Tag Archives: balance

The Challenge To Restore Balance To Our Universities

Changing the course of American Universities is no easy task, concluded a panel “Liberal Bias on Campus: The Challenge To Restore Balance to Our Universities” organized by the Manhattan Institute at last weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference. David Horowitz observed that “ever major university has been taken over by a chiliastic religious sect.” Samatha Harris, of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, identified, in the higher education system, a “fundamental disrespect for students and faculty who don’t toe the line.” John Leo noted that it would take “decades to clean the PC indoctrinators out of the universities.” The panelists identified above, along with Joe Lindsley of the Collegiate Network, and moderator Mark Tapscott of the Washington Examiner offered a stark, but not unhopeful portrait of the state of politicization of the American academy to a full audience consisting mainly of students, who from, the tenor of conversation and questions, seemed amply familiar with the problems outlined.

Many of the difficulties detailed were age-old. The power of politicized “departmental fiefdoms”, particularly in recent, highly politicized subject areas, was widely deplored. Joe Lindsley lamented the continuing fracturing of a core curriculum, with its replacement by an “over-abundant super-value menu” of courses. Samantha Harris spoke of the continuing threats to freedom of expression and association that universities pose, in a climate where “anything that offends anyone is fair game for censorship.” It’s an unequal game, however; as David Horowitz pointed out; rarely are left causes threatened; “there is absolutely no goodwill on the part of administrators to enforce their own rules.”

More importantly, the panel identified several emergent threats and challenges. David Horowitz pointed out the dangerous precedent of the Lawrence Summers case; “the first university President to be censured by his own faculty, and in effect fired by them.” John Leo pointed out the disconcerting rise of “transformative” programs on campuses, such as the Delaware residential life program; “their goal is not just to teach PC principles; the goal is to get students to emotionally commit to them.” Samantha Harris echoed this point, noting that the University of Delaware program explicitly referred to the “treatment” of students; it’s no longer enough to simply teach students; they must be changed, indeed, “required to advocate for progressive causes.” The model of dispositions requirements in Ed Schools where “students are basically required to show a commitment to certain values in order to graduate” has now penetrated even residence halls.

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The Unbalanced University

In my last essay for Minding the Campus, I discussed how faculty indifference may have contributed indirectly to the establishment of the University of Delaware’s now notorious residence hall re-education program. If so, we should consider this a crime of omission rather than a crime of commission. This perspective on the problem either differs from or supplements the claims of many critics of higher education, who blame ideological agendas among faculty as the major cause of campus politicization.

A panel discussion/debate in October between Stephen Balch and Harry Lewis at the Pope Center in North Carolina highlighted this disagreement. The panel dealt with the problems besetting liberal education, focusing on education’s aimlessness and failure to instill knowledge and respect for free institutions. Balch and Lewis agreed on several things, but offered two different slants on the ills of higher education. Comparing the views of Balch and Lewis can help us to clarify and refine the problem of politics in higher education today.

Balch, the distinguished president of the National Association of Scholars who recently was awarded the National Humanities Medal in the Oval Office, blamed the ills of liberal education on politicized faculty. According to Jay Schalin’s report of the panel, Balch argued that higher education is failing “because it has adopted a left-wing ideology that is at odds with our traditions. The university system, with its population of impressionable young people, is naturally attractive to people with ‘an inclination toward visionary and utopian thinking,’ and these utopians feel that the purpose of education is to ‘move people toward their visions.”

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