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Rescue College Classrooms with the Freedom from Indoctrination Act

September 13, 2023
  • Public universities have embraced left-wing ideology under the banner of “diversity, equity, and inclusion” (DEI) through a variety of mechanisms.
  • Conservatives have begun to promote effective solutions to DEI’s ideological capture in university bureaucracies. But when it comes to the inculcation of woke ideology in the classroom, conservatives have been stuck between doing nothing and passing regulations the courts are almost certain to overturn.
  • State legislatures can use the principle of academic freedom—properly understood—to limit the de facto administrative subsidies driving DEI-infused instruction. Professors should not be pressured to modify their teaching to follow DEI dogma, and students should not be required or steered to take DEI courses. The Freedom from Indoctrination Act provides a blueprint to accomplish this.

Conservatives increasingly recognize that radical race- and gender-based programming has spread through and captured American colleges and universities under the banner of “diversity, equity, and inclusion” (DEI). From Arizona to Michigan to New York, state university students are officially required to complete courses or instruction steeped in DEI dogma. Even when such classes are not formally required, students are informally corralled into them: By limiting the availability of courses that fulfill major requirements or offering too few seats in courses free of DEI-based ideological content, universities can all but guarantee students are taught by professors who expound variants of critical theory as academic truth.

In the past few years, conservative policymakers have started to move beyond hand-wringing about ideological capture and propose policy solutions tailored to addressing various manifestations of it. For example, policy thinkers have highlighted that so-called “DEI statements” for faculty hiring and promotion constitute de facto ideological litmus tests, and state legislatures have begun passing bills to eliminate them from state universities.2

With our colleagues at the Manhattan Institute, we at the Goldwater Institute wrote model legislation— recently enacted in Texas—to defund administrative positions dedicated to infusing DEI into various facets of campus life. And with our colleagues at Speech First, we wrote model legislation to eliminate so-called “bias reporting systems,” which serve as speech code-enforcement mechanisms.

Yet conservatives have had a far harder time adequately addressing their most long-standing concern: ideological indoctrination in classrooms. Some conservatives have insisted that academic freedom must remain a sacrosanct first principle and that any effort to influence classroom content is philosophically mis- guided. Conservative policymakers in Florida have proved less reticent and have seen their Stop Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees (Stop WOKE) Act enjoined by the courts. And even as that law was enjoined, Florida legislators introduced H.B. 999, which in some ways goes even further, prohibiting entire majors. But we need not frame the issue as a false choice between risking legally questionable legislation and surrendering coursework to ideologues.

Read the rest at the American Enterprise Institute’s Conservative Education Reform Network.



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