Dear Conservatives: “Cultural Marxism” Doesn’t Rule Higher Education

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“You go to an Ivy League school? Why would you choose a haven of Marxist indoctrination?” is the response I get fairly often when discussing my politics with my more right-leaning friends.

Sooner or later, when my points can’t be refuted on their own merits, where I go to school is next in the crosshairs. I don’t advertise on my personal Facebook page or my clothing where I go to college, or even that I go to college. Yet it is either researched or asked of me in an attempt to dig up dirt on where I come from so that a gotcha moment can be presented.

“Well, you are taught by cultural Marxists, so there!” they accuse.

But is that even accurate? Do professors at my school – or really, any school, anywhere in the country – truly lean Marxist in their political outlooks? And even if they did, how can we prove that they are all intentionally forcing their views down the throats of us poor, impressionable students?

Well, as it turns out, we have data on this already – both on what percentage of school professors are actually Marxists, and what motivates the numbers to fall this way – and it might not exactly fall into any one preconceived narrative. Facts are funny that way.

First is the claim that “all” or even “most” college professors are Marxists. According to three separate surveys conducted over several decades and independently of each other at U Toronto, UCLA, and Carnegie, most college professors are center-left, politically. Professors in a few particular fields of study tend to skew more liberal than others, but there is almost ubiquitously a center-left bias among college professors across the board.

However, it is worth noting that center-left is not where Marxism is ideologically positioned, not even close. Additionally, the studies that divide the surveys’ results by percentage show that there are fewer actual Marxists in higher education than there are conservatives. We are talking single digits here.

But even beyond that point, the better question is how these numbers got to where they are. Is it some Marxist conspiracy?

No.

The National Association of Scholars (a conservative research group) wrote an article that cited “robust empirical support” for the conclusion that the numbers come as a result of self-selection. Why aren’t more conservatives teaching social science? Simply put, less conservatives want to. And so it goes on down the line, including those dreaded Marxists. So, no conspiracy there, after all.

Even the term “cultural Marxism,” has origins in Nazi propaganda. A term with such vacuous etymology and purpose should deter anyone, not just conservatives, from perpetuating it, since most people are moral as well as reasonable. Yet it doesn’t, likely because few people who use the term actually do not know where it comes from.

When used with such fervor and so little restraint, against me specifically, I cannot help but feel sorry for those manning the verbal cannons; they don’t realize what a backfire they are about to experience.

This article was edited for grammar, style, and spelling, but not for content. The views expressed are that of the author, Micah J. Fleck, exclusively, and do not reflect that of BeingLibertarian.com or Being Libertarian LLC

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mjf2184@columbia.edu'/
Micah J. Fleck is a journalist and political writer who has spent the past several years developing his sincere-yet-indecypherable political outlook through independent research. While an enthusiast of both American history and economics, Mr. Fleck typically comes at his topics from a more anthropological perspective. His writings and interviews have been featured in various publications - including The National Review, The Libertarian Republic, The Wall Street Journal, and The College Fix - and he is currently earning a degree in anthropology at Columbia University. To support this author's work, visit his website.
  • jay weed

    This writer cites a poll and from this poll he makes a claim “most professors are center left.” What is center left? If we look at the UCLA poll cited in this article it states

    “A survey carried out by the UCLA Higher Education Research Institute in 2001-02 identified a distinct leftward tilt in academia, but a smaller one than you might expect. Surveying scholars in all fields at all the nation’s two- and four-year universities, it found that 5.3 percent described themselves as “far left,” 42.3 percent as liberal, 34.3 percent as middle of the road, 17.7 percent as conservative, and .3 percent as “far right.”

    So these individuals think of themselves as “centrists”––but are they?Ask yourself this… if you’re a conservative or libertarian–– Do you describe yourself ask “far right?” Or do you feel like you are a pragmatic centrist? Many libertarians define themselves correctly as “liberal.” Until left draped themselves in the vernacular of liberals. They were so effective that now liberal means something totally different and we libertarians now refer to ourselves as “classical liberals.” All of us have argued with statists. Almost none of them have ever read “a workers paradise” or “the communist manifesto” but all of them are still statists (aka marxists). All of them still want free education, healthcare and more government social and economic controls. The word communism or marxism or socialism has a negative connotation in this country. This means that people will almost never wish to classify themselves this way. Everyone thinks they are pragmatic and reasonable. This poll proves nothing. The writer (who attends columbia university) should get a least a partial refund from the marxists that taught him to not be able to think critically. This article wouldn’t pass muster in an annexed community college classroom.

  • You do realize you’re simply proving my point with this comment, right?

    You’re basically saying that nobody else who self-identifies politically can be trusted as sincere, but you can because reasons. Then you proceed to call my school full of Marxists, just like the caricature I quote at the top of the article and then proceed to debunk.

    You are smug in the highest order, sir, and I hope that one day humility finds you in a place where you can at least consider the possibility that other people can make accurate judgements about their own political views without first passing through your filter.

