By John M. Ellis –
Colleges and universities are a far cry from what they once were: cultural cornerstones dedicated to promoting the disinterested pursuit of truth, teaching students the great ideas of human history, and instilling civic virtue. Compare that to now, where even the most prestigious schools have been all but completely overrun by institution-wide corruption and radical activists masquerading as educators. ( copied from NAS)
Chapter 1 – What do these near-riots tell us about the state of higher education?
Chapter 2 – Who are the people destroying our universities?
Chapter 3 – How was it possible for this to happen?
Chapter 4 – Sabotaging education for citizenship
Chapter 5 – Graduates who know little and can’t think
Chapter 6 – The wretched state of the campuses
Chapter 7 – The campus world of lies and deceit
Chapter 8 – What can be done to restore higher education?
The preface mentions Alan Bloom’s, The Closing Of The American Mind, Roger Kimball’s, Tenured Radicals, Dinesh D’Souza’s, Illiberal Education, and John Ellis’s, Against Deconstruction, all warning about the dangers of a radicalized campus in the process of being created by increasing numbers of radical professors. It then says, “…this book is of a different kind” since now the campus is already radicalized. “…its purpose is threefold: first, to explain exactly what happened and what made it possible; to describe the damage done to all levels of education, including K-12, and the serious damage to our society as a result; and finally, to consider what can be done about this educational and societal catastrophe.”
The majority of professors are not radical by temperament, however, most of them are now so marinated in the left wing atmosphere by which they are surrounded that they go along with most of the radicals’ beliefs and objectives without giving much thought to whether or not they are valid and/or dangerous. Since normal professors are not activist by nature, it is the radical professors who set the agenda since they are the most determined activists.
Chapter 1 – What do these near-riots tell us about the state of higher education?
The recent near riots and protests at American colleges and universities in response to invited conservative speakers have become so common that the public is finally realizing that something is wrong on American campuses. In the last 3 years shout downs of conservative speakers on campuses have increased exponentially. The obvious explanation, “a nationwide campus culture where students are radicalized by their professors.”
Conservative professors who present papers and studies that expose one or another fallacy in the left wing Pantheon are often vilified by their colleagues, and petitions against them signed by dozens, and sometimes hundreds, of professors.
Ellis cites the case of Dr. Amy Wax and a colleague at University of Pennsylvania Law who published an article, “Paying The Price For Breakdown Of The Country’s Bourgeois Culture.” One quote from the article, “… But restoring the bourgeois culture will require the arbiters of culture – academics, media, and Hollywood – to relinquish multicultural grievance polemics in the preening pretense of defending the downtrodden.” About half Penn Law professors signed a letter of condemnation.
Their outrage was about challenging a sacred cow of campus political radicalism, the rigid belief that the sad state of the black underclass is caused solely by society’s racism. On campus, that is an article of faith.” Ellis cites a number of similar cases.
Campus radicals won’t tolerate the suggestion that the black underclass could improve their lives by changing their behavior because they are so anxious for people to think their problems derive solely from the racist environment.
Radical professors have a whole menu of similarly ideological positions whose primary purpose is to demonstrate the failures of our society to create a climate for changing it radically. Since these professors cannot rationally defend their positions, they are determined to censor all evidence of their irrationality. Until recently, reasoned argument using analyzed evidence ruled. Now ruthless suppression of evidence contrary to political dogma has become common – the kind of anti-intellectual behavior we expect universities to remedy – what we have them for.
Many campuses are becoming “… a radicals’ paradise …where there can never be any question that hardline socialism really works …, that affirmative action programs never have problematic side effects, that cops are by nature racist, that the rich did not earn their wealth, middle-class America is still as racist as ever, that men and women are indistinguishable and so on… …students become the front-line enforcers of this fantasy. Unfortunately, this fantasy world is built on the ruins of what used to be universities…A radical sect has finally taken over a precious national resource. In so doing, it is depriving society of something that in the past has been crucial to its success.”
Radical politics has poisoned higher education so thoroughly that universities now behave like anti-universities – instead of fact and analysis trumping politics, politics trumps everything… the entire range of departments that we used to think of as education for citizenship are now the most corrupted.
Chapter 2 – Who are the people destroying our university?
The change in the faculty the last 50 years has been profound, and destructive to a degree that no one could have imagined.
In 1969 a Carnegie Commission on higher education survey found that 45% of faculty had political views left or liberal, 27% middle-of-the-road and 28% either moderately or strongly conservative.
