In both substance and in method, “social justice education” in the American university constitutes a cult.
“Social justice education” serves as an umbrella term for a family of “pedagogies,” all of which utilize coercive persuasion as a tool for conversion to a clearly identifiable ideology, which is primitive, paranoid, and Manichean. “Antiracist pedagogy” and “critical pedagogy” are just two of the teaching programs that exhibit the characteristics of the modern secular cult, most egregiously in recruitment methods.
Tools of Cult Recruitment
Those who deploy social justice education in our colleges utilize psychological manipulation tools utilized by cults and by communist Chinese thought reform, which is commonly called “brainwashing.” More troubling is that these methods are openly advocated, with instruction manuals published to train faux educators to coerce college students with psychological manipulation.
This ideology of “social justice” and its offshoots constitute a primitive villains-and-victims doctrine drawn from Karl Marx, Mao Zedong, Paulo Freire, ancient Manicheism, and modern “consciousness raising” cults.
On virtually every campus, the social justice cult comprises a small coterie of radical faculty that is augmented by a phalanx of nonacademic university administrators located in something called “student affairs.”
The professed goal of the social justice cult is the chimera of emancipation or liberation, the eradication of “oppression in all its forms,” various utopian things of that sort. Vague aspirational expressions are typical of cults—for instance, the mantra of the Unification Church is “peace and unity.” Similarly, the current eerie mantra of social justice is “inclusion and belonging.” Observe the same appeal to abstractions with positive valence, but no real substance. You can hustle a lot of fraud through the door with a slogan like “inclusion and belonging.”
The “Conveyer Belt” of Conversion
Take, for instance, the notion of “critical consciousness.”
The social justice method of “teaching” is to move students along a conveyor belt of belief system change from “false consciousness” to “critical consciousness.” This “conveyor belt” is their own metaphor.
For antiracist paranoiacs, the “conveyor belt” is much more than a metaphor. It constitutes their reality, a world of persecutory delusions, in which a pseudo-community of persecutors is active, and the goal is to confront them, enlighten them, and to convert them to an “us-versus-them” mindset that constitutes “critical consciousness.”
Some students move quickly along the conveyor belt—these are the weak, the fragile, the vulnerable, the alienated, the seekers. But students who are strongly grounded morally and intellectually are not so easily hoodwinked. If they are simply too informed, too strong, too morally and intellectually grounded, then they are relegated to the category of “not ready” for critical consciousness. Unification Church recruiters, commonly called “Moonies,” also identify potential recruits this way. They separate recruits into “sheep” and “goats.” The sheep are vulnerable, compliant, and gullible, while the goats are smart, streetwise, skeptical, and know a con when they see it.
As you might imagine, this abusive pedagogy is different from the traditional classroom method. It employs deception and sophisticated psychological manipulation techniques characteristic of coercive persuasion or “thought reform.”
“Doing the Work” of the Cult
Social justice educators do not simply lay out the doctrine for consideration and discussion in a traditional classroom environment. They impose it in a rigorous method developed from a group therapy brainwashing scheme created by Kurt Lewin in the 1940s. The method was highly developed by Communist Chinese re-education practitioners during the Maoist period. A second generation of sophisticated “thought reform” has emerged in cults today.
Here’s how it works:
The conversion process 1) puts the student off-guard and plays on vulnerabilities, 2) attacks the student’s core beliefs and sense of self, and alienates the student from his family and friends, 3) demands the student admit his or her complicity with vague crimes (“structural racism” and such like), 4) replaces the student’s belief system with the paranoid conspiracy of Antiracism, and 5) ensures that the student remains engaged in acting out the new belief system to prevent backsliding. This is commonly called “doing the work,” a trope that constitutes a marker for the cult. This type of vernacular is typical for cults, particularly psychotherapeutic cults, and Psychologist Margaret Thaler Singer identified doing “the work” as a cult marker decades ago.
Social justice educators and “antiracists” have appropriated these methods, they write about them, they gauge their effectiveness, and they teach others how to apply them in the college classroom and in non-academic “workshops.” The original label for these activities was “re-education,” but that term has a deserved unsavory reputation as it captures the actual intent of cult brainwashing.
As a result, re-education was changed to “transformative education.” It’s the same collection of coercive techniques with a different label, and it’s the same label used today by Communist China for the coercive techniques used in its “educational transformation” camps. There’s even a journal of “transformative education” in the United States, unaware of the irony.
This is the reality in many, if not the majority, of universities that bombastically pronounce themselves as “antiracist” institutions. The ideology of antiracism has nothing to do with “antiracism.” It’s a cult that has everything to do with the abuse of bureaucratic power, the growth of that power, the coercive abuse of students and faculty, and the degradation of higher education by mediocre bureaucrats in the service of a primitive, anti-Enlightenment creed.
This is academic fakery of the most egregious sort. It’s past time to call out this anti-intellectualism for what it is.