Higher education administration has become dysfunctional and dangerous—illiberal, incompetent at its core educative functions, but all too effective at infecting our republic’s civil society with woke ideology. It must be reformed. Yet the radicals who have captured our colleges’ and universities’ bureaucracies have been so effective that, at this point, it seems impossible for successful reform to emerge from within the ivory tower.
The few open dissenters from the radical regime at best have endorsed pious but ineffective statements of liberal principle. Policymakers—federal and state representatives, governors and attorneys general, and, in a good world, the president—must intervene to enact effective academic reform. Our college and university administrations will remain dysfunctional and dangerous until our policymakers act.
Yet even reform-minded policymakers frequently have been reluctant to intervene in academic affairs. Some have taken the concept of “the marketplace of ideas” to heart and believe that to intervene in higher education would be akin to government interference in the marketplace. Others are commendably reluctant to take any action that would, in substance or in perception, infringe upon academic freedom. Still others are reluctant to act in ways which would create further precedents for government intervention in higher education, which could be used to worsen the situation. Yet others still believe that academia does not matter all that much and, therefore, that its problems do not justify legislative action. Reform-minded policymakers hesitate to intervene in higher education for all these reasons.
These hesitations are understandable, but I do not think they should govern policymakers’ behavior. America faces a higher education crisis, and our policymakers can and should act to restore intellectual freedom to our colleges and universities. They certainly have the power to exercise oversight of our academic institutions, especially the public institutions—and, more importantly, they have a duty to do so, on behalf of the citizens they represent.
Today’s academic administrations, after all, present a clear and present danger to the republic. Higher education did not matter so much when few Americans went to college and a Harry Truman could become president of the United States without a B.A. Now colleges and universities are the gatekeepers for all white-collar jobs and for membership in many professions. The radical education establishment, now the masters of academia’s bureaucracies and the leading figures among the professoriate, has used this gatekeeping power with great success, to exclude political dissenters, to impose political litmus tests as professional requirements, and to require political propaganda in the courses Americans must take to qualify for a decent job.
While not all students subjected to their regime have acquiesced in this re-education, too many have. Woke academic administrations and their faculty allies have radicalized a generation and more of the administrators and leaders of government, civil society, and business, and have mainstreamed revolutionary hatred of America and American liberty. A terrifyingly large proportion of America’s leadership classes are indifferent to their fellow Americans and their freedoms, or actively seek to subjugate them as they work to impose a tyrannous “equity.” If this peril does not justify legislative action, nothing does.
Reformers’ worry about precedent, moreover, assumes that the educational establishment has refrained from yet worse actions. Yet the establishment already works feverishly and effectively to exclude all but radicals from admission to and employment in colleges and universities and to redefine professional standards to overlap with radical commitment and activism. Academic regulations impose propaganda and censorship, and academic administrations lobby to extend their illiberalism to the republic at large. Further, they refuse to enforce any law that seeks to inhibit their discrimination and their illiberalism. These bureaucrats have made American academia an engine of tyranny dedicated to exporting its principles and its practices to the republic as a whole. Legislators cannot earn its functionaries’ goodwill by inaction; they must first contain and then roll back the academic regime.
Nor can policymakers protect intellectual and academic freedom by leaving its defense to administrators and professors. Most of them have abandoned these principles in theory and almost entirely in practice. The education elite suppresses all internal dissent and claims “freedom” from any external intervention against their tyranny. Academic bureaucracies reject even external criticism of their internal repression, echoing the Soviets who denounced American human rights initiatives as “tantamount to interference in our internal affairs.” The bureaucratized ivory tower is not a temple of intellectual freedom, but its tomb. Policymakers should remember that academic and intellectual freedom belong ultimately to the individual members of colleges and universities. If the administrators who control institutions of higher education will not act to defend their members’ individual academic freedom, then the powers and duties they have relinquished must return to the state and federal governments.
Then, too, colleges and universities are not “marketplaces of ideas,” but intellectual monopolists. The radical establishment has rigged their rules to prevent the free exchange of ideas. Whether you think of the woke education administrators as Soviets or as Standard Oil executives, they use their monopoly powers to ensure they will face no intellectual competition. State and federal policymakers must engage in academic trust-busting to restore a true, free marketplace of ideas.
It is their duty to do so. Higher education, after all, does not possess God-given, inalienable rights; only human beings do. Colleges and universities are mere chartered corporations, delegated powers to run their own affairs—but only conditionally, so long as they serve American interests and ideals by fostering intellectual freedom in the pursuit of truth. The radical administrators and faculty who run our institutions have broken their covenant. Our elected representatives possess not only the right but also the duty to renovate the ivory tower.
Our policymakers can only fulfill their covenant with the citizens they represent by exercising their right to oversee America’s institutions of higher education and freeing them from their radical bureaucrats.
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