Gender Indoctrination: Not Just For Four-Year Colleges
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The author of this post is Graham Shaw.
Four-year universities in the United States are gaining a reputation for forcing left wing viewpoints on their students. Blatant examples of indoctrination such as the University of Delaware's residential life program often attract a great deal of attention when exposed.
But it seems counter-intuitive for local technical schools-community colleges, to many-to suffer similar impositions. Technical schools focus more on practical subjects than theoretical ones, reducing the chances of pushing a political agenda.
But community colleges' lack of blatant indoctrination is coming to an end, due to recent actions taken by the federal Department of Education. The process began with the "Dear Colleague" letter issued in April of 2011, which required colleges and other educational institutions to change their evidentiary standards in cases of sexual harassment and assault to "a preponderance of the evidence." In addition, that letter recommended providing students with training on sexual assault prevention. Next, the Violence against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 made offering this training to students mandatory. Schools that do not comply risk the loss of federal funds. My school, Cape Fear Community College in Wilmington, NC, is particularly vulnerable as an overwhelming majority of its students use federal Pell Grants.
This fall, all CFCC students received an email directing them to take the "Student Empower" online course.
Student Empower covers the basic issues one would expect to be addressed during orientation at any college: drugs and drinking and the risks that these activities present, and basic information on birth control and safe sex, including abstinence. While there may be some objections to a state school teaching its students about these issues, this basic information is non-controversial, especially when compared to other portions of the course.
But the program goes beyond basic information on safety and health. Indeed, Workplace Answers, the company that created it brags on its website that the program "exceeds legal requirements." It is this excess information that seems to cross the line between education into indoctrination by pushing extreme outlooks on issues of gender, sexual violence, and harassment.
Student Empower does not acknowledge the existence of any debates concerning its views on gender and presents controversial ideas about gender as settled science. It discusses these opinions in the same tone as its earlier coverage of safe sex and drug education. Student Empower says in a slideshow presentation:
Gender refers to a person's social or cultural identity "woman" and "man" are two categories which carry certain roles and expectations with them. What it means to be a man or to be a woman can differ greatly form one culture to another. Gender identity is how a person views their own gender and gender expression is how a person acts out gender in society...
Gender is complex and many people are starting to see the nuances...for example Facebook...offer(s) 50 options for gender on your profile including genderqueer, bigender and cisgender.
The program cautions students on their interactions with transgender people, warning not to ask a transgender person if they are pre- or post-op, and lists terms such as "transsexual" and "tranny" as offensive, unless the person chooses to be identified that way. In doing so, it creates considerable list of words that cannot be said. The program covers sexual orientation in a similar way, stating that a person can be attracted to all genders, the same gender, no genders or "anything in between."
A subsequent slide provides the vocabulary advocated by the left on gender issues. Each definition includes a caveat on the use of the word, for instance the definition of "LBGT" warns that the term "queer" might still be offensive, and the definition of "straight" cautions against using the term "opposite gender." Again there is no indication that there is debate and disagreement with these terms or with the worldview that espouses them, which implies that this is the only correct way to see gender and sexual orientation.
Student Empower covers student interactions providing examples in a series of live action videos called "Allies in Action." The stated purpose of the videos is to demonstrate the need to intervene when someone is in trouble. Perhaps, if left to that simple premise, it would not be a bad idea. People are likely to ignore a problematic situation assuming someone else will handle it-this is known as the "bystander effect."
The first bystander situation presented, however, does not portray a situation that would ordinarily require a response. A trio of students observe a young woman speaking with a black man, "Dan." The students seem to dislike the way the young woman is speaking with him, speculating that she had found out he was gay and is now taunting him. The students approach the woman and berate her for bullying the young man, telling her to "get her homophobic show out of here."
The rest of the videos in this program depict serious offenses, and situations almost all of which are criminal. While the videos are not shown consecutively, they contain the same characters and are the only live action videos in the program. This seems to imply that the girl's moderately rude behavior in the first clip (that may well be protected by the First Amendment) is on par with rape, or at the very least is an action that must be swiftly met with rebuke (that in itself looks like bullying).
The program's foray into sexual assault prevention contains some improper insinuations, including the oft-repeated lie that 25 percent of college women are sexually assaulted.
In its "Men as Allies" section, Student Empower states that "preventing sexual assault is about changing our cultural attitudes." It then links to several websites for men to visit to "take action as an ally." Among the listed sites is a site seeking to "redefine male strength." Another attempts to promote "positive masculinity" and a third asks men to pledge not to "commit, condone, or remain silent about violence against women."
The entire section on sexual assault has a deeply accusatory tone, one that is enhanced by a "checklist" that asks men to admit to having privileges women do not in society, and to "own the fact" that this privilege might blind them to women's struggles. The list then instructs men to police their own language and jokes as well as the behavior of other men. The message is clear: men are the problem and they must change.
If such a charge were directed at any other gender or race it would likely result in a very public condemnation from all corners of the campus. And the Student Empower program did receive some pushback: according to the official responsible for the letter, approximately ten students objected to its content as it violated their religious beliefs.
The initial email informing students of the course stated that the course was mandatory. According to Robert McGee, the Dean of Student Affairs, that was merely an error made while copying the letter sent to faculty for their mandatory session-Student Empower is not in fact mandatory. However, the question whether it was in fact an error-or whether the school backed off after the complaints-lingers.
At least for the time being. McGee said that, in the future, the college hopes to make this a part of the regular orientation, albeit in a more streamlined fashion. That doesn't make it okay. The fact that the school must put students through political indoctrination-whether officially mandated or discreetly forced on them-is just wrong. The problem stems from the federal Department of Education-but the individual schools should attempt to mitigate the damage rather than force it down our throats.