for a political performance artist, which is what Leaños is: he has a Masters degree in photography from San Francisco State University. But the approach these themes is hardly academic, as is evident from this catalogue description of one of his courses;

 

Course Description: Chicana/Chicano Popular Culture

We will study predominant as well as marginalized theoretical trends of popular culture that will assist us to reflectively engage the social significance and political impact of popular culture. We will examine the influence popular culture has on forming identity, shaping culture and as a mode of revealing, producing and reproducing ideology and political struggle.

 

This is an unambiguously political course designed to recruit students, especially Chicano students, to leftwing activism. Apart from the professor's lack of academic qualifications to assess themes so wide-ranging as the social and political impact of popular culture, Professor Leaños presents the course in a transparently ideological manner, promoting both the sectarian notion that Hispanic culture is actively “marginalized” and the Marxist theme that the educator's role is not to impart knowledge but to “liberate” his students from the influence of an oppressive dominant society. Leaños appropriates the latter theme from the Marxist Brazilian educator Paulo Freire, whom he cites as the primary influence on his classroom instruction:

 

My approach to teaching is grounded in the ideas of Paulo Freire, the Brazilian liberation educator who wrote The Pedagogy of the Oppressed. He believed that students must be directly engaged in their education as a revolutionary act in a “quest for mutual humanization.”

An equally blunt example of political activism substituting for scholarship is provided by ASU's department of Social & Behavioral Sciences, which includes courses like “Im/Migration & Culture.” This course purports to draw on “empirical research” in order to provide an expansive survey of the social, economic, and political aspects of immigration. But as the list of topics discussed in the course demonstrates, it is actually a radical critique of capitalism and globalization -- i.e., the liberalization of trade and financial markets -- whose methodology is primarily political. Following are the topics discussed in the course:

 

* how options to migrate are socially constituted, and examine the recent emergence of “transmigrants” whose lives cut across national boundaries.

* how both long-standing and recent structural processes and international connections underlie contemporary migrations: colonialism, war and military occupation/intervention, development, globalization of labor recruitment and economic interactions, global flows of technology, information, media, and culture.

* major cities as strategic sites in the postcolonial global economy where a multiplicity of migrants, cultures, and identities that have been deterritorialized from local settings all over the world are reterritorialized in urban centers.

* how migrants are situated in and navigate through social processes of migration.

* how migrants negotiate their contradictory experience of being caught between the nation and the globe, and manipulate their diasporic identities to adjust to their shifting positioning.

* how migrants resist their devaluation as Other within nations of settlement, and their subordination within a transnational capitalist system that increasingly depends on their labor even as this contribution appears devalued

* discourses about im/migration, by policy makers, citizens, and migrants in public and popular culture

* local, national, and global immigration debates, with an eye to how the cultural hybridity of diasporic communities has challenged native citizens worldwide to re-imagine their own national communities in this transnational era.

The historical focus of the course is on migration since

 

Comment: These are manifestly not “empirical” themes. There is, for instance, no such thing as a “postcolonial global economy” -- a logical impossibility given that not all parts of the globe have a history of colonial rule. The notion that immigrants constitute a social “Other” and have been “devalued” by the “capitalist system” is little more than a statement of leftwing prejudice. But more than simply indoctrinating students in left-wing biases -- and these only tangentially related to actual immigration which is mainly driven by opportunities omitted from the subject field of this course -- students are required to participate in a field trip intended to supplement and reinforce the professor's politics:

 

BorderLinks Field Trip Weds. February 22: A required educational field trip to Nogales, Sonora, Mexico with the non-profit educational organization BorderLinks will add an innovative and exciting dimension to this course. This full-day excursion will be tailored to our course topic and may include activities such as: orientation in Tucson at BorderLinks; interview with the US Border Patrol or Grupo Beta (Mexican Border Patrol); visit to a migrant shelter/community center; lunch with families in a colonia squatters' settlement; visit to a maquiladora; exercises such as a market basket survey comparing cost of living on both sides of the border; discussions with migrants and US and Mexican experts and officials about migration issues. The opportunity for this trip undoubtedly will enable us to bring home through an immersion experience many of the topics studied in the course. As indicated on the ASUW Course Schedule, a fee of about $100 per student is required. A check or money order for $85.00 made out to “BorderLinks,” to be collected in class by Feb. 1). A hired bus will transport us to/from Tucson, about $15-25.

 

Although it is represented as an “educational organization,” BorderLinks is in fact a left-wing advocacy group which, under the rubric of supporting “economic and social justice,” blames the plight of Mexican migrants on free-trade agreements between the US and Mexico, “U.S. companies,” and economic development. The group also publicizes what it claims are “human rights abuses and unconstitutional searches by Border Patrol officials” in the United States. Requiring students to participate in the trip that transparently has more to do with instilling the anti-capitalist convictions of groups like BorderLinks than exposing students to scholarly viewpoints about immigration -- the very opposite of what an academic course should do.

