The required Core I class at Scripps College is marketed both to current and prospective students as a course in “interdisciplinary learning,” promising to teach the bright young women who walk through Scripps’ gates how to think critically. As both citizens in a complex world and women grappling with future career demands, the ability to think critically about the information and many hidden agendas we face is one of the most crucial skills to learn in college. Sadly, in reality, Core I is only a vehicle for promoting an ideological agenda.
According to the description on the Scripps College website, the Core Curriculum’s goal is to “expose students to some of the major concepts and dialogues shaping modern intellectual thought and challenge them to investigate and debate those issues by drawing from multiple perspectives.” This could not be further from the truth. Instead of exposing students to “multiple perspectives” on contentious and important issues, 250 Scripps first years are bombarded on a weekly basis with radically progressive ideological indoctrination by professors who allow very little room for opinions that differ from mainstream liberal thought, lest one be accused of “marginalization” or labeled a “bigot.”
The course, generally made up of one lecture and two hour-long discussions per week, has thus far covered the topics of American slavery, the seizure of America from the Native Americans, a criticism of the American prison system focusing predominantly on how the system oppresses women and racial minorities, and a sexually graphic novel by Jean Genet entitled The Thief’s Journal.
One semester isn’t enough time to study these litanies of oppression in any real depth. As a result, we have been lectured only about the (obvious) injustices inherent in these actions and institutions. Not once have we examined statistics or economic analysis, or the complexities inherent in the historical context of even one of these topics. Instead, our professors have presented us with narrow criticisms of the vast majority of “structures of oppression” that they believe keep the first world running, and the rest of the globe oppressed. These watered down Marxist clichés may be worth hearing, but if the goal of a Scripps education is to produce intellectually sophisticated citizens, it would perhaps be worth hearing competing theories, like those held by at least half of Americans, too. In my Core discussion class, our highly emotional discussions have primarily focused on the claim that students who are white, and presumed to be wealthy, need to learn to “check their privilege.”
I attended a BeHeard forum at Scripps on the subject of “Marginalization on Campus” following the difficult conversations occurring in the Core I discussions. I went to raise the question of how a student with politically conservative views can participate in a Core discussion without immediately being attacked by the student body and professor. When asked how to combat some of the uncomfortable conversations going on in the Core I discussions, one student said that she believed most of the tension was stemming from “students being confronted with their privilege in a way that’s uncomfortable.” She went on to say that she felt totally okay with students feeling uncomfortable and picked on in class as long as they were the “rich, white students” because they have never felt oppressed before.
By her definition, it seems that the goal of Core I is not interdisciplinary learning or critical thinking, but instead some kind of twisted revenge fantasy where students who are assumed to have never encountered any kind of hardship are put in situations where they feel “oppressed, marginalized, uncomfortable, and violated.” In what world, I wonder, is a classroom fueled by such resentment and hostility toward a certain demographic of students conducive to an effective, let alone healthy, learning environment?
Later in this same forum, I asked how a student who has a different opinion about the merits and virtues of a particular “system of oppression,” such as capitalism or the American prison system, could respectfully express a different opinion. How can students with views that don’t share the liberal premises of the curriculum or professor be given a fair chance to express their opinions when it is instantly assumed that they are not just misguided, but actively perpetuate racism, sexism, and classism? My question was met by the inquiry of another student, who asked if I was saying “that I did not support equality” – apparently unaware of the comment’s irony. The student went on to assert that the discomfort I feel in a hostile classroom setting is not actually related to the suppression and distortion of political disagreement with the curriculum, but, rather, to my white guilt of having to confront my presumed privileges.
My argument had not just been dismissed as oppressive, but also irrelevant and unworthy of a thoughtful response, because it was actually just a manifestation of the guilt that I am supposed to feel in encountering such texts. When students can no longer see the difference between disagreements born out of reason and those born out of malice, they must believe that there is only one correct opinion – namely, theirs. And if having an opinion other than the correct one is oppressive, as is taught in Core I, then Core I is not so much about students critically examining their own thoughts and ideas, but instead about making sure everyone conforms to the same progressive ideology. Students are encouraged to verbally attack those who believe in individual liberty and personal responsibility, the pillars of thought upon which this country was built. It is clear in the Core I Curriculum that, while race, class, and gender marginalization are condemned, ideological marginalization is not only fair game, but encouraged.