Constitutional Education at Your Fingertips
It is easy to decry the state of higher education in the United States, an arena in which William Ayers is a decorated figure. But if you have access to a computer with an internet connection, you can rediscover a lost faith in academia and reaffirm the principles of republican government by watching and, more importantly, listening to Hillsdale College president Larry P. Arnn and members of his Hillsdale faculty teach a ten-week course on the United States Constitution beginning in February.
As you may have read in Imprimis, the speech digest of Hillsdale College of Hillsdale, Michigan, Arnn is overseeing an online seminar entitled "Constitution 101: The Meaning and History of the Constitution." Anyone can register for the course here. There is no financial obligation, but donations are welcome.
Arnn's lectures bookend the course, which as a whole examines the fundamental aspects of the Constitution. These aspects include the separation of powers, how religion and morality relate to property, and the rejection of the Constitution by the so-called Progressive movement. Registrants may submit questions to Hillsdale faculty, participate in quizzes, and study readings identical to those assigned in the course taught to Hillsdale students.
While the course lecturers include first-rate scholars such as Thomas G. West, Will Morrisey, and David Bobb, Arnn is the main attraction. If this country revered education as much as so many politicians and self-styled educators claim, Arnn would be a household name. So who is this man?
Arnn is many things. This man with the gray beard and graying hair is affable, deadpan, impish, and brilliant in person or behind the lectern. He can and does rattle off phrases and paragraphs from Aristotle, Churchill, and the Declaration of Independence from memory. He does this not to show off, but to demonstrate his reverence for the English language and the power of constitutional ideas and ideals, and to invite you to share in that joy and the joy of learning. Simply, he loves to teach.
He bluntly -- and correctly -- calls the Republican Party the stupid party -- not for a cheap laugh, but to express his deep disappointment in and frustration with that organization for regularly squandering its many opportunities that arise to defend ordered liberty and limited government. He is at his best when making the profound ideas and concepts of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution applicable to contemporary issues. He is unafraid to put the words and ideas of people like Barack Obama against people like Thomas Jefferson and demonstrate the differences and the consequences of those differences. There is no relativism in the life of Larry Arnn. Of how many other academics can one say that?
No college takes its mission, its charter, and its founding principles more seriously than Hillsdale College. This is so because of the leadership of Arnn. He came to Hillsdale by way of Pocahontas, Arkansas, Oxford, and the Claremont Institute. He was the founding chairman of the California Civil Rights Initiative, later led by Ward Connerly. He is not merely an administrator out of touch with and out of reach to those in his charge; on the contrary, he teaches courses to Hillsdale students on subjects such as Aristotle's Ethics. Again, how many administrators do that in academia today? He is both an homme sérieux and a man with whom it would be fun to share a drink. He is what we wish all of our professors to be. I think you will enjoy studying with him, too.
The purpose of this brief article is to let you know that Arnn and Hillsdale are giving a gift to the American people in the form of their online seminar on the Constitution. It could not come in a more timely fashion as we approach a year in which we, as a republic, will make a significant decision in what kind of government we shall have and what kind of society we shall have. It could not be easier to carve out an hour or so now and then and let a learned American professor and president of the finest undergraduate institution in the country into your home. Class is in session beginning February 20.
Matthew May is the author of Restoration: The God and Country Education Project, which can be purchased here. He welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.