It did not take long after Anna Low arrived at Harvard University before she became aware of the fact that she was the only conservative in her program.
“We actually had to fill out a political ideology survey—it was, of course, anonymous—and the intention behind that, I think, was to show that this program is somewhat operating in a bubble,” Low said. The results of the survey were shown to the students on the first day of classes, and out of “140 students, there was only one conservative,” Low said. “And I knew that was me because I had filled out the survey.”
Low graduated from Harvard University in May 2022 with a masters in education policy and analysis and a litany of experience that showcases the far-left culture of one of America’s most prestigious universities.
Low, a grassroots assistant for Heritage Action for America, joins the “Problematic Women” podcast to share stories of life as a conservative at Harvard University.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript:
Virginia Allen: Anna, we’re so glad to have you with us. You earned your master’s degree in education policy and analysis from Harvard University. How did you wind up at Harvard? What’s the story that got you there?
Anna Low: Well, so my whole life I’ve known that I wanted to be a teacher. And in undergrad, I studied education and history, but I found myself turning more towards the policy side of education. I always really liked my policy classes, and I thought, “Why not apply? It’s Harvard.” So, I actually went straight from undergrad into my master’s program. And I was really hopeful at the beginning of that experience. And very quickly, I came to realize that a lot of my fellow classmates did not share the same opinions or views as me, very quickly as in on the first day of classes actually.
Allen: Started right away.
Low: Yes. It started right away in my core course, so to speak. We actually had to fill out a political ideology survey, it was of course anonymous. And the intention behind that, I think, was to show that this program is somewhat operating in a bubble. Marty West was the professor of that class, and he was one of the good ones. But, I think, the intention behind that was to show that majority of students share these views. So they actually broadcasted the results of that survey on the first day of classes. And out of 140 students, there was only one conservative. And I knew that was me because I had filled out the survey. Majority, I think it was in the 80s out of 140 identified as far left. So yeah, that was sort of what I was up against, and yeah.
Lauren Evans: Were there any libertarian or centrists or was it just far left and then you?
Low: It was pretty much just the latter, far left and then me. I was the only conservative in the program.
Low: So in that course, it was really just our ed policy core course. So a lot of that class, they instructed us… We had small groups to always try to have one person played, quote, “devil’s advocate,” To bring in the conservative perspective. I was never really super outward in my views at Harvard, just honestly out of maybe fear. But I did find myself, obviously, often taking the devil’s advocate position.
Evans: Would you say all of your former far left’s colleagues, classmates, are they now teaching children?
Low: So a large number… I was in the policy program, but these views were pretty consistent, I think, across the graduate school of education at large. In my program, a lot of those people either were former or aspiring teachers like myself. And regardless of whether or not they go back into teaching, a lot of them go on to occupy very high positions in education leadership.
Whether that be principals or actual policy positions. And a lot of my classmates, I think, were people that I thought perhaps only existed on Libs of TikTok or far right Twitter, and I wasn’t really… And then when I went to the school and I actually met some of these people and heard their views, I think it was very surprising to know that there’s actually people who genuinely believe parents should not have a say in their own child’s education. That was a very common belief at the school.
Allen: What would those conversations look like in class? Because it’s just hard for me to picture a 20 or 30 something year old sitting there saying, “Oh, absolutely. Parents shouldn’t have a say in what their children are learning at school.”
Low: The justification for that, that a lot of my classmates proffered was that teachers know best, like teachers go to school to study education and study curriculum, and they help write it. And that’s like educators know best. That was the justification behind that. So they saw themselves as the primary person to be knowing what’s best for a student rather than the parent.
Evans: How would professors respond to that?
Low: It depended on the professor, honestly. I think it’s easy to sit and say that all of these professors are corrupt and they’re the root causes of a lot of these opinions. Yes, we read Pedagogy of the Oppressed in these classes. We read a lot of things with Marxist undertones. These were texts assigned by professors. But surprisingly, I found that a lot of these opinions and more kind of what we would see as extreme viewpoints, like parents shouldn’t have a say in education. Those were very much heavily advocated by the students. The professors didn’t necessarily interfere with those conversations, so to speak, but it really depended on the class and the person.
Allen: And how long were you at Harvard? One or two years?
Low: Just a year. My program, I took credits over the summer as well, so I was able to wrap up in May.
Actually, this is a good segue into the pronoun conversation, because that was a huge part of life at Harvard. Whenever you introduce yourself, you’re required to list your pronouns. So you’d say, “Hi, my name is Anna. My pronouns are she, her.” And that was a baseline requirement. We have little-
Allen: When you say requirement, they literally told students, you must do this, and you would get in trouble if you didn’t?
Low: Well, the threat of you would get in trouble if you didn’t, I didn’t really test that. But yeah, that was how we were instructed to introduce ourselves. We had name plates that also had our pronouns. That, I did test. I didn’t put it on my nameplate. I was probably one of the only students in the class who didn’t have it on my nameplate. Same thing with email signatures. We were encouraged to add that to our email signatures. I did not do that, and I didn’t hear any repercussions or real solid pushback from that. But yeah, a lot of my classmates even had neopronouns. So not just they, them, which is already a massive hurdle, especially around people who you constantly feel like you might be walking on eggshells with in terms of just everyday language that you would use. A good example of that is one time I used the word boyfriend.
