College textbook paints Reagan as sexist, conservatives as pessimists

The authors of a textbook used at University of South Carolina earned an 'F' in Ronald Reagan 101, according to several conservative Gamecock students.

“Introduction to Social Work & Social Welfare: Critical Thinking Perspectives” portrays the 40th president as a sexist who was insensitive to minorities and whose main accomplishments were cutting taxes, jacking up defense spending and "slashing" social programs. The book states that conservatives like Reagan "take a pessimistic view of human nature.”

“I was absolutely shocked and was tempted to throw the book away,” Anna Chapman, 19, a sophomore majoring in political science, told “I would even write comments in the actual textbook next to some of the offensive things that I read. I didn’t know that this is what I had signed up for.”

The sexist comments are particular difficult to square with The Gipper's record. Although the book states that he "ascribed to woman ‘primarily domestic functions’ and failed to appoint many women to significant positions of power during his presidency,” history shows Reagan appointed the first woman, Sandra Day O'Connor, to the Supreme Court.

Reagan also appointed the first woman ambassador to the United Nations, Jeane Kirkpatrick. And among some 1,400 women Reagan appointed to policy-making positions during his two terms in office were Secretary of Transportation Elizabeth Dole, Secretary of Health and Human Services Margaret Heckler and Secretary of Labor Ann Dore McLaughlin. The textbook makes no mention of any of these appointments, Chapman noted in a post for education blog Campus Reform.


According to the book, authored by Karen K. Kirst-Ashman, Reagan "discounted the importance of racism and discrimination, and maintained that, if they tried, African-Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans could become just as successful as whites." But the policies he implemented, which were continued by President George H.W. Bush, increased homelessness and the number of people living in poverty, according to the book.

“The way it describes conservatives as viewing people as “lazy, corrupt, and incapable of true charity” is extremely offensive and beyond not true, granted the fact that conservatives believe that people are capable of succeeding without government interference,” added Chapman, who is secretary of the school's College Republicans. "I come from a middle class, conservative family, with extremely giving parents, so it really hit home for me.”

In the subsection of the text, titled “Conservatism,” the authors list three concepts as characterizing conservatives:

  • As opposing change and prefer tradition due to the fact that, “They believe change usually produces more negative than positive consequence.”
  • As usually having a pessimistic view of human nature.
  • That they usually “conceive of people as perfectly capable of taking care of themselves.”

The textbook also goes after wealthy people, arguing that they “find that having a social class of poor people is useful."

A school spokesman said the textbook was chosen by a faculty member, and that administrators don't try to dictate what materials are used in class.

"The University of South Carolina is committed to academic freedom and a vigorous public discourse," said university spokesman Wes Hickman. "Our faculty are free to select texts for their courses and our students are encouraged to raise questions, challenge convention and develop their own ideas."

And Hickman said the school has honored President Reagan in the past.

"We are pleased to see this class has inspired a lively conversation, much like President Reagan did when he spoke to a crowd of 9,000 on our Horseshoe after being presented with an honorary doctor of laws degree Sept. 21, 1983," Hickman said.

The book offers a much kinder assessment of President Clinton, saying whatever failures the two-term Democrat suffered were due to the GOP opposition.

"Liberals had high hopes for Bill Clinton, but he had a House and Senate dominated by Republicans as early as 1994, so most of his proposals were squelched," the book states.

"This book goes out of its way to glorify liberalism and demonize conservatism,” Chapman said. “I don’t think it can get much more in-your-face than that.”