The issues of academic freedom and intellectual diversity have been hot topics lately. Time, the Washington Post, NY Times and ABC News with Peter Jennings have shown consistent evidence that professors are predominantly left-wing. However, as Roger Bowen, representative from the American Association of University Professors, said at a recent symposium on the subject, “So what?” It doesn’t affect the student’s education, his argument goes, and so what’s the problem?
Places like FrontpageMag, World Magazine, NoIndoctrination, Fox News, and scores of blogs and local papers highlight that indeed professor’s bias does influence education. Censored learning from revisionist history and stacked reading lists are common. Mandated conformity to this indoctrination via biased grading and enrollment approvals, while rare, do exist; yet the self-governing watchdogs that are in academia still deny it.
I am nearing the end of my first year in the masters program at Rhode Island College School of Social Work, the extreme of political indoctrination. When you look into the profession of social work, you will find some disturbing trends. It is one thing to teach a leftist view of “social justice” exclusively, but for the schools to mandate this political allegiance as a condition to graduation is indoctrination and in direct conflict with the law. West Virginia v. Barnette states, “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.”
Much to the eventual disappointment of the school, there is still no exception to this law, but when did the law ever stop radical activists? Also let’s not forget the AAUP 1940 statement, “A college or university is a marketplace of ideas, and it cannot fulfill its purposes of transmitting, evaluating, and extending knowledge if it requires conformity with any orthodoxy of content and method.”
Ironically it was the teachers who objected to high or petty officials mandating orthodoxy and who advocated for the 1943 landmark case by saying government-prescribed politics were “being too much like Hitler’s.” Today the field of social work has throngs of students pledging allegiance to the progressive party and goose-stepping directly to the State House, lobbying for the leftist agenda.
In “Professor, is there room on the right?” (Nov 14), the oppression of those intellectually different was described. When I objected to the Michael Moore film Fahrenheit 9/11 being shown in class, the result could be summed up by one professor’s reaction to my comments, “I revel in my biases. . . . Students need to decide whether they agree with them and whether they belong in social work.” His name is Jim Ryzcek. He is Director of Field Education at Rhode Island College. While his name will come up quite a bit in this piece, he is by no means alone. His views have been condoned from undergraduate professors all the way up to the president of the college John Nazarian [pictured].
As I have continued working toward my degree, I have continued to study my discipline of welfare and family structure and their influence on society.
In “Get the Bias out of RIC’s poverty classes” (Jan 31), statistics illustrate how this blind adherence to a political agenda can impede progress in welfare reform and the punishment I got for my efforts. www.collegebias.com. I told Jim I would be recording our meetings, so with this in mind, what he told me April 7th was shocking.
They gave me the list of intern requirements, and it seemed to be as expected. “Design, analyze, advocate and implement policy in an environment that promotes social justice, helping the poor and oppressed.” When I saw SP7, “Understanding leadership roles and develop the progressive skills and knowledge required to engage in organizational development, building coalitions, and promote progressive social change,” I asked, “Do you mean ‘“progressive’ as in ‘advancing’ or in the political sense?”
Let me tell you what they are talking about: They mean anti-capitalism, redefinition of “family,” pro-abortion, entitlement welfare, and redistribution-of-wealth “progressive politics.”
Wait a second. That’s not the only definition of social justice discussed in the field. According to the social work abstract database, there are a number of different views on social justice ranging from strict libertarian to radical progressive. Maybe some are better than others, depending on the issue, and most solutions fall somewhere in the gray, but that’s what education is all about–critical thinking. That’s why I love research; let the statistics guide our efforts. If their own “professionals” validate other views, how can they mandate this conformity?
“Right,” Jim said, agreeing to the variety of definitions, “but the objectives for second-year organizing policy are clear.”
“Do they have to be progressive policies?,” I asked.
“They say pretty clearly in several places, progressive skills…progressive policies.”
“So that mandates that I advocate for progressive policies to get a degree here?”
“This is directing the policy practice concentration,” he answered.
“And I have to do them to graduate, correct?”
“If you need to graduate you have to do them.”
“And in order to fulfill those, I need to promote progressive views?”
“You need to aggressively fulfill the objectives of the advanced policy course.”