 

African and African American Studies

 

The department of African and African American studies at Arizona State evinces the same preference for political ideology over scholarship. Thus an introductory course on “Ethnic Studies” makes no effort to conceal its essentially political orientation:

 

Introduction to Ethnic Studies

Instructor Karen Kuo

 

This course introduces students to the history and methodology of Ethnic Studies as a discipline. Students will read novels and essays which represent the circumstances faced by ethnic minority groups in America, and which will provide the basis for our inquiry. In the context of this course, the term “ethnic minority group” refers to African Americans, Asian/ Pacific Americans, Chicanos/ Latinos and American Indians. We will also discuss in a general way other ethnic/cultural minorities in America, including Jewish Americans and recently arrived immigrants from Eastern Europe. However, the majority of our course will focus on the four groups named above. The course will also discuss the history of the African American, Asian/ Pacific American, Chicano, American Indian, civil rights and students movements which led to the founding of Ethnic Studies Programs. By the end of the semester, students will become familiar with the various methodological and disciplinary approaches to studying minority communities, and understand the inherently political nature of such scholarship. (Emphasis added.)

 

Comment: This course not only violates the distinction between political ideology and scholarship, but the professor of course, Karen Kuo, is not even remotely qualified to lecture on the history of minority ethnic groups in the United States, to say nothing of the more complex socio-historical themes around which the course is based. On the evidence of her faculty biography, Kuo does not have a doctorate and her advanced degree is an M.A. in English Literature. For Arizona State to allow such a course, then, is an affront to both professional and academic standards.


“Minority Group Politics” is another course offered through the African and African American Studies department that has an unmistakable political agenda. Such a might be expected to provide a broad overview of the black experience in America, and to examine the historical successes of American blacks as well as their struggles. Instead, as its catalogue description makes clear, this course promotes an ahistorical assessment of the black experience in America that regards the history of African Americans as one of unrelieved oppression. To this end, the course elevates radical activists with no serious claims to scholarship to the status of important thinkers.

 

MINORITY GROUP POLITICS

AFR 494 Fall 2005

This course is an introduction to the dynamics of the African American political experience. It offers students an examination of the historical development of African American politics from the anti-slavery era through the Civil Rights breakthrough of the 1960's to the present. This includes an interrogation of the different approaches utilized in the quest for political empowerment, the issues faced by African Americans in the political arena, and the relationship between African American politics and the wider American political environment. The first part of the course examines the ideas and thoughts that have informed the African American political evolution while the second part looks at the experience in the political-electoral arena since the Civil Rights breakthrough of the 1960s.

Some of the topics explored in the first part include Pan-Africanism, Black Nationalism, Marxism, Black Power, Garveyism, Race and Class, Governance, Political Economy, Democracy, Feminism, and Civil Rights. In the process students will be exposed to the philosophies of major African American thinkers and political leaders such as Edward Blyden, Frederick Douglass, WEB Dubois, Booker T Washington, Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., CLR James, A Phillip Randolph, Huey Newton, Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael), Angela Davis.

Topics to be covered in the second part include the Black Electoral Politics, Black Leadership, Affirmative Action, Black Protest, Blacks in Congress and the Executive Branch, the economy and the Justice System.

 

Comment: It is telling that in discussing black politics after the civil rights era, this course makes no effort to include perspectives at variance with the protest politics associated with activists like Huey Newton, Stokely Carmichael and Angela Davis. Newton was a criminal; Davis, a lifelong Communist, winner of the “Lenin Peace Price” and founder of a movement that regards all convicted felons who are Hispanic or black as “political prisoners.” Carmichael wa an anti-Semitic “revolutionary” who ended his life as an icon of the Nation of Islam. All of these “authorities” claim that American blacks are victims of institutional racism and oppressed. With the exception of Booker T. Washington and A. Philip Randolph who lived in the era of segregation, the course does not include a single thinker who is not a leftist and generally an extreme leftist and includes no conservative black intellectuals like Thomas Sowell or John McWhorter -- who have written extensively on the condition of America blacks but and drawn views that differ widely from those the course prefers. This is not a course in “Minority Group Politics.” It is course in leftwing views of leftwing politics.

