Take a captive audience. Isolate its members from the world. Lavish great rewards on those who behave as you wish and severely punish those who disobey.
If you can exercise such power, you will discover, as the practitioners of thought reform did, that you can convince people to think as you want them to think and feel as you want them to feel.
To be gracious, we will call it thought reform, but it is also known by its less flattering appellation: brainwashing. The classic text on the topic is Robert Lifton's: Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism.
Declare that the project is a step toward a lofty goal, like gender equity, and you have a formula that unfortunately has been played out in classrooms across the country. It’s part of our culture’s war against boys.
We know that this is going on. We don’t know what we can do to stop it So, we are numbed to evidence of how pervasive it is.
Yet, when we see thought reform being practiced at no less august an institution than the Harvard Business School it still shocks. It is hard to believe that HBS could get away with this radical experiment, one that, Jodi Kantor reported, turned the class of 2013 into guinea pigs whose minds were going to be reprogrammed according to radical feminist ideology.
Evidently, the thought reform program was biased against men. And the men in question were sorely offended. Yet, it was also biased against women. It distributed disrespect equally.
Kantor described the policy:
He and his classmates had been unwitting guinea pigs in what would have once sounded like a far-fetched feminist fantasy: What if Harvard Business School gave itself a gender makeover, changing its curriculum, rules and social rituals to foster female success?
The country’s premier business training ground was trying to solve a seemingly intractable problem. Year after year, women who had arrived with the same test scores and grades as men fell behind. Attracting and retaining female professors was a losing battle; from 2006 to 2007, a third of the female junior faculty left.
The School was not trying “to solve a seemingly intractable problem.” It was trying to repeal human nature.
True enough, women did not do as well as men in certain subjects. They did not excel in finance and related fields. They did not raise their hands as aggressively in class and did not “lean in” to grasp opportunities.
Was it because the feminist thought police had not managed to eradicate all sexism during primary and secondary education? Apparently not. The real problem seems to have been that women are women. They do not function as men do. They do not define their priorities as men do.
Hanna Rosin showed why the HBS thought reform program is abusive to women:
Women don’t seem to care as much about money. Surveys of corporate women repeatedly show that they are motivated by job satisfaction, meaning at work, daily happiness, balance, and power—but not just money. Amanda Upton, the woman in Kantor’s story most admired by her business school classmates for her finance wizardry and blitz study sessions, takes a relatively low-risk job after graduation, managing a wealthy family’s investments so she can be near her fiancé. “You can either be a frontier charger or have an easier, happier life,” she tells Kantor. Who can argue with that?
Harvard Business School does not just argue with women's concerns. It tries to wring them out of student minds. Women being women is offensive to feminism.
The HBS thought reform program was initiated by Harvard president, Drew Gilpin Faust. It did not just try to make the classroom more female-friendly. It sought to control many other human behaviors.
Kantor explained it well:
But in 2010, Drew Gilpin Faust, Harvard’s first female president, appointed a new dean who pledged to do far more than his predecessors to remake gender relations at the business school. He and his team tried to change how students spoke, studied and socialized. The administrators installed stenographers in the classroom to guard against biased grading, provided private coaching — for some, after every class — for untenured female professors, and even departed from the hallowed case-study method.
The institution would become a laboratory for studying how women speak in group settings, the links between romantic relationships and professional status, and the use of everyday measurement tools to reduce bias.
The administration of the HBS arrogated to itself the authority to control over the way students spoke, studied and socialized. If that isn’t mind control, I don’t know what is.
Women who wanted to date and to mate, women who placed this goal on a par with academic success frustrated the feminist apparatchiks:
The deans did not know how to stop women from bartering away their academic promise in the dating marketplace, but they wanted to nudge the school in a more studious, less alcohol-drenched direction. “We cannot have it both ways,” said Youngme Moon, the dean of the M.B.A. program. “We cannot be a place that claims to be about leadership and then say we don’t care what goes on outside the classroom.”
Students who failed to follow the rules that had been dictated by the thought police were threatened with lower grades and suspension. Thus, they did as they were told. The result: women did better in class. There were fewer raunchy jokes and fewer women dressed up like Playboy bunnies for Halloween.
Perhaps women discovered new reservoirs of ambition. Or perhaps professors decided that they needed to upgrade women and downgrade men. If class structure was modified to privilege women, the result must also have been to degrade men.
Obviously, it produced a muted backlash:
The interventions had prompted some students to revolt, wearing “Unapologetic” T-shirts to lacerate Ms. Frei for what they called intrusive social engineering. Twenty-seven-year-olds felt like they were “back in kindergarten or first grade,” said Sri Batchu, one of the graduating men.
Some of [the men], and even a few women, had grown to openly resent the deans’ emphasis on gender, using phrases like “ad nauseam” and “shoved down our throats,” protesting that this was not what they had paid to learn.
Others questioned whether the HBS thought reform program would adequately prepare students for the real world:
As faculty members pointed out, the more exquisitely gender-sensitive the school environment became, the less resemblance it bore to the real business world. “Are we trying to change the world 900 students at a time, or are we preparing students for the world in which they are about to go?” a female professor asked.
Ask yourself this, will the men who have been subjected to thought reform feel more or less respect for women? When they have gotten their degrees and their jobs will they be more or less likely to look for payback? If they have been demeaned and degraded to the point of being resentful, how do you think that that is going to play itself out in their lives and in the lives of the women who they date and mate?
One is amused that Harvard president Faust wants her HBS thought reform program to be the vanguard for the revolution.
In truth, the responsibility for this horror show lies with the students who continue to sign up for HBS, the companies that continue to recruit from HBS and the alumni who continue to contribute to HBS.
This nonsense could not continue without these three forms of collusion. If students figure out that they will be brainwashed at HBS, they should attend other business schools. If companies figure out that the products of HBS have been subjected to systematic abuse, they can help put an end to it by not recruiting there. Finally, the alumni who generously fund the school should wake up and ask themselves if Faust’s thought reform is something that they really want to underwrite.