Please forgive my repetitive questioning. Call it shock, but maybe it shouldn’t surprise me. Our in-house advocacy group, the Poverty Institute, organized students into a rally at the State House to promote Senate bill S-525. It is a welfare reform bill that redefines “work” as “job search” and is the last step toward entitlement welfare. Changing “‘welfare-to-work” to “work-when-you-want.”
The research shows in no uncertain terms that those policies are not working and ARE indeed counterproductive to reducing poverty. Without personal responsibility, personal initiative will be lacking. The welfare program is a safety net, not a hammock.
As much as Ryczek hated saying yes, it seemed clear now that in order to get my degree I must be an anti-capitalist, redistribution-of-wealth, left-of-bleeding-heart liberal “progressive.” So I took my stand: “No, I can’t do that.”
Jim said, “Well I am not asking you to advocate for them. I’m asking do you understand the objectives.”
Let’s take a break from the transcription for a moment; I am starting to see a tactic. Different from the AAUP’s approach to “Hear no evil, speak no evil, pretend you see no evil,” the schools of social work across the country may be taking a different stance.
The groundwork for their defense seems to be unfolding before me. If the school is open about its political views, then no one can complain if it promotes political indoctrination. A student has a choice whether to enroll or not.
First, that’s not necessarily true, as RI College is the only masters program in the state. Regardless, the result is that taxpayers don’t have a choice. Do you approve of using your taxes to promote far left-wing political policies? If you have ever voted against redistribution- of-wealth legislation, you have also funded your opposition.
Just to make sure, I asked again, “(Just to be clear), I have to advocate or at least work on progressive politics in order to get the degree here; is that right?”
“Yes, for the advanced policy curriculum, just like we teach.”
He went on to parrot Professor Frederick Reamer’s recent editorial where he defended the school’s philosophy with an analogy of medical schools and their allegiance to the Hippocratic Oath, but I’m not buying it. The Hippocratic Oath is not a political statement. He concluded by saying the faculty members “determine what objectives you would need to meet academically to be welcomed into the profession.”
I would say lobbying the State House is a bit more involved than to be termed “academic,” but I agree that I don’t feel “welcomed.”
This makes me think back to November when this issue first went public and I received a letter from a woman who said she was denied admission into the school because of her Christian views. This 3.75 GPA education undergrad made the unpardonable sin of asking not to be employed at an abortion or AIDs clinic for her intern placement. She was denied admission.
And who was it interviewing her? Yup. Jim Ryzcek. It seemed like a tough one to prove at the time, but it certainly fits the pattern now.
All the research on the political bias of professors has shown the elimination of descending views from the ranks of faculty, but now we see the systematic elimination of freethinking students as well.
“Because we integrate theory and practice,” Jim continued, “we need to make sure you understand those requirements.”
At least admitting they were “theory” and not “gospel,” which is a more accurate description, is a chink in the armor. “I understand what they are,” I said, “but I can’t sit here today and say I’m going to promote progressive change.”
“I’m not asking you to do that.”
Are they trying to confuse me? I tried again to catch this greased pig: “Then just to make sure I’m clear, to get my degree I need to do what with these 11 objectives? Or requirements?”
“You could say an objective is a requirement and in (the intern placement) you need to satisfy all of these objectives, yes, in order to pass the field portion of the curriculum.”
So I went item by item having him clear up any vague definitions and identify their political orientation. As expected, each hint at politics, ethics, economics, or any other aspect of society would be defined as far left-wing politically “progressive.”
Of the 11 intern requirements, seven of them “prescribe what shall be orthodoxy in politics” and “force citizens (students) to confess by word or action their faith therein.”
I can agree to the purely academic items. Understanding and evaluating progressive views would be helpful, especially in a Sun Tzu sense, but to swear allegiance to promote a political view is indoctrination. It is also unethical for any researcher to blindly accept the merits of a policy based on a political allegiance. Nope, sorry, I just won’t do it.
Even worse is SP5, “Use policy practice skills to employ them in legislative, executive, judicial, organizational, and/or community settings.” This refers to how we utilize clinical therapy and case management to set precedence for policy. In other words, we council welfare recipients to avoid faith-based services because they are not respectful of a client’s lifestyle. We advise a client to seek abortion when adoption is available, and use state funds to pay for it. We allow welfare moms to be foster parents because personal responsibility is not in the “progressive” vocabulary, and we need to redefine “family.”
