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The Trojan Horses of Education

Last time I described what I could find about the “Quiet Revolution” plan for medicine through the eyes and minds of the Bravewell Collaborative and Christy Mack, wife of the multi-millionaire or billionaire CEO John Mack. The idea seemed two-pronged; “humanize” physicians and medicine generally, and integrate folkway, sectarian and “alternative” methods into the system. What bothered me more, having become inured to patient philandering with quackery, was the brazen attempt to re-educate physicians and indoctrinate students into the political and social views of wealthy idealists. The entry below, one might conclude, has little to do with medical quackery and pseudoscience, but I beg your indulgence for this series as I attempt to connect dots between the stalls of the seemingly unrelated steeds of political indoctrination in universities and the proposed med school re-education camps of Bravewell. For several years a controversy has roiled at the University of Delaware over a program of educational activities for the dorms called Residence Life. The program structures student time with a number of usual activities – games, talks, discussion groups – but the content of the discussion groups and interpersonal counseling upset some students, who complained to an off-campus conservative organization, and got to the attention of faculty, which pressured the administration to stop the program last fall.

To outsiders such as we, the program looked like a feel-good, beneficent guidance tools. To the complaining students and critics the discussions seemed more like indoctrination groups, with political agendas taking on disguised roles as helpful guidance for student angst. Students complained about invasion of their privacy through group and leader pressures, and the faculty saw indoctrination and invasion of their educational duties (turf) by student counselors bearing ideological messages with little qualification.


Critics described the program thus: The University of Delaware subjects students in its residence halls to a shocking program of ideological reeducation that is referred to in the university’s own materials as a “treatment” for students’ incorrect attitudes and beliefs. The Orwellian program requires the approximately 7,000 students in Delaware’s residence halls to adopt highly specific university-approved views on issues ranging from politics to race, sexuality, sociology, moral philosophy, and environmentalism. (http://www.thefire.org/index.php/article/4851.html). Here are the stated goal of the curriculum:

Become an engaged and active citizen by understanding how your thoughts, values, beliefs, and actions affect the people with whom you live and recognize your responsibility to contribute to a sustainable society at a local, national, and global level.

From this stated goal twelve learning outcomes or competencies were developed:

Understand how your social identities affect how you view others.

Understand how differences in equity impact our society.

Understand your congruence with citizenship values.

Understand how others influence you.

Understand the impact of your decisions.

Understand the power of an individual in a community.

Understand the knowledge necessary for the development of a sustainable society.

Learn how to connect personal passions to vocational options in order to be able to contribute to a sustainable society.

Learn how to develop and sustain interdependent relationships.

Learn to contribute to the creation and maintenance of a sustainable society.

Learn the skills necessary to be a change agent.

Demonstrate civic engagement toward the development of a sustainable society.

English is a “slippery” language, with multiple meanings to words. Not surprisingly, critics found specific buzz words felt to imply a more political slant: sustainable society, global level, learning competencies (implying a scale of social adequacy) change agent, etc. (Interesting that “change” became a motto of one of our presidential candidates, with imprecise application, and criticisms to match.)

The 2007 Faculty critique read thus:

The Faculty Senate Committee on Student Life assessed the Residence Life Education Curriculum based on a review of the printed materials provided in the Residence Life Education Curriculum; a presentation from the Vice President of Student Life and the Director of Residence Life, a written report provided by the Director of Residence Life, a student forum on the topic and the deliberations of the committee.

1. Faculty Inclusion: The Student Life Committee of the Faculty Senate believes that Residence Life should have relied on the faculty in the development of a Curricular Approach to Residence Life.

2. Curriculum Content and Implementation: The Student Life Committee of the Faculty Senate acknowledges the fact that some of the topics that were addressed in the curriculum were worthy of discussion, but it would have been appropriate for the discussions on those topics to be led by qualified professionals and faculty.

3. Mandatory vs. Voluntary Participation: The Student Life Committee of the Faculty Senate believes that there was not a clear understanding on whether the participation in the Residence Life Curriculum was voluntary or mandatory. Considering the nature of the topics, it would be imperative that students clearly understand that it is voluntary rather than having the impression it was mandatory.

4. Reliance on Residence Assistants: The Student Life Committee of the Faculty Senate believes that there was an inappropriate reliance on resident assistants in the implementation of the curriculum. It was not in the best interest of either the residence assistants or the residents that certain activities were not led by qualified professionals.

