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Indoctrination U By: Philip Laverty
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, September 16, 2005


California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB) opened in 1995 on the former Fort Ord Army Base through President Clinton’s “Peace Dividend,” that Democratic plan to exploit President Reagan’s triumph over the Soviet Empire to devastate our military and intelligence services. Now, a former, thriving military community has become a Marxist boot camp and bastion for radical, militant, racial identity-politics as well as a refuge for academic hacks. The conflict I experienced while teaching at CSUMB and the resulting actions taken against me are the topics of the latter half of this article.

CSUMB could as easily have been named CSU-Affirmative Action. CSUMB is unique among American state colleges in that it was conceived as an Affirmative Action university and officially oriented as an institution of leftist political indoctrination. Declarations from the university’s “Vision Statement” provide a sense of CSUMB’s direction (see also the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences statement of Educational Philosophy):

 

The campus will be distinctive in serving the diverse people of California, especially the working class and historically undereducated and low-income populations…The identity of the university will be framed by substantive commitment to multilingual, multicultural, gender-equitable learning.

 

The curriculum of CSUMB will be student and society centered and of sufficient breadth and depth to meet statewide and regional needs, specifically those involving both inner-city and isolated rural populations, and needs relevant to communities in the immediate Tri-County region (Monterey, Santa Cruz, and San Benito).

 

Our vision of the goals of California State University, Monterey Bay includes: a model pluralistic academic community where all learn and teach one another in an atmosphere of mutual respect and pursuit of excellence; a faculty and staff motivated to excel in their respective fields as well as to contribute to the broadly defined university environment. Our graduates will have an understanding of interdependence and global competence, distinctive technical and educational skills, the experience and abilities to contribute to California's high quality work force, the critical thinking abilities to be productive citizens, and the social responsibility and skills to be community builders. CSUMB will dynamically link the past, present, and future by responding to historical and changing conditions, experimenting with strategies which increase access, improve quality, and lower costs through education in a distinctive CSU environment. University students and personnel will attempt analytically and creatively to meet critical state and regional needs, and to provide California with responsible and creative leadership for the global 21st century.

 

CSUMB has created a sort of Newspeak terminology in an attempt to distinguish its alternative credentials, and faculty publications tend to be in the area of pedagogy or educational philosophy. Classes, for example, are deemed “learning experiences.” General education requirements—here called University Learning Requirements, or ULR’s—include:

 

  • “Democratic Participation” where instructors require students to engage in political action for “social justice”;
  • “U.S. Histories,” the pluralization, implying a separatist approach to history;
  • “Ethics”; and
  • “Vibrancy,” a fancy term for physical education, for which students here receive college credit.

In addition to “Democratic Participation,” another palpably leftist ULR includes “Culture and Equity,” the “learning outcomes” of which include the following goals:

 

Students define and describe the concept of culture using insights from scholarly literatures of culture and compare their own culture with other cultures using their conceptual understanding.

 

Students define and describe the concept of cultural identity(s) using insights from scholarly literatures and compare their own cultural identity(s), within the context of their own culture(s), with the cultural identities of others.

 

Students analyze and describe the concepts of power relations, equity, and social justice and find examples of each concept in the U.S. society and other societies.

 

Students analyze historical and contemporary cross-cultural scenarios of discrimination, inequity, and social injustice in the United States and other societies.

 

Students define and describe various personal and institutional strategies/processes that could create equity and social justice in the United States and other societies.

 

Students must also fulfill the “Community Participation” (formerly “Service Learning”) ULR. Many of us have benefited personally from giving our time to the community; serving in a soup kitchen or registering voters can be fulfilling volunteer work, but for college credit? “Learning Outcomes” for this ULR demand:

 

Students question and analyze their own beliefs, values and assumptions while developing knowledge of the beliefs and values of others.

 

Students comprehend their own social and cultural group identities and those of others, and the relative privilege or marginalization of each.

 

Students analyze the demographics and political, sociocultural, and historical dynamics of a specific community.

 

Students examine and analyze a community issue in the context of systemic inequities.

 

Students enter, participate in, and exit a community in ways that do not reinforce systemic injustice.

 

Students contribute to a community through competent, responsive service.

 

Students demonstrate skills in reciprocal community participation and collaboration.

 

I realize that students are required to write an “essay” and engage in some form of “analysis” to fulfill this ULR. However, the political orientation of these required projects should be abundantly clear. Consider also the mission statement of the Service Learning Institute, which facilitates the “Community Participation” ULR:

 

The mission of the Service Learning Institute is to foster and promote social justice by cultivating reciprocal service…

 

We believe that: Service learning must promote social justice…Education at CSUMB should be transformative; creating ethical and responsible community participants…

 

We have adopted the following core values to guide our work: …Working towards social justice: continual movement toward an equitable society; Developing multicultural understanding and respect for differences; and Cultivating awareness of self in relation to social inequities through reflection and active service with the community.

