Majoring in discrimination

Parents sending queer children off to college for the first time, beware: Your child’s education could be guided by the agenda of the Christian right. Far-right activists are working to reshape the academic landscape of colleges and universities from a democratizing force in our society into a tool of conservative indoctrination—to give religious Republican political influences sway in classrooms and on campuses.

Comprising several student-focused organizations such as Young America’s Foundation, Accuracy in Academia, and the Institute for Educational Affairs, the college conservative movement recruits and grooms campus activists. Their goal? To twist higher education into a machine to create a far-right intelligentsia—future leaders who will influence, if not control, public policy debates.

These activists blame the current crisis in education on the erosion of so-called traditional education in favor of giving unmerited advantage to underrepresented groups—including queers. This far-right college movement’s influence is already strong and has begun to affect LGBT students’ social organizations, support services, courses, admissions, and even the employment of queer staff and faculty.

One stated mission—already successful on some campuses—is to defund gay organizations. Student fees, they argue, should not be used to support groups with which some students ideologically disagree.

Activists on scattered campuses nationwide have a unified communication strategy funded and crafted by the right-wing Collegiate Network, which operates or supports more than 80 student publications. Its antigay rhetoric reaches over 2.5 million students a year.

Meanwhile the National Association of Scholars, a conservative network of college educators, has received millions of dollars to squelch liberalism on college campuses. Its attacks on queer studies have been vociferous and unrelenting, distorting the validity of the field’s research and questioning the academic credibility of openly queer

instructors. The group defines queer studies not as an academic discipline but as a politicized, identity-focused movement legitimizing LGBT people’s sexual promiscuity.

Discrimination against queer students on college and university campuses by forces supported by the Bush administration is nothing new. The Solomon Amendment already strips federal funding from schools that bar discriminatory military recruiters. Now that quest to legitimize antigay discrimination is also putting at risk scholarship by and about queer Americans.

This academic censorship is antithetical to a well-rounded education, which is a marketplace of ideas, not judgments, that makes all our children—straight and queer—better professionals, better neighbors, better human beings. That better world is now under siege at a campus near you.

Published in the Advocate on October 23, 2006.

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