The University Is Ripe for Replacement
"Education is a weapon the effect of which is determined by the hands which wield it, by who is to be struck down." -- Stalin, interview with H.G. Wells
Beginning in early K-12 and continuing to the highest levels of university education, Leftist indoctrination is the gravest dilemma that afflicts education in North America, rendering it perhaps the most powerful instrument of anti-Western bias and socialist propaganda of the modern era.
Here my concern is with the abandonment of genuine scholarship, fact-based historical research, familiarity with the “Great Books” and the development of critical thinking habits, particularly in the humanities and social sciences. The curriculum now in place is one of intellectual dysphoria promoting the circulation of false or unprovable narratives -- anthropogenic global warming, Islam as a religion of peace, the campus rape epidemic, toxic masculinity, the scandal of American history, the glories of “diversity and inclusion,” the benefits of socialism, to cite just a few among a veritable encyclopedia -- and furthering the revolutionary project of social and political deconstruction. Education has been transformed into a grooming operation for social justice warriors, radical feminists, anti-white vigilantes and budding socialists.
Moreover, to compound the septic plunge into calamitous absurdity, the self-contradictory adoption as a kind of state religion of postmodern thought and doctrine -- briefly, the suspicion of reason, the belief that reality is a conceptual construct, the rejection of fixed or objective truth -- has served to turn the university into a parody of its original purpose, the pursuit of genuine knowledge.
Defenders of the status quo need to be taken not with a grain of salt but an entire salt mine. Case in point: Globe and Mail columnist Doug Saunders, a rabid anti-conservative, an apologist for Islam, a believer in rampant immigration, and one of the shoddiest journalists in Canada, fully rejects the charge of university malfeasance. Rather, he claims, the campus is “less radical, more tolerant, more open and more politically moderate than ever before.”
The fantasy bubble that bullhorns like Saunders inhabit seems pretty well impermeable. You cannot reason with people who are immune to facts or, for whatever reason, consider countervailing evidence an offense against subjective conviction. They are either useful idiots or handy liars. Better to attend to an acclaimed historian like Niall Ferguson who, in an interview on Dave Rubin's show, pointed out that since the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, the Left has been busy replicating itself in the universities via targeted recruiting, to the extent that today “90% plus of faculty members are liberals or progressivists, if not outright Marxists.”
As H.G Wells said in a fawning 1934 interview with Josef Stalin, “There can be no revolution without a radical change in the educational system.” To which Stalin replied, “That is a correct observation.” The “radical change,” of course, is socialism, which a craven administration and a squalid faculty are assiduously promoting.
Innumerable authoritative books have been published and evidence-based articles posted on the corruption and virtual death of the university as an institution of higher learning, which interested readers can find with a click on the keyboard. Robert Nisbet’s 1971 The Degradation of Academic Dogma is a classic in the field. The more the university became a self-governing corporation, he wrote, “the less noble it proved to be in both purpose and bearing,” that is, in failing to concentrate on the pursuit of knowledge and the preservation its ancestral dignity. As a “community of mind,” it has surrendered to “its own hubris.”
Warren Treadgold’s recently released The University We Need expands the argument, taking on the postmodern heresy that itself would have been sufficient to ruin education in the West. Given the university’s obsession with the paradigm of oppressors and oppressed, Treadgold writes, “Postmodernism meant that all contrary facts could be dismissed as attempts to enforce oppression. … The creations of leftist scholarship included the elements of ‘multiculturalism’ … such as a feminist Africa, a pacifist Islam, and an evil United States and Western Europe.” His castigation of the curricular and programmatic direction the university has taken is irrefutably damning.
Treadgold, however, believes that the university can be reformed, and this is where we part company. Be it said, his recommendations are sensible, such as reducing university funding to a 20% budgetary limit and advocating for new and responsible leadership that would eschew mediocre ideas, books, students and professors. He concludes by stating: “If someone has better ideas for improving [the academy] than judging professors by the quality of their work or founding a new university dedicated to excellence, the time to share those ideas is now.” I suspect, though, that Treadgold’s “new university” is the present university rehabilitated and restored to its former glory. And the present university is not going away any time soon.
I agree that government funding should be selectively but drastically reduced -- and strict oversight procedures predicated on standards of disciplinary excellence and free inquiry set in place -- in order to render these de facto industries rational and culturally competitive. A parasitical administration should be lopped in half. The burgeoning numbers of noxious “diversity and inclusion” officers should be summarily dismissed, preferably without pensions. They have done enough damage. As in Hungary, gender studies departments need to be shuttered as non-scholarly and doctrinaire induction centers for social inadequates. Unqualified university applicants, regardless of politics, race, gender, creed or ethnicity, should not be admitted: all students should be judged solely on merit and desert, irrespective of parenthetical concerns. It should be acknowledged that social justice is not in the academic purview: truth and scholarship are its reason for being. Justice is the court’s domain.
But these are optative proposals. The chances that they will actually be put into cumulative effect strike me as bordering on zero. We should also consider that efforts to reform the university might only contribute to its endurance. It may conceivably permit a few reforms as a sop to its adversaries, but the situation will persist. After all, with the wavering exceptions of MBA programs and of STEM, the universities are no longer knowledge guilds, but self-regulating commercial and doctrinaire systems interested primarily in profit and social revisionism. They will double down to preserve their turf. The Academy is now enemy-occupied territory, defended by a formidable army of the ignorant, the corrupt, the vulgar and the perverse, and they are not about to surrender their sinecures.
It may be preferable for real scholars and concerned parties to begin planning for a parallel university structure, whether as online sites or physical plants or both. In the words of American Thinker editor Thomas Lifson, “fundamental change of the institutional map is necessary.” (Personal correspondence.) One can begin with Treadgold’s recommendations as applied to a fresh and separate institution embodying the measures proposed above, while seeking funding from alumni disenchanted with their alma maters, conservative organizations, crowd-sourcing, and a pragmatic and far-sighted government like the one presently in power in the United States. Culture-hero Jordan Peterson is already busy designing an online university to supplant the current “indoctrination cults.” There are features still to be worked out, but the process is underway. Start small, think big.
Insuperable as the task may seem, perhaps something truly new will emerge on which, with patience, experience and foresight, we can build. In a time of civilizational decline, a wholly new university may serve to prolong our historical tenure. The key is to resist despair, strategize effectively, remain prepared and remember the principles of moral reason and intellectual excellence on which restitution depends. The modern university it is a moribund institution and cannot be reformed. It is ripe for replacement.