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.