Last Updated:November 28 @ 07:44 am

Sowell: Undoing the brainwashing

By Thomas Sowell

This time of year, as college students return home for the summer, many parents may notice how many politically correct ideas they have acquired on campus. Some of those parents may wonder how they can undo some of the brainwashing that has become so common in what are supposed to be institutions of higher learning.

The strategy used by General Douglas MacArthur so successfully in the Pacific during World War II can be useful in this very different kind of battle. General MacArthur won his victories while minimizing his casualties -- something that is also desirable in clashes of ideas within the family.

Instead of fighting the Japanese for every island stronghold as the Americans advanced toward Japan, MacArthur sent his troops into battle for only those islands that were strategically crucial. In the same spirit, parents who want to bring their brainwashed offspring back to reality need not try to combat every crazy idea they picked up from their politically correct professors. Just demolishing a few crucial beliefs, and exposing what nonsense they are, can deal a blow to the general credibility of the professorial pied pipers.

For example, if the student has been led to join the crusade for more gun control, and thinks that the reason the British have lower murder rates than Americans have is because the Brits have tighter gun control laws, just give him or her a copy of the book "Guns and Violence" by Joyce Lee Malcolm.

As the facts in that book demolish the gun control propaganda fed to students by their professors, that can create a healthy skepticism about other professorial propaganda.

There are other books that can likewise demolish other politically correct beliefs that prevail on campuses. My own recent book, "Intellectuals and Race," has innumerable documented facts that expose the fallacies in most of what is said about racial issues in most college classrooms.

For those students who have bought the campus party line on Third World nations, the classic study of that subject is "Equality, the Third World, and Economic Delusion" by the late P.T. Bauer of the London School of Economics. He made a veritable demolition derby of most of what has been said in politically correct circles about the relationship between rich and poor countries.

For those students who have been conditioned to regard the welfare state as the solution to social problems, there is no book that exposes the actual human consequences of the welfare state more poignantly than "Life at the Bottom" by British physician Theodore Dalrymple. He has worked in both low-income neighborhoods and in prisons, so he has seen it all.

Although Britain is the setting for "Life at the Bottom," Americans will recognize very similar patterns here. Problems found in low-income black ghettoes in the United States are found in low-income white neighborhoods in Britain, where none of the usual excuses about racism, slavery, etc., apply. The only thing that is the same in both countries is the welfare state and its poisonous ideology.

If your student has been led to believe that "comprehensive immigration reform" -- amnesty, in plain English -- is the only way to go, a devastating book titled "Mexifornia," by Victor Davis Hanson, introduces some cold, factual reality into a subject usually discussed in sweeping and lofty rhetoric.

A book that offers a choice between the island-hopping strategy that General MacArthur used in the Pacific and the all-out assault across a broad front that was used by the Allied armies in Europe is titled "The New Leviathan."

It has thirteen penetrating articles by leading authorities on such subjects as national security, ObamaCare, environmentalism, election frauds and more.

Those parents who want to follow the MacArthur strategy can recommend reading one, or a few, of these articles, while those who want to follow the strategy of attacking all across a broad front can recommend that their student read the whole book.

However the battle is fought, what is most important is that the battle be fought, since the young are the future, and the propaganda of today can become the government policies of tomorrow.


Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305. His website is To find out more about Thomas Sowell and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at


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  1. justinphilpotComment by justinphilpot
    May 22, 2013 @ 2:57 pm

    college today is nothing more than a place where the government can brain wash America’s youth with out the parents “catching on”.
    of course thinking the parents care is probably a mistake on my part.

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  2. theoldsargeComment by theoldsarge
    May 22, 2013 @ 4:49 pm

    There is plenty of blame to go around. Unfortunately, most of the people in the 18 to 29 age group didn’t study about history so they don’t recognize what is happening. I talked to some kids that graduated from high school last spring. I was amazed at how many didn’t even know much about the atrocities caused by Hitler and Stalin against their own people. Even some Jewish kids didn’t even know much about the Holocaust. In the UK they no longer teach about the Holocaust because it is offensive to Muslims who insist it never happened. They don’t recognize the path that the government is following. Most of this age group believe that socialism and government control of our lives is the only answer. On top of that, these young people can vote. I was also in favor of lowering the voting age from 21 to 18. Now that I look back, I believe it was a big mistake. Many of us in the older generations are also to blame. We blindly trusted the public education system and many of us didn’t bother to really look into what our kids were being taught. Many of us put our kids in front of that 19 inch baby sitter and didn’t pay attention to what they were watching. I wonder now if parents are paying attention to what their kids are doing on the computer. There are also Germans who are trying to convince the world that the Holocaust is a big hoax. When I was assigned in Germany in the late 1970s I visited Dachau. I had some difficulty finding it. The Germans in the area would either pretend not to understand you or would refuse to give directions. Eisenhower even predicted that as the years go on, more and more people would start believing it didn’t happen. That is why he ordered the gathering of all evidence possible in the form of documentation and film. His exact words were “Some day some son-of-a-***** will claim that this never happened.” Obama is just a small part of what is happening. This has been in the works long before he was even born. That is what Khrushchev meant when he said that they will defeat us from within. History has been forgotten or ignored so unless we wake up we will be condemned to repeat it. Wake up America. If Joseph McCarthy was still alive he would be saying “I TOLD YOU SO!”

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    • nickster99Comment by nickster99
      May 23, 2013 @ 7:27 am

      Amen! At least somebody else knows the truth!

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  3. Mort_fComment by Mort_f
    May 22, 2013 @ 5:43 pm

    Stamford University? In a time where Affirmative Action is a euphemism for Remedial Reading, what does Stamford do?

    Do your political science majors have to read the Constitution and the Federalist Papers, or Payne? Do your Economics majors have to read Hayek, Friedman and Mise; or just Marx and Keynes? Do your Communications majors read the works of Hitler, Mao, or Lenin?

    No sir, you are in a position to effect change. Reading is not texting. There are many modern writers, with worthwhile books. But there are also many books that go to the basics of our Republic, that should be fundamental course material. Then supplement them. You ‘saw the light’, what opened your eyes?

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  4. middlegroundComment by middleground
    May 22, 2013 @ 6:48 pm

    I was the faculty adviser for the Interfraternity Council at a major university for about 5 years and meet with the student officers once a week. Those students were very sophisticated about what the Student Affair’s dean would try to motivate them to support. It was fun to be the fly on the wall as they very accurately predicted what the dean was going say and do when he met with them in private. If what the dean was advocating was good for the university, they knew in advance they’d support it. Bright students can see right through the cloud of b<; however, the chairman of one of the group’s committees reported every month on his committee’s activities and all the important things being done. The following year the chairman of this same committee reported they’d never met, never accomplished anything and recommended abolishing the committee. It was abolished and a few years later the chairman who’d given such glowing reports about what his committee was accomplishing was listed as the top law graduate.

    It was my observation bright students who do their own work and thinking, are never swept along by the mob or by some charismatic professor, but universities and colleges have had a flood of students during recent years who don’t like to analyze relationships and solve problems. They work for grades and not knowledge and this distinguishes them from earlier generations of students or perhaps from students in the sciences or applied fields. Of course some fields like law rank their students by their gradepoint and this does mean “buying into school solutions” to be listed as at the “top”.

    Diversity, prior to the government’s intrusion into higher education, meant intellectual diversity where the student took a spectrum of courses that exposed them to different aspects of humankind’s knowledge and skills. Today, many graduate having spent most of their academic career in a single field with few if any courses outside that field.

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