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America's Re-education Camps
May 8, 2001
by Wendy McElroy, mac@ifeminists.com

Political Correctness (PC) is a term coined by the New Left to describe their political and cultural ideology, which blends radical traditions such as Marxism with gender feminism. A major PC goal on American campuses is to enforce "sensitivity" through a re-education of students' values. Sensitivity is enforced through speech codes, propaganda in the classroom, and diversity training sessions.

This fall, universities will be conducting freshman orientations that will almost certainly include diversity training. Attendance is usually mandatory and often tax-funded. Students will watch films and participate in sociological exercises designed to shake the values they have acquired from their culture and families. Two of the most popular diversity training films are "Blue Eyed" and "Skin Deep."

The 90-minute "Blue Eyed" documents an experiment conducted by Jane Elliott, a $6,000 a day sensitivity trainer, in which a group of forty people are divided into blue eyed and brown eyed people. The former are psychologically brutalized and the latter are psychologically empowered as a lesson in white racism. Elliott declares that the salvation of white people lies in their frank admission of guilt and their efforts to eliminate hidden racism and sexism from society. E.g. it lies in rooting out the subtle oppression embodied in the name "Betty" which -- she claims -- serves to "infantilize women."

Hugh Vasquez's "Skin Deep" documents a workshop on race. One section of the accompanying Study Guide -- entitled "White Privilege" -- declares that white privilege controls all power in society and that whites must assume their guilt.

Requiring attendance to sensitivity training has caused some critics to make comparisons to Soviet psychiatry and the re-education camps of some Communist countries, such as Maoist China. There, re-education attempted to replace "bad" personal attitudes with ones that served the purpose of the State. In an excellent article entitled "Thought Reform 101" (Reason, March 2000) Alan Charles Kors, co-founder of The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education explicitly compares the diversity training to Communist re-education camps. It is a comparison worth pursuing. The following are merely a few of the parallels.

Shared Assumptions and Procedures

1. False Consciousness Must Be Erased. The oppressed must be made aware of their subjugation. The Leninist concept of "false consciousness" refers to a class' acceptance of the myths about itself. For example, the workers' acceptance of bourgeois myths about society, such as the notion that people "rise on merit." In the "Skin Deep" Guide, Vasquez speaks of "internalized oppression" which is defined as "taking on and believing the stereotypes or lies" about "your group." In other words, everyone in a class that has been "targeted for mistreatment and discrimination" has internalized oppression to "some degree" and must be educated toward a true understanding of themselves.

2. Alternate Ideologies Must be Suppressed. Re-education camps often target religious groups because religion represents a strong alternate value system. In similar fashion, diversity training involves systematic denigration of alternate value systems such as conservatism. In "Blue Eyed," Elliott tells a "white male" whom she has humiliated into submission that "what I just did...today Newt Gingrich is doing to you every day...and you are submitting to that, submitting to oppression." As Elliott explains, "A new reality is going to be created for these people."

3. Truth Requires Thought Control. In his book "Enfer Rouge, Mon Amour," Lucien Trong wrote of the re-education camp where he was confined. Prisoners were not permitted to read the words published in magazines and books from the former regime, to sing the words of old songs, or to have 'unauthorized' political discussions. In the Study Guide to "Skin Deep," Vasquez writes, "Language is one of the institutions that serve to perpetuate racism...Thus, language is a critical element in eliminating the mistreatment of any group...Should we be 'politically correct?' Of course we should if what we mean by this is eliminating language that is part of how mistreatment is perpetuated."

4. Family Ties Must Be Weakened. Re-education camps break the loyalty that prisoners naturally feel toward their families who offer an alternate system of values. A Vietnamese prisoner wrote, "When making declarations about relatives, we had to make mention of their guilt as well." In "Skin Deep," a student named Dane admits his family's racist guilt: "No way I can step back and change that (his great grandparents fighting for the confederacy in the Civil War)." He comments, "It's tough choosing what's right and choosing your family."

5. The Propagandists have Noble Intentions. In the Los Angeles Times (January 9, 1998), journalist David Lamb reported on a "re-education camp for women with 'social disorders'." The camp director was quoted as saying, "We think of this as a humanitarian program." The noble motive of Elliott and Vasquez is to end racism, sexism, ageism, ableism, and heterosexism...just about every type of nonPC 'ism' in existence. The Study Guide describes Elliot as a courageous pioneer who has endured great personal pain for her stand -- though she admits to having been "only confronted once by her colleagues. For spreading such inaccurate and racist statements as "whites invented racism," Disney is doing a movie of her life.

6. The Effect is to Heighten Division Among People. A re-education prisoner reported on the effect camp policy had upon the good will of inmates. "[To] turn prisoners against each other by reading them [confessions] aloud to the group and asking anyone who had knowledge of anything left out or of lies in the statement to step forward." The prisoners came to suspect, resent and hate each other, looking at those sitting to each side as "the enemy." The Guide to "Blue Eyed" describes Elliott as "unrelenting in her ridicule and humiliation of the blue-eyed people [whites]" while "the participants of color watch as white people" feel their guilt for racism. Whites are admonished to "hear people of color, no matter what tone or phrasing they use." At the same time, they are warned, "don't expect people of color to bleed on the floor for white people."

The "diversity industry," in which top experts charge as much as $35,000 for a "cultural audit" or $3,000 an hour for a lecture, must cease to be funded by tax-dollars. Parents who wish to nurture the values of their children must oppose the coercive indoctrination of political correctness into their offspring. They must exercise the most important aspect of freedom of speech: the right to say "no."

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