In 1999 Rothman and Lichter did a comprehensive survey of American university professors and found a sharp shift to the left, with those on the left outnumbering those on right by 5 to 1.The left right ratio in English departments was 88 to 3 and in political science 81 to 2.
The tilt became the most extreme in those subject areas where the temptation is greatest for political activists to pack the departments with people who share their political agenda and exclude those who don’t.
Departments such as English, history and political science by 1999 were already close to being one-party departments because a deliberate pattern of political hiring had targeted them because they were central to education for citizenship.
Evidence mounts that employers are finding recent college graduates less able to write and reason than their predecessors and tests in general knowledge find them abysmally ignorant of the country’s history and institutions.
Multiple surveys of professors’ political orientations show that the preponderance of the left on campus is continually increasing as older professors retire and younger ones are hired as the left becomes more firmly in control of the hiring and appointments process.
The Klein – Weston study of faculty political preference at UC Berkeley in 2004 showed that the ratio of left to right at Berkeley was 9.9 to 1 – the professional schools had a ratio of 4 to 1, hard sciences and mathematics, 9.9 to 1, humanities 17 to 1 and social sciences 21 to 1. The more it really matters to have a faculty with a range of social and political aptitude – in the humanities and social sciences – the less of it there actually is because of the left’s greater motivation to staff those departments with allies. Further evidence of the continuing modification of the faculty hiring process in the Klein-Weston study – “The left/right party registration imbalance was 8 to 1 for full professors, but 49 to 1 for the junior ranks.”
Until fairly recently the hard sciences were thought exempt from political domination by the left, but the left is gaining control of them too. Look at the widely publicized political intimidation of conservatives at the majority of our most successful high-tech companies.
Ellis cites a number of studies of colleges and universities that showed a dramatic recent decline in the percentages of moderate and conservative professors.
The forces that moved the ratio from 3 to 2 in the 1960s to 12 to 1 currently are still at work. Retiring faculty are being replaced by a younger group with a virtually exclusive leftward tilt since new faculty recruitment is deliberately selective of radical leftists. Nobody with any influence on campuses is warning that this is intellectual suicide for colleges and universities. Nothing is allowed to interfere with the campuses’ insulation from dissent and from commentary about the catastrophic results of radical politics in the real world.
The concentration of college faculty to the left has produced a change in the character of campus leftism. As it has grown in numerical strength, it has become much more extreme – a predictable consequence of a one-party campus.
Intellectual opponents are essential in enabling you to understand your own position by understanding the opposition. A university department where this is lacking doesn’t deserve a place in the Academy.
A major purpose of higher education is to teach people how to avoid thinking simplistically, the exact opposite of what is now being taught in anything to do with political thought. Politics is about how societies should be organized, and what is more important to be analyzed thoughtfully and intelligently?
Where there are no right of center voices to keep the left healthy, the results is a much more extreme and self-indulgent political culture. When each side faces an effective opposition, intellectual leadership will flow to those who can make the strongest case – extreme positions have to moderate to defend effectively against the other side.
Intellectual laziness can set in when everyone agrees – faculty fail to challenge basic premises – scholarship deteriorates. To expand the frontiers of knowledge, genuine scholars must continually reevaluate everything as they come to terms with new evidence, new discoveries and theories.
Making politics of any kind central to campus life is damaging because the habits of mind of academic teachers are the exact opposite of those of political activists. Political motives will always stunt intellectual curiosity. Freedom of thought is constrained when its conclusion is fixed in advance by a political agenda. Students will never learn to think for themselves if their thought processes are imprisoned in a predetermined belief system. In academia, thinking must never be hostage to the political desirability of the result.
Political activism and academic thinking are polar opposites in the way they approach alternative explanations. Political activists can’t think and act like academics because they want to defeat alternative explanations and theories by any means possible instead of analyzing them objectively. It’s almost a psychological impossibility for them to give alternatives a sympathetic hearing.
James Otteson notes “politics involves emotional allegiances that interfere with intellectual thought… because politics is so fraught with emotion and tribal loyalties, it is extremely dangerous in the context of higher education. It replaces our loyalty to the process of inquiry with a loyalty to one’s own tribe. We judge arguments and even people not on the merits, but instead on the extent to which they conform to our prejudices or group identities. That means we should have no academic departments or institutions whose primary purpose is to inform, affect, or advocate public policy.” Obviously, disbanding all those departments that advocate for social justice would greatly advance the chances of universities recovering their primary purpose.
