June 2nd, 2017

Campus indoctrination: the progressive summer reading list

[Hat tip: Fuzzy Slippers at Legal Insurrection.]

The NAS (National Association of Scholars) reports on the slant of the books on the typical college reading list given to incoming freshmen to prepare them for the rigors of college study:

Hundreds of American colleges and universities assign a summer reading to entering freshmen. NAS publishes the nation’s only comprehensive list of the books in college common reading. The newest edition, Beach Books 2016-2017: What Do Colleges Want Students to Read Outside Class?, lists and analyzes 359 assignments at 348 colleges located in 46 states.

Most assignments were contemporary memoirs and popular nonfiction that endorsed politically progressive perspectives on affirmative action, gay, lesbian, and transgender life, global warming, illegal immigration, racial identity, recycling, sexism, incarceration, or wealth.

We’re talking about a very different canon here from the classics of Western literature. A few are fine, but this is a steady diet. We’re also talking about books that are usually quite recent rather than older.

The NAS has offered a counter-list of 110 recommended books. I skimmed it, and one of the books in particular sparked a memory of a work that made a deep impression on me in college: Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons.

I’m writing the rest of this post from memory, and my memory of the book is almost certainly indistinct. After all, it’s been nearly a half-century (!!) since I read it. But its depiction of certain types of people—politically, intellectually, and emotionally—and the manner in which they come to believe in and commit various follies, struck a deep chord with me. Not only did I recognize some of the political types in both the student population and the older generation of my own time (the 60s), but I found familiar characters from my own family. The book also dealt with family interactions and how sons rebel against the ideas of their fathers.

All in all, it made me think and broadened my perspective. I now saw the 60s in the United States as at least partly a rerun of the 1800s in Russia (the book came out in 1862), and this was not a comforting thought in terms of where we might be headed. This book, and other example of older Russian literature that I read at the time, gave me a wider view than I would have had without them. It became clear to me that the supposedly wonderful uniqueness and ground-breaking thoughts of my generation were neither, and that our path might lead to something very very bad.

These Russian books made it impossible for me to join fully in some of the political excesses of my time. Some of that reluctance may have also been my own personality, but I am convinced that books were a large influence.

Not everyone is as influenced by books as I was. But the educators who compile their lists of assignments certainly are trying to influence malleable minds and guide them in a particular direction. And the people at the NAS who have come up with their counter-list are doing the same. Although I believe that education should have the goal of helping the student think and evaluate in an objective and logical manner, it also inevitably will have qualities of indoctrination and will tend to coax the student in t certain direction. As Allan Bloom wrote (and as I quoted him yesterday):

Every educational system has a moral goal that it tries to attain and that informs its curriculum. It wants to produce a certain kind of human being…In some nations the goal was the pious person, in others the warlike, in others the industrious…Aristocracies want gentlemen, oligarchies men who respect and pursue money, and democracies lovers of equality. Democratic education, whether it admits it or not, wants and needs to produce men and women who have the tastes, knowledge, and character supportive of a democratic regime. Over the history of our republic, there have obviously been changes of opinion as to what kind of man is best for our regime.

The reading list is one of the many tools marshaled in that endeavor. Do not underestimate its power; I certainly don’t.

10 Responses to “Campus indoctrination: the progressive summer reading list”

  1. arfldgr Says:

    Allan Bloom is only right in past history not this one
    cause he didnt mention the one driving this one
    so either he is igonrant, thinks its something different, wont say out of safety, etc. who knows? not i!

    but if you want to know whats driving this, then you have to read the progressive speeches and study wilson, dewey, the soviet union and others cause THOSE are the values we got shafted with and took 100 years to go from the great education that made our world, to the debased one we have now

    [heck, just look at poor kathy griffen, a PERFECT example of the product of the new left feminist progressive racialist gender unormed dormed education system]

    its a very sick version of an old movie staring danny kaye about researchers in their halls studying and missing the world outside.. [invert it and have someone control their fish bowl with invites, speakers, rewards to tell you who to kiss, etc]

