More and more, on any number of prestigious campuses, education may matter less than re-education: that’s to say, the process of turning freshman bumpkins into fully woke critics of a social order it’s essential to understand as racist, misogynist, non-diverse, elitist, and all that bad stuff.
Behold the First-Year Experience, an indoctrination program spreading across academia due to zeal for getting students straight on the country’s social problems as opposed to the very old-fashioned mission of tuning them in to Plato.
City Journal, the splendid quarterly published by the Manhattan Institute, sent John Tierney to a First-Year Experience conference in San Antonio, attended by more than 1700 academics from 20 countries. He could hardly believe his eyes. The books that First-Year pros push freshmen into absorbing don’t have much to do with the great ideas of Western Civilization, but they sure tell you about racism – “the all-consuming topic in higher education,” as Tierney tells it in the Summer 2018 issue.
Such works, Tierney says, prepare students for what a power point presentation at the conference called “co-curricular programming,” leading to a “social-justice-based learning experience.”
Umm, yes; just what Mom and Dad are shelling out 25 grand a year for.
Tierney continues: “Once students have studied social justice in the classroom, the lessons are expanded in field trips and ‘service projects’” – like combating unjust incarceration and promoting sustainability. All of which helps a freshman…how? It encourages – according to a couple of Ohio University presenters at the conference – “personal, professional, and identity formation.”
One conservative scholar at the conference told Tierney: “There are some conservative books [offered students], but they are remarkably few. You have the autobiography of Sonia Sotomayor. You never have the autobiography of Clarence Thomas.”
Well! That’s not what it’s about, you see? – acknowledging alternative accounts of moral witness and the quest for Truth. “Progressivism’s virtue,” says Tierney, “seemed beyond debate, as I learned when I tried discussing it with people at the conference.” It was “organizational monoculture.” And a bit more than that, no doubt. It was out-and-out brain-washing – the echo, not so faint as one might think or hope, of like efforts in societies wedded to uniform thinking. Let us just say George Orwell would nod his head in profound understanding.
Meanwhile, as Tierney notes, the “progressive vision of higher education for everyone” produces “many students of all races who aren’t ready for college, a problem that first-year administrators readily acknowledge.” But don’t really address. Progressive thinking trumps, apparently, Thought itself: free, joyful, uninhibited; as in the olden time, before First-Year Experience became a cause, a really woke movement.