Repudiating the Obama Vision for Higher Education

Statistics, systems, and social engineering threaten our liberty in the USA and throughout the world.  There has been an ongoing attempt for decades to shift the focus in our society away from faith, family, and freedom, to an agenda where individual rights are suppressed or altogether obliterated in the name of “collective rights.”

The shift in focus has been especially evident in the field of education. We are all aware of the undue influence the federal government has had on local control of K-12 education. This began with No Child Left Behind under President George W. Bush, and moved to new levels of federal control under Common Core. No Child Left Behind was at least a legislative initiative, passed by Congress. But Common Core was initiated through the Executive Branch and was developed and implemented through state departments of education – composed of appointed, not elected, officials -- that got on board because of Race To The Top moneys being used as an inducement for participation.

All of this was unconstitutional because the Tenth Amendment relegates control of all powers not enumerated in the U.S. Constitution to the several states.  Common Core got around this by saying the federal government is not telling the states what to teach, but if the states would get on board (they all got on board), the federal government would supply the standardized tests that would give the states greater feedback about whether they were meeting “standards.”  Thus, states would begin teaching to the tests, the tests would be controlling, but the federal government on a technicality would not be literally “in control” of state education.

Not content with excessive control of K-12, the administration of Barack Obama took this radicalization to a new level of implementation.   In 2012, there was a White House forum to discuss the remaking of our institutions of higher learning. The forum was based on a 136 page volume A Crucible Moment: College Learning and Democracy’s Future by The National Task Force on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement. The National Task Force was composed of 11 individuals.  The writers or supervisors of the writing were these eleven individuals, so we shall never know who is responsible for which section of the report.  The writing of books by committee is another sign to this writer of the dilution of individual responsibility as well as individual rights. It is a collective manuscript.  And if you ask teachers in our schools, they will tell you that increasingly textbooks are “written” by a large committee of scholars. This report reflects this trend. However, chief spokesman for this report at the 2012 White House Forum was Carol G. Schneider, then President of the American Association of College and University Professors.

This report should send a chill up the spines of every citizen in the United States.  Why?  It represented nothing less than an attempt to turn institutions of learning away from preparing students for careers and professional employment and away from the unbiased search for truth, which presumably is a scientific and philosophical goal in our colleges.   According to the vision of this report, institutions of higher education should be engaged in community development and promoting engagement.  It is a “social justice” model, a progressive model.  Universities should fill in gaps where existing institutions have failed communities.

This sounds like an updated version of John Dewey who insisted that democracy was our “common faith” (spirituality was displaced into socio-political commitment). For him, K-12 should be community oriented and practical in its preparation of the population to be workers and participants in the turn of the century industrial economy. He was successful in reorienting education away from the classics and great books towards a more practical vocational and interpersonal emphasis.  This writer believes that one important effect of this reorientation over time is a weakening of independent thought by the individual students, and a weakened sensitivity about what goodness really is.  The task force that compiled this report wants to take this Deweyan practicality and expand it to include more practical actions to promote progressive and globalist values.  The report explicitly acknowledges its global thrust, but this writer, after reading the report, is interpreting their terms such as “engagement” to mean “progressive engagement.” Thus, unspoken, the reality is that colleges and universities would become agents of federal social policy.   

At one point, the report said the following, “Where generative partnerships exist…interdependency, innovation, multiple perspectives, and a commitment to a long-range investment in the public good define the partnership’s core values; higher education no longer sees itself as going out into the community, but as part of the community, whether that community is local, national, or global.” (p.64) You see in this quotation that the colleges and universities are not to prepare individuals for higher levels of competency to participate in society, nor to enhance their individual opportunities once they leave higher ed.  Rather, the goals of the community – the collective goals of their local community, the nation, or the globe – are their raison d’être. This premise is completely antithetical to our goals as liberty loving individuals.

Why is this reorientation necessary?  The answer might amaze you.  In her remarks to the assembled forum, AACUP President Schneider stated, “We have always thought of ourselves as an opportunity society; now we face the reality of deepening economic divides and of growing worry that too many of our fellow Americans really are being left behind.” Thus, the entire basis for this report was that we are no longer the land of opportunity which was our self-image up until a couple of generations ago. Now we know better.  We are the land of the exploited.  We are a land where the top 1% are giving the shaft to the other 99% (“deepening economic divides”).  The report implicitly proposes that we are being wiped out by capitalism, the very system we had expected would lead us to thrive. In this one sentence, we can see through all the platitudes and murky phrasing of this group think document. Schneider says that colleges and universities can no longer see themselves primarily as serving individual students, but must mobilize under new collective goals.

This report has fed into the leftist agenda on our nation’s campuses. In a 2016 update report, we learn that over 500 campuses have incorporated many of the ideas in this report into their curricula, and various projects have also been started on select campuses. How can this be an acceptable vision for an educated, freedom loving people?

Yet, we have voted for change.  We have a new administration.  This leftist agenda for higher education was embraced by a leftist White House and a leftist U.S. Department of Education under Arne Duncan. Now we have some new, freedom-loving leaders in the Executive Branch, presumably people who believe that we are still the land of opportunity and wish to enlarge that opportunity. The vision in the report must be repudiated and replaced. Hopefully, in the months ahead, we shall see the government publicly embrace other visions of education based on traditional concerns about the knowledge needed for citizenship, vocation, and rational individuality. Instead of collective consciousness, let us rely upon traditional patriotism and upon character building based on ideals such as “love your neighbor as yourself.” 

If you experience technical problems, please write to