It's the middle of summer, so it's time for incoming college freshman to buckle down on what might be the most difficult task of their years in academe: Plowing through the left-wing propaganda tract that is their "common reading" assignment designated as their chief intellectual experience during their first week on campus.
The books that high-minded college administrators assign as common reading vary, but they always have one thing in common: They reflect like mirrors the progressive preoccupations of the administrators themselves.
So this year the hottest common freshman reading topic is…illegal immigrants. Inside Higher Education reports:
Freshmen at Miami University of Ohio will read Spare Parts: Four Undocumented Teenagers, One Ugly Robot and the Battle for the American Dream (MacMillan) by Joshua Davis, a contributing editor at Wired magazine. The book — which inspired a film — is based on the true story of undocumented high school students who entered a national robotics competition….
Favoring an ethnographic approach, Tufts University chose Lives in Limbo: Undocumented and Coming of Age in America (University of California Press) by Roberto G. Gonzales, an assistant professor at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education. The book examines the results of a 12-year study that followed 150 undocumented young adults in Los Angeles….
Opting for a personal narrative, California State University East Bay chose the memoir Illegal: Reflections of an Undocumented Immigrant (University of Illinois Press), in which the author recounts his attempts to gain an education and build a new life in America. Due to legal concerns surrounding his immigration status, the author published the memoir under the name José Ángel N.
Indeed, illegals are so on-trend these days that, as Inside Higher Ed notes:
Lehigh University stands out as the only institution to pick a book about an immigrant with citizenship. The memoir Stealing Buddha's Dinner (Penguin Books), in which Bich Minh Nguyen recounts her experience hungering for American junk food and identity as a Vietnamese immigrant in the Midwest, will be offered as one of two possible summer reading assignments.
But on some campuses colleges the freshman-orientation administrators have evidently decided that illegal immigration is so last year. They've gone with the second hottest common-reading topic: racial injustice.
Students entering the Honors College at Arizona will read Citizen: An American Lyric (Graywolf Press) by the poet Claudia Rankine, a fusion of poetry, art and criticism that explores the intersections of race, language and the body. The first chapter relates microaggressions directed at Rankine and her friends, while the seventh chapter features a list of African-American men involved in recent police shootings that concludes with the phrase “because white men can’t police their imagination black men are dying.”…
Wesleyan University picked The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (The New Press) by Michelle Alexander, associate professor of law at Ohio State University. The book seeks to challenge the idea that we live in an era of colorblindness, tracing how the war on drugs targeted black men and suggesting that mass incarceration replaced segregation as a system of social control.
And there's always the possibility of a common-reading two-fer: immigration and racial injustice:
Rowan University will have students confront both immigration and racial injustice through the lens of fiction, with the selection of Americanah (Anchor) by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The novel follows a young Nigerian woman who comes to the United States to receive an education and stays to work.
And there are also those liberal-warhorse topics: the environment and the evils of processed food:
Two books offer a graphic glimpse into the production of processed food. Trinity University, in San Antonio will ask freshmen to read Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us (Random House) by Michael Moss, while Lehigh, in addition to Stealing Buddha’s Dinner, will give freshmen the option of reading The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth About Food and Flavor (Simon & Schuster) by Mark Schatzker.
Environmental picks included both a classic and a recent best-seller. Students at Connecticut College will learn how DDT decimated bird populations by reading Rachel Carson’s seminal 1962 work Silent Spring (Houghton Mifflin), while students at Villanova University will learn how fossil fuels are forcing species into extinction by reading Elizabeth Kolbert’s 2015 Pulitzer Prize winner The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (Picador).
Whatever happened to the days when the common-reading assignment was Plato's Republic?