A deliberate and relentless drive over many decades has transformed academia into a political monoculture. Giving academia a political purpose is to destroy everything that makes it what it ought to be, and what makes it so valuable to our society. Because this was well understood there were many rules and regulations to protect the University from political influence.
The most famous and important statement on the importance of keeping political advocacy out of the University teaching was made in 1915 by the American Association of University professors.”
“The University teacher… Should, above all, remember that his business is not to provide his students with ready-made conclusions, but to train them to think for themselves, and to provide them access to those materials which they need if they are to think intelligently… The teacher also to be especially on his guard against taking unfair advantage of the students immaturity by indoctrinating him with the teachers own opinions before the student has had an opportunity fairly to examine other opinions.” This statement became the reference point for all future discussions on the dangers of using classrooms for political indoctrination.
Democracy itself is damaged by this abuse of higher education. A legislature cannot appropriate funds to promote one political party or philosophy. When funds for education are used for political purposes they are being stolen from the use for which they were appropriated.
Recognition that universities must be protected from political influence is enshrined in the rules and regulations that prohibit their use for political purposes of almost all universities. All of these federal and state laws and university rules and directives are still fully in effect… Yet everywhere, college faculty and administrators are flagrantly violating these well-known laws, regulations, and professional understandings about the need to keep the University free from political activism. The present condition of college campuses has proved just how necessary all of these rules were.
How did the protection of so many different rules and regulations fail so miserably? How could we have gone from the academia of the 1950s, when American universities were the envy of the world, to that of today where a radical sect has almost destroyed their integrity? The next chapter turns to the sorry history of how it all happened, and how what previously seemed ironclad safeguards failed so completely.
Chapter 3 – How was it possible for this to happen?
“The left now is far more extreme on campus than it is off-campus; the more that politics is relevant to the field of study (the most obvious being political science and sociology), the greater the preponderance of left-wing faculty, and younger faculty members are more solidly left than older faculty – the tilt continues to grow as retirees are replaced by new appointments.”
Campuses are radicalized and the intellectual level has collapsed. It seemed impossible that this could happen. There were too many safeguards. Why did all of these safeguards prove so ineffective? Already in 1962, a small group, Students For A Democratic Society (SDS), had a plan to do exactly what has now happened. Their “Port Huron” statement held America to be morally responsible for poverty and malnutrition in the world, not the governments of the relevant countries.
The idea was to acquire political power by taking over the universities as described in the last section of the Port Huron statement entitled “The University And Social Change.”- “An alliance of students and faculty must wrest control of the educational process from the administrative bureaucracy… They must import major public issues into the curriculum… They must consciously build a base for the assault upon the loci of power.” They chose the universities as the path to political power because, “the University is located in a prominent position of social influence. Its educational function makes it indispensable and automatically makes it a crucial institution in the formation of social attitudes.”
Their intent was to shape opinion before young students were able to gain sufficient experience and maturity to think for themselves, i.e. indoctrinate them. Converting the universities into agencies for political control of the general population is something done invariably by brutal dictatorships but never before by liberal democracies.”
They succeeded because of a series of events that together worked a miracle, the combination acting as a force multiplier. The first was national unrest over mishandling of the war in Vietnam. The second was the sudden massive expansion of the University at exactly the critical point of political turmoil – 1965 to 1975. The third was the morphing of the civil rights movement into a powerful regime of identity politics under the banner of diversity.
The Vietnam War and the draft brought about a strong anti-establishment atmosphere on the campuses. The pervasive campus mood of this particular moment was much closer than usual to the mindset of the radical left, and membership in the SDS grew so rapidly that by 1968 – 69, it was 200 times what had been in 1962, and campuses everywhere were in turmoil. This movement would likely have died had not just at this moment a massive expansion of higher education began. The confluence of the Vietnam War with its effect on the campus mood, and the dramatic growth of higher education combined to allow it to flourish.
The sudden demand for huge numbers of new university and college teachers placed a great strain on the system. Stiff competition had kept faculty quality high because only small numbers of new faculty jobs were available at any one time.. But in the 1960s rapidly expanding universities created a demand for new faculty appointments on a scale unseen before. The number of new faculty needed was greater than the number of all the existing professors in the nation. This sudden, immensely increased demand led to drastically lower quality. It was the worst time imaginable for recruiting new faculty on such a massive scale, coinciding with the rise of serious domestic political unrest of the Vietnam War and the resulting radicalization of a great many undergraduate and graduate students. Political turmoil had its greatest effect on those of draft age, the group from which the huge expansion in college faculty would come.