 

The ultimate message of these various ULR’s is one of embattled victimhood for minority and female students and that they are “special and apart” from American society, rather than invested in the “American dream.” [1] Moreover, all students, regardless of background, are told they must embrace this vision and donate free time to advancing it in society. As CSUMB is a state school, this agenda is carried out using tax dollars.

 

A pedagogical position institutionalized at CSUMB is the idea of “Asset Based Learning,” where the students contribute as much to the “learning experience” as the professor. In fact, there are no lecterns in any classroom on campus, despite the fact that most of my students barely demonstrate proficiency in reading and writing at a high school level – let alone posses the basic knowledge of American history that would allow them to pursue introductory collegiate level work in U.S. history, let alone participate in teaching same. When my students were directed, as a preliminary evaluative exercise, to simply write a one-page argument about a section (of their choosing) of the Declaration of Independence or Constitution, one student wrote that the Declaration of Independence may have something to do with England, but he wasn’t sure. Most of my students did not read beyond the Constitution’s Preamble and dismissed our founding documents because slaveholders wrote them and “excluded” women and African-Americans.

 

Another example of “Asset Based Learning” was reported by a student of mine, who discussed how a tenured professor (whose office sports a large portrait of Karl Marx) allowed his students to teach each other about issues of race. Apparently, when one student “of color” threw a desk, the professor felt that he should not reprimand this student because the professor was white – and he would not chastise white students for their misbehavior, either, because this would be seen as a double standard. (At least he’s consistent.)

 

The low level of academics, taking the form, for instance, of grade giveaways for reflection papers, doesn’t seem to bother many faculty members who, apparently maintaining disdain for both traditional standards of academic achievement and scholarly integrity, simply pat themselves on the back for passing along and handing out degrees to minority students (as long as they vote the way they were taught to vote).

 

Plagiarism and other acts of academic dishonesty are rampant here and go drastically underreported. I single-handedly tripled the university’s instances of reported academic dishonesty by referring students to the Judicial Affairs Office from a single section of my course who had committed blatant plagiarism, copying and pasting significant portions of their term research papers from internet sources. My attempts to urge the university to adopt an honor code and stricter guidelines concerning academic dishonesty and plagiarism have fallen on deaf ears. Is it any wonder when the former chair of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Armando Arias, was fined by the Commissioner of Higher Education in the State of Texas for running an online diploma mill, that issues of academic integrity are not taken seriously at CSUMB?

 

California State universities and the University of California system do not readily accept any transfer credits from CSUMB. To be sure, not holding students to traditional standards of academic achievement and scholarly integrity promotes an insidious, “soft bigotry of low expectations.”[2]

 

Far-Left Bias and Hispanic Racism

 

If CSUMB has dumbed down its admissions standards, it has altered the curriculum accordingly, overtly championing left-wing orthodoxy. A cursory review of course texts in the bookstore reveals titles such as Michael Moore’s Stupid White Men, used for a business writing course; In Defense of Mumia; What Liberal Media?; Lies My Teacher Told Me; tracts by Howard Zinn; and other blatantly leftist works. Balancing conservative titles are nowhere to be found.

 

One CSUMB professor alone, Juan Oliverez, forces his students to read the highly tendentious text of the celebrated Marxist historian Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States, Rodolfo Acuña’s Occupied America, Paula Rothenberg’s White Privilege, and William Domhoff’s Who Rules America? As Maria Chang argues:

 

For Rodolfo Acuña, author of Occupied America: The Chicano’s Struggle toward Liberation, probably the most widely assigned text in U.S. Chicano Studies programs, the Anglo-American invasion of Mexico was “as vicious as that of Hitler's invasion of Poland and other Central European nations....” The book also includes a map showing “the Mexican republic” in 1822 reaching up into Kansas and Oklahoma, and including within it Utah, Nevada, and everything west and south of there. At a MEChA conference in 1996, Acuña referred to Anglos as Nazis: “Right now you are in the Nazi United States of America.” The effect of books such as those is to radicalize young Chicanos.

