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A Professor Tells Students How to Fight the Woke University

Posted on Sunday, April 16, 2023
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by David P. Deavel
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34 Comments
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AMAC Exclusive – By David P. Deavel

The school year is nearly over. Millions of high school students are deciding what to do next. Many of them are still deciding on a four-year college. As a college professor, my own advice to students and their parents matches that of the radio host Dennis Prager: unless you are aiming at one of the serious (usually religious) institutions that is explicitly “right wing” in educational terms (meaning committed to traditional conceptions of education as imparting knowledge of the sciences and the humanistic wisdom of western civilization by teaching a philosophical habit of mind) then you should just go to whichever one is cheapest.

But if students do not go to one of those outlier schools such as Hillsdale, Grove City, the University of Dallas, my own University of St. Thomas in Houston, they have to be ready for what they will encounter. They have to prepare to recognize the kind of left-wing brainwashing they will encounter and be ready to fight back. Thankfully, Drexel University management professor Stanley Ridgley has written a book that does precisely that. Brutal Minds: The Dark World of Left-Wing Brainwashing in Our Universities is not only a guide to the mechanisms by which the world of the American university, which had been tilting left for decades, became a fully woke indoctrination center bent on imposing a dogmatic leftist take on race and gender. It also explains how the indoctrination works in practice and gives advice for how best to resist it.

While many ordinary Americans blame the professors for this shift, Ridgley rightly argues that full-blown activists are still a minority of faculty at most schools. Certainly students will find the kind of brutal Maoist techniques designed to separate them from their families, communities, and sense of morality in some classes, but the most dangerous people on campus are those in the “student affairs” (sometimes called “student services” or “student development”) positions—counselors, student orientation directors, residence life directors, first-year experience directors, academic advisors, and especially the hordes of diversity, equity, and inclusion staffers who have taken over.

Though Ridgley does not think the faculty in general are the biggest problems, some academic departments come in for special blame: mostly in the social sciences, the “studies” (women’s, sexuality, black, social justice, etc.), and especially the schools of education.

For Ridgley, the student affairs bureaucracies and the education departments form, along with the national student affairs guilds such as NASPA and ACPA, a three-headed beast that he names Cerberus after the mythical guard dog of the underworld. The way it works is that the education schools give credentials to the activists trained by the guilds who then take over administrative positions within the universities and create more administrative positions for the activists to take over.

Many people, reading news about how Stanford University has almost as many administrators as it does students, will assume that most of these positions are no-show or make-work positions and lament the waste. If only the problem were simply waste! In fact, the problem is that many of these administrators are indeed making work—but the work they are making is the ideological brainwashing he mentions in the title. Ridgley describes the contemporary campus under the sway of these figures as “a world populated by paranoiacs, by their duped followers, by amateur psychotherapists, by neo-Marxist totalitarians, by unqualified faculty apprentices, by ancillary support personnel with delusions of grandeur, by student affairs staffers imbued with autocratic mentality, and by thought reformers who violate federal law against human subject experimentation to attack young people in workshops, to destroy their relationships with parents and friends, and to clear the way for new relationships grounded in a hate-filled racialist ideology.”

A recent Babylon Bee story was titled “Kim Jong Un Attends Ivy League University To Learn New Brainwashing Techniques.” Yet the satire site’s premise is not very far from reality. In the first part of Brutal Minds, Ridgley shows how these ideologues with master’s degrees (and occasionally doctorates in education) go about the task of trying to remold the minds and hearts of young people with Marxian and Maoist ideas usually derived from the Brazilian socialist educational philosopher Paolo Freire and coercive psychological techniques actually developed in Maoist China and by MIT social psychologist Kurt Lewin.

The activist professors and the legion of student affairs workers (whom Ridgley refers to throughout as “Good Soldier Schweiks,” after the titular character of Czech writer Jaroslav Hašek’s novel of an incompetent and foolish soldier during World War I, for their useful idiot qualities) engage in reeducation designed to inculcate “antiracist” and other left-wing ideas through mandatory “training,” classes, workshops, seminars, and other gatherings. In these, they generally attempt to get students to surrender personal information, which will then be used to cajole and manipulate students into acceptance of the new ideology.

