Are American college students being indoctrinated in their classrooms? Some recent studies say no. Closed Minds? is a survey of 1270 professors conducted by authors associated with the Brookings Institution. The survey asked these academics what their political persuasion was and whether they let politics influence their classroom presentations. The overwhelming majority of respondents said they were on the political left, but ninety-five percent denied that they used their classrooms to influence their students politically. This encouraged the Brookings experts to conclude “The idea that the elite universities are rife with leftist politics, or any politics for that matter, is at odds with the evidence.”
We beg to differ. In researching our new book One-Party Classroom: How Radical Professors at America’s Top Colleges Indoctrinate Students and Undermine Our Democracy, we didn’t ask professors what they thought of themselves. Instead, we looked at the courses they actually teach -- courses like Community Studies 100P at the University of California Santa Cruz, which is described in the university catalogue in these words: “The goal of this seminar is to learn how to organize a revolution. We will learn what communities past and present have done and are doing to resist, challenge and overcome systems of power including (but not limited to) global capitalism, state oppression and racism.”
This is clearly a training course in radical politics – an exercise in indoctrination, not a scholarly inquiry designed to examine its subject matter in a critical, academic manner. It violates the “standing orders” of the regents of the university which state that “Misuse of the classroom by, for example, allowing it to be used for political indoctrination…constitutes misuse of the university as an institution.” Unfortunately, there is no university authority willing to challenge its radical faculty, and the University of California is no exception.
Indoctrination -- as opposed to education -- takes place when opinion is taught as scientific fact; when syllabuses provide no room for alternative views that might actually be correct; and when assigned readings contain no texts that challenge the instructor’s point of view. Indoctrination is the attempt to impose an orthodoxy on students, to tell them what to think instead of teaching them how to think. Such instruction is alien to the core principles of the modern research university and the democracy that supports it. It is also unprofessional under existing university standards.
In researching One-Party Classroom, we found 150 courses at 12 elite universities that violate these principles and misuse their institutions by indoctrinating students in the instructor’s political prejudices. These courses explicate radical ideologies as though they were scientific theories, instead of examining them, even when the ideology taught is directly challenged by scientific data. For example, the field of Women’s Studies generally requires students to believe that women are “oppressed” and “marginalized” in America, and also that gender differences between men and women are environmentally rather than biologically determined. In fact, the typical Women’s Studies course teaches that gender differences are created by men in order to oppress women. But modern biology and neuroscience have established that many gender traits are biologically determined. Women’s Studies is governed by ideologues not scholars. Similarly, sociology and African American Studies courses teach that America’s essential character is racist. In the words of a favored text by a former head of the American Sociological Association: “in the United States, every part of the life cycle, and most aspects of one’s life, are shaped by the racism that is integral to the foundation of the United States.” It doesn’t take rocket science to see that this is a controversial claim that should be scrutinized and not simply presented as a doctrine that experts accept.
Yet in each of the cases documented in our book this is exactly what takes place. In One-Party Classroom we examine doctrinaire syllabuses and one-sided reading lists, which leave no doubt that their purpose is to instill radical prejudices and recruit students to radical causes. Literally. At the University of Arizona , for example, students can take a course in “Social Movements” whose official catalogue description announces: “Here it is, activism for credit. Give four hours to a social movement and I’ll give you 200 points.” The instructor then provides students with a list of social movements, which are far left groups: “You might look into social movement organizations listed on the Tucson Peace Calendar or Arizona Indymedia Center.” (Indymedia is a collective of anti-capitalist anarchist and radical organizations.)
In One-Party Classroom we selected the universities for our study at random. They include such prominent and representative schools as Columbia, Duke, Texas, Penn State, Temple, Arizona State and UC Santa Cruz. Since there are 4,000 universities nationally, it is reasonable to assume that that there are well over ten thousand indoctrination courses currently offered, with millions of students passing through them every year.
The evidence presented in our book that indoctrination is a real problem and one that is widespread is irrefutable. It is time to stop denying the obvious and start taking steps to remedy it.
To order One-Party Classroom, the new book by David Horowitz and Jacob Laksin, click here.