 

Never engaging in a debate presenting alternative points of view—except for who can be more radical—and quashing all dissenting voices, university events are presented in a uniformly leftist manner. Official dorm movie nights showed Fahrenheit 9/11 leading up to the presidential election last November. Recently Social and Behavioral Sciences presented its Ninth Annual Social Justice Colloquium, “Multicultural Citizenship in an Era of U.S. Dominance,” which included, among others, Ilise Cohen, a member of Voices in the Wilderness and Huda Samir of the Organization for Women's Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), a group supported by the Workers-Communist Party of Iran. “Vagina Days” was another major university event, as was Howard Zinn’s play about the anarchist Emma Goldman. Another recent event, “Diversity Days,” included a discussion entitled “Unpacking Whiteness” that explored “the concept of whiteness and its relation to systematic privilege, as well as removing the guilt of being white.” (That would be a first.)

 

Sam Green’s sympathetic documentary about the Weather Underground was promoted extensively as a major university event, and faculty were asked to encourage their students to attend. Notice that terrorism is in scare quotes in the following e-mail announcements, and that we will learn of its “cause,” which turned out to be – surprise! – American policy:

 

Dear Faculty,

Please announce this to your students. It is a very engaging film about a very misunderstood part of U.S. history.  There will be a discussion after the screening, an opportunity to reflect on the issue of “terrorism” and what drives people to it.

Caitlin [Manning]

 

Dear All: Please consider attending this timely event. Sincerely, Lilly Martinez

 

On the eve of the presidential election, World Languages and Cultures (WLC) presented the following “seminar” in a blatant attempt to influence the votes of Hispanic, oops, I mean Chicano or better, Xicano, students. One fliar backing a university seminar last November declared:

 

U.S. President George Bush may be surprised to learn that he's not very popular among Latin Americans. Despite speaking Spanish. [sic.] Opinion polls reveal that only 12 percent of Latin American people think President Bush is doing a good job in the region. Mistrust ranges from the war on Iraq to U.S. policy on free trade.

 

MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán [Chicano Student Movement of Aztlán]) is active on campus. The overt racism and militancy of this group is well documented. The MEChA logo pictures dynamite and a macahuitl, the obsidian blade-studded war club that advanced the brutal Aztec empire. Last year, the university hosted a lecture by Maestro Ocelocoatl, whose “teachings” include that “arqueolocos” (crazy archaeologists) had fabricated findings about Aztec human sacrifices, claiming this never happened. Spurious claims to indigenous identity, always Aztec, and territorial claims to the mythical land of “Aztlán” are commonplace, to the chagrin of California and other American Indians.

 

Naturally, the idea of Aztlán, the mythical northern lands from which the Chichimecas migrated, was revived within the Chicano movement to be a symbolic literary device by the poet Alturista.[3] Interestingly, Aztlán happens to coincide with the extensive lands claimed but only partially controlled by the Spanish Empire and later the Mexican Republic. The actual indigenous inhabitants of most of these territories were Indians who prevented Hispanic control through decisive military action, and who were making progress toward destroying Hispanic settlements in California and other areas at the time of American annexation. David Yeagley’s clarity is germane here: “The truth is, Mexicans were helpless against us. So where did they get this idea that they used to own our land?”

 

Aztlán is now a reified concept taking on an undue concrete reality and is the central rallying cry of the Chicano nationalists’ intended “reconquista” or re-conquest of the American Southwest (either through violence or immigration). One of the key “plans” of MEChA is included on the CSUMB MEChA’s website:

 

El Plan Espiritual de Aztlán

In the spirit of a new people that is conscious not only of its proud historical heritage but also of the brutal “gringo” invasion of our territories, we, the Chicano inhabitants and civilizers of the northern land of Aztlán from whence came our forefathers, reclaiming the land of their birth and consecrating the determination of our people of the sun, declare that the call of our blood is our power, our responsibility, and our inevitable destiny.

 

We are free and sovereign to determine those tasks which are justly called for by our house, our land, the sweat of our brows, and by our hearts. Aztlán belongs to those who plant the seeds, water the fields, and gather the crops. and not to the foreign Europeans. We do not recognize capricious frontiers on the bronze continent.

 

Brotherhood unites us, and love for our brothers makes us a people whose time has come and who struggles [sic] against the foreigner “gabacho” who exploits our riches and destroys our culture. With our heart in our hands and our hands in the soil, we declare the independence of our mestizo nation. We are a bronze people with a bronze culture. Before the world, before all of North America, before all our brothers in the bronze continent, we are a nation, we are a union of free pueblos, we are Aztlán.

 

Por La Raza todo. Fuera de La Raza nada [For the race everything. For those outside of the race, nothing].