Ridgley’s volume takes the readers behind the curtain to see how this “mystical manipulation” operates, showing how the activist student affairs workers use key words and set up social gatherings to maximize pressure on students. He notes that many of the techniques involved are psychological in nature and thus should be subject to Institutional Review Boards at the institutions.

Ridgley’s final chapters encourage students and parents to take the information he offers and use it to stop the activists in their tracks. Given that university administrators and boards of governors finally are only concerned with lawsuits and bad publicity, pressure from students and parents holds out the possibility of reform on campuses that are not fully left-wing. Thus, he offers a path of recognizing these abuses, resisting them, and then reporting them. He encourages presidents and boards of governors to reassert their authority over the universities. And he encourages state legislatures to actually exercise oversight over state universities and colleges—and use the powers of the purse to stop the ideological takeovers.

Ridgley’s is an incredibly useful book—and one that rings true to this reviewer who has been involved in higher education for over twenty years. Ridgley rightly notes how this massive take-over by academic wannabes with bogus education department degrees has largely been achieved since the 1990s and especially since the George Floyd riots shook the country three years ago. I do have several caveats, though, about both the possibility for reform and also what reform looks like.

First, while Ridgley is correct that the numbers of fully woke professors are still in the minority status at many institutions, younger faculty—many hired in the last decade—are fully on board with the ideological turns that have been taken. And while many of the student affairs and DEI bureaucrats did weasel their way into power, it was often with the full approval of university presidents, provosts, and deans. The problems at many colleges and universities may well have become insuperable absent the possibility of rebooting the entire institutions by firing everybody and starting over.

Second, while Ridgley focuses on the disturbing racialist ideology that is being pushed on students, this may not even be the worst aspect of the current indoctrination. The purposeful destruction of the idea of male and female and the inculcation of the incoherent notions of “gender” are both doing even more damage to students and to the possibility of real study of the world.  

Third, Ridgley throughout assumes that the goal is to return American universities to “Enlightenment ideals,” often characterizing the wokesters as “medieval” in the brutality of their minds. Yet if the secular Enlightenment was able to achieve certain humanistic reforms in the context of a residually Christian Europe and America, the last two hundred years have shown that the attempts to bracket God from university education have created the very vacuum that harder and uglier secular ideas have filled. I began this article noting that the small institutions that still keep alive a vibrant and serious educational ethos are largely the ones that take Christian faith seriously. I think Ridgley ought to consider that the fruit of Enlightenment ideals may not be possible when cut off from the tree of Jewish and Christian ideas.

Despite these criticisms, Brutal Minds is a very important book. Every university student, every parent of students, every university employee who has been keeping his head down and hoping to survive the great awokening, and every politician who has the possibility of influencing education ought to be reading this book. An old joke has it that academic disputes are so fierce because the stakes are so small. Brutal Minds shows why this is certainly not the case now. The disputes we have right now are about the very nature of education and whether ours will produce free people capable of self-government or simply slaves fixated on racial grievance and unable to figure out which bathroom to use.  

David P. Deavel teaches at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas. He is a Senior Contributor at The Imaginative Conservative.

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CindyC
CindyC
1 year ago

This guy needs to be on CNN and Fox as well as hold meeting all over the country. Parents need to be aware of what they are paying for.

Morbious
Morbious
1 year ago

No discussion of the dangers of college indoctrination is complete without at least mentioning the possibility of skipping college for trade school or apprenticeship etc. Naturally this wont work for anyone in need of academic certification but for some its worth considering. Im often shocked at how many people i meet who spent tens of thousands to get junior a pysch degree. My suggestion- if the kid is unsure about college, get a job out of hs, the tougher the better. It wll clarify the mind. There’re still too many parents worried about social status and having to tell friends that junior is working construction for awhile.