It would be hard to imagine a scenario better suited to advance the radical left plan to control higher education. At exactly the moment when so many graduate students had been radicalized by the political unrest of the Vietnam War there was unprecedented demand for them as new faculty members. The new faculty “arrived in numbers large enough to create a beachhead that quickly became so much a part of campus life that it could not be dislodged.”
The third historical coincidence so damaging to the integrity of universities was the invention of identity politics and the gradual adoption of diversity as the guiding light, replacing traditional concern with intellectual excellence. This created another opportunity for faculty radicals to swell their numbers on campus. The idea of diversity as the ruling doctrine in academia grew out of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Colleges soon began abandoning merit-based criteria in admissions (as the Act technically required) so they could use race as a factor to increase the numbers of black students.
In higher education, group identity was made the highest value. Sen. Hatch called it “a cancer on our political culture – tribalism by another name. Ideas, not identity should be the driving force of our politics,” he said. The saying that people would rather be ruled poorly by their own kind then well by anybody else is being proven over and over in today’s political climate.
Race-based admissions began to change the entire system of thought and behavior on college campuses. Small changes accumulated until a chain of reactions overwhelmed the system. Institutions whose very nature requires them to judge ideas only by their intellectual coherence, and people only by their abilities, were introducing an alien element, one that contains no self-limiting principle. Since identity politics has no limiting principle its ability to corrupt academia is limitless.
The series of changes initiated by racial preferences in admissions began in the 1970s and pressure to hire minority faculty intensified, until every new faculty appointment was viewed as an opportunity to increase minority faculty numbers. This altered the political complexion of the faculty – another factor leading inexorably to radical dominance of the campuses. This all correlated with a strong sense of the injustices of the past, and of the need to remake society. This meant that political radicals were in a position to seek out and hire more people just as radical as they were. Racial preferences in faculty hiring increased the number of radical leftists on campus and the political complexion of the faculty was moved still further left.
Preferential hiring was further enlarged to add more women to the faculty – ones who shared the sense that the status quo was unjust and social change needed.
Faculty radicals who had been appointed to achieve race and gender diversity soon pressed for new departments of women’s studies, black studies, ethnic studies, etc… Such departments were inconceivable before the era of race and gender based admissions in hiring preferences. The new departments were in effect a series of little anti-academies within the Academy, places where non-academic thought and behavior could thrive.
Given all the powerful factors that boosted the numbers of radicals on campus – the Vietnam War, the huge expansion of higher education, the large-scale recruitment of political radicals under the cover of increasing the minority and female presence on campus – how could a group that was so diametrically opposed to genuine academic values prosper in an environment that had formerly been so completely devoted to those values? They were successful precisely because they were so opposed to traditional academic values that the administration and faculty alike were completely unprepared to deal with them. Serious academic scholars are used to pursuing intellectual questions independently. Organizing them is like herding cats. But political radicals knew very well how to organize themselves for a common goal, and how to create pressures that older academics were not used to dealing with, since reason and analysis had always been the most powerful weapons in any dispute. When a group appeared that refused to respect the supremacy of reasoned argument and instead used the political means of demonstrations, disruptions and moral blackmail, traditional academics were helpless.
The Supreme Court Bakke decision gave another boost to identity politics. Justice Powell’s use of the concept of diversity allowed identity politics to seize the moral high ground on campus. Diversity soon became the key value in academic life; the campus obsession with it swept common sense aside. In any confrontation, opposition to the radicals, and so to diversity, could easily be stigmatized as moral failure.
Diversity played a huge role in weakening resistance to radical control. “It gave a whole new focus to mid-level administrators whose job had been to monitor the integrity of academic life. So potent was this concept of diversity that a new type of administrative office was developed. They sprang up at all levels of campus administration at huge cost. Ellis cites Heather McDonald’s, The Diversity Delusion.
The enormous increase in the size of campus administration in the last few decades is largely due to the creation of these ubiquitous diversity offices and they are the most important part of the cost inflation problem of universities.
These new diversity offices attract social justice warrior types. Philip Hamburger said,
“They promote indoctrination into speech, opinion and personal life and are now a crucial part of the way in which political radicals exercise their power and in which identity politics now strangles academia.”
The change from a focus on academic excellence to one on diversity altered the pecking order within the faculty. Formerly the arbiters of excellence, the natural campus leaders, embodied the core values of the Academy: original thought and intellectual curiosity. Administrators were answerable to them. When diversity edged out excellence as the leading concept it all changed. The new arbiters of diversity were not the intellectual giants of the campus, but the political radicals, intellectual mediocrities. They now set policy. Formerly, administrators needed to maintain the confidence of the most accomplished faculty, but now they had to keep the diversity lobby happy. Faculty leadership passed from those most committed to the Academy’s core values to those who undermined them.
