by Catherine Mortensen
Recent college graduate Davis Soderberg of St. Charles, MO is sounding the alarm about the extent to which the Left has a stranglehold on college campuses across the country.
“If you were to walk into a college classroom, you could quickly identify which students were the liberals and which students were the conservatives,” explained Soderberg, who recently graduated from a public university in Virginia. “The liberals are always the most outspoken because they know their viewpoint is protected and is always favored. It was favored by a majority of their classmates and the professors, which is really scary because students look to the professor as sort of an intellectual higher being.”
Soderberg is now an associate for the Free Enterprise Project at the National Center for Public Policy Research where in a recent article, An Escape Route From The Liberal Campus Mousetrap, he explored policy solutions to stop the spread of socialism on college campuses.
“We need an increased resistance to Leftism on college campuses,” Soderberg explained. “Many students have fully embraced a progressive, big-government ideology and once they’re working adults, playing important roles in society, it will likely be too late to sway their political opinions.”
Soderberg says the liberal indoctrination can be subtle and many students may not even realize it’s happening. He described one class in which the professor shared a slide show entitled, “The four biggest problems facing American society.” Listed were, income inequality, the lack of universal healthcare, racial inequality and the lack of diversity in corporate hierarchies.”
“And I’m sitting there thinking, ‘Why don’t we debate as a class what the biggest problems are?’ The professor just decided for us,” Soderberg explained. “And then the professor said ‘Okay, everyone, let’s discuss.’ He was basically acting like he had a godly sense of knowing what was wrong with the world and the best ways of solving societal problems. All the students were taking notes as if his opinion was an undeniable truth. Then, they take that out into the real world without hearing any counterarguments. And that is a big problem.”
Soderberg believes a large reason his generation is embracing leftist policies is because they don’t take the time to fully consider the long-term consequences of policy proposals.
“They see free college, they see universal health care, they see AOC [Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] calling for $20 minimum wages and in their heads that sounds awesome,” said Soderberg. “But, too often, they only read the headlines, they only hear the talking points. They don’t take the time to research the unintended consequences of these policies. It’s a result of the fast-paced nature of the world they’ve grown up in. They want their information in under 15 seconds.”
Soderberg remembers thinking when he entered college, that he “had been thrown into a woke-indoctrination machine with a pre-determined agenda by which students were meant to be hypnotized.”
In his search for a way out of the “liberal campus mousetrap,” Soderberg found a recent report by the National Association of Scholars. Freedom to Learn provides a guideline of 40 detailed suggestions for legislative reforms. In particular, Freedom to Learn calls on Congress to strengthen protections for students, to develop a detailed intellectual freedom charter, and to reform civics education.
Suggested reforms include:
- Ensure that students learn civics as factual knowledge in the classroom, not as “civic engagement.”
- Limit Chinese government influence, by barring funding to colleges and universities that host a Confucius Institute, employ a professor who has received money from the Thousand Talents Program or similar program, possesses a branch campus in China, or received undisclosed funds from the Chinese government or Chinese citizens.
- Congress should strengthen the Title I protections for students’ intellectual freedom.
- Require colleges to develop a detailed charter of intellectual freedom.
- Make intellectual diversity protection a condition of Title IV eligibility.
- Sunset the diversity bureaucracy.
- Defund components of higher education that have become irredeemably politicized, such as “service-learning,” “community service,” and “sustainability,” which have become euphemisms for social justice advocacy.
Soderberg said it can be hard for conservative students to fight back against the dominant liberal culture on campuses. “You have so many other things to focus on, you ask yourself, ‘Is it really worth it for me to dive into a deep discussion and go against the liberal mob?’ There is a fear that the mob will revert to calling you bigoted or racist, or closed-minded, just because of your political viewpoints.”
“One of my biggest regrets is not doing more to boost conservativism on campus. When I look back at it now, I feel like I let those outspoken students get away to easily without them having to answer to my counterarguments,” Soderberg shared.
“If I could give advice to a college conservatives, I would tell them to speak up and let their voice be heard,” Soderberg concluded. “Come prepared. Have an in-depth understanding of the policies you support. The current generation of college conservatives will be remembered if they stand firm in this ideological fight.”
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Catherine Mortensen is Vice President of Communications at Americans for Limited Government.