Santorum: Obama wants to 'indoctrinate' students by boosting college enrollment

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum has won the last three of four primaries and caucuses, catapulting him to front-runner status. Nancy Cordes reports on how the former senator's rise on the national political stage began.

Santorum's rise to front-runner

DALLAS, Texas - Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum said Thursday that President Obama wants more young adults to go to college so they can undergo "indoctrination" to a secular world view.

In an hour-long interview with conservative television host Glenn Beck, Santorum also defended his record on abortion and his vote in favor of President George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind education law.

On the president's efforts to boost college attendance, Santorum said, "I understand why Barack Obama wants to send every kid to college, because of their indoctrination mills, absolutely ... The indoctrination that is going on at the university level is a harm to our country."

He claimed that "62 percent of kids who go into college with a faith commitment leave without it," but declined to cite a source for the figure. And he floated the idea of requiring universities that receive public funds have "intellectual diversity" on campus.

Criticized by his Republican rivals for supporting the Bush education law, which increased government-mandated testing in schools, Santorum has said he voted for it as "part of the (GOP) team." He told Beck that as president, "I'll be the team leader, not the team member."

A champion of home-schooling, Santorum also expanded on his vision of dramatically reduced involvement in public education by both the states and the federal government, although he was more exact about eliminating the present system than his plan for replacing it.

He said, "Education should be the parental responsibility and the local community should be the one to be working with the parents to make sure that children get the best educational in environment for each child in America. The federal government needs to get out of education. The state government by and large needs to get out of education, other than making sure there are sufficient resources, particularly in poorer neighborhoods, to be able to help (have) some sort of equality of education in America ... to have the resources to have the best customized education."

Santorum also defended his anti-abortion rights record after the Huffington Post website recently reported on a 1995 Philadelphia Magazine story in which Santorum said he "was basically pro-choice all my life, until I ran for Congress."

"No I wasn't," Santorum told Beck, chuckling. "I was in Congress in the 1990s and I had a 100-percent voting record in the 1990s ... When I first ran for Congress I was kind of an agnostic. I was a single male and not really interested in the issue, didn't really care. I was Catholic, but I had never really taken a public position on it."

Though discussions with his future father-in-law, a medical geneticist, he said he solidified his views. "I walked out of that meeting and said, 'Well, just from a standpoint of reason, I've got to be pro-life.' It was 1988 I think, or 1989."

Santorum was joined on the program by his wife, Karen, and a few of their seven children. Karen Santorum elaborated on her initial opposition to his presidential bid, citing the tough 2006 Senate race that he lost by 18 percentage points. Passage of Obama's health care initiative in 2010, he said, "put the fire in my belly."

"It's been challenging, I will tell you," she said, but expressed no regrets. "I think you'd have to be crazy to want it, to be honest with you. But at the same time for us, it's completely a spiritual thing. This is God's will," she said.

"For us it's all about making the world a better place and going after the issues and building America and making America more what our founding fathers wanted it to be," she said. "For me it has been a challenging year, but it's also been a very beautiful year."

  • Rebecca Kaplan On Twitter»

    Rebecca Kaplan covers the 2012 presidential campaign for CBS News and National Journal.

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