Professors and administrators are to blame for anti-American sentiment on college campuses today, according to a report by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni.
More than 140 college campuses in 36 states have held anti-war rallies denouncing the country’s military actions in Afghanistan, the report says.
The document “Defending Civilization: How Our Universities Are Failing America and What Can Be Done About It” concludes that many professors and administrators are quick to clamp down on acts of patriotism, such as flying the American flag, and look down on students who question professors’ “politically correct” ideas in class. The report was completed last month.
Such practices should be stopped because they threaten the very essence of a college experience, which should encourage a robust exchange of ideas, said Anne Neal, vice president and general counsel for ACTA, a Washington-based educational group. Professors need to change their curriculum to include both sides of historical issues, or else they will continue to short-change their students, Ms. Neal said.
“We’re not saying this sentiment exists 100 percent on all college campuses,” Ms. Neal said. “But there are college campuses out there where there is this anti-American sentiment, and we’re very concerned about it because this is an attitude that affects our self-understanding.”
The ACTA report lists 117 examples of anti-American sentiment.
What has particularly caused concern among groups such as ACTA is the anti-patriotic attitude making its way into post-September 11 college courses.
Examples of such courses being offered this spring and next fall are: “The Sexuality of Terrorism” at University of California at Hayward; and “Terrorism and the Politics of Knowledge” at UCLA, a class that, according to its course description, examines “America’s record of imperialistic adventurism.”
Such courses are a “perfect example of blaming the victim, a favorite phrase of the left,” said Winfield Myers, of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. “To equate the attack on terrorist strongholds and their state sponsors with old-fashioned imperialism or territorial warfare is disingenuous at best,” Mr. Myers said.
Rick Parsons, a campus program director at the Young America’s Foundation, said offering a course that’s skewed is typical on college campuses. Most of those classes are taught by professors who were anti-war protesters of the 1960s and 1970s.
“They feel like America is to blame for everything. It’s that simple,” Mr. Parsons said.
ACTA officials said professors should adopt a curriculum that include courses on the foundations of Western civilization. “If both sides are heard, students and all of us will benefit,” Ms. Neal said.
But some college officials said academic institutions have always been known as places where people will find the most freedom to think differently.
“You want people to think differently on college campuses, you want to them to think critically,” said Forest Wortham, director of multicultural programs in the Women’s Center at Wittenberg University in Ohio.
“But people have to be careful in assuming a person’s allegiance on what they think or say. I just hope we haven’t returned to the McCarthy era.”
The anti-American sentiment has been a part of campus life since it first appeared during the Vietnam War era, when students held anti-war rallies to urge the federal government to stop the conflict overseas.
That sentiment became more evident in the months after the September 11 terrorist attacks, when professors and administrators removed American flags that students had put up.
But some students traded in the American flag for the international peace symbol (a circle with an upside “Y” in the center) because, as one student at Wittenberg University in Ohio explained in an interview, the flag is a symbol of military and male oppression. The peace sign promotes a “more inclusive atmosphere.”
College professors and university officials mentioned in the ACTA report for taking down American flags days after the attacks called their actions “lapses of judgement” or “knee-jerk reactions from the 1960s,” and said they regretted their behavior.
Professors, university officials and associations that represent them denounced the ACTA’s conclusions, saying the report inaccurately described campus responses to the terrorist attacks.
“Students, faculty, and campus leaders have, in fact, come together … in deliberative dialogues about the dangers of racial profiling, and in serious study of the underlying issues and challenges these attacks pose for our nation’s future,” said Carol Geary Schneider, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, which represents 740 colleges and universities nationwide.
William Scheuerman, president of the United University Professions, the country’s largest higher education union, accused ACTA of using the attacks as an opportunity to force faculty to teach “America Is the Best” 1950s-style curricula.
“Most Americans believe we’re the best, but we won’t remain so for long if the very American activity of challenging orthodoxy is suppressed on U.S. campuses,” Mr. Scheuerman said.