A Plan to Reform Our Failing Universities
How can we save our universities from the rot that has invaded their precincts, eroding the traditional core of Western literary, cultural, scientific, technological, and professional instruction? What would such a makeover involve?
To begin with, Title IX should be abolished a.s.a.p. Originally intended to prevent sexual and racial discrimination -- a well-intentioned but ill-conceived bipartisan measure signed into law in 1972 -- Title IX has been corrupted beyond recognition, trampling due process in sexual harassment cases, feeding the campus rape panic, curtailing free speech rights in an effort to avoid “offense,” diluting the curriculum via “trigger warnings” and “microaggression” claims, establishing a culture of grievance, allowing talks and lectures by conservative speakers to be cancelled or disrupted, gutting men’s sports programs, and surrendering to the most absurd and untenable student demands. This abomination was promoted under the rubric of “equality” in a world where natural and imprescriptible inequalities abound in both the physical and intellectual domains. The casualties are merit and individuality. As R. B. Parish writes, in the name of equality our universities “renounce culture and strive to reduce everyone down to a common level… There must be no excellence.”
Additionally, measures should be taken to prevent universities from raising tuition fees irresponsibly (which, among other advantages, would also go a long way toward reducing unsustainable student debt). According to HSDC’s (Homeland Security Defense Coalition) annual report for 2016, the average cost of tuition fees in the U.S. is in the vicinity of $33,000 per academic year, rising in the elite universities to $60,000 and more. This is unacceptable. As I’ve written previously, “Tuition fees will need to come down, perhaps by decoupling Pell grants from tuition hikes,” and subsequently capped at a rate tied to inflation.
Universities will then have to devise ways of living within their means, by drastically shrinking administrative bloat, reducing professorial salaries by a percentage to be determined, and downsizing or eliminating Humanities departments that are either irrelevant or marginal, that is, courses of study that cannot deliver basic competence in reading and writing, knowledge of civics and history, familiarity with the classics of the Western tradition, and economic productivity.
Stringent provisions will have to be made within the new education bill indicating which departments and programs are to be subject to contraction or termination, in particular the variety of trendy identity studies, which produce undereducated and unemployable graduates who become a burden both to themselves and to society.
Another factor in salvaging the university would involve flensing excess SocProg blubber like Commissions for Ethnicity, Race and Equity or President’s Advisory Committees, among a myriad of such irrelevancies. These institutions are preoccupied with such nonacademic issues as inclusivity and diversity, aboriginal health sciences, accommodating students’ religious, indigenous, and spiritual observances, diversifying food on campus, and supporting survivors of sexual violence on campus (an epidemic that doesn’t exist). They are parasites and misfits, empowered by arbitrary authority, not by long tradition, codified religion or settled law, and eating up scarce resources that could actually be invested in education. Every university in North America is saddled with the enormous collective weight -- and judging from the typical photos, the substantial weight of many of its members -- of these useless and self-serving bodies parroting the cultural bromides and shibboleths of the day. The Club Med of every token identity group imaginable, they have got to go if the university is ever to be restored to scholarly vigor and parietal sanity.
Naturally, universities will be tempted to make up the financial shortfall caused by dramatic cuts to their operating budgets by opening their doors even wider than before, letting in yet more students who do not belong in a university environment, who do not have the capacity to grapple with the intellectual demands of higher education. Affirmative action and equity hiring on the one hand, and the axioms and requisites of “social justice” on the other, have led inevitably to the curricular rot and dumbing down (or Dembing down) of the Humanities, and to the slow pollution of the STEM disciplines across the entire academic landscape. The situation will only deteriorate if a greater number of unqualified applicants are accepted in order to compensate for reduced revenue. This is why the new education bill would have to include an enforceable provision for establishing rigorous standards of admission. Nothing else will save the university from itself.
These are bold and unprecedented initiatives. It won’t be easy dealing with the proliferation of entrenched interests bunkered in their billets. Neutralizing the baneful effects of ideological pedantry that is destroying the life and function of the university will be a Herculean task. Admittedly, a thorough reform of the university system is only half the job. The K-12 juggernaut would also require a total overhaul, entailing the abolition of the Common Core paradigm, a travesty which replaces the classics with “informational texts” (e.g., IRS booklets, air-conditioning manuals), ensures low-level literacy, adulterates math standards, and imposes government control of the curriculum to support a political agenda -- the creation of a docile electorate susceptible to socialist manipulation.
A serious reform movement will clearly need to be double-pronged, but the restoration of the university to its ancestral purpose and classical spirit, namely -- to quote Matthew Arnold from Culture and Anarchy -- teaching “the best that has been thought and said” is paramount. The force of executive action and the power of the funding weapon -- Scott Greer is perfectly right in his recent No Campus for White Men in suggesting that the power of the purse should be part of the remedial arsenal -- can be immensely effective in formulating and applying policy. This has been the case in the past, especially under the Obama administration. But it worked as a strategy intended to promote indoctrination, not edification, a system copied in somewhat modified form from the German universities of the 1930s and the Communist universities of the modern era. An amending formula is necessary to end such an obscenity, despite the partisan resistance and media outcry that will surely ensue.
To recapitulate. The options available to the government for the reform of a desperately sick education system are the following:
The abolition of Title IX
- An affordable tuition fee cap
- The reduction of professorial and administrative salaries
- The enforcement of rigorous admissions standards based exclusively on demonstrated merit, regardless of class, race, ethnicity, gender or religion
- The downsizing of administration by at least 50% of personnel
- The elimination of superfluous departments and all non-academic programs and commissions, with the exception of athletics and sports
- The threat of penalties such as defunding and judicial process where amending criteria are not met
America has reached a critical point where the contaminants will soon have sunk too deep to be flushed out. A healthy civic life, cultural and economic resilience, innovation and invention, and a sense of national purpose all begin and end with education. In the last analysis, nothing less than the 241-year republican experiment is at stake. It is not a question of party policy; the Democrats are not Republicans and neither, on the whole, are the Republicans. The responsibility for instituting real change in the vast education apparatus falls to those who still hold to Constitutional loyalties. It may take a two-term Trump presidency and Betsy DeVos at her most determined to accomplish the feat.