Monday, August 31, 2009

Out of the ivory tower 

Mark Bauerlein reads the new Chronicle of Higher Education's Almanac and finds a few disturbing signs. And I don't mean the paucity of conservatives on campus -- that's a foregone conclusion by now that barely bears repeating. No, this is the observation that caught my eye:
The heading is "Issues believed to be of high or highest priority at own institution," and the last item is "To develop an appreciation of multiculturalism." To that query, 54.5 percent of respondents answered "Yes." In other words, when asked about whether their campus promoted a particular ideology and wanted students to embrace it, they agreed. Note that the statement doesn't say "study multiculturalism." It says "appreciate multiculturalism." It sets a particular belief in front of students and urges them to value it.
To marvel at this you need only imagine that the Economics Department of your local state university (say, mine) were to have as "our highest priority" to be "an appreciation of free markets." (We say in fact "understanding of economics for decision-making", in case you were wondering.) What would the howling be of the department's indoctrination as "corporate apologists"?

Here are a few others in our university:
"The Department of Human Relations and Multicultural Education provides education in self-awareness and skills essential for living and working in a democratic, socially just society. Specifically, the issues addressed by the department include the study of oppression and social justice related to race, gender, age, class, religion, disability, physical appearance, sexual orientation and nationality/culture. Human Relations and Multicultural Education is an interdisciplinary applied field which is committed to addressing the serious questions of survival, equity and quality of life facing people around the world. The departmental curriculum represents the voices and perspectives of groups which have historically been excluded from the western canon. Human Relations is also dedicated to teaching investigative and critical thinking skills whereby participants examine mainstream and alternative viewpoints for values and veracity. Critical thinking, in the context of this program, must go beyond ordinary problem solving "techniques" to questioning and challenging ideas, policies and institutions."

"The General Education Program at SCSU is committed to the ideal of liberal education that provides knowledge, skills and experience and promotes critical thinking and ethical values for a lifetime of integrated learning in a diverse and changing society." [Approved by Faculty Senate on 1/24/2006.]

Assessment (of Racial Issues Courses) ... "will demonstrate knowledge of key concepts such as: ... "examples of privileges and benefits based on racial identity", "...identify forms of institutional discrimination in education, housing, politics, economics and the legal system" and "will critique societal attempts at assimilation and exclusion of under represented groups of color in the U.S."
Bauerlein notes the activist agenda of many faculties surveyed in the Almanac. While SCSU's latest attempts at activism are not much more than a farmers' market, there is little doubt we're in the majority found in the Almanac. The question one should ask is whether the new sustainability push differs from these diversity goals. One might even ask during freshman orientation, but beware.
Learning to see what is ideological about an ideology is difficult but it is part of a college education. Unfortunately your college is far more likely to want to reinforce the diversity ideology than to help you consider it critically. You may have already seen this reinforcement in your application if you were invited to write a �diversity essay.� You will see it again in course requirements, the organization of student groups, and the singling out of some groups for special treatment.