Paying Students to Protest Trump
Surely not all proponents of college-based civic engagement programs have the checkered past of Robert Creamer. But the connections between these programs and Alinsky’s acolytes aren’t hard to find. Why did the head of Pomona College’s Draper Center, Maria R. Tucker, think it was perfectly all right to use college funds to send students to an anti-Trump rally? Dr. Tucker’s specialties (naturally) include civic engagement, community engagement, sustainability, environmental justice, and diversity. Her Ph.D. dissertation at the University of Michigan dealt with “environmental justice organizations.” As director of the Draper Center, Tucker co-sponsored a visit by Mike Miller, one Alinsky’s original “project directors,” and she has supported campus protests such as a “Die In.” Tucker is, by all appearances, a hard-left activist who is at ease with using higher education to advance the political causes she supports.
Let’s say relatively few students who get caught up in the frenzy of leftist protest while in college go on to make careers of it. But while they are in college, and come into the orbit of bodies such as the Draper Center, they engage in “community service,” a pleasant-sounding phrase that translates as free labor for progressive organizations, progressive propaganda on campus, and training to be a left-wing activist. Above all, civic engagement means teaching students that leftist protest is the heart and soul of being a “citizen.”
It looks very much like Pomona College broke the law. But even when the civic engagement advocates stay within the legal limits, they still encourage a style of partisan protest that corrodes the foundations of our actual communities. They hope to “transform” America, and to that end they organize events such as getting high-school students around the country to walk out of school to protest the election of Donald Trump.
“Not My President” rallies, with the covert and increasingly the overt support of this new class of educational expert are increasingly common. These rallies are justified as exercises in “civic engagement.” But political action is “civic engagement” only if it advances a progressive cause. Trump supporters have no parallel right of civic engagement because, in the eyes of these activists, they are merely exponents of “hate.” The radical left mobs protesting in the streets hope to delegitimize Donald Trump’s presidency before it begins. That counts as “civic engagement.” Support of Donald Trump does not. In other words, “civic engagement” is no more and no less than progressive politics.
David Randall, Director of Communications at the National Association of Scholars, is the author of Making Citizens: How American Universities Teach Civics (January 2017).