Williams College’s indoctrination of its students

July 24, 2019 • 11:15 am

During the last academic year, I posted quite a bit about Williams College, as it is rated as one of America’s top liberal-arts schools and yet it was publicly melting down along the lines of The Evergreen State College. This summer, a college committee recommended a free-speech policy to help quell last year’s unrest and set some principles in stone, but the policy is flawed and, at any rate, will almost surely do nothing to address the issues that will arise when students return this fall— along with two of their woke heroes who were on medical leave last year.

I’ve now found that students entering Williams College must fulfill a requirement in the following area by taking at least one course concentrating on “Difference, power, and equity” (click on the screenshot to see the College’s webpage on this:

The summary (the emphasis is mine):

Williams College recognizes that in a diverse and globalized world, the critical examination of difference, power, and equity is an essential part of a liberal arts education. The Difference, Power, and Equity (DPE) requirement provides students with the opportunity to analyze the shaping of social differences, dynamics of unequal power, and processes of change. Courses satisfying the DPE requirement include content that encourages students to confront and reflect on the operations of difference, power and equity. They also provide students with critical tools they will need to be responsible agents of change. Employing a variety of pedagogical approaches and theoretical perspectives, DPE courses examine themes including but not limited to race, class, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and religion.

All students are required to complete at least ONE course that has the DPE designation. Although this course, which may be counted toward the divisional distribution requirement, can be completed any semester before graduation, students are urged to complete the course by the end of the sophomore year. The requirement may be fulfilled with a course taken away from campus, but students wishing to use this option must petition the Committee on Educational Affairs (CEA) upon their return by providing a clear and detailed explanation of how the course taken away from Williams fulfills the DPE requirement.

This, of course, is an attempt to inculcate the students with intersectionalism, identity politics, and an overarching narrative of oppression—with the explicit aim of making students “responsible agents of change”, especially in areas of race, class, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and religion. (If you doubt me, have a look at the list of courses at the link given below).

Of course I’m probably on board with much of what the administrators want to happen to society, but should a college curriculum be designed to make the students behave in ways the administration wants them to behave? Clearly, the students are getting inculcated with the kind of politics the administrators would like them to adopt. Despite the college President’s recent insistence on free speech, free discourse, and mutual respect, it is clear precisely which ideology the college considers acceptable: the ideology of identity politics and differential power based on the intersectionalist hierarchy.

You can see a pdf of the DPE courses here. Now there are 292 pages of courses that fulfill the requirement, and many sound innocuous (including “The Tropics,” the only science-related course I found). And I haven’t looked at all the courses because there are so many of them. But you might be amused by going through the list, as it’s a veritable all-you-can-read buffet of Woke Culture.

Granted, this is only one requirement, and to fulfill it students need take only a single course.  But those courses are almost all about oppression narratives, and all would appeal to the Authoritarian Left. To my mind, they’re intended, as is the requirement, not to convey knowledge or to get students to question things critically—I haven’t found a single course that takes a conservative point of view—but to inculcate students with an Authoritarian Leftist attitude in order to get the students to become agents of change. That means agents who will enact the social changes that their professors and administrators want. In other words, puppets of social change.

My view of a college’s mission is to teach students to be critical thinkers, to love learning, and to instill an appreciation of knowledge that will turn them into lifelong learners and truth-seekers. If that causes them to become “responsible agents of change”, well, that’s a side benefit. But under no circumstances is a college—except, of course, for religious schools—supposed to instill into students a specific worldview or ideology. The purpose of a nonreligious college is education, not indoctrination. Williams doesn’t seem to have realized that.

Jon Haidt has laid much of the blame for the victimhood culture of colleges not on the students themselves, but on the administrators (nearly all on the Left) who perpetrate a certain view of the world comprising these three “Great Untruths”, taken from Haidt and Lukianoff’s book The Coddling of The American Mind:

1.)  We young people are fragile (“What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker.”)

2.) We are prone to emotional reasoning and confirmation bias (“Always trust your feelings.”)

3.) We are prone to “dichotomous thinking and tribalism” (“Life is a battle between good people and evil people.”)

After looking at Williams’s requirement above (many college may have such requirements, but I haven’t investigated), I think Haidt and Lukianoff are right. The blame is largely at the door not of the students, but of the administrators and professors.

31 thoughts on “Williams College’s indoctrination of its students

  1. The blame lies at the feet of BOTH administrators and students. The administrators are the enforcers of this dogma, but they are responding to the demands of the social-justice-minded students that are demanding it.

  2. Would I be right in supposing that students maintaining non-ideologically approved ideas and attitudes would be marked down in such courses, and so could not graduate?

  3. I agree it is a problem. And yes, the tack may be one sided. But I feel myself siding with the university because it wants to confront issues that are real. Yes, it may play with their heads, and the end result may be a class of inculcated robots, but maybe not. Better to bring the issues out and argue them. After all, there is a whole library of radical thinkers who influenced the founders of the USA.

    1. These courses aren’t designed to “argue the issues”; they’re designed to convey one point of view. There are no courses conveying a conservative point of view.

