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"Teaching as a Subversive Activity": The Theory of Political Indoctrination

Clip 6: "If You Were a Republican You Had to Really Hide It"

H. Douglas Brown: In Berkeley — um, Berzerkely, as it's known to those of us outside of Berkeley — we live in a luxurious metropolitan area, I think. I'm now living in the [Sacramento] Valley. Uh, now, I don't want to say anything bad about those nice folks that, y'know, that provide our strawberries and crops and everything, but I'm learning — [this is another true confession] — I'm learning to live with and make friends with Republicans [audience laughter]. Nothing wrong with Republicans, but I — at San Francisco State University I think if you were a Republican you had to really hide it, and/or if you felt that you were on the right side of the political spectrum. So, it's actually a good lesson for me, because you know I'm hearing stuff that I wanna just — you know I want to come back at them, [completely] overcome here, I want to try to see if I can diplomatically engage with them, especially when there is a challenge. But you're right that this area is a wonderful area to expose students to. If they were in, I don't know, Platte, Nebraska or something [...]

Yes, sir.

Questioner: With regard to that, actually when I was listening to your talk I couldn't help but think of Rick Santorum's recent attacks on higher education—

H. Douglas Brown: He and I are just two peas in a pod [audience laughter].

I only included this passage in case there was any doubt as to Brown's (and the audience's) political leanings.

Having said that about the audience's political leanings — well, it wasn't unanimous. After the scripted part of the lecture, there was a question-and-answer session (which I mostly didn't record, unfortunately), and this guy pictured here emerged as the hero of the day. He was the only person to speak his mind and basically call Brown out on the carpet. I don't have a tape of his exact words, but he basically said, "Are you nuts? My job, like yours, is to teach English to immigrants; and all they want is to learn the language. Period. Politics is completely beside the point, and the reason students get mad at you is not the specifics of your viewpoints, but because you're wasting their time on social issues when all they want to learn is the grammar of an unfamiliar language. Get over yourself, and get back to basics." Well, it wasn't quite that direct, and it was said with a thick Indian accent, but that was the gist of it. I was so impressed, I later took this picture of him.

One other audience member made a good point, which I mentioned above; A guy a few rows behind me noted that since the contemporary status quo in almost all universities is liberal by default, then what is modern "subversive teaching" even being subversive against? Itself? But Brown just laughed it off and didn't really address the question.

What did we learn from all this? Well, aside from the obvious — that the educational establishment not only indoctrinates students, but also openly discusses the best way to do it — I learned of the various code words they use to mask their discussions. Here's a handy list: Remember these phrases, and keep an ear out for them when dealing with teachers or educators.

Code Phrases Alluding to Indoctrination

If you hear or read academics using any of these tell-tale terms, they are actually discussing how to indoctrinate students:

• Critical pedagogy

• Agent for change

• Moral imperative

• "Critical" anything

• Subversive

• Mandate