How the left is poisoning universities. Can education be saved?
– Higher education is totally dominated by the left in America. Various studies quite unanimously indicate that even around 90% of lecturers have liberal views on social issues – says prof. Paul Kengor, professor of political science and historian.
PIOTR WŁOCZYK: If we look at the raw data, it appears that the left has achieved a total victory in the field of higher education…
PROF. PAUL KENGOR: The worst indoctrination in the American educational system can be seen precisely at the university level. Higher education is totally dominated by the left in America. Various studies quite unanimously indicate that even around 90% of lecturers have liberal views on social issues! Conservatives only constitute a few percent of the lecturers in universities! What is ironic here is that these same liberals are constantly calling for diversity, tolerance, and open-mindedness. Meanwhile, these circles are the least diverse when it comes to American institutions!
High schools are not so one-sided in terms of worldview. The teachers who work there are much more reflective of what our society is like. The danger, however, is that the lower levels of education are increasingly infected with the intellectual poison prepared by liberal humanists at universities. I’m thinking, for example, of the so-called Critical Race Theory (CRT), which is essentially the pitting of representatives of one race against another. This is where the attacks on our Founding Fathers or Christopher Columbus come from…
The “Stop-WOKE” bill, proposed by Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida and also a new star in the Republican Party, is presented by the right wing as an attempt to stop the ideologization of universities in the state. DeSantis would like to see universities teach very differently about racial issues and gender identity, among other things. Are changes in the law the best way to restore balance to universities?
Governor De Santis pointed to a very real problem and decided that state authorities must react to stop these changes. The situation is critical, so a unique solution was reached.
Immediately, voices were raised that this is in fact censorship, which restricts freedom of expression of university employees.
Of course, some will raise such arguments, and in doing so will claim that state governments should stay as far away as possible from regulating the rules that govern university campuses. But on the other hand, we have plenty of universities in the US that are funded by states. Also in Florida. Don’t state governments, while adding to higher education, have the right to require that students not be indoctrinated on racial issues, for example? It must be understood here that we are not talking about hiding knowledge about slavery, but it is about stopping ideologues who claim that a white man must be inherently racist! Because that’s essentially what CRT is about! This threatens to shatter the social order in the US, and it is obvious that people who preach such dangerous slogans must be opposed.
How did such a drastic change in universities happen in the first place?
It started a long time ago, it’s hard to even pinpoint a specific date. In recent years, however, we have seen an acceleration of the process. It’s getting worse each year, our universities are becoming more and more radicalized and “detached” from the rest of society, creating their own bubbles.
Interestingly, I am just now participating in a research project on Ronald Reagan’s gubernatorial reign in California in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Even at that time, there were dangerous radicals active on California campuses, such as Herbert Marcuse, one of the leading representatives of the so-called Frankfurt School. One of his diligent students was Angela Davis, a well-known radical feminist, communist activist, and member of the Black Panther Party. Eldridge Cleaver, who also belonged to the Black Panthers, was also active at the time. Interestingly, he moved to conservative circles in the 1980s.
Reading the reactions of lecturers at the time to these extreme slogans and attitudes, it is striking that in the late 60s and 70s there was no shortage of professors who openly criticized them. At the time, universities were much more balanced in terms of views of the faculty. The situation changed in the following decade, when universities took a leftward course in their masses. As a student at the turn of the 80s and 90s, I saw with my own eyes how our universities were being taken over by the left. Radical liberals began to fill this environment. Talented young sociologists, political scientists, or historians who held right-wing views began to have huge problems getting positions at universities. They began to promote mainly “their own.” This selection was very meticulous, the evidence of which we can see today. Humanities majors at most universities are devoid of any diversity in the US when it comes to professorial staff.
It is bad because this process also affects Catholic universities. I estimate that today a maximum of 30 Catholic universities actually teach according to the principles of the faith. In the rest, Catholicism manifests itself in the name of the institution only. Let me remind you that in 1990 Pope John Paul II issued the apostolic constitution “Ex corde Ecclesiae,” through which he wanted to set standards for Catholic universities. One of these was to require that at least half of the staff be Catholic. Unfortunately, liberal universities with Catholic banners have done nothing about this and are hiring people whose views stand far from the Church’s teachings.
From time to time we hear unbelievable-sounding stories in the media about conservative intellectuals whose appearance at liberal universities causes an outburst of aggression from some students and staff. One such person, for example, is Ben Shapiro of The Daily Wire, who has repeatedly faced aggression on campuses.
Such situations are encountered all the time by conservative intellectuals who try to establish a dialogue at liberal colleges and universities. Unfortunately, similar stories have happened at the college where I teach – Grove City College in Pennsylvania – even though we are a rather conservative university. Of course, the problem was not our students or lecturers, but visitors who wanted brawls, not dialogue.
I myself have felt this more than once, when my guest lectures had to be canceled due to protests by far-left activists. Last fall I was scheduled to give a lecture on communism and socialism at a California college. Unfortunately, the faculty staff organized a petition to prevent the meeting from taking place. The petition was full of slogans about openness to diversity and tolerance, and it was all meant to serve one thing – to explain why Paul Kengor can’t exercise his freedom of speech. This happens all the time.
Another time, during my lecture on Ronald Reagan and John Paul II at a Catholic college in my native Pennsylvania, far-left students refused to let me speak because of my opinions on true family and marriage. This intolerance is unbelievable. This is how freedom of speech and education are killed in America.
Apparently, there is a certain catalogue of worldview topics that cannot be discussed. Evidently, these people look at LGBT and abortion as slavery. Because, after all, it is impossible to imagine a discussion in a university about whether slavery should be legal or not.
