Rick Santorum’s blanket denunciation of colleges and universities as indoctrination mills is probably the least offensive of his 18th-century regressive, repressive views publicized in the past few weeks. But that’s because his views about contraception, for example – which he opposes, even though he always says he wants to reduce teenage pregnancies – are, in my opinion, so far gone and off the wall.
But since I know a little something about college education, I thought I’d mention how at variance with reality Rick Santorum also is about that.
First, I should say I’m no blind advocate of higher education. I’ve always found some merit in Cole Porter‘s, “a college education I would never propose, a bachelor’s degree won’t even keep you in clothes.” A university degree isn’t necessary for everyone. Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Steve Jobs all did just fine without one.
But the claim that a college education is a course in indoctrination is just nonsense. Where I teach at Fordham University, no one ever told me or even encouraged me to present a specific political or cultural point of view. That’s what academic freedom is all about.
More important, I’ve never told a student what to think. The goal, as every college professor knows, is to teach students how to think. Or, in the Writing Workshop course I’m currently teaching, how to write, clearly and effectively, whatever your point of view.
Perhaps there are professors somewhere who teach differently. But I’ve never met one. And for those many that I have known, their emphasis has always been on teaching students how to think clearly.
Wherever Rick Santorum got his education, he obviously failed to learn that lesson.
Paul Levinson, PhD, is Professor of Communication & Media Studies at Fordham University in NYC. His nonfiction books, including The Soft Edge (1997), Digital McLuhan (1999), Realspace (2003), Cellphone (2004), and New New Media (2009), have been translated into ten languages. He reviews television in his InfiniteRegress.tv blog, and was listed in The Chronicle of Higher Education‘s “Top 10 Academic Twitterers” in 2009. Follow him @PaulLev
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]