Must Your Children Run the Collegiate Gauntlet?

Let me begin witha few horror stories. As you read, ask yourself: “Isthis what I want for my children? Or my grandchildren?” The followingreport was written three years agoby Prof. Charles Kors of the University of Pennsylvania.

At WakeForest University last fall, one of the few events designatedas “mandatory” for freshman orientation was attendanceat Blue Eyed, a filmed racism awareness workshop in which whitesare abused, ridiculed, made to fail, and taught helpless passivityso that they can identify with “a person of color for a day.” InSwarthmore College’s dormitories, in the fall of 1998,first-year students were asked to line up by skin color,from lightest todarkest, and to step forward and talk about how they feltconcerning their place in that line. Indeed, at almostall of our campuses,some form of moral and political re-education has beenbuilt into freshman orientation and residential programming.Theseexercises have become so commonplace that most studentsdo not even think of the issues of privacy, rights, anddignity involved.

A centralgoal of these programs is to uproot “internalizedoppression,” a crucial concept in the diversity education planningdocuments of most universities. Like the Leninists’ notion of “falseconsciousness,” from which it ultimately is derived, itidentifies as a major barrier to progressive change thefact that the victimsof oppression have internalized the very values and waysof thinking by which society oppresses them. What couldworkers possiblyknow, compared to intellectuals, about what workers trulyshould want? What could students possibly know, comparedto those creatingprograms for offices of student life and residence, aboutwhat students truly should feel? Any desire for assimilationor forindividualism reflects the imprint of white America’s strategyfor racial hegemony.

You would be wise to read his report in its entirety if youplan to send a child to college. If you want to know what Americanhigher education is all about these days, read it.

Lest youimagine that things have gotten better since he wrote his article,consider this recent report in World magazine.

JessicaAshooh, 18, a freshman at Brown University in Providence,R.I., lastmonth attended her new school’s freshman orientation.But not a lot of orienting went on. Instead the programfocused on becoming “part of the Brown community.”

Facilitators,for example, billed one mandatory session on diversity asa meetingthat would encourage freshmen “to thinkabout how your experiences at Brown will be shaped by your membershipin a pluralistic community.” But what it really was, said Ms.Ashooh, was “your basic guilty-racist speech,” delivered by EvelynHu-DeHart, director of Brown’s center for race and ethnicity. “Shewas almost militant. At some points she was yelling at us.” .. .

Freshman orientationused to be about teaching new students how to find their classes,the cafeteria, and the campus bookstore.But today, left-liberal “diversity” trainers have found in orientationprograms a ready-made crop of captive and impressionable audiencesripe for reeducation on issues of sex, race, and gender. Thebasic messages: People of color are victims; whites are theirtormentors. Homosexuality is normal; abhorring the behavior isbigotry.

Brown University is one of the most expensive schools in America.Parents spend up to $140,000 to fund one child in the quest fora diploma. The school is academically rigorous. It trains thestudents who were not quite competitive enough to get into Harvard,Princeton, Stanford, Chicago, or Yale. The elite attend Brownand schools like it (e.g., Swarthmore).

Some freshmen-orientationdirectors say they are only trying to prevent future studentclashes over racism and “homophobia.” Otherssay outright that such presentations are designed to shake thesoil from new students’ small-town roots, dismantle traditionalvalues they might have brought from home, and – in presentationsby hard-left facilitators – help white freshmen own and overcometheir inborn racism. “I really want [freshmen] to understandthat they are no longer at home, they’re not in high school anymore,and a lot of the values and morals they may have had from thoseexperiences may change here over the next four years,” said diversityissues coordinator Marcus Newsom of Wartburg College in Waverly,Iowa.

You might think that these are isolated events. You would bewrong. An academic-supply industry is growing rapidly to meetthe demand by colleges for these courses.

A smallarmy of diversity “experts” stands ready to help. BlueEyed facilitator Jane Elliot is one star in aconstellation of highly paid, ultra-leftist facilitatorswho travel from campusto campus to proclaim diversity dogma.

EdwinJ. Nichols, a Washington, D.C.-based diversity guru (whocounts as clientsthe U.S. Department of Labor and the EnvironmentalProtection Agency) charges schools about $5,000plus expenses for a workshop in which he teaches studentsto recognize andcombat “white privilege.”

Hugh Vasquez ofthe Todos Institute in Oakland, Calif., is the brain behindSkin Deep, another racial-awareness film popularwith college diversity programmers. Freshmen at Virginia’s Washingtonand Lee University this month watched the film, in which minorityworkshop participants lambaste “whiteness,” while white studentsrepent of generational racism.

