Did you know that mandatory diversity course materials are university “trade secrets”? Well, they are according to Arizona State University (ASU).
The Cronkite School of Journalism now requires its freshmen to take “Diversity and Civility at Cronkite” as of Fall 2022. ASU is subject to open records laws, so course syllabi should, theoretically, be available to the public upon request. But when I requested to view the syllabus as a part of a research project for the National Association of Scholars, ASU’s open records administrators responded with stalling and obfuscation.
First, they denied my request to view the syllabus, along with several other course syllabi, over email. ASU claimed that the course materials were “trade secrets in that they are copyright-protected materials.” This is not a standard restriction: Universities in Florida, Texas, and Georgia offer course syllabi online. The University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill provide these materials upon request.
I continued to push to view the materials. Since ASU could not send them electronically, I asked to view the materials in person. They obliged, and we set an appointment. But ASU administrators then tried to reschedule due to an unfortunately timed “fire drill” occurring that morning during the week between Christmas and New Years. When I later asked an employee who had been stationed at the building that morning about this, he had no knowledge of such a drill. When I arrived for the rescheduled appointment, I was given only an hour to view and take notes on the materials — a stipulation they hadn’t mentioned previously, and one which has never been imposed during viewings I’ve attended in other states.
So what’s in this course that ASU seems to so desperately want to hide? The school already imposes diversity as part of general education requirements, but not every department has its own diversity course to teach practices specific to that field. Unlike non-political fields, like the sciences, journalism is a subject already charged with political bias. The school can have only one goal in requiring such a course for future journalists: to dictate the kind of information journalists include, and choose to exclude, when covering stories. Based on what I learned from one hour’s perusal, the class serves as a tool to brainwash future journalists into a radical ideology euphemistically called diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) — an initiative aimed at forcing ideological conformity to progressive causes.
The course begins with “implicit bias exploration,” a popular topic in progressive circles due to the much-acclaimed Implicit Association Test (IAT). Implicit bias refers to prejudices, particularly racial ones, that are not expressed in an explicit or conscious manner. IAT inventors Anthony Greenwald and Mahzarin Banaji created the test to measure implicit bias through a reaction-time based psychological test which tracked internal associations of racial groups with positive or negative thoughts. But both the IAT and the concept of implicit bias are shrouded in controversy due to validity issues and weak correlations to behavioral outcomes. At best, the scientific literature is mixed on the usefulness of implicit bias as a concept. Yet the Cronkite School dedicates an entire session on this niche and controversial subject. Perhaps that’s because implicit bias allows DEI believers to continue insisting that America is a fundamentally racist country.
A couple of weeks into the course, the material delves into the “myths about the rural-urban divide,” another progressive bugaboo of the past few years. The rural-urban divide is mostly discussed in the context of voting patterns, especially after the 2016 election illustrated the wide partisan gap between rural and urban counties. Liberal organizations, such as the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution, appear to have decided that this messaging reflects the progressive cause unfavorably as it feeds into skepticism toward the media, academia, and other liberal elite institutions. In response, progressives crafted a brazen position of statistical blindness where they claim that every statistical difference between rural and urban communities is fiction due to the existence of exceptions. For instance, they claim that the assumption that rural America is primarily white is a myth — even “catering to white supremacy” — due to the existence of minorities in rural areas.
The course concludes with discussions of “pronouns and people” and “covering disability issues,” making sure to fill out the progressive laundry list of favored identity groups. While the instructors claim to want “open-minded discourse” on all of these issues, the public ought to be skeptical of such claims. According to a trans-inclusion guide for faculty at ASU, the university will not tolerate “deliberate misgendering” by faculty. This crowds out any legitimate disagreement with modern gender ideology: If you disagree with this ideology, your “misgendering” of someone would always be deliberate. Given these strictures, it’s unlikely that any real discussion of gender identity would occur in the course.
When highly ideological courses like this one appear in the rosters of public universities, the public should be concerned about the quality of educational options available to students. But when such courses become mandatory, we should be concerned for the well-being of our society. Journalism schools serve as filters through which future reporters must pass. Such mandatory diversity courses ideologically handicap journalists before their careers even begin.
These ideological blinders match exactly with the specific credibility problems of today’s media. Journalists start with the assumption that America is a fundamentally racist country, which leads them to believe false accusations of racial hate crimes. The media obsesses over outliers and exceptions to common sense generalizations. And they unquestioningly support fringe progressive positions, such as gender ideology, which is at best scientifically tenuous.
This can be brought under control. The Arizona state legislature controls state funds for universities. Journalism professors and administrators only get away with this kind of professional brainwashing by avoiding public scrutiny and accountability by state governments. Much needs to be done legislatively to prevent strategic obfuscation of this kind. If journalism schools wish to continue speaking power to truth, they should prepare to face serious pushback from the public.
Neetu Arnold is a Fellow at the National Association of Scholars and a Young Voices contributor. Follow her on Twitter @neetu_arnold
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller.