Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Orientation 'treatments' 

Suppose you have a high school junior or senior looking to attend a nice college. Nothing real fancy, mind you, just a reasonable quality school with faculty who commit to teaching, a nice campus and dorm life, etc. You get the materials from one school, whose Office of Residence Life has an education program designed for those living in the dorms. It has a set of "competencies" for your child to develop in the interest of learning "citizenship." These include
You think "that stuff looks pretty liberal," but you decide that because it's a public school (so tuition is reasonable) they probably can't go too far in pushing this stuff, right?

Welcome to the University of Delaware.

Students living in the university�s eight housing complexes are required to attend training sessions, floor meetings, and one-on-one meetings with their Resident Assistants (RAs). The RAs who facilitate these meetings have received their own intensive training from the university, including a �diversity facilitation training� session at which RAs were taught, among other things, that �[a] racist is one who is both privileged and socialized on the basis of race by a white supremacist (racist) system. The term applies to all white people (i.e., people of European descent) living in the United States, regardless of class, gender, religion, culture or sexuality.�

The university suggests that at one-on-one sessions with students, RAs should ask intrusive personal questions such as �When did you discover your sexual identity?� Students who express discomfort with this type of questioning often meet with disapproval from their RAs, who write reports on these one-on-one sessions and deliver these reports to their superiors. One student identified in a write-up as an RA�s �worst� one-on-one session was a young woman who stated that she was tired of having �diversity shoved down her throat.�

...At various points in the program, students are also pressured or even required to take actions that outwardly indicate their agreement with the university�s ideology, regardless of their personal beliefs. Such actions include displaying specific door decorations, committing to reduce their ecological footprint by at least 20%, taking action by advocating for an �oppressed� social group, and taking action by advocating for a �sustainable world.�

In the Office of Residence Life�s internal materials, these programs are described using the harrowing language of ideological reeducation. In documents relating to the assessment of student learning, for example, the residence hall lesson plans are referred to as �treatments.�
You can see other stories like this now through Thursday night by watching Indoctrinate U at the Oak Street Cinema in Minneapolis.

I've written years ago about our own student orientations and those given to others and their parents, but this one appears to jump the shark.

UPDATE: In comments, Jeff makes a one of those "wish-I'd-thought-of-that" point:
I'm less worried for the average dorm-dwelling student (who can probably ignore this nonsense; in reality, it's rarely "mandatory") and more troubled by the fact that becoming an RA is apparently conditional on professing a particular set of beliefs. The RAs are the ones who are most likely to find themselves in the awkward situation King is describing, wondering if thoughtcrime is going to prevent them from gaining the assistantship for which they are otherwise qualified.
George Borjas knows a thing or two about this sort of thing as well:
Why am I super-sensitive to this? Because as a young boy I myself went through a one-year course in ideological reorientation. I attended an elite elementary Catholic school in Havana. Castro took over, the Catholic school was shut down, and I got transferred to a revolutionary school where the entire day was spent teaching Marxist-Leninist ideology. Luckily, this lasted only a year and I continued my education in Miami (where the entire school day was instead spent talking about the upcoming football game). I am certain that the blind zealotry that I saw in the young teacher's eyes that year turned me off from that particular way of viewing the world for the rest of my life. One can only hope that many of the students forced to attend the re-education programs at Delaware and other universities react in the same way.
Borjas says he is looking forward to seeing Indoctrinate U.