 

Latino faculty members at CSUMB protested the administration of University President Peter Smith, a white, former Republican U.S. Representative from Vermont, alleging widespread discrimination. I cannot evaluate those claims here. I bring these events up because the rhetoric used by those involved is revealing, if for no other reason than to illustrate the emotionally and politically charged character of race relations that have dominated the early history of this campus. Ruben Mendoza championed the conflict against President Smith's administration in inflammatory, hyperbolic terms such as calling the administration's actions “ethnic cleansing,” “brutalization,” “Latino lynching” and a “scorched earth policy” that created a “climate of fear” and a “toxic environment. Donald Urioste, Director of World Languages and Cultures, stated in an article discussing the allegations of the “racism” of Smith’s administration and the “ethnic cleansing” at CSUMB:

 

We have just said ‘enough.’ Many of the people who left have been Latino and African American, and as people leave, they are not being replaced. Many of us have been struggling for that goal since the ‘60s. Now we are having to fight the same battle we fought some 30 years ago. This is supposed to be our university and we shouldn’t have to struggle [emphasis added]. [See also resolutions of the Associated Students and other aspects of student politics, including headlines from Democracy Now!]

 

Leading up to graduation ceremonies last year, intended, of course, as celebrations for graduating students and their families, some level-headed faculty members urged all faculty via a mass e-mail to not disrupt the event to protest the university's administration with signs, body language, etc. Ruben Mendoza, for example, responded by deriding these faculty for their “middle class” values and comportment, and, making an analogy to the Boston Tea Party, claiming that his graduation protests were somehow central to promoting democracy at CSUMB.

 

CSUMB Opposes Academic Freedom

 

The “Social and Political Histories of the United States,” the Social and Behavioral Sciences course, for which I was hired to teach as a part-time lecturer, fulfills both the “U.S. Histories” and “Democratic Participation” ULR’s. Because of this, I receive e-mail from the two ULR “Communities,” i.e., committees. The chair of the Democratic Participation committee, David Takacs, e-mailed his concern that CSUMB would soon be targeted by the academic freedom movement because of “what we teach and how we teach.” In a reminder e-mail, Takacs represented the academic freedom movement with the following inane mischaracterization, “Our [discussion] topic: (How) Do we respond to the nationwide movement to censure more ‘liberal’ faculty members in Academia?” [sic.]

 

To date, CSUMB has “responded” by ducking, covering, and continuing its political advocacy – and its advocacy of low academic standards generally. It is beyond my comprehension how this “university,” or trumped up, radicalized remedial high school, was accredited in the first place, although the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) accreditation report mentions a “strong sense of common purpose,” explicitly citing its political “vision.” Even this laudatory report wonders aloud:

 

The team wonders if the intensity of the vision may serve both as an attractor and as a filter, in some cases causing those whose interests are not fully aligned with the vision to leave the campus. (page 22).

 

Not all CSUMB faculty are content that those with opposing viewpoints stay away; they also want to drive political heretics from their ranks. Unfortunately, I am one such example.

 

My Fight with CSUMB

 

In addition to opposing this indoctrination on intellectual grounds, I have a personal stake in the debate over CSUMB: my teaching contract was not renewed this semester after I objected to remaining in a shared office where my officemate, the aforementioned Juan Oliverez. Oliverez is a former Salinas City Council member who also sued to attempt to prevent Governor Schwarzenegger’s recall election. At issue was my objection that Oliverez monopolized wall space above the only desk in the room with left-wing propaganda posters. The messages of these posters inspired my protest, messages such as:

 

We are warriors, training in the schools and

on the streets of barrios everywhere.

We are the founders of a New Brown Empire.

We call ourselves Chicano, Latino, Mexicano, and Indigenous.

We are Soldiers of the Sixth Sun.

 

All of his posters were created by Chingao (Spanish for “F—k”) Productions. Another poster is a poem about a Chicano student, the message of which is that because George Washington wasn’t Chicano and therefore not his “father,” the student should not be required to learn about this founding father. Other posters continued on similar militant themes.

 

Because of my longstanding commitment to countering racism and my concern for race relations in America, I was led to object to the messages of Oliverez’s posters. I did not want to be associated with these messages day in and day out and have to explain or comment on them to my students. I certainly would not have objected if it was Oliverez’s own office and would only encourage him to expose exactly who he is and in what he believes. I originally wrote to Oliverez:

 

Juan:

 

I assume the decorations in building [15], room 110 are yours. If not, please disregard this note. Are you using this office currently? I'm unsure because your name is not listed outside. If not, would you please remove your posters? If so, were you unaware that this office is a shared space?

 

Philip

 

Oliverez responded that he was aware, but there was plenty of wall space for my decorations. He copied his e-mail to the departmental administrative assistant, who pointed out to me Oliverez's seniority and “graciousness” in scheduling his office hours on the days he teaches instead of the days I teach. She offered to have another desk placed in the small office for my decorations.

