Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

Seeing is Believing


Thanks, David, for your perceptive thoughts on ACTA’s new study.

Now that the University of Colorado has ruled that Ward Churchill is guilty of grave academic misconduct, it’s all the more important for us not to get sidetracked about what the real issues are here. Ward Churchill is a spectacle of academic dishonesty–but he is also worryingly symptomatic of broader patterns in American academe. Indeed, what is truly significant about Ward Churchill is not that he is guilty of plagiarism and misconduct, as serious as that is, but that he is a symbol of a much larger problem in American higher education: the replacement of impartial teaching with politicized preaching.

ACTA’s new report, “How Many Ward Churchills?“, shows that many in the academy are guilty of promoting an academic culture that cultivates politically one-sided teaching, and that in doing so openly disregards the ethical obligation to respect students academic freedom to learn. Some examples from our report:

–Penn State sociology professor Sam Richards’ course syllabi explicitly state that his objectives for his students include helping them “think differently about the social world,” “develop a more nuanced understanding of why [they] are who [they] are,” “free [themselves] from the ethnocentric and self-absorbing chains that bind [them],” and “challeng[ing them] to think differently by questioning everything [so that] ‘unlearning’ will happen.” He also declares that he is “open about bringing my ideology into [the] classroom because I see that all educational systems are ideological to the core.”

–”American Dilemmas” at the University of Texas at Austin is premised on the idea that “problems in the economy and political system, social class and income inequality, racial/ethnic inequality, gender inequality and heterosexism, and problems of illness and health care” are “natural outgrowths of our existing social structure.”

– A Vassar College course on “Domestic Violence” explores how “our culture covertly and overtly condones the abuse of women by their intimate partners.”

–An anthropology course at Davidson College requires students to produce a twenty-minute skit on one of a select group of topics, including “five ways to demonize an ethnic minority,” “more ways than one to be white,” and “more segregation in integration.” Another has a “collegiality” requirement stipulating that students will “respect cultures and traditions that are not their own.”

–An Ohio State University “Introduction to Women’s Studies” course requires students to research an activist organization and then deliver a class presentation explaining the organization’s work, providing contact information for the organization, and “arguing for student support of the issue(s) and activism.”

There are many, many more such courses. One does not have to look hard for them, and one would be mistaken if one called them outrageous. They are quite the opposite. They are typical.


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