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Noindoctrination.org: Complaints Against Historians Accused of Bias

Since last fall NoIndoctrination.org has kept track of alleged political bias on college campuses. Some 40-odd complaints have been posted thus far (about a third of the total complaints received). Half a dozen concern historians. The complaints, as listed on the website, are provided below in full.

Some readers, noticing that all of the complaints are against liberal professors, have wondered if NoIndoctrination.org is being used by conservatives to advance an ideological agenda. We asked the site to respond. We received the following email on February 6, 2003:

NoIndoctrination.org is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that will post any valid complaint of"indoctrination" -- from the left or right. To date we have put online only 30% of the submitted postings. Some postings we receive are bogus, and others may show just an ideological difference with the professor. Professors can legitimately express their opinions and biases, but when their biases become so excessive that valid alternative viewpoints are denied, silenced, or ridiculed, open inquiry becomes impossible given the power difference between professor and student.

Each posting we receive is checked very carefully, and we email or phone the student poster for additional information or clarification. Furthermore, once a posting goes online, the faculty member is contacted and encouraged to rebut any specifics in the student posting. Rebuttals, when submitted, are place directly beneath the student posting.

Most postings on our website concern courses with blatant liberal bias. To solicit postings from a wide spectrum of views, NoIndoctrination.org has contacted college debating societies, history clubs, Democrat clubs, music clubs, and others; but we have received no valid postings against blatant conservative bias. When we do, these postings will go online.


Luann Wright
President and Founder

#135 Brooklyn College

Course: HIST 54.C: History of the Middle East in the Twentieth Century

Course Catalog Description: Ottoman and colonial heritage of the Middle East; competing ideologies; oil and its impact, origins and development of the Arab-Israeli conflict; Iran under the Shahs and clergy; roots of radical nationalism in Turkey, Egypt, Iraq and Syria, sectarianism and class conflict in Lebanon; Islamic reform and revivalism; changing role of women and minorities.

Professor: Stuart Schaar

Required? No, purely elective

Lecture Bias: Excessive

Comments: Despite its seemingly innocuous title and banal course description, this class was replete with examples of ideological cant and bias. In addition to demonizing adherents of a different point of view--especially in lectures having to deal with discussion of the precepts of Islam and the methods in which Muhammed acquired his emprire, the professor also routinely disparaged any student who questioned his baseless assertions on certain subjects. For example, when a young woman deigned to raise the question of how Sadam Hussein treated one of Iraq's smaller minorities (the Chaldeans), he perfunctorily dismissed her question with the bald assertion that: "they don't count." His lectures dealing with the Israeli "occupation" of Judea & Samaria and the Gaza Strip were even more monolithic. He did not even entertain the possibility that these territories could indeed be part of a Jewish state, and often would refer to people who questioned this liberal nostrum, e.g, Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, as extremists. Of course, we expect scholars to have a different standard than say, reporters, who are supposed to present a unvarnished account of a given situation without inserting their personal biases. My objection rested primarily on his refusal to entertain opinions that contravened his own. His reading of certain events, e.g. the Six Day War, was very selective in its allocation of the facts. The fact that he relied solely on the arabic perspective in his analysis of this crucial historical event is evidence of his ideological pedigree.

Discussion Bias: Objectionable

Comments: Even though the discussions were not quite as one-dimensional as the lectures, they did provide an opportunity for some of the professor's acolytes to heap scorn on the few students who dissented from his ideological programme vis-a-vis, the modern historiography of the Middle East. In fact, some of his more eager disciples took this opportunity to reiterate the views of the professor in a much less nuanced manner. Some of the numerous examples of bias that were exhibited during these discussions--led by the professor, of course, were the constant verbal attacks on Israeli settlers, the foreign policy of the United States, and a favorite of some of the class's "Palestinian" students-- ad hominem attacks against Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. The fact that the other students knew that they could ingratiate themselves with him by aping his viewpoint on certain subjects, certainly did not help matters. Overall, I found this portion of the class to be the most annoying, if not quite so intimidating. I can't say that he was particularly hostile. However, there were certain times when his ideological predilections made themselves abundently clear, especially during back-and-forth exchanges he had with a classmate. He also made some snide comments about the relative knowledge (or lack thereof), of the students attending his class. While these may have been warranted, I don't think that they were the most tactful way to begin a class. While I commend the professor for allowing several of us--in fact only two--to express our disagreement, and appreciate the fact that he kept his word not to penalize students for their personal political beliefs, I still think that he could have done a much better job providing a forum for dissenting voices.

Readings Bias: Objectionable

Comments: Actually, this portion of the course was not as objectionable as the rest of the class would lead you to believe. Nevertheless, there was a distinctly anti-Israeli, pro-Islamic and pro-Arabic point of view disseminated to the student body. The main text: William Cleveland's "A History of the Modern Middle East", was written by an academic in league with Islamists and distinctly hostile to the interests of Israel and America's Middle Eastern allies. Aside from a few readings that included the revisionist movement of Zionism, the Herut platform, etc., there was virtually no contextualization for a variety of important events that have occurred within the Mid-East over the past half century. In fact the Six day War was presented from the perspective of a radical muslim, with no countervailing Jewish point of view!

