By Robert Mann
“I am now ashamed of my time at LSU with this type of biased writing coming out of the [mass communication] department,” a peeved reader wrote in an email to me last week. “Now I can see where these young indoctrinated kids are getting this when I read this article.”
I often receive such comments. They’re frustrating but understandable. Many readers haven’t sat in a college class in decades. Some didn’t attend college. Others have children at LSU and elsewhere who spout ideas that are foreign — even radical — to their parents.
A natural inclination is to blame professors for indoctrinating Junior. Some parents shake their heads and walk away. Many engage their children in debate or discussion. Others fire angry emails to the liberal professor whose columns appear in their Sunday paper. And a few who are elected officials write bills to quash academic freedom.
Take the Iowa Legislature, for example, where a Republican state senator, Mark Chelgren, has introduced legislation to stop the state’s public universities from hiring new professors “if the percentage of the faculty belonging to one political party would exceed by 10 percent the percentage of faculty belonging to the other political party.”
Chelgren’s bill, similar to legislation in the North Carolina Senate, is aimed at professors, like me (I’m now a registered independent), who teach journalism and also those in the social sciences. The suspicion is that we plant dangerous liberal ideas into the fertile ground of our students’ untrained minds.
That’s what U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos told the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland on Thursday (Feb. 23). Addressing college students in attendance, she said, “The faculty, from adjunct professors to deans, tell you what to do, what to say, and more ominously, what to think.”
I suppose such notions are reasonable coming from people who’ve spent no time on a college campus, but they are an outrageous caricature of what really happens in the classroom. The secretary of education, of all people, should know better than to traffic in such claptrap.
Parents who worry how about how college influences their children’s worldview would do far better by keeping them away from other college students, not professors they see only two or three times a week.
Trust me, by age 18, college students form opinions about public affairs without help from professors. I’m not suggesting that they don’t continue to evolve politically, socially and otherwise, but the students I’ve taught never arrived needing my help to reach informed opinions.
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