Political brainwashing is not part of the college syllabus

By Brianna Wellen

With the presidential election right around the corner, I’m checking my own political beliefs against the motley crew of Republican candidates hoping to face off against President Barack Obama later this year. As a college student and a firm supporter of higher education, I’m always curious to see what candidates have to say on the issue. When I heard Rick Santorum’s stance, I became very concerned with the state of our nation.

In a string of recent statements, Santorum accused Obama of having an “elitist attitude” and “hubris” for suggesting college should be a goal for children in the United States. Santorum then went on to state that Obama only wants children to go to college so they can be “indoctrinated” with left-wing ideas and then encouraged his supporters to stop giving money to higher education in order to keep this from happening.

These are pretty bold statements to make when statistics from the civic learning research center Civic Youth show that in the 2010 midterm election those with college degrees voted at a rate more than double that of those with only a high school degree. Santorum is insulting the life decision of a majority of the people he is trying to sway.

To say that college causes anyone to lean left just isn’t true. While certain colleges do have a tilt one way or the other, there is a balance among the institutions. For every University of California, Berkeley, there is a Brigham Young. College is a time to explore knowledge and life decisions of all kinds.

The realm of higher education is where many students choose their political affiliation, but it is because they are becoming well-educated, not because they are being indoctrinated. While politics are often part of the college experience, educational institutions are a place for debate and rhetoric on issues, shaping personal beliefs and political ones. No brainwashing is involved.

Santorum himself spent many years in higher education, attending Pennsylvania State University for his undergraduate degree, University of Pittsburgh for his master’s and Dickinson School of Law for his law degree. If anyone has been indoctrinated with radical political beliefs because of college, it would be him. Arguing against college without bringing up his own educational experience is hypocritical and sneaky.

I would never say college is the only option to becoming a successful member of society; I know plenty of people who are doing amazing things without college degrees. But to dismiss the option completely—as Santorum did—with reasoning that implies not one college-age American citizen is thinking for him or herself is backward thinking.

As students head to the primary polls, I can only hope they take into consideration how Santorum feels about their chosen path. In the meantime, Santorum should realize how much the youth vote affects each election, and that it might actually be in his favor to have the college-educated on his side.