PRESS RELEASE: Study Finds College Common Reading Programs Indoctrinate Students

National Association of Scholars

New York, NY (October 2, 2018) — 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 common readings. The newest edition, Beach Books 2017-2018: What Do Colleges Want Students to Read Outside Class?, lists and analyzes 498 assignments at 481 colleges located in 47 states.

This new edition of Beach Books also includes eleven years of information from 2007/2008 to 2017/2018. It covers 732 individual colleges and universities, 4,754 assignments, and 1,655 individual texts.

Assignments tend to be 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.

The study revealed that most colleges chose books that are:

●      Younger than students: College common reading selection committees overwhelmingly choose recently published books. In the books assigned in 2017, 318 of 487 datable assignments had been published in the previous five years—65%. In 2016, 67% had been published since 2011. On average, in every year since 2013, 65% of assignments had been published in the previous five years.

●      Pro-progressive activism: Common readings usually have a progressive message—e.g., environmentalism and unreflective celebrations of sexual and/or ethnic identity.  Many common readings are chosen to promote progressive activism, such as the sustainability or the de-incarceration movements.

●      Predictable: In late 2016, NAS predicted that Between the World and Me (published July 2015) would be one of the five most-frequently selected common readings for 2017-18. It was the second-most popular selection.

It is no surprise that colleges and universities pick progressive propaganda for their common readings—the structure of Freshman Experience and accompanying college reading programs are frequently set up to promote progressive activism, NAS found. David Randall, Beach Books author, said, “common reading programs should follow best practices of reading programs that choose challenging books—students should learn more about intellectual humility and read books that encourage bipartisan American unity.”

In Beach Books, NAS makes 50 recommendations for improving common reading programs, such as creating external oversight committees to make recommendations to depoliticize them. We also recommend that donors only fund programs that adopt these reforms. 

NAS also suggests 130 better books to welcome incoming freshmen to the life of the mind. Among these are Augustine's Confessions, John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty, Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, and Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff.

“Colleges should not cheat students out of an excellent education. They should expose students to great books: books that explore the great mysteries of being human; books that pose hard questions; books that demonstrate excellent writing and excite students to think and write well,” said NAS president Peter Wood. “Colleges need to demonstrate value. Common readings can and should push students to excellence.”

Download the Report:

Honorable Mentions

Every year some colleges choose better books. NAS has selected 12 institutions for “Honorable Mention.” These schools chose books that treat academic subjects with verve and originality, books open to the broader world, and fine works of literature. This year these were:

●      Columbia University: Homer, The Iliad, Books I-VI

●      Delaware Valley University: George Orwell, 1984

●      Florida College: Eamon Butler/Adam Smith, The Condensed Wealth of Nations

●      Harding University: Corrie Ten Boom, The Hiding Place

●      Hillsdale College: Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics

●      Loyola Marymount University: Shusaku Endo, Silence

●      Northwestern University: Danielle Allen, Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equity.

●      University of California, Santa Cruz, Rachel Carson College: John Steinbeck, Grapes of Wrath.

●      University of California, Santa Cruz, Stevenson College: Jean-Paul Sartre, Existentialism is a Humanism

●      Utah Valley University: Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus

●      Wartburg College: Scott H. Hendrix, Martin Luther: A Very Short Introduction

●      Washington and Lee University: Danielle Allen, Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality.

Download the Press Kit >>

NAS is a network of scholars and citizens united by a commitment to academic freedom, disinterested scholarship, and excellence in American higher education. Membership in NAS is open to all who share a commitment to these broad principles. NAS publishes a journal and has state and regional affiliates. Visit NAS at


If you would like more information about this issue, please call Chance Layton at 917-551-6770 or email [email protected].

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