And my classmates, they were talking about how they had met their boyfriends and they said, “Do you have a boyfriend… Or partner or something?” And I said, “No, no, I don’t have a boyfriend.” And they were all taken aback. I could see visibly that they were like, “Oh my gosh.” And I thought kind of maybe arrogant. I was like, “Oh, I guess they’re surprised,” like you know. Well, that’s a nice compliment, right?
And then after class, she was actually my partner in the class. She said to me that she was like, “You really shouldn’t use that word. It’s gender assigning and it’s not…” No. And I didn’t know what to say, so I was just like, “Oh, I’m so sorry.” Because at this point too, I was not really that involved in politics. My focus was more on education, but I was like, “Wow, this is actually crazy that you shouldn’t say the word boyfriend. You have to try to use plural pronouns, which is grammatically incorrect.”
Allen: Now, was this culture strictly all students, or was this heavily professors too? Who brought that you could see, at least in your department, who was bringing this culture in? Who was encouraging it and furthering this culture?
Low: I think it’s multilayered. I think that to what extent did this start with professors, you could go back in the late 20th century probably and find that professors initiated maybe a lot of these conversations that led to this chaos that we’re witnessing today culturally. But I think in some instances, I did have professors… The way I actually learned about heritage was one of my professors in my higher education and law class said that heritage was not a reliable source, and it was extremely biased, and we should not use heritage sourced papers. And I actually was like, “Wow, I better look into heritage.”
And there was actually a student in that class who openly was bashing the Heritage Foundation in class and the professor let it happen. So even though they did not necessarily initiate the badmouthing, they did not interfere in it.
Allen: And that perked your interest.
Low: And it perked my interest. I think another good example would be one of my professors actually himself stepped on a landmine, which was interesting to watch play out because he said the word stake as a metaphor. He said, “You put a stake in the ground,” I don’t know, as in a figure of speech. One of the students was, “I don’t know who notified him that that was an offensive term because many of us wouldn’t see it.” And I honestly still can’t connect the dots as to why the word stake is offensive. I think it has to do with land claims and Native American history, maybe. I’m not sure. But he came to class that day and heavily apologized to the class.
So I think that also is what feeds this culture though. It endorses it by saying, “You’re so right. I’m so sorry. I should not have said that word.”
So admissions is probably also largely to blame because I think maybe a lot of these students get it, this is a generalization. But you really maybe have to like virtue signal your way into Harvard’s Ed School to some extent, because I worked with people on group projects who could not write a paper above like a pretty elementary level.
Allen: At Harvard?
Low: Yes. And that is all major dependent, I will say. Some of these people may be studying math or different subjects and not history or English…But still…
Allen: You’re at Harvard, you should be able to write.
Low: Right. So, I think admissions is also a big piece of it.
Allen: Now as far as comparing and contrasting the different departments, was your program in the ed department, was it a lot further left than some of the other departments that you knew of? Or what does that break down as? Are they all pretty equal?
Low: Yeah, I believe they’re all pretty equal. Being that mine was a policy focus, I actually believe that it was less left than the other programs, which were more counseling programs or education leadership. I had a friend in a program that… The name of it is escaping me, but it was somewhere along the lines of a counseling program. And she actually had a homework assignment where if you were a person of color in the class, you had to write an instance where you had been oppressed. And if you were a white person, you had to write about an experience in which you were the oppressor. That was an assignment.
And their class, they’re like required classes, looked a lot different too. So there was classes… You can look up the course catalogs, they’re public. At the ed school, there’s classes that are called Queering Education, that’s literally a class. Looking back, actually, I think it would’ve been really interesting to take, although torturous, to take some of these classes and see what’s really going on because most of my classes were policy oriented and these conversations were still happening. So yeah.
Evans: So did you ever find fellow conservatives on campus?
Low: No, I did not.
Allen: Do you think it’s because there aren’t any, or they’re just so afraid to speak out that they stay hidden?
Low: I think at the ed school, there probably aren’t any. You can cross enroll in other schools, which is a really great thing that Harvard offers. So I should say, I did meet conservatives at the Kennedy School, which is the School of Government. One of my professors was Scott Jennings, I think he’s a CNN conservative commentator. But yeah, he was a good professor in that class. And there were definitely conservatives in the School of Government, which is definitely, I guess, somewhat hopeful I would say. The Graduate School of Education and probably the Divinity School, from a comparative perspective, are the two most leftist schools. I think the Kennedy School might be next, and then maybe the business school in terms of the graduate programs.
Evans: And no big deal, just the school that deals with our children and our faith.
Low: Yeah. Exactly.
Allen: So how did you wind up then coming to Washington, DC and entering the world of policy and politics after this passion that you have for education?
Low: Well, a large part of that was informed by my experience at Harvard. I think witnessing firsthand the desperate state of education too of just… Especially with the COVID closures, who’s going to speak up for the students? I realized that there’s a much deeper problem when people at the top are all focusing on these culture worry subjects and not really revisiting the fact that kids aren’t reading in high school. So that sparked, I think, my ambition to try to get more involved at a higher level and more policy.
And then what led me, I think, to turn more towards politics was my classmates and witnessing firsthand that these people don’t believe parents should have a say in their kids’ education. I think that’s outrageous. And so that is what led me to heritage and to come to DC. And it’s funny because I still want to be a history teacher at some point and get back into education, but I think I saw in my mind what might be a greater need. And again, learned about it in my law class. And that’s the first time that I actually looked up heritage and I was like, “Wow, this is really great. I want to move to DC and work there.”
Allen: Love that. Well, we’re glad that we have you here.
Low: Thank you. Glad to be here.
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