What of the watchdog mechanisms supposed to keep the campus intellectually healthy and prevent their becoming politicized? Three levels of oversight mechanisms were in place to protect against politicization – Faculty committees to protect the overall integrity of academic life; mid-level administrators to enforce quality control; and boards of trustees with the responsibility to maintain the integrity of the University. Their most important responsibility was to keep the institutions free of politicization. Ellis later documents cases to show how and why all have failed.
The replacement of excellence by diversity cripples administrative quality control. Candidates for administrative posts who didn’t agree that diversity was high priority usually were not appointed due to opposition by the campus diversity lobby. This produced a generation of administrators who were either easily intimidated or else fully committed to diversity. Thus ended administrative quality control.
Faculty watchdog committees failed because they became as radicalized as the faculty. Faculty quality control mechanisms at all levels became worthless as soon as political activists were numerous enough to control them.
“I’ll turn to the damage that these corrupted institutions are now doing to education and more generally to the entire fabric of the nation.”
Chapter 4 – Sabotaging education for citizenship
In the past, higher education has always included a grounding in the accumulated knowledge and wisdom of our society and of the civilization of which it is a part: its history, institutions, constitutional framework, literature, and scientific knowledge. Exposure to their society’s origins, achievements, and thought made students broadly educated people who could be more valuable members of that society.
But education for citizenship is now abandoned, and much of what takes its place is doing more harm than good. “The most important part of an education for American citizenship is providing students with an honest account of this country’s history. But American history as now taught is largely distorted. Political radicals paint as dark a picture of America as possible to make the case for radical social change by focusing only on aspects that show its failings while ignoring positive accomplishments. They falsify history and evade obvious questions.”
“We have about the highest standard of living in the world; are the oldest democracy in the world, with the largest surviving written Constitution, and have lead an incredible rise in human welfare throughout most of the world. A realistic history of America would cover its extraordinarily rapid rise to the most culturally influential country on earth, with the strongest economy and the most powerful military, and would note that no militarily supreme power has ever been so restrained. Former empires never failed to pursue conquest to the limit of their ability.” American history as now written by radicals avoids most of its great features. Ellis cites a number of history courses and describes them briefly, all of which are focused narrowly – with race, class, and ethnic differences, etc… These courses are designed to criticize America’s mistreatment of certain classes of its citizens, and there is little that gives a more general sense of what is distinctive about the nation’s history.
Ellis gives a brief description of Howard Zinn’s, A People’s History Of The United States, and says that “the Amazon website calls Zinn’s book a “classic national bestseller.” Zinn’s book, a radical leftist’s diatribe on America’s faults, sold 2 million copies, had endorsements by leading establishment academic historians, and has been a very widely used textbook.… its sales figures and establishment praise indicate how completely corrupt the teaching of American history has become. “This incoherent nonsense is taken very seriously indeed by the radicals who now dominate the teaching of American history, because it serves a purpose.… This is not history; it is political propaganda, its purpose is to make the case that the country is so rotten that it must be radically transformed.”
Radical historians are so spiteful toward their own country because they are determinedly socialist in outlook and hate free markets, i.e. capitalism. Of the world’s nations, the US most embodies the idea of free markets. The rise of America to world preeminence has been a striking demonstration of the power of free markets and that’s what campus radicals hate about it. The astonishing success of the American economic system makes people with their political beliefs look foolish, so the American history they teach is intentionally distorted.
Wealth has to be created and America’s was created by its free-market economic system. Radical history accuses America of becoming wealthy by stealing from other countries. A study done by ACTA in 2000 found seniors at 55 of the most prestigious colleges and universities displayed astonishing ignorance of American history. Their professors had omitted nearly all of the really distinctive things about our history.
Our nation’s history is taught by people hostile to it because it has been so successful largely by avoiding socialism, so they rarely mention its most central features. A grounding in the nation’s history is an essential part of an education for citizenship, as is a knowledge of its basic institutions, especially its Constitution. For years ACTA surveys have shown an astounding level of ignorance among recent college graduates as to the most basic aspects of governance in the United States. Their 2016 survey titled, “A Crisis In Civic Education,” concludes: “In a country that depends upon an educated populace, ignorance of its history and founding documents will be disastrous.”
