Indoctrination? Not My Women’s Studies Class


I will go to my grave asserting that Women's Studies 101 was the best course I've ever taken in college. It opened my eyes to a new way of viewing the world, as well as situations I encountered in my everyday life. It helped me put names to ideas I've always had – feminism, in particular. I was lucky enough to have highly intelligent, warm professors who facilitated discussion among the class, and were open to our questions and differing opinions.

Oops, my bad. According to David Horowitz, this is called "indoctrination."

Horowitz explained his loathe for such political academic disciplines in a November article for the Weekly Standard. Apparently, he also has beef with African American Studies, Peace Studies, Cultural Studies, Chicano Studies, Gay Lesbian Studies, Post-Colonial Studies, Whiteness Studies, Communications Studies, Community Studies, Cultural Anthropology and Sociology. Basically, everything that questions the status quo…which (I thought) was the entire point of the collegiate experience: to develop critical thinking skills and use what we've learned to make sense of the world.

So these courses spell indoctrination? I beg to differ. They are about exploring other cultures and schools of thought. Horowitz writes that the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has stated, "It is not indoctrination for professors to expect students to comprehend ideas and apply knowledge that is accepted as true within a relevant discipline." My thoughts, exactly. Well, Horowitz twists this statement to claim that "teachers are no longer held to standards of ‘scholarly' or ‘scientific' or ‘intellectually responsible' discourse, but to whatever is ‘accepted as true within a relevant discipline.'" I hate to be the one to burst his little right-wing bubble (I lie – actually, I'd love to), but there are a slew of non-traditional disciplines that are in fact scholarly and intellectually responsible.

Reading the works of Marilyn Frye, Simone de Beauvoir, bell hooks, Catherine McKinnon, Andrea Dworkin, Christina Hoff Summers, Naomi Wolf and countless others, is nothing to sneeze at. These women helped build and influence the feminist movement throughout history. Plus – and someone should point this out to Mr. Horowitz – their philosophies can contradict one another. Horowitz makes Women's Studies programs out to be one big underhanded conspiracy to brainwash students into what leftist professors want for their femin-army. What he fails to recognize is that, hey – feminists don't always agree! Although it would be stellar if we were all on a first name basis, we had an impeccable phone-tree for organizing massive meet-ups, and there were never any heated arguments about issues that affect us so personally – but that's most definitely not the case. I'm not even sure that's humanly possible.

So, I don't really see how David Horowitz can claim Women's Studies is indoctrination when the discipline's heavy-hitters aren't even writing the same things. Makes me wonder if he's ever even sat in on a class. If he had been in mine six years ago, he would have seen desks arranged in a circle – to facilitate discussion, and assure that no one is more or less visible than another. For the first five or ten minutes, our professor would ask a question that pertained to our reading assignment and we'd write a response. She wasn't looking for regurgitation of the author's words and ideas – you could agree or disagree as long as you could argue maturely and refer to the reading. After she collected our responses, we'd talk about them and this would generate critical discussion of the reading that was free to go wherever we took it (within reason, of course).

College is not just a boot camp you attend for four years so you can accumulate credits and do everything in your power to maintain an A average. My Women's Studies courses answered my questions about life – and not just any life, my life. Lives of women who came before me and the women who will come after me. In these courses, I found a discipline that spoke to me and addressed my concerns. And because of these courses, I'm a stronger, well-rounded individual who doesn't just accept the standard, but questions its origins and its logic.

If Mr. Horowitz thinks this is a disgrace to the higher education system, then I feel sorry for him.

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