"Marxism is dying globally," writes columnist and recent UCLA graduate Ben Shapiro. "But it's alive and kicking at America's universities." Shapiro's list of communist courses, texts, and activities in American higher education spans a chapter in his new book Brainwashed: How America's Universities Indoctrinate America's Youth.
Students can minor in Marxist Studies at University of California Riverside. A class in "Marxist Literary Theory" is offered at Rutgers University. There is "Black Marxism" at University of California Santa Barbara, and "Taking Marx Seriously" at Amherst College. "Engaging Cuba: Uncommon Approaches to the Common Good" is a course at the Evergreen State College that glorifies Castro's Cuba for its successes in education, health care, and agricultural production. These courses are more than partial to communist theory - they are actually like Red propaganda sessions. Capitalism - along with its accompanying institutions - is roundly portrayed as the source of all greed, inequality, and evil in general.
It would seem that the university communists have difficulty reconciling their belief that capitalism is evil with their other contention that there is no good or evil at all. A 2002 Zogby poll of 401 college seniors for the National Association of Scholars revealed that classroom relativism is overwhelming. Seventy-three percent of seniors said that the most frequent ethical position of their professors was: "what is right and wrong depends on differences in individual values and cultural diversity." Only a quarter of a college seniors replied that in their classrooms, "there are clear and uniform standards of right and wrong by which everyone should be judged."
At first glance, it may seem that the majority of college students are mindlessly following the lead of their professors. "Acceptance is the easiest road, and the road most often taken," writes Shapiro. "If the professor says that the sky is green, the sky must be green." Voting patterns suggest that college students become increasingly liberal as they move through their years of higher education. And one study between 2000 and 2003 showed that while 52 percent of students reported having attended church on a regular basis prior to college, only 29 percent were still going to church in their junior year. As William F. Buckley wrote in Up From Liberalism, "There is a correlation between the length of time one spends studying at the feet of liberals and the extent to which one comes to share their views."
Yet there are signs that today's students are not following everything their professors believe.
According to a 2003 study by the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles, most college and university students consider themselves spiritual, but find that their campuses do little to encourage their spirituality. Researchers surveyed 3,680 students at 46 institutions to discover that 73 percent of American college students find religion and spirituality to have helped in the development of their identity. But 62 percent report that their professors never encourage discussion of religion or spirituality. The report found that "students have deeply felt values and interests in spirituality and religion, but their academic work and campus programs seem to be divorced from it."
Still, the percentage of students who consider spiritual matters to be "very important" or "essential" in their lives rose from 51 percent in 2000 to 58 percent in 2003. In addition, those who consider a full personal worldview to be "very important" or "essential" rose from 43 percent to 52 percent, and those who believe that it is "very important" or "essential" to demonstrate compassion by helping the less fortunate climbed a remarkable fourteen points from 60 percent to 74 percent. Despite the efforts of the professors to sterilize their campuses of spiritual concerns, discussions, and practices, the growth in importance that students attach to their spiritual lives is significant.
Perhaps the most instructive gulf between professors and students is over the issue of abortion. According to the Center for the Study of Popular Culture and Luntz Research Associates, about one percent of college professors support a legal ban on abortion. A 99 percent pro-abortion professoriate is a powerful majority.
But every year since 1990, with the exception of one, the support of college freshmen for abortion has fallen. In 1990, 64.9 percent of freshmen supported a right to abortion. By 1999, that number had fallen to 52.7 percent. According to a 2000 Gallup poll, 40 percent of 18 to 29-year olds - a higher percentage than any age group surveyed - believed that abortion should be restricted to a greater extent than it is now. And in 2004, 60 percent of 18 to 29-year olds said they supported a complete ban on abortion or minimal exceptions, according to a Zogby poll.
A growing sense of spirituality and a burgeoning identity with the pro-life cause are two outstanding features of today's students whose attitudes in those areas represent a widening chasm with their professors. In most other matters, the relativism that has been taught to - and apparently accepted - by today's American youth rests on the most infirm footing possible. Though young people claim to be relativists in large majorities, their faith in nothingness is weak, intellectually indefensible, and most importantly, counteracted by a lust for reality. On this I will write more in the future.
Hans Zeiger is a junior at Hillsdale College and author of Get Off My Honor:
The Assault on the Boy Scouts of America, as well as a forthcoming book about
the rise of conservatism amongst young Americans.