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Higher Ed Has Become a Threat to America

Higher Ed Has Become a Threat to America Higher Ed Has Become a Threat to America

Our corrupt, radical universities feed every scourge from censorship and crime to antisemitism.

America faces a formidable range of calamities: crime out of control, borders in chaos by design, children poorly educated while sexualized and politicized against parental opposition, unconstitutional censorship, a press that does government PR rather than oversight, our institutions and corporations debased in the name of “diversity, equity and inclusion”—and more. To these has been added an outbreak of virulent antisemitism.

Every one of these degradations can be traced wholly or in large part to a single source: the corruption of higher education by radical political activists.

Children’s test scores have plummeted because college education departments train teachers to prioritize “social justice” over education. Censorship started with one-party campuses shutting down conservative voices. The coddling of criminals originated with academia’s devotion to Michel Foucault’s idea that criminals are victims, not victimizers. The drive to separate children from their parents begins in longstanding campus con- tempt for the suburban home and nuclear family. Radicalized college journalism departments promote far-left advocacy. Open borders reflect pro-globalism and anti-nation state sentiment among radical professors. DEI started as a campus ruse to justify racial quotas. Campus antisemitism grew out of ideologies like “anticolonialism,” “anticapitalism” and “intersectionality.”

Never have college campuses exerted so great or so destructive an influence. Once an indispensable support of our advanced society, academia has become a cancer metastasizing through its vital organs. The radical left is the cause, most obviously through the one-party campuses having graduated an entire generation of young Americans indoctrinated with their ideas.

And there are other ways. Academia has a monopoly on training for the most influential professions. The destructive influence of campus schools of education and journalism already noted is matched in the law, medicine, social work, etc. Academia’s suppression of the Constitution causes still more damage. Hostility to the Constitution leads to banana-republic shenanigans:

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suppression of antigovernment speech, the press’s acting as mouthpiece for government, law enforcement used to harass opponents of the government.

Higher education by and for political radicals was foreseen and banned by the American Association of University Professors, which in a celebrated 1915 policy statement warned teachers “against taking unfair advantage of the student’s immaturity by indoctrinating him with the teacher’s own opinions.” The AAUP already understood that political indoctrination would stamp out opposing views, which means the end of rational analysis and debate, the essential core of higher education. The 1915 statement is still a recognized professional standard— except that almost everywhere it is ignored, at least until the public is looking.

Optimists see signs of hope in growing public hostility to campus foolishness, but radical control of the campuses becomes more complete every day as older professors retire and are replaced by more radicals. A bellwether: The membership of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education— which represents the enforcers of radical orthodoxy—has tripled in the past three years.

An advanced society can’t tolerate the capture of its educational system by a fringe political sect that despises its Constitution and way of life. We have no choice: We must take back control of higher education from cultural vandals who have learned nothing from the disastrous history of societies that have implemented their ideas.

How can this be done? Not by the colleges themselves, which like things as they are. Not by governing boards, which ought to safeguard academia but have never had the backbone to do it. Not by superficial reforms: Even if we defund DEI, protect visiting speakers from shoutdowns and outlaw political litmus tests for professorial appointments, hordes of radical activists will still be in the classrooms, doing as much damage as ever.

Personnel is policy. Effective reform means only one thing: getting those political activists out of the classrooms and replacing them with academic thinkers and teachers. (No, that isn’t the same as replacing left with right.) Nothing less will do. Political activists have been converting money intended for higher education to an unauthorized use—advancing their goal of transforming America. That is tantamount to embezzlement. While we let it continue we are financing our own destruction as a society.

But how can we stop them? State lawmakers can condition continued funding on the legitimate use of that money and install new campus leadership mandated to replace professors who are violating the terms of their employment. Though only possible in red states, this would bring about competition between corrupt institutions and sound ones. Employers would soon notice the difference between educated and indoctrinated young people. Legislatures in Florida, Texas and North Carolina have begun to take steps to reform their universities, but only at Florida’s New College is a crucial restructuring of the faculty under way.

But the only real solution is for more Americans to grasp the depth of the problem and change their behavior accordingly. Most parents and students seem to be on autopilot: Young Jack is 18, so it’s time for college. His family still assumes that students will be taught by professors who are smart, well-informed and with broad sympathies. No longer. Professors are now predominantly closed-minded, ignorant and stupid enough to believe that Marxism works despite overwhelming historical evidence that it doesn’t. If enough parents and students gave serious thought to the question whether this ridiculous version of a college education is still worth four years of a young person’s life and tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, corrupt institutions of higher education would collapse, creating the space for better ones to arise.

The biggest threat to our future isn’t climate change, China or the national debt. It is the tyrannical grip that a hopelessly corrupt higher education now has on our national life. If we don’t stop it now, it will eventually destroy the most successful society in world history.

Mr. Ellis is a professor emeritus of German literature at the University of California, Santa Cruz and author of “The Breakdown of Higher Education: How It Happened, the Damage It Does, and What Can Be Done.”


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