My love of learning would eventually lead me to the bastion of intellectual freedom, the American university. I felt so liberated, having fled communism, where I had to keep my thoughts to myself or risk deportation to a far away re-education gulag, that I would be able to express my every thought without any fear of repraisal, incarceration, or death. Boy, was I terribly mistaken! I would have to fear death by denial of professorial and professional appointments usually reserved for progressives who were toting the communist doctrine and party line.
My first denial came in the form of a grant offered by the Soros Foundation. As long as I was a certain ethnic background, belonged to certain organizations, or espoused the communist doctrine, it was very easy to obtain it. I had no idea who the great George Soros was. This man had spent his entire life trying to destroy freedom in America and install a dictatorial regime, under a world government led by him. He had made billions of dollars by shorting various currencies around the world and was still doing it a few weeks ago. He had promised to destroy the American dollar and install a new world order where America no longer was the center of exceptionalism. What was particularly shocking, his family barely escaped the Holocaust, bringing him to America to have a better life, free to achieve the American dream. His hedge funds were successful, yet he's had nothing but vitriolic hatred for the very country that protected and nourished him to wealth and prosperity. Why would anyone want to destroy the U.S. when so many Americans have died defending it, and protecting other countries in distress around the globe over the last 234 years? It was incomprehensible to me.
We were forbidden in Romania to have any political or critical discussions in the family, to friends, at work, or in school. Everyone kept a low profile and bit their tongues because they knew, some family members were informers to the dreaded Security Police. The informers were taught how to bait children to turn in information about their parents. Children were so naive and honest to a fault. How were they to know that innocent remarks about their parents would possibly incarcerate or condemn them to death? The communist agitators certainly had plenty of orphanages to put these children in. The more the merrier! This was Ceausescu's future army of drones who would carry out his communist propaganda and utopia at the end of the barrel of a gun. All he had to do is issue a command. The repraisal was swift and brutal.
The population was not armed - the president made sure these arms were confiscated long time before he became a dictator - he enticed the citizens with rewards for turning arms in voluntarily, all in the name of public safety and the reduction of crime. The less guns in the street, he said, the lesser the crime rate. People complied gleefully. Who is going to argue with the all controlling, all knowing government who had spies everywhere?
Here I was in academia in the U.S., free to speak my mind, but the academia was communist. I was shocked! If you disagreed with their point of view, usually liberal progressive, you became an instant academic pariah, you were never considered for a faculty position, much less for tenure, no matter how smart, well educated, qualified, clever, or credentialed you were.
The minds of young Americans were being molded and shaped by progressive radicals who taught them that America was an evil empire, and the citizens were bad apples who could excoriate their sins by giving up their wealth , soverignty, and their country to foreign powers.
I was shocked and could not believe that many professors and teachers were members of specialized unions that rewarded the worst teachers for promoting their platform. These teachers made the circuits of conferences all over the country and the world, presenting worthless "papers" in the name of research. The more popular a teacher was on such circuit, the more offices he/she held in a professional organization, the higher the salary he/she received. It did not matter that they were seldom in the classroom, or that they were terrible teachers, or that they did not care about their students' performance, so long as they promoted the latest teaching methodology deemed worthy by the College of Education. Parents had no idea what kind of education their children received in exchange for high tuition. I realized very quickly that the College of Education was the breeding ground for future communists and that it would eventually bring the downfall of freedom in the United States.
The teachers hired were usually not the best, brightest, and most qualified to teach, but the ones holding certification, a worthless piece of paper that most people obtained if they jumped through the right hoops. College of Education graduates were performing in the bottom 50th percentile on National Teacher Exams as opposed to Arts and Sciences graduates who were performing in the top 50th percentile. But Arts and Sciences graduates could not be in the classroom without a license. The Department of Education issued these licenses to everyone so long as they took worthless College of Education classes that did not improve their knowledge in the area of expertise, neither their teaching ability.
A teacher could have a Ph.D. and years of teaching experience in a private sector, yet, without a license, they were forbidden to teach in the public schools. I found this rather strange since in Romania, only the best and the brightest were allowed to teach. They had to follow the communist party line, but they still had to be extremely prepared in their area of expertise. Sadly, in the U.S., expertise was not a requirement, just a license. As it was often the case, C and D average students would declare their major as education because other majors were too difficult for them. This resulted in a watering down of the quality of future teachers and thus a decline in the quality of instruction they delivered once in the classroom. Methodology and proper indoctrination trumped content every time.
As an European, I was shocked how little students and their teachers knew and how open and unashamed about their ignorance they were. I would have been embarassed to admit that I was lacking so many basic skills and education and still called myself educated, having earned a high school or college diploma.
There was so much nepotism both in U.S. high schools and U.S. colleges; a sought-after teacher would not sign a contract with a particular university until his/her spouse were given generous and well-placed employment as well. Women were slighted in favor of men, and blacks in favor of whites. How was this the land of opportunity and freedom, I thought, when academia, which is supposed to be the bastion of freedom of thought, was so communist?
The Romanian curriculum had to be approved by the Central Communist Party and it mandated, besides math and science, strange courses promoting communism such as Scientific Socialism, Philosophy of Socialism, Socialist Economics, as well as revisionist history and foreign languages, particularly those spoken in other communist countries. Teachers were well prepared in math and sciences and had to excell in communist indoctrination as well. Teachers had to tow the party line. They had to do their job otherwise they would be sent to concentration camp-like prisons. There was no nepotism and teachers had to compete for jobs by taking a test and then had to be approved by the communist party. Membership in the party was greatly encouraged and it was frowned upon if a teacher was not a card-carrying communist. Awards were seldom given and the work day lasted 4-5 hours, including Saturday.
Students as well as teachers were forced to "volunteer labor" in spring and fall. We had to plant and harvest crops every year for a month. To add insult to injury, we were not paid, not fed, not even given water in the fields. Because the crops were dusted with chemicals and water was not available, we could not even eat what we were harvesting. I felt like a muzzled dog.
We wore our uniforms designed by the communist party and young pioneers (the budding young communists) had to wear red bandanas. These school uniforms had embroidered name tags and identification numbers with the name of the school, should we misbehave while in public. Any citizen could report a student as to what he/she did right or wrong to the school principal. The principal or the dean were kings. Corporal punishment as well as public humiliation in the classroom were allowed and highly encouraged. Furthermore, parents had to attend monthly meetings with the teacher during which time they were humiliated as well in front of other parents, alphabetically, if their child's performance and grades were poor. Many parents would come home and spank their children not just for the bad grades but for having been publicly chastazied and criticized for their lack of parental skills and interest in their child's future. We did not dare go to school without having done homework or without being prepared for daily oral quizzes or unannounced test. Nobody complained like they do in America that the test was not announced and thus unfair. Students had to be prepared at all times. Grades of zero or fail were given for unprepared or wrong answers. You had to study every time the class met. There was no ACLU, no threatening law suits, no blaming teachers for the shortcomings of students or lack of preparation. Everyone had to tow the party line and the rigorous and rigid rules of behavior and performance. You failed a class, you had to repeat the year - No second chance in the summer.
Teenage pregnancy was unheard of, we only had one girl in a class of 950 students who was found to be pregnant two weeks before graduation in high school. She had to repeat 12th grade during night school before she could get her diploma. The rules were draconian, but they were the rules of the communist party. Nobody dared to object.
So, here I was, in the best country in the world where freedom of speech was guaranteed, yet I was among Marxist professors, and, although I could say what I wanted to say without fear of jail, I could not do it because it was professional suicide.