College Common Readings Designed to Make Activists, Study Finds

National Association of Scholars

New York, NY (May 24, 2017) — American colleges and universities run common reading programs designed to indoctrinate students with progressive propaganda, concludes a new report by the National Association of Scholars (NAS).

Hundreds of American colleges and universities assign a summer reading to entering freshmen. NAS publishes the nation’s only comprehensive list of the books in college common reading. The newest edition, Beach Books 2016-2017: What Do Colleges Want Students to Read Outside Class?, lists and analyzes 359 assignments at 348 colleges located in 46 states.

Most assignments were contemporary memoirs and popular nonfiction that endorsed politically progressive perspectives on affirmative action, gay, lesbian, and transgender life, global warming, illegal immigration, racial identity, recycling, sexism, incarceration, or wealth.

Findings from the study revealed that most colleges chose books that are:

  • Recent: 75% of common reading assignments were published between 2010 and the present. Only 13 (3.7%) were published before 1990. Only 6 (1.7%) were published before 1900.
  • Pro-progressive activism: Common readings usually have a progressive message—e.g., illegal immigrants contribute positively to America.  Many common readings are chosen to promote progressive activism, such as the sustainability or the de-incarceration movements.
  • Predictable: In late 2015, NAS predicted that Between the World and Me (published July 2015) would be one of the five most-frequently selected common readings for 2016-17. It was the second-most popular selection.

Colleges and universities do not just happen to pick progressive propaganda for their common readings; it is hard-wired into the structure of the common reading programs, NAS found. NAS director of communications David Randall, the author of the report, said, “common reading programs can choose better, more challenging, and more intellectually diverse books—but only if they change their mission statements.”

In Beach Books, NAS makes 43 recommendations for improving common reading programs, such as putting faculty, not administrators, in charge. NAS urges donors to fund only programs that adopt these recommendations.

NAS also suggests 110 better books to welcome incoming freshmen to the life of the mind. Among these are Charles Darwin’s The Voyage of the Beagle, Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man, Leo Tolstoy’s Hadji Murad, and Jane Austen’s Persuasion.

“Colleges should introduce students to excellent books: books that pose hard questions; books that demonstrate the excitement of great thought; books that show the sheer power of great writing,” said NAS president Peter Wood. “Students are shortchanged when colleges give them merely good books instead of excellent books, just average, so-so books. Our recommendations are reminders of the better choices that are available to everyone.”

About the National Association of Scholars
The National Association of Scholars works to foster intellectual freedom and to sustain the tradition of reasoned scholarship and civil debate in America’s colleges and universities. To learn more about NAS, visit

Download the Report:

Download the Media Packet:

Contact: David Randall / Director of Communications / [email protected] / (917) 551-6770

Honorable Mentions

The NAS authors noted that some colleges chose books that stood above others. Beach Books 2016-2017 includes a section, “Honorable Mentions,” which commends nine institutions for choosing books that treat academic subjects with verve and originality, books open to the broader world, and fine works of classic or modern literature. These were:

·      Florida College: Pericles, Funeral Oration; Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address.

·      Le Moyne College: Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own.

·      Owensboro Community & Technical College: Mary Ann Taylor-Hall, Come and Go, Molly Snow.

·      Princeton University: Danielle Allen, Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality.

·      Texas Christian University: Quintus Tullius Cicero, How to Win an Election.

·      The King’s College: Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.

·      University of Maine, Honors College: Richard Flanagan, The Narrow Road to the Deep North.

·      University of South Alabama: Art Spiegelman, The Complete Maus.

·      Utah Valley University: William Shakespeare, The Winter’s Tale.

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