The Compromised University

In The Uncivil University, authors Gary Tobin, Aryeh Weinberg, and Jenna Ferer demonstrate how politicized Middle East studies in particular have become: “Scholarship in the Middle East today has become a platform from which to fight perceived Western domination and to absolve the Arab world of wrongdoing. It is also an attempt to ascribe blame specifically to the United States for any and all of the political, cultural, and social problems ongoing in the Middle East.” Under the mantle of diversity of opinion, free expression, and the unfettered exchange of ideas, many of our universities have given the dais to homicidal despots and enemies of the state while protesting against and even prohibiting anti-Islamists, conservative thinkers, and patriots from speaking freely and engaging students in discussion. The same bias holds in the realm of academic publishing. John Perazzo’s compendious report on the subject leaves little doubt about the extent to which “university presses reflect academia’s dominant worldviews in every way, promoting the tenets of doctrinaire leftism,” disparaging America, and resting “unconcerned about any threat from radical Islam.”

Who benefits? Certainly not truly liberal institutions or intellectual scholarship. As Denis MacShane comments in Globalising Hatred, “The role of the liberal university tradition is to defend liberty, not to promote politics that reduce it. One would have thought that all adults who teach at or administer our universities would subscribe to that vision.” Could anything be more obvious? Not, apparently, to many of our professors and their poodling administrations who, as MacShane suggests, give little indication of living in any relation to reality. It seems, to cite from Tennyson’s “The Kraken” — that the “unnumbered and enormous polypi” of the mind have risen from the preceptorial deep and identified with America’s, and the West’s, enemies.

What too many of our students are now receiving is not education in the authentic sense of the term — e-ducere, a leading out of [ignorance] — but the pedagogy of deprivation, by which I mean the want of impartial study, of comprehensive rather than selective knowledge, of scholarly respect for the subject and for the proponents of different political positions, of a grounding in Western history and its philosophical, political, and cultural tradition and, last but not least, of the fostering of native curiosity. Instead, they are increasingly at the mercy of teachers who have betrayed a noble profession. As Thomas Sowell contends, the professors have become fact filterers, that is, indoctrinators who “in the interest of their own vision, are denying to others the right … to … reach their own conclusions.”

I am forcibly reminded of Russell Hoban’s apt description in his post-apocalyptic novel Riddley Walker of what could well be our educational  institution: “Yet unner neath that Zero Groun I lissent up a swarming it wer a humming like a millying of bees it wer like 10s of millyings.” Our millyings of professors are humming away while the barbarians remorselessly approach. Perhaps, as C.S. Lewis says in The Abolition of Man of the factitious teachers Gaius and Titius, these pedants “do not fully realize what they are doing, and do not intend the far-reaching consequences it will actually have.” But the chances are that they do, as they engage upon “a clean sweep of traditional values and start with a new set.” Only, the new set is not so new.

Democracy cannot survive in default of a reasonably alert and educated public and a viable university system. The almost daily capitulations of our intellectuals, opinion-makers, politicians, and academics to the invasive forces of what is nothing less than a global jihad, whether conveyed through terrorist, demographic, jurisprudential, or rhetorical means, along with the virtual exclusion of alternative discourses, must be seen for what they are: omens of approaching dissolution. And the soi-disant liberal university has become the “Zero Groun” of intellectual ruination, its busy bee professoriate invidiously programming its students with both a left-wing, statist agenda and a misplaced tolerance for radical Islamic thought and practice. David Horowitz points out, as an instance of this nuptial complicity between the left and Islam on university campuses, the interesting fact that “the pro-terrorist Muslim Students Association and the Young Communist League” are part of the same “Peace Workers” coalition.

Intellectuals and academics have long shared a pronounced tendency toward the “philotyrannical,” in its fascist, communist, and Islamic guises. In The Third Reich in the Ivory Tower, Stephen Norwood methodically reveals the sympathy of American universities, including Harvard, Yale, and Columbia, during the 1930s with the fascist regimes of Hitler and Mussolini; and even after the war, “there was widespread indifference in academia … about the fascist past.” The general hospitality for left-wing causes and Communism itself in the academy is common knowledge. And true to form, as we have seen, the university has become one of the chief incubators of pro-Islamic sentiment — and its natural correlate, anti-Jewish and anti-Israel rancor — in the Western world. Far from being the bulwark and harbinger of liberal civilization, the university seems more than willing to compromise its mandate and welcome into the once “quiet and still air of delightful studies” precisely those who would subvert it. As for the first part of Milton’s lovely and nostalgic phrase, “beholding the bright countenance of truth,” fuggedaboudit. The family mafia of left-wing professors, department heads, administrators, and syndics is simply not interested.

The prognosis doesn’t look great. As the 14th century Muslim philosopher Ibn Khaldun theorized in the Muqaddimah (“The Introduction”), when a civilization begins to decay and enters the twilight of its existence, it is invariably vanquished by a society of barbarians. Looking about us today — at the media, the entertainment industry, the political establishment, and especially the liberal academy — it is hard to disagree.