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America's Re-Education Camps

This fall, tens of thousands of bright-eyed and malleable young men and women will descend on American campuses to begin their academic careers in earnest. Most of them will face what we used to call freshman orientation. More than anything, though, it's looking more and more like indoctrination.

One of the main components of many of these orientations is diversity, or sensitivity training. Attendance is usually mandatory and often tax-funded. Students will watch films and participate in exercises designed to shake the values they 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 it, a group of 40 people are divided into blue-eyed and brown-eyed people. The former are psychologically brutalized; the latter are psychologically empowered as a lesson in white racism.

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 article entitled "Thought Reform 101" (Reason, March 2000) Alan Charles Kors, co-founder of The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, explicitly compares this diversity training to Communist re-education camps. It is a comparison worth pursuing. The following are merely a few of the parallels.

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."

Elliot explains her goal: "A new reality is going to be created for these people."

Truth Requires Thought Control

In his book Enfer Rouge, Mon Amour, Lucien Trong wrote of the thought control in 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. Pol Pot understood the power of words.

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."

Family Ties Must Be Weakened

Re-education camps break the loyalty that prisoners feel toward their families who often 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."

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'" — that is, for prostitutes. 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 non-PC 'ism' in existence. The study guide describes the $6,000-a-day Elliot as a courageous pioneer who has endured great personal pain for her stand.

The Effect Is to Heighten Anger and Division Among People

A re-education prisoner reported on the effect camp policy had upon the cohesiveness and goodwill 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 goal of such vented hatred is also said to be noble. In order to evolve into a society in which people love each other without 'isms,' it is necessary to brutalize different classes into appropriate awareness.

All this can, understandably, be a bit much for your average 18-year-old away from home for the first time. Helping kids to adjust to campus life is one thing. Political and cultural re-education, which the champions of the "diversity industry" are peddling at $3,000 an hour, is another.

Taxpayers need to stop footing the bill for these exercises. 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."

McElroy is the editor of www.ifeminists.com. She also edited Freedom, Feminism, and the State (CATO 1982, Holmes & Meier 1992) and Sexual Correctness: The Gender Feminist Attack on Women (McFarland, 1996). She lives with her husband in Canada, and can be reached at mac@ifeminists.com