Saturday, March 17, 2007

A year ago the biggest issue in education after budgets was whether “intelligent design” should be taught in the nation’s schools. Opponents called it a form of “creationism” and the press dubbed the ensuing legal battle as the biggest clash between faith and science the Scopes Monkey Trial.

In a stinging rebuke to the religious right, a Pennsylvania judge ruled “intelligent design” had no place in classrooms because it was “a religious view, a mere relabeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory,” thus violating the separation of church and state.

Yet at that very moment professors in American universities were teaching a form of secular creationism as contrary to the findings of modern science as the biblical claim that God had made the world in seven days.

The name of this theory is “social constructionism,” and its churches are Women’s Studies departments in universities across the United States. The feminist theory of social construction maintains that the differences between men and women — apart from obvious anatomical ones — are not biologically determined but created by a patriarchal social structure designed by men to oppress women. It is “patriarchal society” that turns naturally bisexual infants into male and female personalities by conditioning them from birth to adopt gender roles — the one aggressive, masculine and destined to command, the other passive, feminine and slated to obey.

Critics of feminism such as Christina Hoff Sommers and neuroscientists such as Harvard’s Stephen Pinker have pointed out that this view contradicts the findings of modern science — evolutionary psychology, neuroscience and biology in particular. Men are known to cluster in significantly greater numbers at the high end of testing for mathematical aptitude, though they cluster in greater numbers at the low end of that bell curve as well. The scientific evidence is summarized in a recent book, “Sex Differences in Cognitive Ability,” whose author, Diane Halperin, is president of the American Psychological Association and was a social constructionist herself before reviewing the scientific literature. She concludes: “Socialization practices are undoubtedly important, but there is also good evidence that biological differences play a role in establishing and maintaining cognitive sex differences, a conclusion I wasn’t prepared to make when I began reviewing the relevant literature.”

Similarly, male aggression and competitiveness are not created out of whole cloth by a patriarchal system of dominance, as Women’s Studies feminists argue but are to a significant degree hormone-inspired. In short, according to modern science, the fault lies not in patriarchal hierarchies but in the genes.

Yet, here is a typical statement from the official course description for Feminist Political Theory 433, as taught at the University of Arizona by a full professor of political science and recipient of a coveted MacArthur Foundation fellowship: “Because gender is socially constructed, it is instructive to study how gender ideologies — which profoundly shape today’s intellectual inquiries and political realities — have been articulated in the form of political theory.” Obviously the premise of this course must be accepted by students or there is no course. Yet this statement asserts a claim that is not scientifically founded, and in fact is scientifically contradicted. In other words, students are required to believe a religious myth in order to get their academic grade.

Here is a parallel statement from the Kansas State University catalogue: “To qualify for a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science in Women’s Studies at Kansas State University, students will have demonstrated their familiarity with key Women’s Studies concepts such as the social construction of gender, oppression of and violence against women, heterosexism, racism, classism, and global inequality.”

In other words, a student cannot graduate from the Kansas State Women’s Studies program unless that student believes in the ideology that makes up its core, and demonstrate that belief. Yet the ideological premise is scientifically challenged — a fact the program does not acknowledge. In the catalogue descriptions of more than 100 Women’s Studies courses I have personally examined, these are common themes.

Indoctrination in dogmatic creeds such as gender feminism was once alien to the very idea of a modern research university. Now it has become an orthodoxy. Problematic dogmas have become the basis of entire programs funded by taxpayers. This is made possible by university authorities who have abdicated their responsibility to enforce university standards, while professional scholars who observe those standards are intimidated by academic radicals who will denounce as sexists, racists and homophobes anyone who gets in their way.

David Horowitz is the author of the Academic Bill of Rights. His book “Indoctrination U: The Left’s War Against Academic Freedom” has just been published by Encounter Books.

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