The subject of abortion is the worst. Any pro-lifer who goes to a liberal campus to talk about saving babies faces great unpleasantness. The pro-choice side has come to regard the “right to abortion” almost as a quasi-religious dogma, and that’s why we have to deal with such scorching scenes at pro-abortion student protests. In such cases, security is a necessity.
The LGBT issues you mentioned are also almost sacred. Today, lecturing at a university about the two genders or marriage as a union only between a man and a woman is a manifestation of fascism. With such accusations, leftist activists try to remove people from public life. Unfortunately, today in the US it is extremely easy to get the patch of “a white nationalist.” Such a campaign has also targeted me. And it’s enough to see how conservative intellectuals visiting universities calmly debate, make their points about the most important issues of civilization, and on the other side we have outbursts of hatred from an angry mob that accuses the speaker of being “hateful.”
What can be said on these campuses about communism? It would seem that in a country that defeated the USSR, deterrence towards communism should be no problem at all.
It’s a huge paradox, but in a country that made a name for itself in the world as a conqueror of communism, on most liberal campuses today it’s safer not to bring up the subject. Unfortunately, but along with the LGBT “cult” and praise of abortion, as it were, what is also included in the “package” is a deep disdain towards capitalism and a positive attitude toward socialism and, in some cases, communism. Marxism is increasingly triumphant in these circles, which does not speak well of our educational system.
I, however, try to do my own thing in this regard. For the past thirty years, I have been circulating around American colleges and universities with a lecture entitled “Why Communism is Bad.” Sometimes I get invitations from the students themselves, who tell me that their professors are unable to cough up a word of criticism about communism and are very much hoping that someone will finally speak at their university about the real effects of Marx and Engels’ principles.
44% of Americans under 35 would prefer to live in a socialist country, while only 42% favor capitalism – these are the results of a Yougov poll done for the Washington-based Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. Shouldn’t this be an alarm bell?
It’s hardly surprising, given that, in general, American colleges and universities are only critical of fascism and racism. These two phenomena need to be criticized as much as possible, of course, but if we don’t see a parallel threat in socialism and communism, then something is probably wrong.
Let me tell you something that may be interesting for Polish readers. Five years ago, I gave a lecture at a university in Ohio. I was explaining why communism is a thoroughly evil ideology. There was only one professor among the audience. None of the other lecturers were interested in such topics. This man asked very interesting questions, it was clear that he understood perfectly what we were talking about. My attention was drawn to his accent. I asked if he perhaps had something to do with Poland. The professor confirmed and said that he had been a member of Solidarity in the 1980s. He added quietly that he was one of only two Republican voters among the 130 faculty members. This did not surprise me at all. This is just how our universities are.
It seems that the Critical Race Theory (CRT) you mentioned is increasingly popular at America’s most liberal universities today. What is really behind this slogan?
CRT is an attempt to describe race relations based on the model of critical theory. And in turn, critical theory is a tool created by leading representatives of the so-called Frankfurt School, namely Max Horkheimer, Herbert Marcuse, and Jürgen Habermas, among others, who began to shift communism away from classical Marxism which focused on economics toward culture. CRT applies Marxist tools to racial issues. This is communism in a “soft” version. Here we have entirely new categories of oppressors and the oppressed. Like classic Marxism, CRT also divides society and poisons it. It’s just that people used to be divided into social classes, and today leftist fanatics want to divide in terms of race, in a completely artificial way.
Even if a black person is a millionaire and a white person comes from the lowest level of social hierarchy?
Such contradictions don’t bother the proponents of CRT in the slightest. As with classical Marxism, logic is not the most important thing here either. According to CRT, the black man will always be oppressed. This approach to reality results in the dehumanization of man. The qualities of a person’s character do not count, what matters instead is the color of his skin. How are we supposed to combat racial prejudice if the Left wants to divide societies precisely on the basis of race? To put it bluntly: CRT is a racist ideology.
One even gets the impression that at the most progressive universities today it is even whites who are the “oppressed” group, given what students there may hear about white skin color.
Where the professorial staff seriously bases its curriculum on CRT, white students inevitably can’t feel comfortable hearing that because of the color of their skin they belong to a social group that systemically exploits minorities. There is already a phenomenon occurring in our country where Western culture and philosophy are deliberately not taught. Instead, first-year students have to go through special “diversity courses” that are directly based on neo-Marxism.
Can you see any light in this tunnel?
I am not optimistic about the future. As long as liberals have a decisive influence on the selection of faculty, a relative balance of worldviews will not be restored. The situation is really bad. Because of all these phenomena we’ve talked about, a lot of young men in the US don’t want to go to higher education because they understand that these environments are very ideologically skewed. They just don’t want to constantly hear that they are bad people. And that’s why they choose technical professions or enroll in the military. Young women, on the other hand, are becoming even more liberal in their worldview. We are beginning to see a disturbing gap here.
I have an acquaintance who enrolled in his university’s lecture, “Women’s Literature”. On the first day, the professor declared that a man would definitely not get anything good out of her class, because men are inherently sexist and cannot appreciate the beauty of women’s literature…My friend decided, of course, to drop the class. There are more and more stories like this.
If I were to advise Poles on these issues, remember that universities can become nests of moral revolution. Take care that at state universities, especially in the humanities, there should be as much diversity among lecturers as possible, and do not allow these institutions to be “concreted over” by one environment. This could have dire consequences for the future shape of society.
Prof. Paul Kengor is an American political scientist and historian, professor at Grove City College in Pennsylvania, and author of many best-selling books, including “The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism” and “A Pope and A President: John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century.”