Texas Resister 64
Texas Resister 64
1 year ago

When I took my first postgrad degree at Stanford in 1969-70, in the school of Education, there was a push toward the left even then. One of the most popular books was Teaching as a Subversive Activity, and many of the student teachers ate up that philosophy. Now we are reaping the harvest.

tika
tika
1 year ago

love Hillsdale!!!!!!!!!

James H
James H
1 year ago

It is egregious and stunning how higher education has, in some cases, become everything but education! Thank you for showing parents and students there are resources to help “fight the good fight” of truth!

David Millikan
David Millikan
1 year ago

Excellent article.
WOKE = BROKE, LOSER, and DUMB.
If kids really want a true education and not be in Debt for decades then stay out of WOKE LOSER schools.
Only those that go Mooo like cattle attend LOSER WOKE schools so they will comply with no questions.
Question kids need to ask themselves is whether they want a real education or be enslaved by WOKE.

Lieutenant Beale
Lieutenant Beale
1 year ago

So tell us, Troll of Many Names, what is your vision of a perfect world?
(Or at least a “more perfect union” as far as Amerca is concerned)
Set aside the snarky comments for just a moment and dazzle us with your brilliance.
Wow us with your wisdom.
Summarize for us, if you will, in a paragraph or two, how to achieve your utopia.
Surely you can do this as most Tik Tok videos only last a minute or two.
Don’t just generalize. If you had the keys to the White House, what would you do? what is your platform? What is your master plan?
You have the floor señor,

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
1 year ago

A few conservative students, willing to risk expulsion, could create havoc with DEI. Plaster campus with anti DEI bumper stickers in every bathroom stall.

My experience with this comes from a riot on the Northwestern University campus in 1985 sponsored by Prof. Barbara Foley. Some student friends of mine had invited Adolfo Calero, then a leader of the Nicaraguan Contras, to speak on campus. Prof. Foley lead a riot in response, shouting down the speaker and throwing red liquid “blood” at him. Someone printed up a lot of cheap bumper stickers saying, “Fire Foley, Expel Red Rioters.” Conservative students plastered the campus with them. The Provost denied Foley tenure, in effect firing her. The bumper stickers worked as a kind of reverse broken windows policing strategy, giving the Provost a vision of two sided future riots. Protests were a lot less vigorous for a while.

You can look the incident up. Foley was fired. Her friends thought it was very unfair. Having been at the riot, and having had to evacuate one of the Nicaraguan emigres from the venue for his own safety, I thought it was very fair.

The bumper stickers can be printed cheaply. DEI admins are political officers, USSR style zampolits, enforcing the party line. What they’re doing violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964, not to mention the Bill of Rights. They can and should be resisted. A slogan like, “Restore Free Speech, Fire All DEIs” would get the message across. It doesn’t take many students to plaster every bathroom stall on campus. You can threaten a civil rights lawsuit if they catch you.

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
1 year ago

Woke is a threat to modern civilization. The problem comes when ideology becomes superior to truth. DEI and anti-racism have become paramount. Truth, observations, in fact anything that contradicts woke ideology, is forbidden. Further, teaching the methods of math, science, technology and engineering has already been declared racist by some. Anti-racist discrimination against whites and Asians is increasing. Educating straight white and Asian males is already being discouraged. This ideological stew is a direct threat to modern civilization.

The fact is that you can’t build a modern engineering project, like a sewer system, based on anti-racist principles with no math or real engineering. With our academic institutions indoctrinating rather than educating, we won’t be able to run a modern economy. Given that we’re indoctrinating instead of educating already, things can get bad really fast. We will replace our current competent technical people with indoctrinated incompetents.

Jeff
Jeff
1 year ago

As a graduate of a Christian college years ago (1967) I’m thankful for a rigorous science education in an environment with strong Christian values. In our world today we are challenged with lack of faith and personal responsibilities, I can only hope today’s college students will be mature enough to see through the phony WOKE philosophy.