This is the tip of the iceberg. Yet parents shell out anywherefrom $20,000 to $140,000 to send a child into what is best describedas the academic gauntlet.


In a great movie, “TheBlack Robe,” thereis an unforgettable scene of a gauntlet. Forcing an enemy torun the gauntlet wasa widely practiced ritual among Indian tribes. A hapless captivewas beaten by clubs as he ran in between a twin line of hostilebraves. Different tribes had different rules. In the Shawneetribe, those who survived the run were adopted into the tribe.Those who didn’t make it down the lines were burned at the stake.The gauntlet was a rite of passage.

College is the final rite of passage for Americans who planto enter the professions or business. It is imposed by collegefaculties on teenagers and young adults. Those who survive theordeal – halfof them don’t – are then invited to enter theworld of diploma-certified income. Those who don’t graduate arerelegated to the world of careers without high school diplomas– the outer darkness.

Parents regard themselves as trapped in this alien system.They want the best for their children, which in the post-WorldWar II has attending college and earning at least a bachelor’sdegree. Parents have been led to believe that this is the safestpathway to a child’s success in life.

So, they send theirchildren into alien territory, at great expense, only to seetheir children indoctrinated with ideasthat the parents had warned against. Yet the parents regard themselvesas helpless. “What else can we do? We never graduated from college.” Orthis: “We can’t hang onto our children forever.”

Their ideological enemies long ago spotted this weakness, andfor over a hundred years, theyhave taken advantage of it. Theyhave persuaded parents to finance an alien programof indoctrination, either directly (tuition)or indirectly (taxes).


The American public school system serves the same purpose asthe colleges do, but at a lower level. The states require attendanceat state-certified institutions of education. It takes specialexemptions for parents to teach their children at home.

Amazingly, in terms of money, it takes as little as $200, plustoner and paper, to home-school your entire family, K-12, inevery course except math. It takes another $800 to buy the mathtextbooks. Even more amazing, the entire program is self-taughtby the student. It takes less parental time than any other home-schoolcurriculum. It’s the Robinson Curriculum, designed byresearch chemist Arthur Robinson for his six children. Two ofthem are pursuing Ph.D’s in chemistry. The others are still incollege or high school.

Parents are taxed to send their children into classrooms thatare dominated by people who share a different religion from theparents.

By a series of Supreme Court decisions, all tax-funded educationmust be secular, yet fewer than 10% of Americans are atheists,i.e., people who believe that the world can be explained withoutreference to God.

In high school, in every academic field, the assumptions ofmodern Darwinism dominate the textbooks, yet only 10% of Americansadmit to being Darwinists. Almost half say that God created mankindless than 10,000 years ago. Almost 40% say that God created everything,but used evolution – an anti-Darwinist outlook. This was discoveredby a 1999 ABCNews poll. You would not intuitively guess its results bywatching PBS specials onnature or “Nova.”

College completes the academic ordeal. Here, Darwinismprovides the conceptual framework for a host of rival ism’s. Defenders ofcompeting ism’s strive to gain tenure on college faculties in order to havea chance to recruit young people at taxpayers’ expense. Even private religiouscolleges are dominated by one or another of these Darwinist ism’s, for thetextbooks are written by professors in major universities. Only a handfulof tiny Bible colleges, Bible institutes, and under-capitalized, high-tuitionfour-year colleges offer slightly less radical viewpoints.


The mostfamous early warning was William F. Buckley’s book – Ithink his best book – Godand Man At Yale (1951). He wrote it as a recentYale graduate. It sent the liberal Yale faculty ballistic.In 1960, his undergraduate successor at Yale, M. StantonEvans, wrote RevoltOn The Campus, which dealt with the incipient conservativecollegiate movement, which I had recently joined. The movementwas tiny. Evans bythen was the editorof the editorial page at the Indianapolis News,and for a quarter century has run the National Journalism Center,a top-flight organization that trains prospective journalists.

My favoritebook attacking the collegiate system is the 1989 bombshell, Profscam,by Charles J. Sykes. I believe that every parent of a college-boundstudentshould read this book before spending a penny on higher education.It will help get things more clearly in focus. The prospectivestudent should alsoread it; if he or she should find that the book is too confusingor too advanced, there is no doubt in my mind that the studentshould defer enrollment untilthe book becomes crystal clear.

In Chapter 1, Sykes lays out the truth about the modern academic culturewithout sugar-coating. It is the same problem that crops up in every agingmonopoly: the complacency of the protected group.

Professors have convinced society that this culture is essential for higherlearning, and have thus been able to protect their own status and independenceby cheating students, parents, taxpayers, and employers, and polluting theintellectual inheritance of society. Over the last 50 years, this academicculture has secured professors almost ironclad job security and the freedomto do whatever they like – and do it well or poorly – or do nothing at all.[Charles J. Sykes, Profscam: Professors and the Higher Education Game, 1988,p. 5.]

