The short answer? Not really. Long answer? Well it depends on what you mean by ‘left’.
For many years now, universities have been condemned as vanguards for socialism and that fairy tale of cultural Marxism. While I can only speak from my experience at QUT, and those of people I have spoken to, I have seen no valid proof that this is the case. More accurately, I would say the outcomes of many of the courses taken at university would instead lend themselves to the current capitalist system. The fact that I am a university student and found myself identifying as an anarchist (simply, one who questions the legitimacy of any authority be it State, Church, or corporate) are actually mutually exclusive in my case.
The Creative Industries half of my dual degree (a variant of the Fine Arts, or just Arts, degree) does indeed have a more noticeable slant towards the ‘left’ in regard to its cohort. Historically, art has been used as a means of cultural expression, be it through music, writing, or art (i.e. like painting, etc.), or any other form. Again, however, this does not imply that those undertaking these courses are adherents to politically ‘left’ views or ideas. I have friends who have studied things like art, film, or design, and none of them have any particular interest or knowledge of political matters, and some who are in fact ‘right-wing’ in some regards.
On the IT side of the fence, which in my major is heavily business oriented, the terms capitalist or socialist are non-existent. What I have learned in my IT units has been almost solely about delivering a product that will generate profit for both me and the client. Ideas such as outsourcing, automation, or just any way to reduce overhead costs to achieve higher profits are all considered normal and expected models of a successful business. These all align perfectly within a corporate context and have nothing to do with political alignment, unless one goes down the road of corporate power over the government. In that instance, not only is that beyond the scope of a student at a university, but is oligarchic, not socialist or the like, in nature.
One area, that I am aware of, that does touch on Marxism (as it actually is, not the modern populist take of ‘cultural’ Marxism) is law. An old friend of mine – one I have referenced before who joked about starting a workers’ revolution at my old workplace – was telling me about his unit on property law. While it sounds horrifyingly dull, he explained that it does in fact explain the influence, or at least the historical impact, Marx and Engel’s had on the concept of property. But here again, his reading of the Communist Manifesto, and subsequent endorsement of it, while inspired by his studies, was not a result of him being taught about it. He took the time to explore it further, beyond the classroom, and formed his own opinions on the work.
It is therefore quite ironic that the students who do end up supporting socialist or ‘leftist’ ideals do so through independent critical thought but are lambasted for being ‘sheep’ suffering from dangerous indoctrination as a result of apparently not having this critical thought. This interesting contradiction would be solved by (cue drumroll of no surprise) improving education across the country. Removing absurd bias from commercial media outlets and slamming the false rhetoric of our politicians would also be a great start, but if more people had the skills to discern what is being said and make their own judgement it would lessen this particular manufactured divide.
So, if universities aren’t socialist hideouts, how does one explain student collectives like the socialist groups on campus then, a common scapegoat? That is a very weak argument when you consider there are a vast number of groups promoting themselves on campus. As I walked past the seemingly endless rows of popup stalls along the main entry strip of QUT’s Garden’s Point campus just yesterday, the Socialists were handing out pamphlets at the front. As you went down, stalls for the Commonwealth Bank, one of the food delivery services (can’t recall which), and the LNP were just some of the various companies and groups present. There was even a sizeable poster of Scott Morrison and the local LNP candidate on display.
Universities are places of independence and knowledge. What one chooses to associate themselves with is entirely the choice of the individual, and the space offers itself to people from all across the political spectrum. It doesn’t take much understanding to find humour in the fact that the LNP stall and the socialist members were on opposite ends of the market.
By virtue of being a place of education, those in attendance are quite likely to have critical thinking skills, and thus it is in fact more likely to be a place with more diverse opinions and more suited to hold civil debates on political issues. At least, more suitable than the corporate shills of the commercial media that bob their heads with blank expressions whenever anything of substance is spoken.
I am in my final year of a four-year course – if indoctrination is part of that, I’m yet to see it. Should I ask for a refund?
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