Another study in 2018 found that only one in three Americans could pass the US citizenship test. The survey showed how citizenship education has deteriorated in recent decades. Those 65 and older scored best with 74% passing, while only 19% of those under age 45 passed.
Our founding fathers’ knowledge of history led them to realize that in the past when people got rid of the tyrant they soon got another. They thought long and hard about how to create a government strong enough to avoid the danger of a power vacuum but not so strong as to be able to develop into a tyranny. Their ingenious solution succeeded, both because they learned the lessons of history so well and because they had a shrewd grasp of human nature.
On one difficult constitutional issue after another, the founding fathers understood what the dangers were, and crafted solutions that were never less than intelligent, and often absolutely inspired. The whole problem of the tyranny of the majority was met by a limitation on the powers of government; the founders’ solution to the proper relationship between elected representatives and those they represented was ingenious.
The Federalist papers are among the greatest works of political theory ever written. Our students should study the Constitution because of its proven workability and staying power and the enormous success of the country under its operation. Yet graduation requirements for study of the Constitution have vanished almost everywhere. Often the study of the Constitution is not available as an elective. The controlling faculty majority doesn’t want students to understand the nation’s constitutional framework, or the sheer depth of knowledge and profundity of thought that the founders put into it, or how well the founders solved the difficult constitutional problems they grappled with. The Constitution interferes with what the radicals want to do since the founders understood unlimited government will sooner or later evolve into tyranny. But faculty radicals need a government big enough and powerful enough to fundamentally reshape society. You can’t go beyond the equality of opportunity to engineer equality of outcomes with limited government. Big government with unlimited powers is vital for socialist schemes.
Lessons of the 20th century have proven in about 20 different countries that governments with unlimited powers become dictatorships that produce misery.
The founding fathers knew enough about human history and human nature to give us a Constitution that protects us from such disasters, and from such men. The present faculty of the colleges and universities seem unwilling to learn from history.
Education for citizenship also involves an acquaintance with the outstanding writings and crucial events in the history of our civilization. The best of our civilization’s thought is available to each new generation through the works of extraordinary writers, thinkers, and observers of human life. The few best remain while millions of others are forgotten. They are a key part of education for citizenship, giving us the most profound commentary on life that has ever been committed to writing. One of the great privileges of higher education is the opportunity to study these magnificent works under the guidance of able teachers.
The enduring works of literature, philosophy and history are an important aspect of the development of our civilization, and of modern life itself, and so an acquaintance with a number of them is a vital part of a college education.
Books that proved their extraordinary power over generations are being abandoned in favor of lesser books of minimal value. Heather McDonald’s explains why – “relentless determination to reduce the stunning complexity of the past to the shallow categories of identity and class politics.” The reason for this folly is that the contemporary academic wants only to study oppression. Choosing books to redress ethnic or sexual imbalances won’t make for the well-educated citizen. For that you need the best books available – books that challenge by their quality.
A knowledge of the crucial events in the development of modern civilization is part of a basic education for citizenship, the courses once called “Western civilization.” The central purpose was to trace the roots of our modern way of life which gave them the central place in the curriculum. The radicals don’t want to increase students understanding of their civilization’s history because it will increase their regard for it and weaken the case for radical social change. Courses in Western civilization were formerly required almost everywhere, but no longer.
The contention that all cultures are equal is an excuse to abandon Western civilization courses and is now popular on campuses almost everywhere – except nobody really believes it. Cultural relativism is the idea that each culture should be judged on its own terms alone, rather than against the standards of another culture.
In teaching such nonsense, the campus radical culture has destroyed education for citizenship. This has left us with graduates ignorant of the history of their own country and its institutions.
Chapter 5 – Graduates who know little and can’t think
How well does the campus now prepare students to function in society and the workforce, to think productively, to reason, to write well? How has the present state of higher education affected K-12 schools? And what is its general impact on the social and political life of the nation?
Great numbers of careful studies have found that recent graduates have been very poorly educated. They write badly, can’t reason, can’t read any reasonably complex material with comprehension, have alarming gaps in their knowledge of the history and institutions of our society, and are poorly prepared for the workplace.
Employers now consider college graduates deficient in writing, written communications, and leadership skills. The National Center For Education Statistics, focusing on the literacy of adults at various educational levels found a sharp decline between the years 1992 and 2003. Literacy experts and educators were stunned by the results of this recent adult literacy assessment. Apparently 69% of college graduates can’t read any reasonably complex material with an acceptable level of understanding. The explanation – the period from 1992 to 2003 was the crucial time when the politicization of the nation’s college and university faculties suddenly gained an enormous momentum.