  • Andy Spaeth

    Micah J. Fleck Your support for your assertion that cultural Marxism is a Nazi term is a link to rational wiki. Wikis are open source pages that are free to be edited altered and changed by ANYONE who cares to contribute to them. As such this is NOT a credible source for your assertion. Rationalwiki is also well know for its leftward slant. Do you have a CREDIBLE source for your claim of the term’s Nazi origins? I could not find another link to support your assertion.

      • Andy Spaeth

        Did you read the link you just supplied? Nazis were referring to modernism in the arts when they used the term cultural Bolshevism. The modern use of cultural Marxism has nothing to do with art or how the Nazis used the term.

        In addition there are subtle differences between the terms Bolshevism and Marxism. Marx believed his utopian classless state would come about naturally as human intellect evolved. Lenin believed force should be used to foment revolution to accelerate the process.

        Your Nazi reference is nothing more than a dressed up manifestation of the reductio ad Hitlerum fallacy.

        The entire article is based on very sloppy logic. It assumes that Marxist college professors would be honest about their ideology when responding to a survey, when all real world evidence points to the contrary. They avoid Marx like the plague, having pilfered liberal from its classic meaning to replace leftist or Marxist. They also describe their regressive ideology as progressive.

        Then in a parting shot, you weakly try to link the term cultural Marxism to the Nazis, who were using a similar but not identical term to attack modern art they found distasteful. You are comparing apples to oranges.

        • “Did you read the link you just supplied? Nazis were referring to modernism in the arts when they used the term cultural Bolshevism. The modern use of cultural Marxism has nothing to do with art or how the Nazis used the term. In addition there are subtle differences between the terms Bolshevism and Marxism. Marx believed his utopian classless state would come about naturally as human intellect evolved. Lenin believed force should be used to foment revolution to accelerate the process.”

          1) The argument isn’t that the term EVER referred to anything specific; it’s that the purpose of the term was to dismiss any more liberating or dissenting voices without having to directly engage it on its own merits – which is the same thing your lot does when “Cultural Marxism” is thrown about at anything and everything even slightly too liberal for your taste.

          2) That’s how etymology works. The origin point isn’t always the same exact place a word ends up over time, but we can clearly see the threads of where it came from and how it evolved.

          “Your Nazi reference is nothing more than a dressed up manifestation of the reductio ad Hitlerum fallacy.”

          No, it really isn’t. Because by pointing out the etymology of the term, my conclusion is not, “therefore you guys are Nazis!” My conclusion is that the term has origins in stupid, vacuous propaganda speak, and it makes you look ridiculous when you use it. I’m arguing that criticism of liberal bias in schools be based on actual criticisms, not name-calling and snarl words.

          “The entire article is based on very sloppy logic. It assumes that Marxist college professors would be honest about their ideology when responding to a survey, when all real world evidence points to the contrary.”

          Citation. Needed.

          “They avoid Marx like the plague, having pilfered liberal from its classic meaning to replace leftist or Marxist. They also describe their regressive ideology as progressive.”

          1) They don’t. Marx is read all over the place in liberal arts. It’s kind of important to read the most influential literature in social science in order to get a well-rounded education. So no, Marx is not someone who gets preached as gospel, nor is he a figure people avoid publicly but worship in the shroud of night. He’s just a guy who had an impact on the world, for better or worse, and so we read him.

          2) Regressive leftism is not something exclusive to Marxists; not all progressives are Marxists; puritan SJW stuff is a completely separate issue from what I’m talking about in this article. I right anti-SJW stuff all the time and expose liberal bias on campuses just as often. But I’m not going to stand by and let people think I then have to also buy into this fear mongering about red boogymen in our midst. This is 2016, it’s absurd.

          “Then in a parting shot, you weakly try to link the term cultural Marxism to the Nazis, who were using a similar but not identical term to attack modern art they found distasteful. You are comparing apples to oranges.”

          Refer to part two of my first response.

          • Andy Spaeth

            In your original article you linked to a rational wiki reference that claimed that the term cultural Bolshevism was primarily used by the Nazis as a political bludgeon. When I pointed out that rational wiki was not a credible source, you supplied a second link which said the same term was used to denounce modernism in the arts. Which is it?

            You have not done your homework and the only 2 references you provided for your assertion are both open source and therefore not credible and give conflicting definitions of the origin of the term.

            Rational wiki also has a definite leftist slant that is glaringly apparent in the original page you linked to. It describes cultural marxism as a “snarl word”, then goes on to use the snarl word wingnut to discredit legitimate usage of the term. No bias here? I believe there is extreme bias.

            The leftist slant seems to disappear in your second reference that deals with the original Nazi use of the term exclusively.

            Can you provide a credible reference for your claim that is NOT open source?

            Otherwise how am I supposed to take you seriously?

            On leftists avoiding Marx. They consistently hide from their Marxism by adopting terms like progressive or bastardizing the term liberal. They are not honest about how they choose to describe themselves. When they are honest about their policies and intentions they are soundly trounced at the ballot box. Hence their need for packing judicial benches with leftists judges. Why am I supposed to think that these inherently dishonest people would be honest about their views in a poll?

