Aaron Linderman, a 2008 graduate of The Institute of World Politics, is truly enriching the intellectual life of Texas A&M University while he pursues a Ph.D. there.
This past semester, he worked as a teaching assistant in a course on Western civilization since the Renaissance. The professor personally held Marxist views, taught his course though this lens, and assigned readings that shared his views.
Despite the professor's good intentions, Linderman discovered that the students were really learning through only one specific intellectual framework that did not tell the whole story. As he explains:
"Rather than simply using this occasion to present ‘the other side' in a partisan manner, I took the opportunity to teach students how to think critically and examine the deeper questions at stake. We discussed the Marxist theory of history as progressive revolutions and learned to identify when authors were shoehorning the evidence into this narrative. We considered historical events and figures which had been left out of the Marxist accounts: French peasants who opposed the Revolution and wanted back their king and Church, conservatives who sought to remove Hitler from power, Christians who sheltered Jews during the Holocaust. These were stories that were not being told, stories that a rising generation of college students – including several members of the ROTC who will be commissioned as officers in the US military – need to hear."
Linderman credits his education at IWP with preparing him to engage in the war of ideas through political and psychological warfare:
"At IWP I was introduced to the writings of Antonio Gramsci, an early 20th century Italian Marxist who argued that bloody revolution is not necessary if one can seize control of educational and cultural institutions, and through them, the thoughts of a nation. With that in mind, I worked not only to give my students a balanced sense of history, but to provide them with the intellectual tools they need to defend liberty."
Far from being an unwelcome addition to the course, Linderman found that his students responded well to the additional intellectual challenges he was presenting. "The course evaluations were overwhelmingly positive," he reports. "One student wrote me after the class and explained, ‘You really opened my eyes to questioning the sources that historians use. [The discussion sections] helped to put the lectures into the spectrum of historical interpretation.'"
Linderman believes his interaction with A&M undergraduates will benefit not only the student life of that institution, but ultimately the academic discipline of history: "Maybe these tools of critical thinking and historical methodology will cascade down to yet another generation of historians. We can hope."
Thanks to the work of individuals such as Linderman, and other well-prepared IWP alumni, that hope is well on its way to fulfillment.