    For a blog that keeps slamming into progressivism, it sure missed the most key historical parts.. (you know, like missing white privelege argument started in 1988, so if you want to argue it, you had to see it back then, not now more than 39 years later!! ie. hard to debate an argument your not present for and not aware of till its so set in concrete you cant argue!!! its now FOUNDATIONAL cause when people like me warned people then, we were nutty, hate women, didnt want peace on earth, belieeved in the spagetti monster, and if that wasnt enough they will ruin your life unless you at least pretend like a person in nazi germany!!

    bloom is not so great…
    nor is the other stuff
    cause its dirivative of stuff you didnt read and he did!!!
    hows those apples to quote good will hunting on Zinn

    you guys are 30 years late to the party and it still took ten years for this blog to really believe it, and by the time you guys work out how it works your going to be way past the end game.. what do you think this will lead to in the colleges? i could have shown you this stuff 20 years ago that your JUST DISCOVERING!!

    Lies are as important an ingredient in the ideology of progressives as is h20 in water.

    even now while looking i find the granfather of fake news is Walter Lippmann.. no, not really, its willi munsenberg… lippman, goebbles, etc all came later

    And i bet here is a name you dont know but should: William Thomas Stead. Hever, stead was honest about his dishonesty!!!

    Stead authored a piece called “Government by Journalism”, which, unlike “Public Opinion”, it’s not a 400 page book. It’s only an essay,(22 pages long) which means that its easy to read

    why dontyou guys ask this virgil to show you around hell, wandering will get you killed early… or lose everything, or worse.

    here are some quotes from Stead (And with all this happening no one but me mentions these people or this history kept out of your education by the progressives.. note. they are not letting you know THEIR hsitory in detail, and your not curious enough to wonder why or whats in it, or even if someone points out, get on board and find out!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    cause as one famous educators said, you take kids who you cant stop from learning, and kill it, till they are adults, who are incurious who WONT look..
    your trained not to, and dont know it!!! and will get angry if someone points it out and can show you the history and the academic papers!!!!!!!!! (but wont read them. what if they are right? then the horror isnt entertaining, its real as it was in soviet life)

    They decide what their readers shall know, or what they shall not know.

    he means journalists

    The tabloid man is only important, because of who his protege was. William Thomas Stead’s protege was William Randolph Hearst, and Stead was very proud of this.
    [edited for length by n-n]

  2. arfldgr Says:

    Patience is the progressives most deadly weapon

    Have you ever read Theodore Roosevelt’s Bull Moose party platform?

    If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle. Tsn Tsu

    the progressive party’s 1912 party platform calls for these following things:

    * A National Health Service to include all existing government medical agencies.

    * Social insurance, to provide for the elderly, the unemployed, and the disabled

    * Limit the ability of judges to order injunctions to limit labor strikes.

    * A minimum wage law for women

    * An eight-hour workday

    * A federal securities commission

    * Farm relief

    * Workers’ compensation for work-related injuries

    * An inheritance tax

    they still fight for these things in 2017
    above was the party plan 100 years ago

    to quote:

    In Theodore Roosevelt’s time, when the progressives wanted government healthcare, everybody involved with that effort – they’re all dead. Who was the next progressive president to push toward government healthcare? FDR for certain, made his moves. But Truman is the one. Truman called for government healthcare.

    In Truman’s time, when the progressives wanted government healthcare, nearly everybody involved with that effort – all but only a small handful are all dead.

    And so it goes. And let’s also at least make one mention of how the progressives achieved government healthcare. Like so many other of their objectives, they nibbled. First, it was old people. Then it was children. Then it was everybody. They did the same thing with education. They nibbled. First it was one thing, then another, then the Department of Ed, then NCLB, then finally Common Core.

    they sliced the salami
    they did the fabian thing

    They built their desires the same way cathedrals are built

    their kids and such are using socialism and communism, just as bella dodd said, to return to control over mankind they lost when aristocracy was overturned.. they wanted it back.. which is why these same families funded marx, engels, and feminism, and all the programs they taught you were good

    who could teach you they were bad?
    no one

    and here are the rest… added later by STUART CHASE with FDR

    * A strong, centralized government.

    * An Executive arm growing at the expense of the legislative and judicial arms. In some countries, power is consolidated in a dictator, issuing decrees.

    * The control of banking, credit, and security exchanges by the government.

    * The underwriting of employment by the government, either through armaments or public works.

    * The underwriting of social security by the government – old-age pensions, mothers’ pensions, unemployment insurance, and the like.