 

To counter these images and messages, I considered hanging photographs of American presidents, the Declaration of Independence and an American flag. Instead, I decided to write to the chair of the department, George Baldwin, and reply to the administrative assistant, Lilly Martinez, to express my concerns, understanding that retribution would likely follow. In my e-mail I stated that I would no longer meet with students in that office because, “I strive to encourage my students to be nuanced and critical in their thinking on issues of history, politics and identity, and to maintain high evidentiary standards. I encourage respect for the dignity and humanity of all peoples. The office is embarrassingly counterproductive in this regard.” Martinez immediately responded with the following e-mail suggesting that I had acted with disrespect towards Oliverez in my initial e-mail and implying that I am a racist.

 

Phil: It doesn’t appear (in my opinion) based on the tone and really, disrespect in your initial e-mail to Dr. Oliverez that you encourage respect for the dignity and humanity of all peoples. As a former student of Dr. Oliverez, I find him to be of the highest caliber instructor [sic.] and person [sic.] who encourages respect for everyone. I suggest you talk to Dr. Baldwin about alternative office space – perhaps you can meet your students in the other adjunct office in 17/110 unless of course the Native American posters offend you? [emphasis added]

 

Lilly

 

Martinez's e-mail rests on the Orwellian logic that to point out Chicano racism is itself an act of egregious racism. Martinez then barged into my locked office during my office hours, with another faculty member in tow – without knocking – to confront me and further berate me, stating in the end that she was, “surprised and disappointed.” After I stated that I would no longer be meeting with students in the office, Oliverez immediately rearranged his decorations placing his “Soldiers of a New Brown Empire” prominently and hanging a new poster of Ernesto “Che” Guevara with a poem that begins with the line, “Yo soy con el Che.” (“I am with Che.”)

 

I received no communication from the department whatsoever concerning a contract for employment this semester. I heard anecdotally from two professors in the department that Martinez and Oliverez have both filed unsubstantiated complaints against me. I have neither been formally made aware of these complaints, nor have I been provided with the opportunity to respond to them. As one professor reported to me, Martinez’s complaint, and the rumor that she has circulated around the department, was that I “attacked” and “threatened” her. Another professor put it in milder terms that I had “spoken angrily” toward Martinez and that Oliverez’s complaint apparently consists of his contention that I demanded that he take down his posters. This latter professor, tenured within the department, pointed out an official reason why I wasn’t rehired—the university needed to balance the courses that fulfill the U.S. Histories ULR among the various departments that offer competing courses meeting this ULR. He stated that though this was the official reason, he could not assure me that my conflict with Oliverez and Martinez was not the root cause.

 

Both professors with whom I discussed my employment issue noted that they had been made aware of student complaints against me. When I wrote to the chair requesting a meeting, Martinez forwarded e-mail from three students apparently construed as formal complaints. The chair responded that he would meet with me and that the student complaints needed to be addressed. One e-mail was from a student upset because I failed her for blatant plagiarism, another from a student who believed I was ignoring her e-mail (I was not teaching and was out of town without secure e-mail access), and another from a student with an incomplete grade. I responded positively to the chair with the times I was available to meet. So far, my request for a meeting has gone unanswered. My treatment amounts to the type of racial McCarthyism that Horowitz describes in Uncivil Wars.

 

CSUMB is unique in that its control by radicals was not due to a slow process of domination through the attrition and barring of conservative or centrist faculty. CSUMB was designed and founded to be an institution of leftist indoctrination. Some faculty members claim a position of ultimate persecution at the hands of allegedly virulently racist administration. On a deeper level, educational philosophy in American universities is now based on crude Marxist notions about truth and ideology – progression towards leftist politics and away from capitalist “false consciousness” is assumed to be foundational to higher education itself (more on this another time). After all, an education at CSUMB, where Cesar Chavez Day is celebrated instead of Veterans’ Day, is intended to be “transformative.” This might also serve as a warning that where the open borders lobby and rabid anti-American, whitey-hating militancy meet, “unholy alliances,” and treacherous consequences are only a fuse length away.

 

I wish to thank Jeff Boyd for his insightful criticisms, editorial suggestions and support.

 

ENDNOTES:

 

[1] David Horowitz, Uncivil Wars: The Controversy over Reparations for Slavery. Encounter Books: San Francisco, CA. 2002, p. 38.

 

[2] President George W. Bush, January 8, 2004.

 

[3] See the PBS documentary Chicano!: History of the Mexican-American Civil Rights Movement, “In Search of a Homeland.”

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