Five Things I Learned In College That Were False

Cartoon Professor Simpsons

Source: The Collegian

Earlier this week, another writer for the Collegian argued that conservatives face bigotry in college. A number of progressives responded by proving her right.

To be sure, where ideological fairness is concerned, K-State is a good school: one I wouldn’t hesitate to commend to a prospective student. I’ve often had amiable relationships with progressive professors and administrators. They even allow a few conservative professors to teach here.

K-State is still, however, an American university, and therefore not immune to the rigid orthodoxy that grips modern academia. Many tenets of this dogma should not survive a quick fact check — and that hasn’t stopped some of my professors from confidently teaching them as truth. Here are five of the most egregious examples refuted.

1. Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” was nonfiction.

In either its sheer carelessness or nerve, this assertion was the most dramatic of the bunch. During an intro-level political science class, my professor quoted a passage from Upton Sinclair’s novel “The Jungle” to show that in 1906 American meatpacking plants would turn their own workers into lard. We should be grateful, my professor argued, that today’s benevolent government agencies have saved us from such horrors.

As anyone who has read “The Jungle” knows, however, Sinclair’s book was not a piece of journalism, but a fictional story with an imaginary plot and characters. No evidence has ever been produced to show that the passage my professor read had even a remote basis in reality.

When the novel was released in 1906, even Sinclair’s fellow socialists did not read it in the naive way that my professor did. Socialist Ralph Chaplin, who grew up near the packing plants where the novel takes place, said “I thought it a very inaccurate picture of the stockyards district which I knew so well.”

2. Men and women have identical brains.

In the less scientific corridors of the social sciences, the notion that gender is a purely social construct is an article of faith. It’s no surprise, then, that I’ve heard this assertion multiple times during my collegecareer. Yet, since the two sexes have existed since at least the Stenian period, it’s even less surprising that it’s plainly false.

According to a 2005 study at the University of California, Irvine, women’s brains contain nearly 10 times as much white matter as men’s. White matter is responsible for networking the processing centers of the brain. These findings indicate that women’s brains are more integrated and men’s are more particular. In the words of psychologist Richard Haier, “human evolution has created two different types of brains.”

3. Herbert Hoover was a fiscal conservative.

Herbert Hoover’s supposed fiscal conservatism is often used as an object lesson in the need for a powerful government. When the Great Depression loomed, the narrative goes, President Hoover “sat back and did nothing,” making the depression worse.

Yet, like some modern Republicans, Hoover dealt in the rhetoric of fiscal conservatism while rarely following through. Don’t take it from me — just ask progressive icon Franklin D. Roosevelt. “I accuse the present [Hoover] Administration of being the greatest spending Administration in peace times in all our history,” FDR said, in 1932. “It is an Administration that has piled bureau on bureau” and “commission on commission.”

4. The United States spends barely any money on foreign aid.

This claim, repeated by at least two of my political science professors, at least stands on a grain of truth. The average American supposes that the U.S. spends much more of its budget on overseas assistance than official numbers reflect.

The problem here is that, because foreign aid is so unpopular, our government uses other labels for expenses that any reasonable person would describe as foreign aid. Foreign aid is money sent overseas that does nothing to benefit the taxpayers who are required to provide it. The contingent of 45,000 troops that we keep in Germany meets this definition by any stretch of the imagination.

The U.S. spends more on “overseas contingency operations” alone than the entire military budget of Russia. Ask yourself how much of this money is really relevant to our national security.

5. Communist governments did not follow Karl Marx’s ideas.

According to political scientist R.J. Rummel, Marxist regimes murdered nearly two- thirds of all those killed by governments from 1900 to 1987. This doesn’t stop some professors, however, from being openly sympathetic to the bloodiest ideology in recorded history. Though Marxist governments once ruled a large swath of the earth, the excuse typically goes, not a single one of them actually followed Marx’s ideas.

Marx, however, was an admirer of the Jacobins, who ruled France after its revolution. The Jacobins drowned nuns for praying and beheaded people for using the word “monsieur.” Marx would likely have been delighted by the bloodbaths of the twentieth century. Marxists failed not because they were not Marxist enough, but because human beings are not programmable robots.

In conclusion, I hope that you’ll find at least some of this information useful in your classes. If challenging established ideas appeals to you, take full advantage of the fact that you go to a school like K-State: raise your hand. If I can contradict my professors while getting fair grades and having an enjoyable college experience, so can you.

Ian Huyett is a senior in political science and anthropology. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

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