Public Reeducation in Delaware

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."

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."
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.

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.

-- CAV

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?


johnnycwest said...

Finally a university that recognizes the "systematic oppression" of the individual by the state. Business people will be relieved that a university has come out in support of their freedom from oppression by the state.

And it gets better- they seem to realize that this is part of an effort to sustain (and improve?) our standard of living.

Uhhh - this is what they mean ... right?

Gus Van Horn said...

Good point.

This story does hemorrhage irony, now that you bring it up!

johnnycwest said...

The story also points out that the left and now the fundamentalist right has hijacked the dissatisfaction of the status quo by many people and young people in particular.

When I was young, I was a lefty - I knew things were wrong with the world and I uncritically went along with the usual "opposition" - fortunately I came to realize that the ideas animating the left WERE the problem with the status quo. I supported George McGovern for President, at least as much as a 14 year old Canadian could and I have the buttons to prove it! A couple of years later I saw the Fountainhead on late night tv and BOOM. I got it - the world is screwed up, but not for the reasons I had swallowed. The itch was finally scratched.

As Objectivists we have to harness that dissatisfaction, and make it clear we reject the status quo - we are the real radical opposition to the forces of stagnation and misery.

There is a burning desire for change out there and we cannot let religion and the left use it. They are the status quo that is not working, never worked, and cannot work.

johnnycwest said...

This just in (via Instapundit)

University of Delaware backs down on program.

Me said...

That was exactly my first thought. I would love to be there if they accidentially taught someone something about "systematic oppression" and they brought it up in a class.

Unintended consequences make me smile

Gus Van Horn said...

I see this victory as temporary. UD will doubtless let the heat die down and reinstitute as much of this as they feel they can get away with when they can.

FIRE is watching this and this will slow them down, but the real way to stop this is to get more and more academics to oppose multiculturalism.