Orange County Register: California’s schools are reviving the loyalty oath

Students sitting in lecture Community College classroom

California’s universities once required faculty to sign an anti-Communist oath.

Many faculty resigned or refused to sign on principle, and no one looks back on that history with fondness. Yet California’s community colleges are on the brink of embracing a new loyalty oath. Rather than force faculty to denounce communism, a new policy will force all faculty to submit to the college bureaucracy’s social justice agenda.

But whatever the dogma du jour may be, compelled submission to political beliefs is poison to free thought and the search for truth.

The California Community College administration has just adopted a rule that will require faculty to use diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA) principles and anti-racism in their teaching. DEIA and anti-racism are labels for a family of controversial tenets, from the belief that minority groups should enjoy special privileges in hiring, college admissions and so forth, to the broader view that capitalism and similar bedrock institutions must be uprooted to address systemic racism. Proponents of anti-racism argue that anyone who does not support these deeply divisive concepts is in fact racist.

California’s community colleges want to require all faculty to preach this political creed in the classroom. The rule states: “Faculty members shall employ teaching and learning practices and curriculum that reflect DEIA and anti-racist principles.” Faculty supervisors must “place a significant emphasis on DEIA competencies in employee evaluation and tenure review processes.” Administrators must apply these principles to virtually all aspects of operating the school, including “funding allocations, decision-making, planning, and program review processes.”

College leadership views the anti-racism philosophy as a cornerstone of their mission. In a recent meeting, Deputy Chancellor Daisy Gonzales said community colleges should be “institutionalizing equity as a core function of our work.” Dolores Davison, president of the Academic Senate, likewise asserted that anti-racism should be “embedded in everything we do.” The pursuit of knowledge takes a backseat to politics.

A college curriculum committee has drafted “model principles and practices” regarding DEIA in the classroom that makes clear just how savagely partisan this framework is. For instance, the Committee considers teaching from an “individualist perspective” to be a “Eurocentric” practice that should be jettisoned in favor of a “collectivism perspective.” Likewise, teachers are expected to use “a social justice lens in all disciplines.”

The message is clear: faculty must adopt and teach a specific, partisan worldview or be driven out of the classroom.

This is worse than the loyalty oath since it demands more than a John Hancock — it dictates what faculty can say in the classroom and even what faculty can think.

California colleges have gone from forcing a signature to forcing the tongue. Such a compelled orthodoxy violates the First Amendment rights of teachers and hurts students.

The rule will impair academic freedom by requiring teachers to bow to the college’s preferred viewpoint on controversial issues in their classroom. Teachers could risk their jobs if they express dissenting views on hot issues like transgenderism in athletics, police practices, affirmative action, and other issues. The result is an enfeebled academia oriented toward cementing dogma rather than seeking truth.

Students sheltered from diverse views will be left intellectually unarmed to grapple with the complexity, nuance, and soul-searching offered by a true marketplace of ideas. Ruth Simmons, the first black president of an Ivy League university, put it this way: “One’s voice grows stronger in encounters with opposing views. . . . The collision of views and ideologies is in the DNA of the academic enterprise. No collision avoidance technology is needed here.”

If colleges wrap an ideological filter around the classroom that tunes out conservative viewpoints on pressing issues of the day, students will graduate with tame minds and flaccid opinions, unready for a complex world.

Students who dare to think for themselves and resist indoctrination will also be increasingly subject to marginalization and abuse at the hands of their activist professors.

The irony is inescapable. California schools once forced faculty to reject collectivism and now they want to force faculty to embrace it. Yet both movements share a disturbing foundation: the drive to press dogma upon young minds, the urge to propagandize rather than persuade. That is not education. It’s indoctrination.

This op-ed was originally published by The Orange Country Register on June 13, 2022.