Over time, progressive teachers have created acolytes who see themselves not as critical thinkers, but as crusaders for a leftist agenda.
The assault on free speech has become so commonplace in U.S. universities that CNN’s Fareed Zakaria felt compelled to speak openly about the obvious: conservatives have been shut out of the marketplace of ideas on American campuses. Of course, it is not just conservative speakers that are shut down on many campuses; it is also conservative ideas in the classroom, or any ideas with which the Left disagrees.
Decades ago, Alan Bloom fired the first salvo in the cultural wars in the “Closing of the American Mind,” a work that sought to highlight the deteriorating state of higher education. Bloom’s attack was directed at the erosion of the canon of Western Civilization and its replacement with a cultural relativism that substituted ideology for critical thinking.
Yet as time went, on it was not just the integrity of the curriculum that came under assault. The very idea of critical thinking came under fire.
Real Critical Thinking Has Disappeared
Real critical thinking has been transformed from a dispassionate engagement with ideas into a rabid dissection of American values. As a faculty member, I found there came a time when new courses could not be approved unless they contained a “critical-thinking” component. This component had nothing to do with a traditional conception of critical thinking; it had everything to do with tearing apart traditional American values and culture.
At least since the end of World War II, there has been a fundamental belief among many faculty in the social sciences and liberal arts that the college experience should make students more sensitive to socio-political problems and promote the solutions endorsed by leftist academics who perceived themselves as holding the answers to complex social issues. The problem with such engagement is that it crosses the line from teaching students how to think to telling them what to think.