    * The underwriting of food, housing, and medical care, by the government. The United States is already experimenting with providing these essentials. Other nations are far along the road.

    * The use of the deficit spending technique to finance these underwritings. The annually balanced budget has lost its old-time sanctity.

    * The abandonment of gold in favor of managed currencies.

    * The control of foreign trade by the government, with increasing emphasis on bilateral agreements and barter deals.

    * The control of natural resources, with increasing emphasis on self-sufficiency

    * The control of energy sources – hydroelectric power, coal, petroleum, natural gas.

    * The control of transportation – railway, highway, airway, waterway.

    * The control of agricultural production.

    * The control of labor organizations, often to the point of prohibiting strikes.

    * The enlistment of young men and women in youth corps devoted to health, discipline, community service and ideologies consistent with those of the authorities. The CCC camps have just inaugurated military drill.

    * Heavy taxation, with especial emphasis on the estates and incomes of the rich.

    * Not much “taking over” of property or industries in the old socialistic sense. The formula appears to be control without ownership. it is interesting to recall that the same formula is used by the management of great corporations in depriving stockholders of power.

    * State control of communications and propaganda.

    EVERYTHING you discuss is there, as a stated goal of plans anyone can read… and the progressives do, and know what they are shooting for. everyone else doesnt, and thinks things happening now didnt start before they were born!!! why? cause the education system made then incurious and paranoid..

    but why would you guys want to know about all that?
    its not like that laundry list didnt come true. right?


  3. Cornhead Says:

    High schools in Omaha get a summer reading assignment. One year it was, “Three Cups of Tea.” Shortly thereafter the author was exposed as a fraud.

    The choices every year were liberal dreck.

  4. OldTexan Says:

    Three books on my list College Freshman year in 1963 at Westminster College in Fulton, MO. Catcher in the Rye, Lord of the Flies and the Man in the Grey Flannel Suit. I am very near sighted, uncoordinated and I was an avid reader all of my life so I enjoyed all three.

    I remember sitting out on the grass during orientation week trying to make half way intelligent remarks in our discussion groups without sounding too stupid.

  5. M J R Says:

    More than half a century ago, the progressive indoctrination was already beginning.

    As far back as 1964, my then-girlfriend was assigned James Baldwin’s “The Fire Next Time” for discussion as she entered a small private college as a freshman.

    (No word on whether she was eventually assigned, for example, Bill Buckley’s “God and Man at Yale”. If there was any balancing assignment, I never heard about it.)

  6. The Other Chuck Says:

    Elmer Gantry, The Valley of the Moon, The Octopus, progressive classics on my freshman reading list. You ask a college kid today about them. I found London’s Martin Eden and made a pilgrimage to Glen Ellen. He was the young man I wished I could have been, socialism and all.

    What do they see in the crap they are given now? Have they even heard of Sinclair Lewis or Mencken?

  7. Leonard Goodman Says:

    For a wonderful essay on the almost parallel lives of Turgenev and Marx, see:


  8. Frog Says:

    Get behind the NAS. It is doing great good work on a total budget of $1 million per year. Neo does not make it clear enough what yeomanry there is at NAS. The staff are engaged in a long uphill struggle against contemporary academia. They need our help.

  9. GRA Says:

    I didn’t have a college reading list as incoming freshman. Thank goodness. I entered my first full day of university without any liberal thoughts that were carefully curated by the university during the summer. Then again I was in the marching band – a far more important thing to worry about during the summer (memorize about 20+ pieces of music) than some reading list dished out by the university.

    As I reflect on the progressive list I don’t like the idea since it’s very “collective” and I scoff at the concept of “getting all the freshmen to have something in common, to have some dialogue”. Seriously? That quickly diminishes when there’s approximately 3, 750 kids in your freshmen class. If a progressive book will be assigned it should be by a particular professor who’s probably in the humanities or social sciences. At least that would make sense.

  10. gpc31 Says:

    If memory serves, Harvard’s recommended reading list for incoming freshmen ca. 1980 included “The Education of Henry Adams” and “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” — I’m less certain about the latter, but as a kid from the sticks, do remember reading the fustiness of Adams’ prose with green ears and trepidation. Gravitas on top of veritas was almost too much.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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