Brainwashing 101: A Conservative Agenda for Higher Education


Brainwashing 101 (currently in motion picture release as Indoctrinate U) represents an ongoing conservative offensive against alleged liberal bias in American higher education.  For example, just today the Chronicle of Higher Education has reported that an adjunct instructor at a two-year college in Idaho who reportedly made inflammatory remarks about Republicans in her English class has become a target of right-wing bloggers and has received several death threats.

Many view this conservative movement as a witch-hunt, a modern-day form of McCarthyism.  However, recent investigations into liberal bias at Pennsylvania public universities have revealed that the conservative claims have failed to live up to their billing.  As Michael Berube reported on his Pennsylvania State University blog:

“The Blogger Who Is No Longer Nice has thrown down the gauntlet.  First he quotes the Philadelphia Inquirer’s story about the recent “liberal bias” hearings at Temple University:

Show trial fizzles out:

Yesterday’s hearing on academic freedom at Pennsylvania’s public universities was hyped by conservative activists as a “historic moment,” in which school administrators would finally be “called to account” in front of state legislators for allowing student “indoctrination and abuse” by leftist professors.

But the hearing at Temple University did not live up to that billing.

A professor scheduled to testify about alleged rampant liberal bias at Temple canceled. The sole student to appear before the legislative committee acknowledged he had never filed a formal grievance.

And Temple president David Adamany testified that in fact no student had made an official classroom bias complaint in at least five years, despite well-developed policies and procedures for doing so. . . .

Rep. Dan Surra (D., Elk) called the hearings a “colossal waste of time and taxpayer money.”

Yep, sounds about right to me.  But check out what No More Mister Nice Blog has to say about this:

So much for the big victory Davey Horowitz declared last summer when the Pennsylvania House passed the resolution calling for the hearings. Incidentally, maybe I’m missing something here, but it appears that the Horowitz/Front Page Magazine crowd’s entire case with regard to Temple is based on one course. If the Liberal International is really hell-bent on brainwashing the next generation of America’s youth, shouldn’t we be working harder than that?

Well, you’re right, Steve, my man, we should be working harder.  I’m sorry I’ve dropped the ball on liberal indoctrination at Penn State; I have to confess that I was too busy last semester to attend to this.  I’ll see what I can do about getting the Lenin-Trotsky-Stalin Studies undergraduate minor in the humanities approved by the Faculty Senate without further delay.  That way the kids will have to take six indoctrination courses.  Bwah hah hah hah hah.

But seriously, folks, indoctrinatin’ is hard work.  It’s hard!  And you know how professors hate hard work.

Still, the mere fact that students are not rising up en masse to complain about liberal indoctrination doesn’t mean it ain’t happening.  In fact, if you think about it hard enough, it’s probably very good evidence that it is happening!  From the Chronicle of Higher Education (sub required, sorry):

Rep. Dan B. Frankel, a Democrat who is a member of the Board of Trustees of the University of Pittsburgh, reminded Ms. Neal [president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni] that the issue of potential political discrimination at state universities had received a considerable amount of publicity since the committee’s previous hearing three months ago.  He said he might have expected students to come forward with complaints, but none have done so. “It seems to me we may be overblowing this problem,” he said. “I don’t have streams of people coming to me.”

“Let’s not put the burden on the student,” Ms. Neal countered. “Let’s put the burden on the institutions.”

When asked to elaborate on this remark, Ms. Neal said, “I’m simply saying that if there are only a tiny handful of complaints from students, then colleges should bear the burden of explaining why more students aren’t coming forward to say what we all know is true.  That’s the way the system should work.

“In fact, the very paucity of complaints is the best evidence we’ve yet seen for the argument that conservative students are intimidated into silence,” Ms. Neal continued.  “Despite our years-long national campaign to get conservative students to expose their liberal professors’ schemes of indoctrination, we’ve come up with next to nothing.  And nothing could testify more eloquently to the pervasiveness of campus conservatives’ persecution than this next to nothing.”*

In a related development, David Horowitz has had to issue two retractions of stories he has told repeatedly in his campaign against liberal campuses.

But while Horowitz was declaring the hearings “a great victory” for his cause, he lost some powerful stories. For example, Horowitz has said several times that a biology professor at Pennsylvania State University used a class session just before the 2004 election to show the Michael Moore documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, but he acknowledged Tuesday that he didn’t have any proof that this took place.

In a phone interview, Horowitz said that he had heard about the alleged incident from a legislative staffer and that there was no evidence to back up the claim. He added, however, that “everybody who is familiar with universities knows that there is a widespread practice of professors venting about foreign policy even when their classes aren’t about foreign policy” and that the lack of evidence on Penn State doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem.

“These are nit picking, irrelevant attacks,” he said.

“As Ms. Neal said,” Horowitz added, “we already know what is true.  Whether or not it actually happened is irrelevant.  You don’t need evidence for things you already know are true.  That’s just nit picking.  Everybody knows that.

“And the fact that no Penn State biology professor assigned Fahrenheit 9/11 is a great victory for my cause.”*

Even if these examples aren’t correct, he said, they represent the reality of academic life. “Is there anybody out there who will say that professors don’t attack Bush in biology classrooms?” he said. Horowitz characterized the debate over his retractions as a diversionary tactic by his critics.

“Retractions are irrelevant to the truth.  They’re a diversion,” Horowitz insisted, pointing to his now-famous headline about yet another academic urban legend he’s been circulating for years, the story of the poor student who was given an F for refusing to write an essay on why George Bush is a war criminal: “Some of Our Facts Were Wrong; Our Point Was Right.”

“Facts don’t do what I want them to,” Horowitz said while donning an outlandishly oversized white jacket.  “Facts just twist the truth around. . . .  Facts are nothing on the face of things.”*

* I have to admit, in the interest of fairness and balance, that I made up these quotes.  I mean, c’mon, it’s not as if these people would really say anything this foolish.

Post-Atrios update:  but all the quotes in the indented paragraphs are real.  Anne Neal insisting that the burden of proof in accusations of bias should lie with the institutions—real.  Horowitz insisting that the debunking of his urban legends is “irrelevant”—also real.  You can look them up on the Internets!”

This video, Brainwashing 101, is a must-see for those who really want to have a first-hand view of the conservative attack on liberal education.

Brainwashing 101 (Currently Released as Indoctrinate U)

(Full 45-Minute Version) 

Indoctrinate U Trailer (3 Min.)

One Response to “Brainwashing 101: A Conservative Agenda for Higher Education”

  1. Aurora F Says:

    The sad thing is the neocon “war on education” is just getting it’s gears started. Attacks on higher education and attacks on teacher unions are the first step to privatizing education and whoring it off to government friendly corporations all in the name of “removing bias that obviously corrupts the youth.”

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