Graduates knowledge of our history and political institutions dropped alarmingly after campus requirements in American history and institutions and in Western civilization were abolished. If graduates can’t even write short declarative sentences competently it’s because writing courses neglect the skill of writing to focus on radical politics and great books are abandoned in favor of politically correct simplemindedness.
The weak learning of recent graduates due to the politicization of the campuses threatens the country’s future. When academia fails to educate for analytical skills and useful knowledge students don’t get a college education and we don’t get an informed citizenry.
Teachers in high schools and elementary schools are all trained in colleges and universities. The blight of higher education has spread to the K-12 schools and now undermines our whole educational system. There is broad agreement that teaching in K-12 schools has deteriorated greatly in recent years. Today, an astounding proportion of the students entering college must take remedial courses.
A major part of the problem lies in the schools of education. Rita Kramer’s book, Ed School Follies: The Miseducation Of American Teachers, explained how the low quality of public schools is the result of political preoccupations that influenced teacher training in the nation’s teacher colleges. She found an astonishing uniformity of opinion on one central issue: “the goal of schooling is not considered to be instructional, but political… The public schools’ role of transmitting the common culture and imparting the skills required to understand and be productive in it, has been transformed into an agency of social change.”
She found that “the low level of skills and knowledge in the public schools was strongly correlated with the politicization of the university education school programs, and that ignorance of the nation’s history and its institutions among high school graduates was the intended result of a conscious policy choice rather than of neglect. Schools of education “denigrate the history of the institutions that made us the nation we are”.
Our powerful system of higher education is spreading dysfunction and political radicalism instead of knowledge and mental acuity. When colleges stop teaching students how to think and instead tell them what ideology they must adopt it trickles down to the lower schools and produces the same disasters. A recent study of schools of education by Jay Schalin found that, “teacher education has become one of the most politicized courses of academia.” These heavily politicized schools of education have become a major factor in educational deterioration by importing the same incompetent and politicized teaching into the public schools.
The politicization of the campuses has sabotaged the path to advancement for underprivileged and minority students. Access to first-rate higher education has always been a powerful force for opportunity and advancement for our citizens, especially the less privileged. Historically, excellent higher education has propelled whole groups of have-nots to prosperity. Excellent public education was the engine of social change for the large immigrant populations in earlier generations. Excellence in higher education has been a highly effective engine of social advance for millions of the less privileged.
Control of the education that can lead the underprivileged to full equality in the mainstream is now in the hands of those who are alienated from their own society and want to infect their students. Such teachers undermine confidence in the value of trying to succeed. By denigrating society they undermine the desire to seek a better place in it.
High school teachers are no longer well educated because the education schools have elevated diversity over excellence, in faculty hiring, in student admissions and in curriculum. The diversity agenda increases political radicalism, which undermines college education and leads to even more poorly prepared high school teachers. It is a classic vicious circle: the minority high school deficit leads to preferences in college admissions, preferences lead to political radicalism on campus, campus radicalism leads to a deterioration in the education of high school teachers etc.
Black students are handicapped by departments that are hotbeds of alienated radicalism such as black studies that keep them out of major fields with real content and further mire them in alienated radicalism and a sense of victimhood. Black studies programs generate only grievance and alienation and they sabotage students’ chances for advancement.
It’s tempting to think that the only harm is that so much of students time at colleges is wasted by fools. You might think all students see through the foolishness but they don’t. Proselytizing radicals have enough influence on the more easily led students to change the political complexion of the nation. Within the Democratic Party, 57% now have a positive view of socialism. 2018 was the first year a survey found a majority of Democrats having a favorable view of socialism.
Since half of 18 to 29-year-olds now look favorably on socialism it’s obvious that students are being taught to like it without being taught about it. It should be so taught that it is thoroughly understood by college graduates, so examining its core tenets and variant versions, the arguments for and against it, a comparison of its political theory with its competitors, and a study of the historical record to show how disastrously it has worked where it has been tried. The sudden surge in enthusiasm among the young for this system of government shows that it is not being taught, but preached. Students are kept innocent of its disastrous history and brainwashed into believing it will move us toward utopia.
Indoctrination by radicals is now having a major effect on national politics and has changed the entire orientation of the Democratic Party. This is exactly what the SDS Port Huron manifesto envisioned. Such a radical change in the national political scene could not have happened without the widespread systematic abuse of campus classrooms for political advantage by proselytizing leftists. The political life of the campus must be poisoned to sustain the one-party monopoly and this poison is spreading into the political life of the nation. This is why our national political culture is more spiteful and hostile than ever before.
