Back to School, but Not to Class · 08 September 2003

By Matt Bettis

It is fair to say I have observed the university's reflexive left-wing bias all my life. I grew up with my dad teaching at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and had been surrounded by leftists for as long as I can remember. Even my lifelong acquaintance with academic political correctness did not prepare me for what I encountered when I enrolled as a student at Duke University.

As an engineering major, I have not had to deal with political bias in classes as often as students in other majors. However, my junior year I pursued a History minor and have been taking a lot of history classes ever since, which has brought me face-to-face with the worst left-wing bias I've encountered. I have been most interested in American History, and this prompted me to sign up for a class at Duke entitled "History 97D: American Dreams/American Realities."

The professor repeatedly described himself as "liberal," which I thought an unusual thing to keep repeating; however, I gave him the benefit of the doubt that he would conduct his class in a manner that was fair and even-handed.

Once he went through the preliminaries, he began to discuss how he had opinions, opinions that landed far to the Left on the political spectrum. Now I was very worried, not due to his political beliefs, because the majority of my other professors, many of whom have been amazing teachers, have been liberal. What worried me was the excited and proud manner in which he stated it, thusly implying that his politics would be a large part of the classroom experience. He then made a comment to the effect, "I don't have a bias against anyone…except Republicans!" - which elicited roaring laughter from the students. I was absolutely dumbfounded. The message was clear: all opinions are welcome except anything contradicting the professor. And matters only got worse.

To my shock and dismay, he began to discuss the three "Anglo-Saxon myths": Christianity, Capitalism, and Democracy. These myths, he said, were popularized in history until the first (and perhaps only?) book was written to give a voice to people other than white males (presumably A People's History of the United States, written by white male Howard Zinn).

Next, he read a few quotes that were relevant to the class. One of them was by the most economically left-wing Cabinet member in recent history, Robert Reich. The prof asked the class if anyone knew who Robert Reich was. One student responded, saying that he was the Secretary of Labor. The professor slyly asked, "Under whom?" When the student responded "Clinton," the professor let out an emphatic, "Damn straight!" O joy of the heavens!

By this time, I was taking notes at an increased rate, having now decided to drop the class and merely wanting to document this incident of blatant indoctrination.

Upon leaving the classroom, I proceeded directly to the library to drop it from my schedule. I then e-mailed the professor, telling him in no uncertain terms that his comments were entirely inappropriate to an academic setting. I suggested he either remove his course from the "history" department or teach real history rather than spend class time propounding his personal ideology to a captive (and fearful) audience. His response was that the class, though listed as history, was "not a "'facts' course," since "to present the 'facts' is an impossibility." Curiously, the fact that his classroom was a fact-free zone was not listed in the course description when I signed up.

Another student who decided to remain in the course says that the professor later remarked that Republicans should just drop his class. He's right, but he's only half-right: everyone should drop his class. Regardless of political affiliation, when a professor replaces facts with his personal ideology, students forego genuine learning in favor of indoctrination. Any student interested in learning should drop his class. Or perhaps Duke should drop him from its roster.

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