A conservative organization has accused America’s top colleges of systematic bias in the readings they assign incoming freshmen, arguing that assigned texts routinely promote left-wing and anti-American worldviews while leaving conservative viewpoints out in the cold.
Young America’s Foundation (YAF) conducted an inquiry into what books have been assigned as suggested and required reading for incoming freshmen by the U.S.’s top 50 undergraduate colleges (as ranked by Forbes magazine) in each year from 2011 through 2014. Then, the group assessed each book as a potential liberal or conservative bias, concluding that if any bias existed, it was invariably left-wing.
Among the most objectionable books according to YAF was “Americanah,” a recent bestseller by Chimamanda Nogzi Adichie which is required reading at Duke University and Pomona College this year. The book, which deals heavily with racial issues through the eyes of two Nigerian immigrants to the United States, is sharply critical of America as “hostile to immigrants,” said Ashley Pratte, who wrote up YAF’s findings.
Another mandatory reading that YAF was sharply critical of was Bryn Mawr’s 2011 selection of “Class Matters,” a collection of pieces by The New York Times documenting class divides in the United States. The book, which was the only one required, advocates “against free market principles,” according to YAF.
Meanwhile, “Eating Animals,” a book required at both Duke and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, is sharply critical of the modern food industry and promotes vegetarianism.
Not every assigned work as a book. This year, Brown University wants students to view the film” Oil and Water,” which condemns the modern oil drilling industry’s affect on developing nations.
In contrast for the wide array of books that reflect leftist viewpoints to varying degrees, YAF says that almost no books came from anything resembling a conservative perspective. Harvard’s extensive suggested reading list does include “Bobos in Paradise,” a work of social commentary by moderate conservative columnist David Brooks, but otherwise the pickings are extremely slim.
Pratte told The Daily Caller News Foundation that the school’s reading list are just one of several ways that colleges promote a left-wing orthodoxy to students.
“We’re seeing the complete indoctrination of students from the first time they set foot on campus to when they graduate,” Pratte said. She pointed to another assessment done by YAF, which found that commencement speakers with a liberal bent significantly outnumber those with conservative attitudes.
Pratte said she didn’t think bias was necessarily intentional, but instead reflects the ingrained worldviews of college faculties that lack intellectual diversity.
“They’re close-minded to what the other side could possibly offer, [and] also trying to train students to think properly, as they see it,” she said. She said in many cases schools are actively seeking to “knock students down a peg” by implicitly criticizing their backgrounds before they matriculate.
Pratte said YAF would find it preferable if colleges chose to assign classic works less known for their political arguments, but added that if universities want to assign ideological narratives they should at least pursue balance.
YAF suggested works such as “I Am Charlotte Simmons” by Tom Wolfe, a book that sharply criticizes modern collegiate lifestyles, or “Chinese Girl in the Ghetto,” a coming-of-age immigration memoir by free-market advocate Ying Ma, as possible options.
“If they want narratives, we ask that they have a balance to it,” Pratte said.
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