SP5 goes beyond political advocacy. It hits at the dark side of societal evolution. With data on the effects of family structure dancing in my head, I refused to agree to these requirements. I cannot promote policies that would destroy what is left of our dying “traditional” family structure.
Jim continued, “I think we would hope that someone choosing (this field) would want to implement (these policies). So you understand with this conversation what we would, hypothetically, be asking you to do if you were (in the intern placement).”
“It’s not hypothetical. You will be asking me to do this,” I responded.
“Yes, I understand”
“So given you won’t do them, why do you want to be here?”
“I am very committed to working for social justice.”
After a bit more gloating on their intellectual indulgences, he moved on to discuss my intern placement–the governor’s office. Jim said he would call, but he sees a roadblock. “I don’t approve any placements that can’t implement our objectives…the school’s definition of social justice.”
But hey, that’s your problem. You call the governor and tell him his policy department isn’t good enough for a social work intern.
Jim defended the school by saying, “Until there is a court case, this is the law we operate under. No court has said we are in violation of anything.”
Frederick Reamer, the architect of our nation’s guiding Code of Ethics and the moderate (at least in public) voice of reason wrote an article recently discussing the issue of academic freedom. He detailed the importance of intellectual diversity (apparently blind to what is happening right under his nose) as he interlaced slanderous accusations of “students” taking research “out of context” and primed the pump for the upcoming expulsion hearing on my “unprofessional behavior.”
However, he made another statement that confused me. He states, “Indeed social work students should be exposed to wide-ranging, differing perspectives and encouraged to reach their own conclusions.” Professor Reamer’s office is right down the hall from Dan Weisman’s office from which originated the email that said, “I want to correct a perception you seem to have. The School of Social Work is not committed to balanced presentations, nor should we be. We are not a debating society.”
Teaching a subject in a single political perspective is one thing. Forcing political activism is another. Right now the research tells me a work-focused perspective performs best to reduce poverty. Maybe that will change by next semester; I don’t know. I will do as Reamer suggested and retain the right to reach my “own conclusions.”
Yet the real dilemma is this, how can I reach my “own conclusions” on research I will do next year if I have to agree today to promote leftist policies in the future?
Rhode Island College, the Council of Social Work Education and the AAUP not only act as though they know what the absolute truth is, but also they seem to know what the evidence will show in the future.
My educational torment has been going on all year. Failed grades, slanderous memos, 50 minutes of class telling me how wrong I was to think differently about social justice, three expulsion charges hanging over my head, my tire slashed, and countless names and accusations both in print and now in senate testimony. These instances inspire me. They show I am making progress, and those in power don’t like it.
I have written the AAUP on four occasions. The only response I have gotten is a request to get the local Executive Director’s name off my website.
Even the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, the free speech lawyers in Pennsylvania have written about the loss of my constitutional rights; still there is no response. Is it any wonder they say education is the fox watching the henhouse?
Having limited funds (I am a social worker, you know), I am left with limited options. So again I appeal to this Ethernet court of public opinion. I am a good evaluator of policy, and the state needs to fix its welfare program. Shouldn’t hard work pay off, or is the “redistribution-of-wealth” philosophy applied to intellectual aptitude as well? Should the educational system be allowed to control career opportunities based on one’s political allegiance or lack thereof? Should state-run schools be allowed to prescribe a political orthodoxy to a profession and “force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein?”
Do me a favor, America. Call or e-mail your local congressman or senator, and tell them you don’t want your tax dollars paying for political activism. Contact your own local social work college and labor studies course. Ask them if they mandate conformity to a political agenda. Why not drop a note to our college president, John Nazarian, and let him know what you think? Then help me find me a lawyer in Rhode Island who has the courage to face this union state.
Not just for my situation, not just to give welfare reform a fighting chance, but imagine the backlash if I fail! When schools can mandate political conformity and get away with it simply because the faculty has been able to redefine the goals of the curriculum, how much more brazen do you think they will get? How far will Union-Studies go? How far will closet-Ward Churchills go? If the social work “Code” wins, we all lose.
Bill Felkner is a master’s student at the Rhode Island College School of Social Work.