Thomas Sowell: Classroom Brainwashing

"Academic freedom is the freedom to do academic things -- teach chemistry or accounting the way you think chemistry or accounting should be taught. It is also freedom to engage in the political activities of other citizens -- on their own time, outside the classroom -- without being fired. "

"All across the country, from the elementary schools to the universities, students report being propagandized. That the propaganda is almost invariably from the political left is secondary. The fact that it is political propaganda instead of the subject matter of the class is what is crucial."

"Inbred ideological narrowness shows up, not only in hiring and teaching, but also in restrictive campus speech codes for students, created by the very academics who complain loudly when their own "free speech" is challenged."


Paul Hue said...

That high school teacher proclaiming Bush as a Hitler did so in a geography class, which I find inexcusable. When I taught organic chemistry at FAMU, I had lots of fascinating opinions about AIDS and wholistic health. I announced to my classess when I was staging a seminar on these topics, and used class time to distribute flyers. Then I moved onto the course material, which was absolutely crucial, as my students would be taking tests written and administered by full professors. The popularity of my class derived from its usefulness in assisting students in boosting those scores, not in my fascinating presentation of heterodox scientific viewpoints.

This is conduct that I believe school admins must hold their teachers to. There can be no time in a geography class for discussions of current events.

I believe that evidence exists that university faculties penalize applicants for expressing anti-leftist views, most especially on topics such as affirmative action. Expression of these views includes papers and studies authored by the applicants, on such matters as documenting that students admitted via the assistance of affirmative action have lower average GPAs and higher than average drop-out rates. Also, students face disciplinary action -- including expulsion -- for expressing anti-leftist opinions on these matters.

Surely universities must start truely excersizing toleration of diverse opinions, and hiring faculty who offer conflicting perspectives.

Nadir said...

Three things about the Colorado case first:

1. How long was the instructor's tirade about Bush being like Hitler? If it was a brief aside, then it is insignificant.

2. From what I have read, the issue was that the teacher didn't present a balanced point of view. If he had also said, "Other people believe Bush is the second coming of Jesus" would that have been more acceptable?

3. It was a geography class, so the teacher could have been explaining the geography of the Middle East showing how the invasions were comparable to Hitler's invasions during World War II. This could be pertinent in a geography class by providing some historical context to the discussion. It seems to have made the discussion more lively and interesting...

Nadir said...

School curriculums are constantly propagandizing because of the way subjects are taught. We see this is especially true in history class, but also in economics (they only teach capitalism and not socialism or other economic forms), in literature (with the types of books that are chosen), and in science (do we forget the recent controversy about evolution vs. creationism).

That much of this propaganda is institutionalized and engrained in our course matter is ignored. Cultural bias is rampant in school systems and in more places than the SATs and standardized tests. Class bias is rampant in the subject matter as well.

Someone's ideology is being taught at all times, and the choice of which ideology to teach is a political decision.

Paul Hue said...

Nadir: I agree with much of what you say, but not with the intensity that you have about it. Can we agree that in Geography class I shouldn't take class time to explain why it is that I think that George Bush's neocon response to 911 represented sound logic?

You and I have worked together on developing curricula for the high school students of the ben carson program; our socio-political differences never came into play, though of course we didn't cover lots of topics. However, I am confident that you and I could construct History of Europe and History of Africa curricula that would similarly omit having either of our polemical views manifesting as a sermon.

Would you have the Europe class omit the waves of foriegn conquest of the Brits, and their violent natures, including rape and imposition of foreign language and custom, along with the outlawing native language and customs? Would you omit the attempts at european conquest by the persians, and the successful europen conquests by the Moroccans and Mongols?

In our African history class would you omit discriptions of black Africans imposing slavery on other blacks? Would you omit showing that such slavery continued through to the present day in some nations, and other nations in the 20th century?

If you and I constructed a literature class, would you ban authors such as Shakesphere?

Paul Hue said...

Yes, the SAT is "culturally biased": against people's whose culture lacks reading books and solving math problems! And thank god for this bias! That's exactly why the SAT was created, and it serves this purpose exceptionally well: identify the people who have troubled themselves to read books, write rhetorically about them, and solve math problems.

The basketball tryouts at high schools are just as "culturally biased": against people's whose culture lacks many cummulative serious hours playing organized basketball.

Thus many high schools produce championship basketball teams in the same under-funded, delapidated facilities with students from poor families as produce poor SAT scores: the "culture" of these people places more emphasis on sports than academics, including the "culture" of the schools themselves.

Tom Philpott said...

You have a school-aged daughter. Is she being "propagandized"? Is it time to purge the elementary schools of subversive elements? (That's what good old Dr. McCarthy, a figure who has been viewed with surprising respect and nostalgia around here, would have prescribed.) Or is Sowell being a bit..hysterical?

From my extensive studies, no tenured U.S. professor has ever been fired on quote-unquote "PC" grounds. During McCarthy's reign, hundreds of tenured faculty unceremoniously got the ax. Claims of a "New McCarthyism" on campuses are bunk.

Paul Hue said...

Tom: There you go again, mightily defying a dreadful straw man. This time that straw man seeks to "purge schools of subversives." Not a single commentator on this subject has advocated firing teachers for being "subversive" or expressing "subversive" opinions. Your actual opponents here seek to fire geography teachers for spending geography class time presenting a political polemic... regardless of the perspective, they are all clear to state. Nobody's yet presented examples of geography teachers using class time to explain to students that, say, the taliban is today's KKK, or that Al Qaida is today's confederacy.

I don't doubt that no tenured professors have been fired for violating PC strictures. In the fields where political topics make it into the classroom, I expect that the tenure process has already weeded out such people. When it comes to voting democrat, professors from the humanities are about as loyal as black folks. Did you examine hiring and tenure processes?

In the days of McCarthy, there certainly was concern for "subversion," as there existed people in the US who supported the Soviet leadership's desire have a violent revolution in the US lead to imposition of communism. Included in this population: Alger Hiss, my friend. During this time the US and the USSR were effectively at war, and people in the US government were supporting the USSR in that war.

We can see now that for all its faults at any snap shot of time, the US constantly drifts upward in expanding freedom and prosperity to its citizens, all of whom today owe their own freedom and prosperity to those who successfull fought against people like Alger Hiss. I agree that some of these anti-commie efforts were wrong. But had more people been forthcoming and open, instead of obscuring and evading, the anti-commie forces would conceivably have not taken as many anti-democratic measures as they did, nor hit as many innoccent targets (of which Hiss was not one).

The question, "Have you now or ever been..." has been ridiculed for decades by leftists. In retrospect we see that it was a valid quesion: "Have you now or have you ever belonged to a group alligned with an enemy of the US, which has as its aim the destruction of guaranteed constitutional personal liberties, and replacing it a totalitarian state via a violent revolution supported by external totalitarian nations?"