Mimi
Mimi
1 year ago

As Camille Paglia and Douglas Murray have been saying for what, a decade ?… Collapses in civilization have pretty much always been preceded by a society’s obsession with gender. Greece, Rome, France…

NMeli
NMeli
1 year ago

If only you could figure out that it says infinitely more about the black man than the white man.

frankieboy
frankieboy
1 year ago

A couple more schools of note: Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, CA and Franciscan University of Steubenville (OH).

frankieboy
frankieboy
1 year ago

Hillsdale is very wealthy and offers financial aid on merit. Does not take federal funds.

frankieboy
frankieboy
1 year ago

my very Catholic daughter survived 4 years (graduating in May) at a big state university in one piece. How did she do it:

1) lot of time spent at Newman Center on campus
2) single-sex dorm freshman year with 4 Mormon suitemates. She hung out with them to the point that people thought she was Mormon-yet she got them to go to Mass before they went on their missions.
3) Mass on Sundays
4) Did best she could to avoid classes with a heavy dose of indoctrination (her freshman English teacher was big on this and she couldn’t handle it-had to retake the class and got an A+ the 2nd time around when the professor focused on teaching her how to read/write
5) Focus Missionary retreats

With this as a foundation she is graduating in sales/marketing, served as an RA in the nicest building on campus for 2 1/2 years (free room/board). got named as housing board president (stipend!), and was head of a campus professional society. Job starts in June. And since I get calls almost every day (as does her mother)-don’t think the SJW’s succeeded very much at splitting her from her parents.

One more thing-no pronouns! She did have a boss in housing who was a they/them; when my daughter came home from school using that to refer to that person I told her that we don’t use this in my house and we will refer to that person as she/it. Never heard that term again…

All good-now off to the real world !

Carolyn Cassetty
Carolyn Cassetty
1 year ago

I 100% agree with all the anti-woke comments.
But…..I think we need to find a new term besides Woke. Hear me out. The lefties maintain that woke still refers to its original dictionary meaning of “Woke means being conscious of racial discrimination in society and other forms of oppression and injustice.” So being anti-woke in the leftist mind is being a bigot and hateful. Not going to win over hearts and minds with that. Just thought I would maybe get the ball rolling on changing the vocabulary to something that might get our meaning across more clearly.
Insane might be more accurate, but I don’t think that would be a winning strategy either.

Corbin L Douthitt
Corbin L Douthitt
1 year ago

This ideology of the Left was difficult to find in the 50’s-60’s. Even a STATE college required “Old Testament Survey and New Testament Survey” classes for Freshmen in my state. College kids grew up in families that went to crutch. Kids had some idea of WHAT they believed and WHY they believed it. I was fortunate- while not a churched kid- I was able to see the bias in a few professors teachings. Then, US Navy and back to college. a mere 5 years later- colleges were rampant with the anti-war rhetoric, the Communist ideology and America=bad- anywhere else = good. I was able to give the answers on the test and not buy into the propaganda. Even pointing out the occasional lie with a ” no, not true! I WAS THERE” that shut them up. It is possible for a church kid to get a good education at one of these liberal-hair on fire Universities- but they must know what they believe, why they believe it and are willing to keep their head down and do the work. Let the professors bury themselves in their false ideologies. oh, that means it takes PARENTS to raise their kids well, in church and teach them to be responsible and use logic to dispel the lies they will be told.

Gabe Hanzeli
Gabe Hanzeli
1 year ago

why aren’t colleges just teaching their specific disciplines? why is this an issue?

anna hubert
anna hubert
1 year ago

Those who can’t and are unable to always benefited from those who can and are able to It does not work the other way around To promote schlep over excellence is catastrophic for everyone Sex and color of the skin is irrelevant You either can or you can’t That should be a deciding factor

Paul
Paul
11 months ago

Firing all the current faculty and administrators would be a good start for all California Colleges and Universities, as my boys have been black balled from both Public and Private, as they appear white Christian.

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