Education vs. Indoctrination in American Political Science Education

Noam Chomksy once said, “Get educated and I don’t mean go to school.” I recently went to work at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, on a one semester contract, to educate students in political science and international relations. Whether consciously or unconsciously, the overarching powers do not want to educate students, but rather to indoctrinate them and turn them into debt-ridden obedient workers. How does this relate to the role of a university professor in political science?

If you have tenure you can teach how you see fit on a long-term basis. Well, how does a  professor get tenure in the U.S? The famous psychologist Carl Rogers answered this question through his own experience:

I have often been grateful that I have never had to live through the frequently degrading competitive process of step-by-step promotion in university faculties, where individuals so frequently learn only one lesson – not to stick their necks out.

The operative phrase here is not to stick their necks out. Just as in politics, academics in political science are often weeded out by separating the ones who keep quiet on the most important moral and legal issues of our time and the ones that don’t, with the latter often being shown the door. Yes, there are some excellent professors in my field– let me put that out there so as not to offend those who are doing their jobs well, including some excellent human beings that I know personally. However, more often than not, if you ask a political scientist who is truly focused on educating students, you’ll likely hear that they feel they have to conceal truthful information in a wrapper and tip-toe around difficult issues. Some will say it is because this is a proper pedagogical method, letting students come to the information themselves. However, while this is good practice– since teaching is an art as well as a craft– what I have seen, far too often, is not a process of gently presenting students with sensitive material in a pedagogically sound manner, rather academics ignoring sensitive topics all together! There are at least two reasons why American students are not fully educated in political science and international relations.

1) Many political science professors and instructors went through the same American academic system in which they are working and are fully indoctrinated themselves.

2) Some academics in this field have a true commitment to educating students, but concerns for their employment cause them to walk on egg shells. They don’t want students to complain, nor do they want to catch the negative attention of the university administration– which is a big business entity as well as an educational institution. However, these types of academics tell themselves that their students are getting the material that is concealed in a carefully crafted wrapper– as if it is a subliminal message. One needs to take a good hard look at the general level of knowledge of American university students. It is poor, and it often sinks to embarrassing levels of ignorance. I’ve had university students that would still be stuck in eighth grade in many Western European countries. Many American college and university students have not had sufficient training in critical thinking, have only been taught revisionist history, and largely been exposed to biased, corporate news media coverage. How then are they to suddenly absorb and integrate such extremely subtle information that you, Mr. and  Mrs. Political Science Professor, think is given in such a pedagogically sound manner?

If you think everything is fine and dandy and the United States is a shining light on the hill, you are surely free to think as you like– but maybe it’s just because you never were allowed the opportunity to see a different perspective or a real history of your country. It is highly unlikely that you would see this other perspective in an American university– unless you find yourself in a class that I teach or in a class with someone else who has an equally bold commitment to truly educating students. This is a viewpoint and a lens with which much of the world views the United States. The good news is that this information is readily available to you if you desire it. In the words of Malcolm X, “I am not anti-American, the truth is anti-American. So don’t blame me, blame the truth.”

La vie est belle, profitez de chaque moment

2 thoughts on “Education vs. Indoctrination in American Political Science Education

  1. Paul, because you have some Spanish knowledge, I post a comment in my mother tongue that agrees with everything you point out: “Los pueblos suelen embellecer su propio pasado y afear el de sus enemigos, ya que es mucho más cómodo el sentirse víctima que verdugo. Por eso, en los rincones de la memoria colectiva se esconden las injusticias que se cometieron, pero se mantiene siempre a mano el recuerdo de las que cometieron otros. Por lo tanto, es mucho mejor hablar del pasado pensando en el futuro, que conformar el futuro con los ojos puestos en el pasado … El nacionalismo no dialogante, sea cual sea, adolece de una cierta visión mesiánica de la historia, conducida gracias al profeta-Jedi de turno, el político, y vehiculizada a través de la “lengua” y la “cultura”, las cuales sólo se preocupan por mantener la pertenencia de unos pocos, que se reconocen y apoyan entre sí, a la endogamia cerrada y “refinada”. Dentro de esta masonería, no inofensiva, se recastan los delfines de la clase dirigente de la vida político-social, adquiriendo este proceso más o menos importancia según sea la época de la que se trate. En definitiva, se quebranta el natural acto de responsabilidad inter-generacional para devenir una miserable lucha por ocupar la cabecera en la lista de votos, y de ganancias, y así eternizarse en el poder, en parte, gracias a la ceguera arrogante o a tener literalmente absorbido el seso los habitantes de este País de las Maravillas, Reino de la Jauja” (own article about Catalan nationalism published in London on October 2000).

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