Indoctrination in the Classroom · 12 September 2004

By Brett Mock | September 13, 2004

My name is Brett Mock. I am a senior Political Science major at Ball State University in Muncie, IN. In the spring of 2004 I took a class taught by Professor George Wolfe. The class, titled "Introduction to Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution," was the introductory class for a Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution minor that I took as a supplement to my major.

I quickly learned that this course, the phrase "conflict resolution" as used in the description of the course was not to be taken in a literal sense. The only studying of conflict resolution that we did was to enforce the idea that non-violent means were the only legitimate sources of self-defense. In other words, the class was designed entirely to delegitimize the use of the military in the defense of our country altogether. This seemed to me to be indoctrination rather than education.

Professor Wolfe had no tolerance for those who disagreed with his points of view and philosophies. For example, Professor Wolfe explained that violent responses to violent aggression are never acceptable. A student spoke up to confront him, asking, "What if a group of armed gang members were to come to Ball State. What if they started shooting up the school, killing students who were peacefully walking by and traveling around campus?" If I or another student had a gun available and could defend myself and others, should I?" Professor Wolfe's response was shocking to even the most peaceful in the group. "No" he replied. The student asked, "why not," and asked for him to explain. He said, "Well, the gang would eventually run out of bullets, and you can always hide."

"What if no shelter was available to hide or it was clear that some students couldn't make it to shelter."

"Well regardless of how many students would be lost in the shooting there is no good reason to fire back."

Professor Wolfe's attitude was so adamant that it put the students in the room who did not agree with him in an awkward position. For the rest of the semester we worried as to whether our views would hurt our grades. It was clear that Professor Wolfe would have no tolerance whatsoever for any disagreement and that he would never support the use of force as an instrument of peace. This alienated every student in the room who disagreed and made us feel silenced altogether. How could I speak up with my own opinions, I thought, if I knew in advance they would invariably be shot down by the professor himself?

Professor Wolfe would not allow any serious study of the reasons for the use of force in response to an attack. A book report was assigned to the class, and different books were suggested for reading. Every book suggested by Wolfe supported his extreme viewpoint. When the book reports were completed, each student was made to give an oral presentation. In other words, students like me had to read a book we disagreed with and then report on the book parroting back views we did not agree with or face a hostile professor with the power of grading us and do so in front the entire class, whose views were also shaped by the professor's intolerance of any dissenting view.

When I actually asked Professor Wolfe if the book we read had to be about peaceful responses to conflict or against violent ones, he told me that we could not read, write, or present about a book that disagreed with those positions. As such, I was forced to read a book that I strongly disagreed with, write about that book, and then present the book to the class as though I agreed with it, which I did not. I was ever conscious of the fact that I had to deliver a report that Professor Wolfe would like or suffer a lower grade.

This fear was reinforced by the way Professor Wolfe questioned all the arguments I made in papers I wrote for the class. He would lower my grade citing in justification his view that I clearly "didn't understand how peaceful resistance worked." In other words, if I wrote, however cogently, that I thought peaceful forms of resistance might not always work, he would lower my grade.

Naturally, Professor Wolfe actively promoted his own political stances in class concerning the current policies in the United States. The class, essentially, was designed to discredit any reasons that a military response would be appropriate after 9/11. Every article that was assigned in class gave reasons why U.S. foreign policies were wrong and were root causes of what happened on 9/11. According to these texts we should be helping help other countries instead of oppressing them, and that our money and focus was being wasted on an unjustified war against terror in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Articles highlighted only how many people were dying in the war and that civilians may have died. Not a single article was presented defending the decision to fight in Afghanistan or in Iraq. In fact, it appeared as though Professor Wolfe would attempt to quell any such arguments before students could formulate them. He tried to draw an analogy between the Iraq war and Vietnam. He required students to examine both wars and to note their similarities. All of this had to be done to complete the course and to receive a grade. No alternatives were provided. A student could only assume that choosing to not be involved with the materials, or to fight against the points of view brought up in class, would adversely affect his or her grade and relationship with the professor.

Professor Wolfe founded and heads the Peace Workers group at Ball State. He is also the head of the Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution Center for the university. He is the on-campus instructor for meditation - to encourage peaceful attitudes. Finally, he runs the Interfaith Fellowship meetings. Wolfe brings his extra-curricular involvement into the classroom and make it part of a students grade. In order to receive full credit in the class you must choose to be involved in one of the programs he actively promotes. You have to devote a semester to Peace Workers events; you must meditate at the Peace Studies center (which you must also pay for), or you must attend Interfaith Fellowship meetings during the semester. Failure to do so will result in a lowered grade. This is simply another way in which Professor Wolfe attempts to indoctrinate his students, forcing them to be a part of his projects.

Professor Wolfe took a group recruited from our class to travel to Washington, D.C., to protest the war in Iraq. The Peace Studies center - a university program - provided the funds. No funding was offered to those students who would have liked to go to Washington to support the war to end terror and bring about peace. The students who went to Washington to protest the war, on the other hand, received extra academic credit as an incentive to go. In other words, students who allowed themselves to be recruited for anti-war protests thereby were in line for better grades than those who did not.

In circumstances like these, it is difficult to find students who are willing to stand up for themselves and their education and for academic freedom. Professor Wolfe has used his classroom as a political indoctrination center for years with no one willing to speak up and call him on it. The only way that students can hope to find themselves in classrooms that are fair and respectful of their views is to change this situation. They should get involved in the campaign for academic freedom and take their grievances to their school administrations. That's what I'm going to do.