Campus Craziness


Campus Craziness

Jun 26th, 2003 2 min read
Edwin J. Feulner, Ph.D.


Edwin J. Feulner is the founder and president of The Heritage Foundation.
Universities once had an honorable mission: Learning. Students were required to take a wide range of classes. They came to school to read, write, argue and discuss controversial issues with professors and with each other. That was the original meaning of a liberal arts education.

It's liberal today, all right, but not in the classical sense. Now, a university is more likely to be a politically correct haven for special-interest groups than a true forum for the exchange of ideas.

That's because radical educators have subdivided most university campuses into racial and gender enclaves by creating African-American studies departments, Hispanic studies departments, women's studies departments, and others. Students in those departments learn only about the importance and influence of their individual ethnic group. A "liberal" education often means one that dismisses any conservative ideas.

What's next? How about "whiteness studies"? It's a growing concept on college campuses. At least 30 institutions, including Princeton, the University of Massachusetts and UCLA, offer such courses.

As The Washington Post explained recently: "The field is based on a left-leaning interpretation of history by scholars who say the concept of race was created by a rich white European and American elite, and has been used to deny property, power and status to nonwhite groups for two centuries."

One class, taught at UMass, is called "The Social Construction of Whiteness and Women." According to the syllabus, "this course will explore the social construction of whiteness, it's [sic] interaction with gender, and historical and contemporary political resistance to white privilege." Students are required to take part in at least one activist project "to challenge white supremacy."

Of course, "whites" are not a political group. There's no social construction involved in being white. It's simply a skin color that many of us are born with. Behind that skin, there are liberals and conservatives. Groundskeepers and airline pilots. Atheists and priests. We're just Americans, like everybody else.

It's truly odd to read liberals claiming that "whites" invented the idea of race. After all, it's the campus pressure groups that have perfected using race to classify people, whether through affirmative action programs or student political groups.

Ironically, while universities are finding new ways to divide people up, out in the real world we're pulling closer together. Scientists have proven there are virtually no genetic differences between races. The Census now allows people to select more than one racial category. And according to the Census Bureau, "between 1970 and 1994, the number of interracial married couples increased from 310,000 to 1.3 million."

For close to 200 years, immigrants of all races, creeds and genders flocked to our shores for the chance to build a better life. They were tired of being classified based on their religion or skin tone. And they found freedom here.

Sadly, universities today are trying to take us back to a time when people could only be known by their race, rather then by their merits. To accomplish that, educators in "whiteness studies" classes are beginning with the conclusion "whites are bad" and are working backward to prove that conclusion. They choose only the history that seems to support it, and ignore everything else.

For example, they focus on the fact that Thomas Jefferson once wrote that he suspected blacks were inferior to whites, but they ignore that he more famously wrote, "All men are created equal" and helped create a country where that truth would one day be fulfilled.

This approach is exactly backward. A true academic examines all the evidence first, and only then forms conclusions based on that evidence.

Universities should return to their roots. That means students should be taught, not indoctrinated. That's a liberal education that even staunch conservatives could support.

Ed Feulner is the president of The Heritage Foundation.

Reprinted with permission of