General Comments: Overall, I'd have to declare this course to be thoroughly biased. You would have no idea what the general thrust of the class will be like simply by glossing over the course description in the Brooklyn College Bulletin. In fact, one of the reasons I chose to take this class was because there was no blatently political broadsides included in the course description. I concede that Professor Schaar did a magnificent job of covering most of the topics listed in the description. However, the manner in which he covered them left a lot to be desired.

#17 Brown University

Course: HI0178: Modernizing America, 1890-1930

Course Catalog Description: The arrival of the modern age as recorded in novels, popular history, memoirs,and social and political commentary. Readings include works by Jane Addams,Theodore Dreiser, Charles Beard, W. E. B. Du Bois, Randolph Bourne, John Dos Passos, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and others.

Professor: John Thomas

Required? No, purely elective

Lecture Bias: Excessive

Comments: The professor displayed his political opinions with great passion. While this is certainly not a crime in itself, the sheer frequency and fervor of his partisan proclamations eventually crossed the boundaries of appropriateness. When a professor openly refers to certain political parties as "idiotic" on a regular basis, he effectively censors that particular viewpoint from the class. No student should ever be expected to voice his ideological convictions if he knows that the professor holds an emotional, hostile reaction to such views. This professor absolutely hated a certain political affiliation, and he was quite happy to admit it. The history of labor conflict comprises a very specific area where I feel that the course failed to allow open discourse. The lectures unabashedly encouraged students to take a specific "side" and assign a very specific blame. The detailed policies and interpretations that were advocated are not of paramount concern in my complaint. The indoctrination came from the fact that these options were rigidly imposed on the students as absolute truth, without opportunity for real ideological criticism. Another bizarre moment in this course came when the professor decided to embark on a lengthy lecture about how students need to protest the administration more often. He did not advocate an issue to protest, rather he simply felt that a necessary component of any good student was the desire to actively oppose the establishment. Perhaps I am overreacting, but there seems to be something quite devious about using class time to recruit students for apparent acts of disobedience against their own university.

Discussion Bias: N/A

Comments: There were no discussion sections, as this course was a seminar.

Readings Bias: Noticeable

Comments: The course material contained several slanted selections, most often in the form of political novels penned by prominent Socialists of the era. This material clearly was chosen to promote a specific political agenda. These books were often used to support the professor's one-sided analysis of labor movement history. A student could not easily bring capitalist arguments into synthetic discussions if the coursework itself denies capitalism as a basic premise. Fortunately, this kind of overtly biased literature did not comprise the entirety of the reading material (perhaps 'only' a half,) which accounts for my milder overall criticism.

General Comments: N/A

#136 Cañada College

Course: HIST 100: History of Western Civilization 1

Course Catalog Description: A broad overview of the rise and fall of civilizations of the ancient world, the spread of Christianity, Medieval society, the periods of the Renaissance and Reformation, and the discoveries and explorations in early modern times.

Professor: Jennifer Helton

Required? Met a General Ed./diversity/other requirement with a few course options.

Lecture Bias: Noticeable

Comments: First day of class the students were told not to use the term "mankind" in the class as the professor found this to be offensive to women. Female students who did not agree were given a lecture on how language does not include women. However, the professor did not find it offensive to use the term "rule of thumb" every 5 minutes even though this term actually came about as a way to define the proper size of a stick with which women could be beaten. The professor did ignore or not call on students who in the beginning of class challenged statements such as we could not use the term "mankind." During the course of the semester, the professor made frequent comments about the oppression of women by men, especially white males. The professor also made it quite clear how she felt about organized religion. She made fun of people believing in miracles, visions and other divine occurrences. On several occasions there were remarks made ridiculing the Catholic Church and pointing out how this institution, filled with white males, was oppressing women. Later on, the same opinions were expressed about the reform churches and Puritans.

Discussion Bias: N/A

Comments: N/A

Readings Bias: None

Comments: The readings were appropriate to the subject matter.

General Comments: I did approach the professor outside of class about the constant ridiculing of religious beliefs as I felt an in-class discussion could affect my grade. From the outside- of-the-classroom dealings with this professor, I know that she thinks of herself as open-minded and sensitive to student diversity. It is quite obvious to me that diversity does not include white males or anyone who holds religious beliefs. Students coming to the class to learn history should not have to listen to any religion being ridiculed, whether this religion is the belief in little green men, pagan, Islam or Roman Catholic. The professor's personal opinions should be kept out of the classroom. Furthermore, I don't think it is this professor's job to re-educate me on which English terms or words I should find offensive to women - I (a woman) can do that fine on my own. Moreover, if she is going to educate me, she should at least realize that substituting "human" kind for mankind, still leaves her with the sticky problem of explaining why the "man" part of human is not just as offensive.

#86 University of California, Riverside (UCR)

Course: HIST 20: Twentieth Century World History

Course Catalog Description: HIST 020H. Honors World History: Twentieth Century. (Prerequisite(s): admission to the University Honors Program or consent of instructor. Honors course corresponding to HIST 020. An introduction to world cultures, political systems, war, and revolution in the twentieth century. Topics include the rise and fall of the superpowers, colonization and decolonization, boom and bust, fascism and communism, world wars, and contemporary history.

Professor: Devra Weber

Required? Yes, for all students

Lecture Bias: Excessive

Comments: At the beginning of the course the professor announced that she would read a different newspaper article related to different opinions of current world events from major news papers. So far we have had 17 lectures and she has read 14 articles. In all but three of these lectures, one being a midterm, she has read editorials from politically left newspapers explaining why George Bush is going to destroy America as we know it by killing all the innocent people in Iraq. When I told her that she was hypocritical for saying she was going to read a variety of opinions, she responded, "I included a Republican criticism of Bush's war as well." Although these articles were only read at the beginning of class to "stimulate our minds for world history" as the professor describes it, they helped her set the stage for her later lectures. They eventually fell into place connecting modern events to an anti-American, anti-globalization lecture during the final week of the course. In addition to biased articles at the beginning of class, the professor claimed that today America essentially has a one-party system because the Democrats have moved so far to the political right. I think this particular comment was inappropriate, untrue and frankly quite confusing to some of the students who didn't realize what she was getting at. On one occasion the professor said Bush is making particular decisions about Iraq because he does not study history. She then went on to say that some people just aren't smart enough to understand history: a subtle attack at Bush's intelligence.

Discussion Bias: Objectionable

Comments: The professor leads my discussion as well. On the first day of discussion the professor was completely one sided in her presentation on how History is used by politicians. She gave us hand-outs of two political speeches made in the 80's. One was a State of the Union by Ronald Reagan; the other was a speech by the Reverend Jesse Jackson. The Reagan speech made reference to George Washington in Valley Forge and Lincoln during the height of the Civil War. It was intended to demonstrate American greatness during rough times in American history. The Jesse Jackson speech spoke about union strikes and racial oppression and the existence of black poverty provoked by and created intentionally by white people. The professor presented the Reagan speech as an incorrect way to use history in a speech because it is not the true history of the common man. She said the Jesse Jackson speech was much more telling of the oppression felt by minorities. I began to assert that the history of Lincoln and Washington is the history of all Americans. She cut me off to tell me that individuals of color could not relate to either of those two individuals because their ancestors were enslaved or oppressed at the time. The argument escalated to the point where she essentially said that history for one person is completely different than history to another. I have never experienced this sort of relativism in History.

Readings Bias: None

Comments: The reading is not biased

General Comments: N/A

#10 University of Central Oklahoma (UCO)

Course: Hist 1483: History of US to 1877

Course Catalog Description: A survey of American history from the discovery of the New World through the Civil War.

Professor: Jere Roberson

Required? Yes, for all students

Lecture Bias: Excessive

Comments: Seriously objectionable anti-semitic sentiment such as Israeli mistreatment of "the Palestinians", combined with extreme liberal bias regarding any political idea other than that of the far left, severely criticizing President George W. Bush for his treatment of war with Iraq, and including Afganistan, deeming the war "a massacre". And blatantly calling former President Ronald Reagan "an idiot".

Discussion Bias: Excessive

Comments: Any slightly historical conservative or pro-Israeli comments made by the students are shot down, and severely depressed by his political position in the liberal left.

Readings Bias: Noticeable

Comments: Professor Roberson does not always refer directly to the text, which is "The American Promise", and tests mostly on the lectures, and a web site which he has constructed himself as a help to provide access to relative articles.

General Comments: Dr. Roberson's lectures are purely one-sided discussions, of which students are discouraged to take any other opinion than his liberal ones.

#79 University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK)

Course: Hist 261: History of World Civilizations

Course Catalog Description: Historical survey of world civilization. Origins to 1500. Writing emphasis course.

Professor: J. P. Dessel

Required? Yes, for my major or minor

Lecture Bias: Objectionable

Comments: Prof Dessel is very cynical, and often inserts his own opinions about current world affairs into lectures that are supposed to be about world civilizations from their origins to 1500. For example, he often refers to the conflict with Iraq as "President Bush's war with Iraq." Once he even informed us that the only reason we were interested in removing Saddam was "for the oil." He also harps on the oppressor and the oppressed, and implies that the U.S. is no different from past empires, and always tries to use "class envy" throughout history and the present by explaining it in terms of the "haves" and "have nots," instead of actual historical events. On top of this, Prof Dessel discourages anyone from challenging his viewpoints.

Discussion Bias: None

Comments: The discussion session was much better than the lectures, as we had actual discussions, and most points of view were addressed. The discussion was taught by a TA.

Readings Bias: Noticeable

Comments: There was a textbook, but we never used it. None of the tests came from it, and I don't see why he even gave it. The textook was "Traditions and Encounters" by Jerry H. Bentley and Herbert F. Ziegler. The only book we were required to read was Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs, and Steel," an anti-Western, politically correct book. I have no problem with this book, but feel it should be balanced by another viewpoint. Sadly, it is not.

General Comments: I would recommend avoiding Prof Dessel's classes if possible, unless you agree with his narrow world view.