Propaganda in the Classroom

January 2005

Today's column is in part an amateur poll on intellectual harassment in our universities. I'm asking Canada's future educators and lawmakers -- students in, or recent grads from, the humanities and social sciences -- if they're being ideologically brainwashed by their professors. So without further ado: Do you see a balanced ideological perspective in your courses? Does your professor direct you to alternative points of views? Is dissent or diversity of opinion encouraged in discussion? Are Judeo-Christian perspectives denigrated or mocked? Are grades a reflection of the merit of your arguments or conformity with the professor's ideology?

There are already numerous published surveys, polls and journal articles on the indoctrination of students by academics, but none deal with Canadian universities. They all catalogue the near-monolithic domination of the academy by leftists in the United States. For example, one recent study shows that amongst American university teachers, Democrats outnumber Republicans 15 to one. That's on average. In anthropology, Democrats cast 30 votes for every one Republican. Similar results doubtless apply in the faculties of sociology, education, English literature, and women's studies (probably more like 1,000 to one there).

Voting stats aside, there is evidence that leftist views play out in propagandist behaviours. A survey by The American Council of Trustees and Alumni finds almost half of students are exposed to only one ideological viewpoint, with teachers sanctioning none but their political views in class. An ACTA spokesperson comments: "If this were a survey of students reporting widespread sexual harassment, there would be an uproar."

American conservatives are fighting back. The most dynamic amongst them is fiercely anti-Marxist crusader David Horowitz, founder of Horowitz has sponsored an Academic Bill of Rights to protect students from intellectual abuse by radical administrative "educrats" who have enshrined multiculturalist dogma in stifling speech codes at American colleges. He is successfully shepherding the bill's adoption through a gamut of legislative bodies from student assemblies to Congress. Horowitz's advance guard, Students For Academic Freedom, monitors and exposes classroom bullying, discrimination against conservative guest speakers and the use of extracurricular "clubs" for recruiting students to radical political organizations.

Web sites such as promote open inquiry in academia, providing "a forum for college students to report courses and programs that in their opinion contain severe bias or amount to indoctrination." A typical testimonial: "Although I received an A in this class, it was ... because I provided the specific politically correct responses in all my papers and exams."

Is the situation in Canada equally dire? University of British Columbia philosophy professor Andrew Irvine notes that there are few funding sources for this kind of research, but that anecdotal evidence suggests most Canadian universities suffer from the same repressive groupthink as their U.S. counterparts. He also notes "a significant bias in Canadian universities against hiring conservatives, especially in the humanities and social sciences." (An exception to the rule is the University of Calgary, where a critical mass of conservative scholars has cultivated an ideologically-neutral oasis.)

University of Toronto psychology professor John Furedy, who has written extensively on the subject of academic freedom, describes a conflict between traditionalists, consecrated to the acquisition of knowledge for its own sake as the university's prime function, and leftist academics, who see both knowledge and the university as instruments for social change. Traditionalists value debate and the disinterested search for truth. Leftists, who prefer to groom disciples rather than empower independent thinkers, are unapologetically partisan. He characterize the unchallenged political correctness entrenched in campus life today as "velvet totalitarianism."

Unlike the United States, we have precious few institutions to monitor academic freedom in the universities, champion the merit principle and promote ideological neutrality in teaching and hiring practices. One such is the admirably vigilant, membership-funded Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship (

So students (and parents), please send me your responses. Confidentiality is assured. Validate my keen assessment, or shame me for my wildly off-the-mark rush to judgment: It's your call. Survey 101 results TBA.