5. Learning Outcomes and Activities: The Student Life Committee of the Faculty Senate believes that although the intent of the curriculum was to engage students in discussion and debate about important topics related to citizenship, on several occasions stated learning outcomes and activities suggested a particular view was a correct view over another rather than encouraging students to have an open and honest discussion.

6. Materials Used and Posted: The Student Life Committee of the Faculty Senate believes that it was inappropriate for the educational materials of guest speaker Dr. Shakti Butler to be posted on the University website. The placement of the materials created an impression that these were the views of the Residence Life program and ultimately the University. Some of the posted material was not used by Dr. Butler in her workshop nor was it ever used in the residence halls with students. This makes the posting on the University website even more inappropriate. [Shakti had given off-campus talks with apparently radical or at least highly polarized content.

Summary: What is most important from these observations is what can be learned. In moving to the future, the Student Life Committee of the Faculty Senate would like to make the following recommendations in regards to the development of a new residence life program.

It is imperative that students clearly understand that participation in Residence Life programming is voluntary rather than having an impression that it is mandatory. Respecting the moral autonomy and intellectual integrity of students should be a primary goal of all Residential Life programs. Such respect requires that no educational program of Residential Life be mandatory.

There followed a list of specific recommended changes too long and detailed for here, but couched in the usual mildness of courteous academic text.

So the administration sent Reslife authors back to the drawing board, but they came up with a barely sanitized version (also too long to detail here.) Presented last month, it was accepted by administration for a year. But the Delaware Association of Scholars, an unofficial watchdog faculty group weighed in with more pointed language:

The […] Association [..] is disappointed by the University of Delaware’s proposed Residence Life program and urges the Faculty Senate to reject it. The proposed program is little more than a re-tread of the notorious indoctrination program suspended last fall. The differences are largely cosmetic. The proposed program still tries to change students’ “thoughts, values, beliefs, and actions,” while focusing on “student learning outcomes.” It changes only the language. Like the old program, the new one centers on “sustainability.” But while the old program defined the term (“the triple bottom line of having a society which is socially just, and communities which are economically and environmentally responsible”), the new program leaves the term undefined. What Residence Life calls “transparency” is nothing more than invisibility. A sign that the programs are much the same is that the new program, which was designed and would be implemented by the same ResLife administrators who had designed and implemented the earlier program, will have a Graduate Assistant for Diversity Initiatives, whose responsibilities include “Stereotyping, Oppression, Prejudice Reduction, Privilege, Heterosexism/ Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Awareness, Racism, Ageism, Sexism, Values Clarification, Multicultural Jeopardy, Classism” (http://www.udel.edu/reslife/candidates/hd_jobdesc2.html).

Back to medical re-education, the techniques used by the Reslife authors bore resemblance to the those of the “Alternative/Integrative” movement. Primary was the use of obscure language to disguise real messages. In Reslife, the two terms that raised the most ire were “sustainability” and “social justice.” Sustainability ostensibly referred to life styles that students could adopt locally to help preserve nature and local life and reduce conflict, a point of political contention. Social justice ostensibly referred to local disputes, respect for cohabitants, and such. But the terms quickly turned to global political ones and the program took on features of political re-education . This metamorphosis was particularly problematic for young students away from home, most for the first time, vulnerable to indoctrination by people in authority. The plan was described also as a “curriculum,” giving it a veneer of academic respectability, to which faculty objected.

There is a difference in the ways that pressures for ideological change have been received in academic universities and in medical colleges. Political domination by polar advocates in universities is now meeting a small nucleus of resistance from more classically oriented faculty, mainly in the social and letters schools. While hard science faculty generally oppose political moves described here, they do not much provoke.

In comparison, the infiltration by “Integrative ” changes into medicine has for the most part been welcomed or at least passively accepted by medical school facultie: , and reactions have been blunted by political correctness and fear of alienating the advocates. And, oh, yes, the taboo on endangering any inflow of funding, which now runs in the billions from NCCAM, NIH, OCCAM and from private pro-sectarian ideologues.

So, we have an Orwellian movement in the dorms at Delaware, while in schools of medicine we have a Huxleyan Bravewell New World, whose 2006 Public TV series was unsurprisingly …”The New Medicine”…(!) Although the aims of the two systems differ, and perhaps even reflect opposing politics, the methods are eerily similar.

Enough said. More infiltration news in some surprising areas next time.

Posted in: Medical Academia, Politics and Regulation

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