You probably heard about the vote by students at Stanford University a couple of weeks ago, but similar event occurs nearly every day on some college campus near you. Political correctness is alive and flourishing on the majority of campuses, and it is a symptom of a deeper cultural rot.
The really odd thing is, everyone condemns political correctness, but no one wants to do anything about it where it is doing the most damage — in our educational institutions. The Stanford student vote to ban the study of Western Civilization from the curriculum should be a wake-up call.
Donald Trump gets enthusiastic applause when he denounces PC at large campaign rallies, but even Trump hasn’t dared to bring that message to the citadel of PC, Stanford University, or any other major university. If Trump tried to speak at Stanford, UC-Berkeley, or USC, he would need a security detail rivaling the size of the NYC police department.
But it’s not just politics that upsets the guardians of political correctness, it’s our history, our ideals, and the symbols of American greatness. Che Guevara is a popular figure for T-shirts these days, but Christopher Columbus and Patrick Henry, not so much.
At Stanford in April, a group of undergraduate students petitioned to place a question on the spring student government election ballot. They implored more than 6,000 undergraduates to vote to ask Stanford faculty to institute a two-quarter required course in the fundamental of western civilization.
Prior to the student vote, the conservative student publishers of the Stanford Review appealed to fellow students’ to support the petition to the faculty:
In accordance with Stanford’s commitment to educating its students, and in recognition of the unique role Western culture has had in shaping our political, economic, and social institutions, Stanford University should mandate that freshmen complete a two-quarter Western civilization requirement covering the politics, history, philosophy, and culture of the Western world.
But a hostile column in the main campus newspaper warned that accepting the proposal would mean centering Stanford education on “upholding white supremacy, capitalism and colonialism, and all other oppressive systems that flow from Western civilizations.”
The hate-mongers and censors won the debate and the proposal lost the student vote by a 6-to-1 margin. Stanford parents, alumni and corporate benefactors can now rest easy, knowing that Stanford students will be protected from being taught anything positive about all the many “oppressive systems that flow from Western civilization.”
But take note that this was a vote by undergraduate students– not faculty, not administrators. The students themselves — at an average age of 20 — voted for self-censorship.
The really frightening message here is not about Stanford, it is about our entire educational system. It is a grave mistake to blame that student vote on brainwashing by Stanford faculty.
The ugly truth is, most of those undergraduate students arrived at Stanford with that same attitude. Freshmen at our major universities arrive already believing our western heritage is one of “class and gender oppression,” exploitation and general wickedness. Thus, leftist faculty are plowing the fertile ground prepared by their public school partners and complacent parents.
Despite symbolic actions like the April vote at Stanford, the curriculum at Stanford and every other university is designed and controlled by faculty and administrators, not by students, acting under the broad policies set by the Trustees. Interference from outside is resisted as — well, as interference. Trying to impose standards or curriculum content from outside is always opposed and defeated.
But there is a powerful fourth partner in this governing structure besides faculty, administrators and trustees: alumni donors.
Alumni are the silent partners who are complicit in the progressive degradation of American higher education. They annually pour billions of dollars into university expansions and sit silent while standards are abandoned for politically correct fads and festivities. Any suggestion that their alma mater might be headed down the wrong path in destroying the intellectual foundations of America’s greatness — such ideas are resisted by “loyal alumni.” If alumni took such ideas seriously, they would be compelled to act — and that might endanger their popularity at the next homecoming game.
A few years ago at the University of Colorado at Boulder, one of the tenured professors made the mistake of becoming a little too controversial outside the campus. His name was Ward Churchill. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks that killed almost 2,000 Americans, Professor Churchill said that maybe the victims were not innocent civilians, and maybe they deserved their fate because they were working for the capitalist oppressors.
Those remarks were too much even for the very liberal Regents, and he was dismissed. Churchill sued to retain his position, but the university won the case. Yet the university was able to fire him NOT because of what he said about the victims of 9/11 but because he had lied about his academic qualifications on his resume.
The truth is, similar ugly, anti-American statements are made almost every day at state universities from Colorado to Florida, Oregon to Vermont, while university trustees do nothing about it and alumni remain silent.
And so does Donald Trump and so do we. America’s decline and fall, as Tocqueville predicted, is self-inflicted.
Tom Tancredo is the founder of the Rocky Mountain Foundation and founder and co-chairman of Team America PAC.
Tom represented Colorado’s sixth congressional district in the United States House of Representatives from 1999 to 2009, and he is a former presidential candidate.
He is the author of In Mortal Danger: The Battle for America’s Border and Security.