Wednesday, October 31, 2007
From the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) -- and paid for by the citizens of the state of Delaware -- comes an excellent example of why the state should not be involved in any way in educating the young:
According to the program's materials, the goal of the residence life education program is for students in the university's residence halls to achieve certain "competencies" that the university has decreed its students must develop in order to achieve the overall educational goal of "citizenship." These competencies include: "Students will recognize that systemic oppression exists in our society," "Students will recognize the benefits of dismantling systems of oppression" and "Students will be able to utilize their knowledge of sustainability to change their daily habits and consumer mentality."Note the clinical language, which simultaneously allows the University of Delaware to pretend that it is actually imparting objective knowledge, while attempting to dodge charges that it is forcing its students to be subjected to a campaign of badgering and brainwashing intended to make them adopt a certain point of view.
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."
This is not to say that such matters as political and ethical theory cannot have a rational basis and be argued from evidence and logic -- or that universities should not offer an (actual) education in philosophical thinking. Universities can and should teach these things, but free from the funding and control of the state. Indeed -- if they can find paying customers -- universities should be free to offer brainwashing like this.
Unfortunately, when the state takes money from citizens to pay for the propagation of a given point of view -- even a rational one -- it violates the rights of all to determine which causes to support or boycott with their own money. Furthermore, it makes it difficult for parents to afford to send their children to universities that offer educations more in line with what they want for their children.
Even in the best of circumstances, a state school will have to make curriculum choices and teach from at least an implicitly-held point of view. Even this violates individual rights. But when a reeducation program is presented as an uncontroversial package of "competencies", it goes under the radar and suddenly, the state is churning out brainwashed zombies -- rather than educated adults -- at taxpayer expense.
PS: Incidentally, recall that many libertarians, in their disdain for philosophical ideas, regard freedom as something so obviously beneficial that everyone wants it. If this is so, how is it that the administration of the University of Delaware apparently regards it just as uncontroversial that people should be trained in a statist program to regard white people as inherently racist (!) and adopt a constellation of attitudes hostile to capitalism?