      Do you want a curriculum based solely on the ideas of “radical thinkers”?

    2. The courses could be of great value and very interesting, much like discussion on WEIT, however following events at Williams for the past year, it’s doubtful the courses will not come with a Far Left ideology that’s far from free speech.

      The future mostly depends on the faculty. At present, the atmosphere is one of fear of hurting people’s feelings with any utterance.

    3. … the university … wants to confront issues that are real.

      DPE is just neo-marxist Critical Theory by another name. From that perspective, the ‘issues’ the university wants to confront (by turning its students into cadres, btw) are not real as formulated, i.e., as a raw power struggle between Oppressor vs. Oppressed groups.

  4. I’ve recently got back into Jared Diamond’s book Guns, Germs, and Steel”… actually the three-part documentary also. I’m just now trying to reconcile current events such as those described at William’s college with the observations made about how human civilizations have been highly – extremely- dependent on geography. It seems the “diversity, power and equity” ignores all of that, and looks inward at oneself for explanations for how diversity, power, and equity are in the state they are in, let alone how any such explanation can be used to solve problems (which seem undefined – I’ll have to read more ) associated with those three things.

    1. His views are interesting. I know that some historians find some reasons to criticize his thesis, but I still think its interesting.
      For example, horses, much like we know them today, evolved in North America. They then migrated over the Bering Strait and made their way across Asia, Europe, and into Africa. They speciated along the way, and then they went extinct in North America.
      Meanwhile, the horse was domesticated in Asia and the Europeans adapted the practice. And the rest is history. So we are left to wonder: What would have happened to the indians in America if their civilizations always had horses, and the Europeans never had them? It may have played out very differently!

      1. “horses, much like we know them today, evolved in North America. […] **and then they went extinct in North America**”


        wow that’s very interesting! I’ll have to read about cattle, pigs, goats, etc. now…

          1. I think this is ver interesting- because I never paid attention to it before :

            “It is unlikely that Native people obtained horses in significant numbers to become a horse culture any earlier than 1630–1650. From a trade center in the Santa Fe, New Mexico area, the horse spread slowly north.[25]”

            Source :

            Also interesting:

  5. PCC(e) writes: “But under no circumstances is a college—except, of course, for religious schools—supposed to instill into students a specific worldview or ideology.” (My italics.) Alas, the administration at Williams (and elsewhere) is in the grip of a new religion. It has its own holy trinity of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. It has holy martyrs, in the form of the victimhood hierarchy. And its college
    representatives see themselves as something equivalent to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, popularly known as the Holy Office.

    How did this come about? The contrarian British philosopher John Gray has argued that the entire Left, including humanism and the Liberal and Social-Democratic inclinations shared by most of us in this forum, stems from a mutant form of early Christian millenarianism. I used to dismiss this idea. But cases like Williams College (and Oberlin, Evergreen, Middlebury, etc. etc. etc.) make me wonder about it, more and more.

    1. When they talk about about ‘being on the right side of History’, when Pressley runs on the slogan “Change Can’t Wait”, and AOC says “the world will end in twelve years” and proclaims we’re in the ‘late-stage capitalism’ which comes just before the predestined advent of Socialism, they are very much speaking, thinking & acting in a millenarian vein.

      1. Being on the right side of history is based on the premise that our ethics continually evolve to a higher ideal. While in recent history it seems like we have been progressing towards a society that is more accepting and ethical, I think this isn’t a given. You can find many examples where, based on our current ethical values, societies have regressed. For example, the ancient Romans transitioned from a republic to an empire ruled by dictators. The Roman Empire lasted hundreds of years, which would give the impression that people in favour of the Empire were on the right side of history. Homosexuality is another good example. Our views on homosexuality regressed for a long time following the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans (they weren’t entirely accepting, but they were far more accepting compared to Europe ruled by the Christian church).

        1. Ironically, it’s the same crowd who reject Pinker’s observation of improving trends who also believe in the predestined ultimate victory of their struggle to ‘fix’ the world. In a way, it’s more Maccabean-style myth-making on the fly, than millenarian doomsaying.

  6. Having them take one course doesn’t seem terrible. It’s ok to be exposed to a particular perspective.

    With so much discussion of power and equity though I always wonder how they measure it (my engineering background is showing here). At Williams College, it would seem that there has been somewhat of an inversion and the Woke clearly dominate. They marginalize anyone who disagrees and demonize anyone who speaks out against them. Shouldn’t they turn the power/equity equation around for themselves?

    1. I somewhat agree.

      Another, tangential thought that entered my mind was: if the humanities are always complaining about how hard and social sciences get more support and recognition, well…this isn’t the way to show your value. An indoctrination-type class is more likely to drive a lot of the middle of the road and pragmatic students away, to other fields, rather than turn them into woke warriors for the left. So it’s kind of an own goal; anyone on the fence about (illustrative example only) majoring in physics or philosophy, is going to take one look at this class and go “ah, physics class…what a relief”

  7. I could find a course to take out of that long list that wasn’t too bad. The African Anthropocene, or How to Be Human, for instance.

