Do universities politically indoctrinate students?


Fact Box

  • To indoctrinate means to “imbue with a usually partisan or sectarian opinion, point of view, or principle,” to “instruct especially in fundamentals or rudiments.” In this sense, all education is indoctrination. 
  • A 2016 Pew Research survey found that growing numbers of postgrads and college grads are “consistently liberal,” 31 and 24%, respectively, as opposed to those who are “consistently conservative,” standing at only 10-11%. 
  • The National Association of Scholars (NAS) found that the partisan divide among college professors is vast. Those registered as Democrats vs Republicans increased on the college campus from 4.5:1 (D:R) in 1999 to 10:1 by 2018. The study also reports that 78.2% of the sample colleges were “Republican free,” and “skewed against Republican affiliation and in favor of Democratic affiliation.” 
  • The cost of attending an “ivy league” school like Yale, Harvard, Princeton, or Brown averages between $50-60 thousand per year.

Stephanie (Yes) 

There is nothing inherently wrong with higher education staff having intensely biased personal views; however, it can be problematic considering that college students generally enter their educational careers with open minds. This makes it much easier to sway their beliefs, making it inappropriate for professors to insert personal opinions into the classroom, whether it's relevant to the topic or not. Any form of education that promotes abstract thinking should make students examine their views on a subject and not just take what professors say as absolute truth.

A vast majority of college professors are left-leaning and have been 'since the '60s,' at a ratio to conservatives of at least '8.5 to 1.' Obviously, this varies by university, state, and the field of study. Yet, it is undeniably expected considering the 'intrinsic link between liberalism and intelligence' and learning, as well as being 'more likely to be drawn to academic work.' Additionally, many colleges have adopted courses in 'academic subcategories,' which are more likely to be based on leftist ideologies.

While political indoctrination may occur on behalf of any belief, countless examples show that it happens much more frequently against conservative values. Cases of this have been seen on college campuses that have designated 'safe spaces,' condemned masculinity while promoting feminism, promoted abortion while shaming pro-life students, and banning conservative groups and speakers or any speaker that thinks differently from the average leftist.

Following their university schooling years, higher education graduates are much more likely to indicate being 'consistently liberal' in polls and develop 'more liberal attitudes on social issues.' Given these trends, it is not a stretch to suggest that their professors likely influenced these students on some level.

Julian (No)

Universities and colleges stand for advancing knowledge in a variety of fields and are open to everyone. The political leanings of a professor won't affect the students' politics. This was proven by conservative professor Joshua M. Dunn Sr. in his book Passing on the Right: Conservative Professors in the Progressive University. Dunn explains peer pressure has more of an effect on a student's politics than 'attempts at indoctrination.' Likewise, there is no 'conservative bias' against conservative educators or conservative students. Professor Woessner from Pennsylvania State University found 'left-leaning' students more likely to go to college with the intent to pursue higher education, such as a master's or Ph.D. If conservatives want more conservatives in higher education, they should go to college and become educators.

Ultimately, young people already lean left before they go to college. A UCLA study found 34% of incoming freshmen stated they 'lean left' or 'are left.' At Colby, Professor Gross chalks this up to many students feeling insecure about the future due to widening wealth gaps and the spread of openness towards non-heterosexual groups.

This final point is the most salient. In a Washington Post report, 44% of incoming freshmen self-reported as “liberal” or “very liberal,” while only 16% of the same class reported as “conservative” or very “conservative” at the University of Ohio. Rather than colleges indoctrinating students to be liberal, liberals are more likely to pursue a college education. Colleges seem to be filled with liberal students, not because they create them, but because liberals are overwhelmingly going to college. One way conservatives’ voices could become more prominent within higher education would be for conservatives to actually go to college in relatively equal numbers to their liberal counterparts.

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