He lists a series of accurate indictments, but this one has not been widelyacknowledged, on campus or off, as central to the whole problem: the two-tierfaculty. The system works to the advantage of senior faculty members, whosecourses are kept scandalously few in number and incredibly small, and whoseintellectual interests are subsidized, but to no one else’s advantage. “Inpursuing their own interests – research, academic politicking, cushier grants– they have left the nation’s students in the care of an ill-trained, ill-paid,and bitter academic underclass.” This existence of this academic underclass– teaching assistants, untenured professors, and part-time instructors – is not perceived by the vast majority of parents of first-year students;the students themselves may take years to figure it out. This underclasshas becomecrucial for the economic survival of almost all of the institutions of higherlearning, but it has a whole host of evil implications for college education.

By the time they read a book like Sykes’, parents have already made the decisionto send their children to college, sometimes with a retail price tag of 140,000+after-tax dollars per bachelor’s degree (Ivy League universities). Once a majordecision is made in life, nobody wants to have to reconsider it. Nobody wantsto have his illusions unceremoniously shattered. Nevertheless, my recommendationis that those people putting up the money get these illusions shattered earlyrather than late, so that the potential victims can salvage something of valueby making the system work for them – the real system, not a figment of theirimaginations. It is time for parents and students to bone up on the realitythat awaits them.

If Profscam istrue – and it really is true – then parents and studentsneed to reorganize their plans: soon. There are some parents and studentswho will resent this, and will do their best to deny it psychologically. Theywilldismiss what I say with the standard phrases: “This can’t be true. He is exaggerating.” Toskeptics, I say only: you have been warned. Repeatedly.

Sykes is not alone in his criticisms. Roger Kimball’s book, TenuredRadicals (1990), is equally critical, though from a narrower perspective. Kimball pointsout that the radical student protesters of the 1960’s have become the tenuredprofessors of today. His book is filled with one horror story after another:of reduced academic standards, of tyranny in the name of the oppressed, ofcourses that are hostile to Western civilization. A parent had better readit before he signs the student’s first tuition check.

An equally pessimisticaccount is provided in Page Smith’s book, Killing The Spirit (1990). Smith,now deceased, was a first-rate professor of history,formerly of UCLA. He is the author of the marvelously written eight-volumework, People’s History of the United States, as well as the standard two-volumeacademic biography of John Adams. Killing The Spirit focuses on what goeson in the great research universities, as does Sykes’ Profscam. Smith’s conclusionis the same as Sykes’: the students are being cheated, the parents are beingcheated, and the taxpayers are being cheated. Furthermore, the research producedby faculty members at these universities is substandard. But Smith, unlikeSykes, comes from inside the system.

So does Bruce Wilshire. He Wrote TheMoral Collapse of the University (1990).He tells the same story: professors who hate to teach undergraduates, instructionwithout meaning, and a breakdown of educational standards. “If universitiescannot confront questions of meaning – and of goodness, vitality, purpose,beauty, reality, the universe directly lived – they suffer moral collapse.This has happened” (p. 205).

These books paved the way for Dinesh D’Souza’s IlliberalEducation (1991).D’Souza’s book caught the attention of the book-buying public and the media.It was as if there had been no previous books on the subject, as if there hadnot been two generations of tenured liberalism dominating the college classrooms.

You might think that with so much criticism from intelligent sources, therehave been changes. You would be correct. Things have indeed changed. They’reworse.


Professor Kors ended his report with these words:

Orwellmay have been profoundly wrong about the totalitarian effectsof high technology, but he understood full well how theauthoritarians of this centuryhad moved from the desire for outer control to thedesire for inner control. He understood that the new agesought to overcome what, in Julia’s terms,was the ultimate source of freedom for human beings: “They can’t get inside you.” Ourcolleges and universities hire trainers to “get inside” Americanstudents.

Thought reform is making its way inexorably to an office near you. If welet it occur at our universities and accept it passively in our own domains,then a people who defeated totalitarians abroad will surrender their dignity,privacy, and conscience to the totalitarians within.

What can you do about it? To change the system, not much. To keep your childout of the system, or on the distant fringes, where the damage will be minimal,you can do a great deal. Start looking for Internet-based courses that willlet your child stay at home and out of the gauntlet.

I also encourage you to click through and read Phyllis Schafly’s 19-point survival guide for college students.

February17, 2003

Gary North is the author of Mises on Money. Visit For a free subscription to Gary North’s twice-weekly economics newsletter, click here.

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