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McKissick: Colleges are not liberal indoctrination sites

A blue and green graphic depicting two people conversing with text bubbles that say "Collegian Columnists."
(Graphic Illustration by Falyn Sebastian | The Collegian)

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

College campuses have long been known as pillars of liberalism, most notably among those who consider themselves conservative. Accusations of bias have been leveraged against academic professors for decades, and that likely won’t come to an end any time soon.

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The topic has been discussed by the likes of Charlie Kirk and Fox News’ Eric Bolling. Ben Shapiro even wrote a book about the topic. They’ve described college professors as America-hating socialists who work to indoctrinate America’s malleable youth into similar America-hating socialists.

It’s natural to evolve our way of thinking as we’re exposed to new ideas, and it’s a paranoid line of thinking to believe it’s an organized brainwashing.”

There is some credence to the belief that college students are more inclined to identify as liberal. An annual study conducted by the University of California, Los Angeles on first-year students at 148 U.S. colleges found that 32.2% of students surveyed identified as liberal, 4.5% as far left, 17.8% as conservative and 1.9% as far right.

Additionally, a survey published by the Knight Foundation in August last year revealed that 70% of college students polled had plans to vote for Joe Biden over Donald Trump.

But are colleges really turning students into liberals? No.

Preliminary data from an Interfaith Youth Core survey revealed that 47% of students reported that they had changed their political views during college, with 30% reporting becoming more liberal, but it isn’t due to encroaching instructors. The belief that professors are actively working to push their beliefs on students is misguided and outright false.

If parents are afraid that their child is going to change their ideologies in college, they should stop pushing the idea of higher education as a necessity so adamantly.”

Courtenay Daum, a professor in the political science department at Colorado State University, stressed how committed she is to keeping her political beliefs out of the classroom and doing her best to facilitate discussion among students in a space that she describes as “ideologically and politically diverse.”

She suggested that the phenomenon could be explained by a generational shift. Younger generations are more progressive than their elders, regardless of what side of the aisle they identify with.

Daum added that it could also, in part, be due to the predisposition of those who choose to pursue higher education.

“By virtue of pursuing higher education, you are being challenged to think of things from a different perspective,” she said. “Regardless of your political affiliation, you’re going to hear other voices, even those you don’t necessarily agree with.”

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Exposure to these ideas can change the way we think and perceive the world. Students may realize they find certain policies proposed by politicians agreeable or disagreeable, run into other individuals with differing beliefs or even just be exposed to people of different upbringings and cultures.

It isn’t predatory for this to happen. It’s natural to evolve our way of thinking as we’re exposed to new ideas, and it’s a paranoid line of thinking to believe it’s an organized brainwashing.

This is especially so in cases where students may have only been exposed to their parents’ political beliefs and ideas growing up. And besides, if parents are afraid that their child is going to change their ideologies in college, they should stop pushing the idea of higher education as a necessity so adamantly.

Only 10% of students polled in the same Interfaith Youth Core study reported feeling any kind of pressure from a professor to change their political views, but the study’s co-author concluded that they didn’t “see evidence that feeling pressured actually results in substantial changes to these students’ political inclinations.”

Students are fully capable of coming to their own rational conclusions, and college is a time of intellectual growth, is it not? It is a place to develop critical thinking and analytical skills, and it’s only natural for students to branch out philosophically and politically after being exposed to new ideas.

Nathaniel McKissick can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @NateMcKissick.

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About the Contributor
Falyn Sebastian
Falyn Sebastian, Digital & Design Managing Edtior
After becoming a page designer as a sophomore, Falyn Sebastian evolved from print editor to design director and has now officially begun her new position as digital and design managing editor. Originally from the Big Island of Hawaii, she chose to attend Colorado State University to pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a concentration in graphic design along with a minor in entrepreneurship. When it comes to arranging content in The Collegian's newsprint, Sebastian formats and arranges the visual media that readers love in a physical copy. After attending content and budget meetings with the editors of each desk, she manages how each week's visual content fits into the paper by clicking through Adobe InDesign. With a combination of original photos, illustrative graphics and advertisements, Sebastian organizes and delegates tasks to her talented and ever-growing design team. As a graphic design student, journalism was not a field Sebastian intended to work in during college, but she embraced the world of publication design through The Collegian. As graphic design focuses on the importance of effective communication, she realized she was truly designing for a fulfilling purpose. Student media will forever have a happy home in her heart. Working with other students who are passionate about what is happening in their community drives her to continue working on impactful design. Sebastian looks forward to what is yet to come while gaining new experience and memories with her staff.

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