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Indoctrination is Quashing Free Speech in Higher Education


Omair Ali

Perspectives Editor

*Note: My views do not necessarily express criticism of Benedictine University’s policies, but consider my views as a reflection of the climate on university campuses across the nation.

I have always thought of college as a playground for curious thinkers; a place to explore a diverse range of philosophies, opinions, and ideas. But my sense of this feeling of freedom has been corrupted by a new force that has dedicated itself to indoctrinate views, particularly in favor of 21st century liberal philosophy. In my opinion, this new way of thinking has focused its efforts on enforcing one dogma, which is to teach or convince others that there is only one way to approach civic engagement (21st century liberalism, or the New Civics) and that pitchforks must be raised against all other positions on civic engagement. This way of teaching strips students of their basic rights to freedom of speech on college campuses. In fact, methods of indoctrination are being used hordes of college students, college faculty, and even college administrations who cannot accept alternative views that sometimes offer insightful perspectives on relevant issues. Thus, the indoctrination of thought is squelching free speech on college campuses.

Indoctrination Does Occur in Universities

It is fair to say that college students lean liberal and college atmospheres tend to be more progressive than not. But quite often, the progressive nature of colleges can be taken to extreme measures. One of these extreme measures is indoctrination, which is the teaching and enforcing of ideas such that students are compelled to accept these ideas.

A report titled Making Citizens: How American Universities Teach Civics, published by the National Association for Scholars, describes this liberal movement as the New Civics. Per this report, the New Civics is centered around the proposed leftist agenda that is striving to fulfill the “dream of ‘fundamentally transforming’ America.” In other words, this report documents the increasing importance of liberal ideas and policies on college campuses, as well as how favoring this line of thought is creating a dangerous precedent that impacts the educational experience of students.

Consider the case of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where students are required to take social justice classes. One of these social justice classes controversially indoctrinates liberal ideas on social justice an approach that inappropriately teaches students and forces students to accept ideas that can be challenged through intellectual discourse.

Indoctrination does not only exist within the classroom or the framework of a university policy but also happens via a communicative network of student organizations and college administrations that are unwilling to concede alternative thoughts on progressive ideas such as political correctness. Administrations that feel that some of their students are threatened by ideas that disagree with their own may also act overly protective to defend their students by preventing speakers or events from taking place, which is completely unrepresentative of the first amendment rights.

Indoctrination Harms the Right to Free Speech

A national Gallup poll conducted in 2016 indicates both the confidence and the uncertainties regarding free speech on college campuses. Despite 73% of students believing that their freedom of speech was protected on campus, 54% reported that they observed incidents on campus where the right to free speech was not honored by universities. The second statistic is quite alarming as it can be interpreted to suggest that to some extent, colleges are not maintaining constitutional rights fairly for all students.

For instance, conservative commentator Ben Shapiro was denied entry into DePaul University. Despite being a regular contributor to national television networks such as CNN and MSNBC, Shapiro’s invitation by DePaul University’s Young America’s Foundation chapter was not acknowledged by the school’s administration, who clearly took a stance against the university’s free speech policy. It’s quite clear that universities like DePaul with politically-charged student bodies or even faculty are ill-prepared to handle free political speech because they either feel the need to support the New Civics movement or they are far too concerned with how some of their students might feel about certain ideas, such as a conservatism approach to political correctness.

The result of this poor management is that advocates of the New Civics generally have the most freedom and power on campuses, thereby restricting the opportunities of other political philosophies (i.e., conservatism) on campuses from sharing their perspectives on the issues that concern the university.

Universities Ought to Protect the Diversity of Thought

The preponderance of liberal indoctrination and how it censors free speech should be a major concern in higher education, as these dogmatic efforts will not foster intellectual growth and the diversity of thought but instead retard it. Instead of focusing on enforcing liberal principles, colleges ought to be open-minded so that different perspectives can be shared fairly about issues that should warrant university-wide concern, such as social injustice.

If you would like to follow up with the writer with any comments about this article, you may reach him by email at Omair_Ali@ben.edu