            On the colloquial use being linked to the Nazi use of the term: I pointed out that Marxism and Bolshevism are not identical terms. Bolshevism was distinct from Marxism in that Marx saw his ideas brought about through evolution and enlightenment. Bolshevism sought to bring about Marx’s vision through violence and revolution.

            The Marxists who run our colleges are not Bolsheviks. They are bringing about Marx’s visions through slow indoctrination, NOT Bolshevism. You have not proven that cultural Marxism in its colloquial use is linked to the Nazi term. All you have is hearsay from a heavily biased wiki page.

            Also, your first source gives ACEDEMIC REFERENCES that are completely separate from any Nazi use.

            On the reductio ad Hitlerum nature of your Nazi citation for the origins of cultural Marxism: allow me to quote your article:

            “Even the term “cultural Marxism,” has origins in Nazi propaganda. A term with such vacuous etymology and purpose should deter anyone, not just conservatives, from perpetuating it, since most people are moral as well as reasonable. Yet it doesn’t, likely because few people who use the term actually do not know where it comes from.”

            As I previously stated, this statement is reductio ad Hitlerum. ie moral or reasonable people would not use a term that was coined by the Nazis. Actually it would be a combination of reductio ad Hitlerum and the argument from intimidation, ie no moral or reasonable people would use a term coined by the Nazis.

            I think I have effectively cast doubt on any link between the Nazi use and the colloquial use.

            The only proof that you have provided for your Nazi assertion is a heavily biased open source rational wiki entry that also provides conflicting information that casts doubt on the colloquial term’s Nazi origins.

            My rebuttal still stands.

  • Felipe

    Comparing the amount of conservatives and marxist as if to say that there aren’t many marxist professors is wrong, in my opinion. Conservative numbers should be compared to center-left (liberal) numbers and the amount of marxists should be compared to, possiblý, the amount of right leaning libertarians, because I dont’t believe there would be any fascists teaching. Even thought you already established there are more left leaning professors, I still believe that distinction should be made.

    On another topic, it could be that the reason why there are fewer conservatives then liberals is that liberals tend to hire liberals, not that conservatives don’t want to enter the faculty. That could be justified in a couple of different ways, such as similar research areas and simple likeability of who thinks similar to you. I wonder if there is data about who doesn’t get hired at universitys.

    • 1) I have no idea what you’re arguing for, here. You’re saying we should adjust percentages juxtaposed against specific other groups? Why? The surveys and studies I cite here give an across-the-board, overall amount of all political ideologies in academia. I’m not comparing Marxists to Conservatives; I’m comparing Marxists to everyone else, and Conservatives to everyone else, and concluding that Conservatives have higher overall numbers. How does that not make my point for me that Marxist professors are a lesser threat than right-wingers?

      2) The NAS study I cite already considered your consideration and deemed it to not hold up to the empirical data; the self-selecting explanation is the one with the most plentiful evidence in its favor.

  • Bohomil

    The origins of a term has nothing to do with it’s veracity. To claim it has, as the author implies, is an example of genetic fallacy. As any intellectual should know this we can conclude that mr. Fleck is either ignorant or insincere.

    • I’m aware of the genetic fallacy. What you seem to be unaware of is that “Cultural Marxism” is an empty signifier that applies to many different things whenever a conservative wants to snarl-word his opponent into a discreditable manifestation. In other words, it has no veracity – it is a boogyman term, a conversation stopper. Kind of like how SJWs call everyone they don’t like “racists.”

      • Bohomil

        Cultural Marxism might not be a very good word to describe progressivism working for change from within, but stuck it has and its effects are obvious to anyone willing to see it. Here in Sweden even the Royal Institute of Technology teach gender studies and a majority of the media elite are ‘reformed’ Maoists and the like whose pastimes back in ’68 included chucking cobblestone at mounted police. They may not be twirling their moustaches collectively at secret meetings but cultural Marxism, as some like to call it, is definitely alive and well as an intellectual movement.

        • 1) What is wrong with gender studies? Are you one of those “trans people are lying crybabies because science” people?

          2) The media elite in Sweden =/= college professors in America. I detest Maoists. If a large portion of college professors here were exposed as such, and the proof were undeniable, I’d be among the first people up in arms about that (but likely not asking for them to get fired; I *am* a libertarian, after all)

          3) But that’s the problem – “as some like to call it.” I believe all that does is confuse the issues and make it tougher to figure out who actually *is* outwardly promulgating communist nonsense, who is simply a well-meaning (albeit ill-informed) Marxist with no intention of indoctrinating anyone, and who is simply leaning to the left a bit on social issues and is by all accounts benign in 2016 academia. Being able to tell these people apart is crucial, and this broad brush classification is making the argument sloppy.

  • m

    People usually are far more extreme than they’re willing to admit. If someone, say, Justin Trudeau identifies as center left, you can bet he’ll govern from the far left.

    • By who’s standard? Yours? What is “far left” for you? Public respect and equal rights for trans people? Policy that upholds the NAP and puts regulations on greenhouse gas emissions and protects infant boys from being circumcised before they become old enough to choose it for themselves? Because that’s the sort of stuff I advocate for, and I ain’t no Marxist. Language matters.

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