How Our Colleges Have Failed Us

This is an excerpt from remarks by Professor Robert Paquette, co-founder of the  Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization, on winning the Jeane Jordan Kirkpatrick Prize for Academic Freedom, Friday, March 7, at the CPAC convention in Maryland. The award is sponsored by the American Conservative Union Foundation and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.

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At many of the most prestigious liberal arts colleges in the United States, departments of English no longer require of its majors the reading of Shakespeare; departments of history mandate that its majors take multiple courses in non-Western history but have either no requirement or a token requirement for American history. Faculty, administrators, and trustees have openly betrayed the finest traditions of liberal arts education by passing off the swindle known as the open curriculum, which, in truth, means the no curriculum, as something somehow worthy of a $60,000 per year price tag. 

I have lived in the belly of the beast of higher education for 33 years as a practicing historian. The animating principles of that great experiment in republican government, I tell my students, centered on the defense of limited government, voluntary exchange, private property, and civil freedom.  Does anyone in the audience tonight believe that more than a tiny fraction of students graduate from college these days with a deep and abiding appreciation of the worth of these principles?  Or is it more likely that a substantial number of students graduate able to parrot one or another fashionable and distortional discourses of oppression in which we see–and here I paraphrase from any number of  listings in college catalogues– the intersections of class, race, gender, and sexuality. 

For the Doubting Thomases,   I say perform this simple experiment:  Go to the home page of the website of any elite college or university in the United States.   Activate the search engine by plugging in such words as social justice, sustainability, diversity, multiculturalism, sexism, racism, Marx, activist, and identities. Total the references. Now perform a similar search for, say, conservative, entrepreneur, Western civilization, Shakespeare, Judaic, Aristotle, and Christian. Get the point.

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