Another Gary North column! North points out the near-utter failings of government primary and secondary schools. He finds it interesting that some liberals are now giving up in the same despair that took hold with conservatives eons ago.
Conservatives have been irrelevant to the educational process in the United States ever since the end of World War II. Their constant laments have changed nothing. Hirsch should learn from their experience. There is no reform of the public schools that will make them better. They will continue to erode academically. The American Federation of Teachers will continue to run the show in their tenured security until online education leaves nothing of the public schools except third-rate teachers of students whose parents are not concerned enough to pull them off of what is clearly a sinking ship.
It could not have happened to a more deserving crew.
Conservatives conserve nothing. Liberals offer nothing. Schools teach nothing. Students learn nothing. An ambitious writer could pen: “Nothing: the State of American Education.”
North predicts the replacement of the schools but stops just short of calling for their abolition. That really can’t come soon enough.
It’s not, of course, just the lower schools afflicted with the nothingness and departure from intellectual pursuits. Professor in-the-know, Walter E. Williams, again laments the collapse of colleges as learning environments, reciting a few recent examples of the buffoonery.
Who is to blame for the decline of American universities? Mansfield argues that it is a combination of administrators, students and faculties. He puts most of the blame on faculty members, some of whom are cowed by deans and presidents who don’t want their professors to make trouble. I agree with Mansfield’s assessment in part. Many university faculty members are hostile to free speech and open questioning of ideas. A large portion of today’s faculty and administrators were once the hippies of the 1960s, and many have contempt for the U.S. Constitution and the values of personal liberty. The primary blame for the incivility and downright stupidity we see on university campuses lies with the universities’ trustees. Every board of trustees has fiduciary responsibility for the governance of a university, shaping its broad policies. Unfortunately, most trustees are wealthy businessmen who are busy and aren’t interested in spending time on university matters. They become trustee!s for the prestige it brings, and as such, they are little more than yes men for the university president and provost. If trustees want better knowledge about university goings-on, they should hire a campus ombudsman who is independent of the administration and accountable only to the board of trustees.
The university malaise reflects a larger societal problem. Mansfield says culture used to mean refinement. Today, he says, it “just means the way a society happens to think, and there’s no value judgment in it any longer.” For many of today’s Americans, one cultural value is just as good as another.
Williams is right as usual. There is a larger social context to the decline. However, the failing schools and the failing culture go hand-in-hand, a perpetual motion disaster in progress. “Mansfield,” in the column, is Harvard senior professor of government, Harvey Mansfield.
Harvey Mansfield has been in higher education for a long time. In fact, he’s been a faculty member at Harvard since 1962. Yet, after all those years, the conservative professor of government isn’t hopeful about future of his trade.
“No, I’m not very optimistic about the future of higher education, at least in the form it is now with universities under the control of politically correct faculties and administrators,” he said.
His remark came during a 35-minute interview in April in his fourth floor office at Harvard, where the 85-year-old Mansfield lamented universities for losing their aspiration, describing them as bubbles of staunch liberalism ruled by faculties that have failed to make universities reach their potential.
‘Bubbles of decadent liberalism’
Once America’s pride, Mansfield argues universities are no longer the marketplace of ideas nor the bastions of free speech.
“Now [universities’] sole function seems to be to attack a free country and to try to narrow freedoms to privileges, for those who have been designated victims,” he says.
What universities have become are “bubbles of decadent liberalism,” that teach students to look for offense when first examining an idea.
Bubbles to protect snowflakes seem as useless as snowflakes protecting the bubbles. It all would appear rather pointless. Maybe that’s the point of education in modern America – there isn’t one.
So, what’s to be done about it? Systemically, I suspect more of the same -always the statists’ answer. Keep dumbing it down under, as North predicts, the whole thing falls and melts away (like so many snowflakes in the sun). For us, it’s high time to think about better options for our children.
I’ve had some recent inquires of late regarding college path choices for teenagers. This being a pet subject of mine, my jaded curiosity is piqued. Therefore, I think my first substantial Patreon piece is going to be an advice guide for those looking to educate their children or for older children looking to further their learning. Look for that when you see it – and to see the whole thing, you’ll likely need to become a Perrin Patron.