 

(Un)Ruly Voices of African American Women Post Harlem Renaissance

AFH 394 Fall 2005

 

Conventionally and culturally, African American women's voices have not been heard in a society where largely women have been subject to men; yet, this does not mean that African American women were unable to speak or resist against this domination. There have been many "unruly voices" of African American women. In this course, beginning with Nella Larsen, students will meet the representatives of these "unruly voices" through reading their oral narratives, novels, short stories, essays, and plays. Students will recognize African American women using language as agency to [re]develop, [re]define, and [re]create a space from which, as bell hooks asserts, "talkin' back" to those dominant forces that attempt to "silence" and "erase" them culturally. Students will read Nella Larsen's Quick Sand and Passing, Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God, bell hook's Sisters of the Yam, Tony Morrison's The Bluest Eye and Ntozake Shange's For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide.

 

Comment: This course is predicated on the presumption that African American women are dominated by white Americans and by men generally, including black men, and that black females - including presumably Nobel Prize winner Tony Morrison - are culturally erased. Equally inappropriate for an academic course, its aim is not to educate students about the cultural history of African American women but to promote an ideological view of American society as racist and oppressive. As well, by encouraging students to appreciate language not for its intrinsic merit but for its political “agency,” the course encourages a form of philistinism that is contrary to the very idea of studying literature.

 

Is there not something racist in the fact that universities like Arizona State regard it as acceptable to deny students in African American and other ethnic studies programs a quality academic education but provide them with political boilerplate instead?

 

Women, Ethnicity and Equality: Searching for Global Justice

Fall 2005 Professor Angelita Reyes

 

Course: Description:

 

This course will examine topics that are related to feminisms and women of color cross-culturally through the social constructions of gender, class, ethnicity, critical race theories, and human rights. The term “race” as it is currently used and applied will be challenged through scientific paradigms of current research investigations.

 

Comment: The very title of this course evidences its programmatic political agenda. The clear intention of the course is not to examine the relevant issues in an academic fashion but to advance feminist theories about race, class and gender. Most obviously, it propagates the scientifically untenable claim that race, rather than a neutral biological fact, is a political “construction.” Races, classes and genders are allegedly constructed by dominant forces in society as a means of social control. Critical race theory is a sectarian view proposed by left-wing legal theorists who argue that American society, law and politics are fundamentally “racist.”

The course includes no scholarship critical of the above mentioned theories, and it specifically encourages students to accept as established fact their underlying claim that American society is unjust and oppressive, especially for women. In keeping with this aim, the course description states that the course “seeks to present, identify and explore,” inter alia, “injustices linked to gender-oriented struggles for justice and equality.” Nowhere does the course feature a discussion of women's issues, ethnicity or equality not drawn from feminist and left-wing political orthodoxy.

 

As if this were not troubling enough, the professor, Angelita Reyes, has no academic qualifications to teach such matters as ethnicity, race, gender or justice. According to her faculty biography, Reyes's earned a doctorate in Comparative Literature. There is no indication that she has an academic background in sociology, anthropology, biology or law, that would qualify her, professionally, to pontificate on these subjects. Even Professor Reyes's self-described scholarly interests seem more like political passions and do not seem to bear any relation to the study of literature as such:

 

Dr. Reyes is particularly interested in the issues of race, class, gender, sexuality and ethnicity--intersectionality. Blending the personal and the historical, the practical and the theoretical, her recent book Mothering Across Cultures: Postcolonial Representations explores mothering as a paradigm of progressive feminisms.

 

Asian Pacific American Studies

 

Ideology also makes up the core of the Asian Pacific American Studies Program at Arizona State. Although the school describes the program as “interdisciplinary,” the disciplines discussed in its courses are little more than the ideological conventions of the political Left. Symptomatic of this approach is a course titled “Asian Pacific American Genders and Sexualities,” which, according to a course catalog is an “Exploration of gender and sexuality issues as they relate to Asian Pacific American experiences, including interracial relationships; stereotypes, feminism, queer theory.” Despite the preponderance of such ideological perspectives, there is no evidence of scholarship in this course.

 

The program also offers courses founded solely on leftwing legal theories:

 

APA 394. Special Topics: Asian Pacific American Legal History
This social/cultural history course examines immigration laws, civil rights legislation, and popular trials regarding Asian Americans and Pacific islanders since 1790. The class draws upon progressive legal scholarship dealing with race, personal legal narratives, and documentary films in order to study a range of "API" [i.e., Asian Pacific Islander] experiences within the larger framework of racial paradigms in the U.S.

 

Comment: This is not an academic course about history or law, but an undisguised exercise in political proselytizing that treats leftwing “progressive” legal theories as authoritative and individual opinions as the equivalent of scholarship. It is also anti-intellectual, for instance in its focus on so-called “personal legal narratives,” a formulation that is self-evidently contradictory and hence meaningless. This is, in short, a training program for political activists, ethnic lobbyists and ideologues, one incompatible with the mission of a university.

 

To view the four previous articles, click here.

 

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Jacob Laksin is managing editor of Front Page Magazine. His email is jlaksin -at- gmail.com


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