- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 24, 2000

The darkest nightmare of the literature on power is George Orwell's "1984," where there is not even an interior space of privacy and self.
In "1984," Winston Smith faces the ultimate and consistent logic of the argument that everything is political, and he can only dream of "a time when there were still privacy, love and friendship, and when members of a family stood by one another without needing to know the reason."
Orwell did not know that as he wrote, Mao's China was subjecting university students to "thought reform," known also as "re-education," that was not complete until children had denounced the lives and political morals of their parents and emerged as "progressive" in a manner satisfactory to their trainers.
In the diversity-education film "Skin Deep," a favorite in academic "sensitivity training," a white student confesses his family's inertial Southern racism and says to the group, "It's a tough choice, choosing what's right and choosing your family."
Political correctness is not the end of human liberty because political correctness does not have power commensurate with its aspirations. It is essential, however, to understand those totalizing ambitions for what they are. O'Brien's re-education of Winston in "1984" went to the heart of such invasiveness.
The desire to "train" individuals on issues of race and diversity has spawned a new industry of moral re-education. Colleges and universities have been hiring diversity "trainers" or "facilitators" for 15 years, and the most famous of them can command $35,000 for "cultural audits," $5,000 for sensitivity workshop training and as much as $3,000 an hour for lectures.
Three of the most celebrated facilitators at the moment are Edwin J. Nichols, Hugh Vasquez and Jane Elliott, the Torquemada of thought reform. To examine their work is to see into the heart of American re-education.
Mr. Nichols first came to the attention of intrusive political correctness in 1990, when he led an infamous "racial sensitivity" session at the University of Cincinnati. According to witnesses, his exercise culminated in the humiliation of a blonde, blue-eyed, young female professor, whom he ridiculed as a "perfect" member of "the privileged white elite." The woman, according to these accounts, sat and sobbed.
Two diversity films widely used at major universities reveal the techniques and the characters of two other leading thought reformers. "Skin Deep," the 1996 film funded by the Ford Foundation, records an encounter at a retreat between college students from around the country. The facilitators are led by Hugh Vasquez.
In "Skin Deep," we meet white, Hispanic, black and Asian-American students from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, the University of California at Berkeley, and Texas A&M.;
The whites have terrible stories to tell: They have grown up in white neighborhoods; their families have prejudices; and they feel rejected by people of color. The people of color have terrible stories to tell: They suffer frequent abuse in white America, and they are sick of it.
The white students talk about the stereotypes they have learned, and the students of color reflect deeply on the cruelty of race in America.
By the end, the students of color state that if the white students become real "allies," their victims can let go of their anger a bit. White students have come to realize that the pieties their parents taught them, such as an honest day's pay for an honest day's work, apply only to whites in America.
In short, what moves the film is a denial of individual identity and responsibility, an insistence on group victimization and rights, and the belief that America is an almost uniquely iniquitous place in the world, without opportunity, legal equality or justice.
"Skin Deep" is a kid's cartoon, however, compared to Jane Elliott's "Blue Eyed." Miss Elliott has been lionized by the American media, including Oprah Winfrey, and she is widely employed by a growing number of universities. Disney plans to make a movie of her life.
In "Blue Eyed," masochistic adults accept Miss Elliott's 2 and 1/2-hour exercise in sadism, designed to make white people understand what it is to be "a person of color" in the United States.
To achieve this, she divides her group into stupid, lazy, shiftless, incompetent and psychologically brutalized "blue eyes" on the one hand, and clever and empowered "brown eyes" on the other. Some of the sadism is central to the "game," but much is gratuitous, and it continues after the exercise has ended.
The ultimate goal of the film: "It is not enough for white people to stop abusing people of color. All U.S. people need a personal vision for ending racism and other oppressive ideologies within themselves."
Jane Elliott has lived through revolutionary cultural changes without taking note of any. She teaches only helplessness and despair to blacks and only blood-guilt and self-contempt to whites. She addresses no issue with intellectual seriousness or purpose.
Even traditionalist campuses now permit the ideologues in their offices of student life to pursue individuals into the last inner refuge of free men and women, and to turn students over to trainers who want them to change "within themselves."
From the evidence, most students tune it out. Where students react, it is generally with an anger that, ironically and sadly, exacerbates the Balkanization of our universities.
The more social work we bring to our colleges and universities, the more segregated they become, and colleges and universities by the hundred have advertised for individuals to oversee "diversity education," "diversity training," and "sensitivity training."
Orwell understood full well how the authoritarians of the 20th century had moved from the desire from outer control to the desire for inner control. He understood the new age sought to overcome the ultimate source of freedom for human beings: "They can't get inside you."
Our colleges and universities hire trainers to "get inside" American students.
Thought reform is making its way inexorably to an office near you. If we let it occur at our universities and accept it passively in our own domains, then a people who defeated totalitarians abroad will surrender their dignity, privacy and conscience to the totalitarians within.


Alan Charles Kors is a professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania and co-author of "The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on America's Campuses."
This article is condensed from "Thought Reform 101," which appeared in the March issue of Reason magazine (www.reason.com) and has been reprinted with permission.

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