    When I was in college all students had to take a physical science class. “Rocks and Stars” was the go-to class for all the non-science minded students. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.

    1. I suspect that “How to Be Human” is not only an attack on the concept of human nature (evolutionary psychology), but also anti-colonialist propaganda. It may be okay, as there were indeed some horribly bigoted anthropological studies, but I bet the course is propaganda. Here’s the description:

      ANTH 101 (F)(S) How to Be Human (DPE)

      Is there such a thing as “human nature”? Why have human societies developed such a bewildering range of customs to deal with problems common to people everywhere? This course addresses these questions by introducing students to the comparative study of human social life and culture.

      Topics surveyed in the course include economics, language and thought, kinship and marriage, law and politics, and the wide variations in humanbelief systems, including religions. The course also considers the ways that anthropology, a discipline that was until recently practiced almost exclusively by Westerners, approaches other societies in search of insights on our own customs and values. Ethnographic descriptions of both
      “simple” tribal societies and complex modern ones are a prominent part of the readings. This course explores differences and similarities between cultures and societies and ways in which they have interacted and responded to one another in the past.

      1. It’d be interesting if they provided the reading list. It would pretty much show if there was balance.

    2. My college offered Physics for Poets, which I think was common throughout many universities. Patton Oswalt does a bit on when he took the course at William and Mary.

  8. My view is that Trump did indeed commit impeachable offenses, so those who defend him are on the wrong side of history and morality, but that given the current constitution of the Congress and the electorate, as well as the impending Presidential election in which it’s vitally important for us to elect a Democratic President and Senate, these investigations are a waste of time, energy, and money.

    Since the first clause of the above sentence is true, I think the House of Representatives has a constitutional duty to return articles of impeachment against Donald Trump. It would be an act of political cowardice for House Democrats to do otherwise. And it would set a horrible historical precedent. Why would any future president ever be deterred from obstructing any investigation into his or her unlawful conduct if Donald Trump can get away with the blatant obstructive acts set forth in the Special Counsel’s report without so much as ever having to face even an official impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives?

    I also think it would be in Democrats’ political interests to proceed with impeachment. Will Donald Trump claim exoneration after his acquittal by senate Republicans? Of course he will, just as he’s been falsely claiming “exoneration” since even before the Special Counsel for appointed.

    Let Donald Trump be brought to a trial before the US senate, presided over by the Chief Justice of the United States, in which the evidence against him is set out through the testimony of witnesses with first-hand knowledge of the underlying events. Let the American people watch this play out day after day on their televisions sets. And let them see Republican senators — almost all of whom know in their hearts that Trump is guilty as sin and unfit to be president — slavishly follow Trump over an electoral cliff as they pusillanimously vote to acquit despite the evidence of his guilt.

  9. One (non-mandatory) college course I took was called Four Perspectives and delved into the contributions of Pythagoras, Buddha, Galileo & Jesus. It was a delightful course, full of heated debates and meaty reading. Why those four? I’ll let the current instructor’s words speak for themselves:

    The ideas of the four exemplars studied in this course are worthy of investigation for two reasons. The first reason is simply because of their enormous historical influence. As far as Pythagoras and Galileo are concerned, the language of science is mathematics. This language is more or less independent of culture, religion, gender, ethnicity, or political ideology. Where it isn’t independent of these influences, it can no longer be properly called mathematics or science. There is no such thing as “personal” or “culturally unique” science. (The methods of modern science are also universal.) There is only science, done well or done less well. But done poorly beyond a certain point, it is no longer science.

    As far as the Buddha and Jesus Christ are concerned, the numbers speak for themselves: there are roughly two billion people who call themselves Christians and half a billion who call themselves Buddhists – around 37% of the world’s population. Moreover, the Pythagorean, scientific, Christian, and Buddhist perspectives extend their influence far beyond their committed followers – to nearly all of us.

    The second reason the ideas of these four are worthy of study is that even if each had remained obscure and had not had the wide influence that they did, the profundity of their ideas would still recommend them to us. These four also stand as representatives or exemplars of larger ideas, ideas that are not necessarily wholly original to them.

    Again, this was a class one could opt into – but I found it incredibly useful and informative.

    1. I took a (essentially) PHIL 101 course at university.

      I too loved it. It was very mind-opening. We covered arguments for God, various moral arguments/ideas, metaphysics.

      It exposed me to much thinking that has continued to educate me via reading ever since. Significant influence on my life.

      I remember the enthusiastic young adjunct instructor who taught it: He was fun. Can’t remember his name though.

  10. Your argument is based upon an unspoken assumption, namely that today’s student is unable or unwilling to think critically about what is being presented. Today’s student is different than the student of decades ago, but just as able to think and reason and challenge. And, as spinmeisters all wish us to forget, people really can think for themselves.

    1. My argument is based on the premise that students need to be TAUGHT to think critically. That’s why so many people are proposing critical thinking courses at the high-school level, because so many students arrive at college without that skill (or tendency). I’ve interacted with a lot of them.

      You’ve made an assumption too, and I don’t accept it just because you said it.

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