Fake Indoctrination

Some conservative commentators are apparently very, very concerned about a paper supposedly indicating that professors at the University of California colleges are indoctrinating students into horrible liberalism.

According to a piece by Noah Rothman at Mediaite:

On Thursday, Fox & Friends host Steve Doocy interviewed Peter Berkowitz, member of the National Organization of Scholars and Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, to talk about a recently conducted study that reveals American college campuses are dominated by liberal professors — some of whom may be pushing a progressive agenda on their students.

“The California Association of Scholars study shows that increasingly this [political balance in the classroom] is not the priority for Professors,” said Berkowitz. “Instead, the priority for professors is to put forward a social agenda and recruit students to that social agenda.”

The California Association of Scholars, it’s worth pointing out, is affiliated with the National Association of Scholars, a group of conservative academics that “opposes multiculturalism and affirmative action and seeks to counter a ‘liberal bias’ in academia.”

That’s fine, but it’s not exactly an independent scholarly body. It’s not like this is a case of academics researching a topic and then coming up with independent, politically neural conclusions.

That being said, check out the study here.

The report presents no evidence that campus politicization at the UC system either exists or is getting worse. It’s just about the political leanings of faculty and unflattering anecdotes from classes. One student complains that at a history class he took at Berkeley the professor “focused excessively on negative aspects of American history to portray a country of lies and contradictions, while applauding Socialists and Anarchists….”

But anecdotes like these aren’t valid from a research perspective. It proves nothing except that one student was unhappy with a course he took. “His total neglect for reasonable arguments was disgusting,” the student complains. That’s unfortunate, but it doesn’t prove indoctrination or even that the institution or system is politically biased. (Berkeley also continues to employ John Yoo. Yoo was the man who, as deputy assistant attorney general in George W. Bush’ s Department of Justice, was responsible for arguing that was right and legal for the U.S. to use torture to obtain sensitive information. So I guess it’s not all praise for socialists and anarchists at Cal.)

About the only thing the study really conclusively demonstrates is that UC professors are likely to lean Democratic politically. This should come as no surprise, since it’s pretty much true of academics across the country. This isn’t indoctrination.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer