OPINION: Leftists' calculated attacks on Western Civics opened door for ideological indoctrination

Not only are college history courses falsely alleging that America is a fundamentally racist nation, but the decline of Western Civilization has also resulted in the decline of Americans’ basic civics knowledge.

American academics have undermined Western Civilization education for over six decades. 

Of 50 colleges surveyed in the 2011 report “The Vanishing West,” an examination of the decline of Western Civic curricula by the National Association of Scholars, 82% had “complete or partial Western Civilization surveys” in 1964.    

It is hard to “point the finger at any singular academic body” as the reason for the decline of Western Civics, Chance Layton, Director of Communications at the National Association of Scholars told Campus Reform. “Professors, administrators, and students are all responsible for the loss and degradation of a shared history.”

But pointing to the hostility Western Civilization curricula faced following the Civil Rights movement is a good place to start.  

As academic and political leaders emerged from the Civil Rights era, they came to see Western-themed curricula as “a form of apologetics for racism, imperialism, sexism, and colonialism.”  

Stanford University set the grandest precedent in academic history when it appeased Jesse Jackson, who in 1987 led a 500-student march around campus protesting the “requirement that undergraduates take a course in Western Civilization, which [he] denounced as Eurocentric, white-male indoctrination,” as reported by Inside Higher Ed

Stanford ditched Western Civilization for a course called “Culture, Ideas & Values.”

Universities nationwide followed Stanford, and Western Civilization soon dwindled in American higher education. 

Most universities turned to another subject: World Civilization.

Of the universities surveyed in “The Vanishing West” report, all included “a world history survey somewhere within their general education requirements” by 2010. 

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Replacing Western with World Civilization was intended by historians to shape historical narratives in service of multiculturalism and, most recently, diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

In his 2003 book, Western Civilization in World History, historian Peter Stearns argues that Western Civilization courses unfairly favor Western over Eastern values.  

“A number of educators…are convinced that world history threatens the values and knowledge they find central to a well-conceived history program,” Stearns explains in a 2006 article for World History Connected. For Western Civilization proponents, historical education involves “a special emphasis on American history, usually conceived…along lines of American exceptionalism.”  

Stearns played a large role in influencing universities to adopt World Civilization as a general education requirement. But in recent years, his multiculturalist views are propagated as diversity, equity, and inclusion, centering history around America’s slavery system, which informs college students that America is, above all else, an inherently racist nation.  

Nikole Hannah-Jones’ 1619 Project, for example, argues that the early pilgrims had the primary intent of preserving slavery, ignoring completely that pilgrims’ pursued religious freedom. 

Numerous historians have discredited Hannah-Jones, noting she routinely ignores fact-checkers

But this has not kept Hannah-Hones from success. In 2020, she won a Pulitzer Prize, and recently joined Howard University as a faculty member.

The emergence of the 1619 project parallels a growing number of college courses offered on American racism.

For instance, in late 2020, Campus Reform reported that the University of South Florida (USF) had developed anti-racism courses. “The curriculum creates a certificate program built around a course, entitled, ‘Racism in American Society,’” which “will prompt students to ‘develop critical, working definitions of race that account for change over time, geography, and co-constructed vectors of power such as class, gender, and sexuality.’”

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Not only are college history courses falsely alleging that America is a fundamentally racist nation, but the decline of Western Civilization has also resulted in the decline of Americans’ basic civics knowledge.

The Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) proved this in a report on the results of a multiple-choice exam distributed to college students between 2006 and 2007 at 50 schools nationwide. 

The “average freshman scored 51.7%.”  And when tested a second time a year later, those same students performed worse, dropping 0.3 percentage points.

“After all the time, effort, and money spent on college, students emerge no better off in understanding the fundamental features of American self-government,” ISI concluded. 

There is, however, reason for hope.

Hillsdale College, for example, is rediscovering American civics through deep study of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and principles of self-governance through its “1776 Curriculum.”

Such curricula provides hope that college students can learn the origins of their culture and country, and thereby become more capable citizens who understand the essentials of self-government. 


Editorials and op-eds reflect the opinion of the authors and not necessarily that of Campus Reform or the Leadership Institute.