Progressive Propaganda for Captive Collegians, Study Finds

National Association of Scholars

New York, NY (February 9, 2016) — American colleges and universities are using freshman summer reading assignments to indoctrinate students with progressive propaganda, concludes a new report by the National Association of Scholars (NAS).

Hundreds of American colleges and universities now assign a summer reading to entering freshmen. NAS’s comprehensive study, Beach Books 2014-2016: What Do Colleges Want Students to Read Outside Class?, lists and analyzes 377 assignments at 366 colleges and universities for 2014-15, and 361 assignments at 350 colleges and universities for 2015-16.

Most assignments were contemporary memoirs and popular nonfiction that affirmed progressive sentiments about illegal immigration, racial identity, global warming, unjust incarcerations, gay, lesbian, and transgender life, exaggerated fears of terrorism, anti-corporate paranoia, affirmative action, recycling, sexism, or wealth inequality.

Findings from the study revealed patterns across colleges:

  • Recent: Of the assigned books, 97% were published in 1990 or later, 89% were published in 2000 or later, and 59% were published in 2010 or later.
  • Politically correct: Racial oppression, environmental catastrophism, and social activism are the most common subject matters of common reading.
  • A lot missing: Almost no colleges assigned classic fiction or nonfiction, good modern literature, or history.

At most colleges the books were picked by committees more interested in building a progressive community than in broadening students’ minds. Since common readings are usually voluntary, many colleges pick easy-reading books so as to appeal to college students who have never read a whole adult book. 

In Beach Books, NAS makes 21 recommendations to guide colleges in their book selections, offers 80 suggested books appropriate for common reading, and suggests 4 alternative approaches for how to select common readings. The NAS also urges colleges not to be satisfied with the standardized offerings of publishing companies, to expect more from their students, and to use common readings to welcome incoming freshmen to the life of the mind.

NAS director of communications David Randall, the author of the report, said, “common reading programs can achieve their existing goals—to introduce students to college expectations and to create a sense of college community that in turn has a positive effect on student retention—while also choosing better, more challenging, and more intellectually diverse books.” 

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

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

Honorable Mentions

The NAS authors noted that a number of colleges chose books that stood above others. Beach Books 2014-2016 includes a section, “Honorable Mentions,” which commends 9 institutions for choosing recent books that treat academic subjects with verve and originality, books open to the broader world, fine works of modern literature, or books that take an uncharacteristically hopeful view of modern America. These were:

  • Bates College: Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality (2014) by Danielle Allen
  • Baylor University: The Pleasures of Reading in the Age of Distraction (2011) by Alan Jacobs
  • The College of Wooster: China in Ten Words (2011) by Yu Hua
  • Concordia College: Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China (2014) by Evan Osnos
  • Hofstra University: The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen (2010) by Kwame Anthony Appiah
  • Owensboro Community and Technical College: A Companion for Owls: Being the Commonplace Book of D. Boone Long Hunter, Back Woodsman, &c. (2004) by Maurice Manning
  • Pennsylvania State University, New Kensington, and Pennsylvania State University, University Park: The Boom: How Fracking Ignited the American Energy Revolution and Changed the World (2014) by Russell Gold
  • Queens University of Charlotte: The Orphan Master’s Son (2012) by Adam Johnson

Elite Universities and Colleges

Common readings at five top universities in 2014-2016 were:

Princeton University

  • 2014-15: Susan Wolf, Meaning in Life and Why It Matters
  • 2015-16: Claude Steele, Whistling Vivaldi: And Other Clues to How Stereotypes Affect Us

Stanford University

  • 2014-15:
    • Richard A. Muller, Physics for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the Headlines
    • Ruth Ozeki, My Year of Meats
    • Lauren Redniss, Radioactive: Marie and Pierre Curie, A Tale of Love and Fallout
  • 2015-16:
    • Walter Isaacson, The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution
    • Lalita Tademy, Cane River
    • Tobias Wolff, This Boys Life

Duke University

  • 2014-15: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah
  • 2015-16: Alison Bechdel, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic

University of Pennsylvania

  • 2014-15: Anne Fadiman, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures
  • 2015-16: Langston Hughes, The Big Sea

Johns Hopkins University

  • 2014-15: Tal Ben-Shahar, Happier
  • 2015-16: Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood

Common readings at five top liberal arts colleges in 2014-16 were:

Williams College

  • 2014-15: Rebecca Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
  • 2015-16: Sonia Nazario, Enriques Journey: The Story of a Boys Dangerous Odyssey to Reunite with His Mother

Amherst College

  • 2014-15: Claude Steele, Whistling Vivaldi: And Other Clues to How Stereotypes Affect Us
  • 2015-16: Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate

Pomona College

  • 2014-15: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah
  • 2015-16: Sonia Sotomayor, My Beloved World

Davidson College

  • 2014-15: Wes Moore, The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates
  • 2015-16: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah

Vassar College

  • 2014-15: Alison Bechdel, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic
  • 2015-16: Mohamedou Ould Slahi, Guantánamo Diary

​Photo Credit: Flickr

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