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