A recent study of the tech industry found it was so dominated by hostile and intolerant left wing employees that center-right tech professionals were treated with hostility. An organized workplace culture of bitter ideological hatred toward the politics of half the country is something very new. The origin of the tech industry animosity to anything right of center is of course the political hatreds cultivated in the one-party campus.
The radicalized campus is spreading its tentacles into more and more areas of national life. Radical leftism dominates in state bar associations and in major philanthropic foundations and journalism schools
As Walter Williams summed it up: “many of the nation’s colleges have become a focal point for the destruction of traditional American values. The fact that today’s college students are tomorrow’s teachers, professors, judges, attorneys, legislators, and policymakers is a threat to our future.”
The damage to the social fabric of the nation and to its political life far outweighs the enormous sums we are wasting on the miseducation of students.
Chapter 6 – The wretched state of the campuses
Today the entire campus atmosphere is openly political, and proselytizing is central to campus life. This has replaced an atmosphere of thoughtfulness, intelligence, and eagerness to learn.
The prevalence of a militant radical politics on campus has fundamentally changed how the University works. There has been a complete reversal in the way that academia and society interact. Universities used to be places where the major political and social issues of the day could be researched, debated, and analyzed. The wider world used to appreciate and use the careful empirical research from the campus, but the present-day campus rejects all empirical research that violates any of its political orthodoxies.
Academic analysis is now prohibited wherever it challenges any of the political orthodoxies. Ellis goes on to cite numerous examples of stupid orthodoxies that are not allowed to be challenged.
When we allow politics to reign on campus the Academy becomes the polar opposite of what it was. The place where careful empirical research used to be conducted to help resolve difficult issues in the wider world becomes instead the place where the most extreme and divisive approaches to those issues silence all alternatives. Instead of doing something useful for society by spreading enlightenment on contentious issues, the Academy does the opposite – it spreads falsehood and bigotry.
The second way in which modern campus has largely abandoned one of its most basic functions is its failure to acquaint students with the best ideas and thoughts of the past – the great storehouse of the past that students used to go to college to explore.
We now have a willful ignorance of what’s been handed down to us – the legacy of the wisest recorded thought and the lessons to be learned from the history of our civilization. Students badly need to become acquainted with the sources of the ideas of faculty radicals, and with how poorly those ideas have failed whenever they have been implemented.
The Academy used to be a place where reason and evidence were decisive and foolish ideas could not compete. Now academia itself is the origin and stronghold of ideas based on contextual ignorance. Everything can and should be questioned on a properly functioning university campus – it’s the academic way. But it’s not the campus radicals’ way.
The giant leap forward in human civilization began in Western Europe and America and the white privilege contention is silly. The group that launched the changes earned the benefits and other groups benefited as the innovation spread. When a major civilizational advance takes place the way forward for others is by assimilating the innovation. Asian-American students are not letting the silliness about “cultural imperialism” stop them from getting ahead. The progress of other minority groups is being sabotaged by calls to resent the innovative group because of the temporary advantage that its culture’s innovations gave it.
Rational argument and open-mindedness are required to advance knowledge.. The close mindedness of political radicals make serious discussion of social and political issues virtually impossible. The intellectual curiosity that used to be the basis of campus life is now treated as dangerous. Careful analysis of issues would teach students to think independently. The ignorance of the young instead of being corrected is now exploited.
The fact that radicals think political problems have simple solutions without unintended consequences is what makes them so dangerous.
The variety of themes and issues in recorded history and in the great works of literature is immense, one reason why a university education was such a mind broadening experience. But because radicals are obsessed with finding and denouncing racism, sexism, and greed everywhere, they reduce the variety of human experience to those few issues, which are further reduced by repetitive one-dimensional judgments.
College reading lists have been degraded with great books replaced by mediocre ones that challenge neither by complexity of ideas nor by excellence of writing. Many of these currently assigned books focus on the themes of left-wing radicalism: victimology, anti-capitalism, illegal immigration, radical environmentalism, multi-culturalism, racism, identity politics.
An example of a propaganda course is Critical Legal Studies, presented on many campuses and holding that the law is a tool for the higher-ups to exploit and keep down the have-nots, that the law is a system of oppression and social control. Actually, the rule of law protects the powerless, while its absence makes tyranny possible. The record of history shows that economies flourish only where the rule of law prevails.
The latest absurdity is micro aggressions, another example of censorship of any political expression that challenges the prevalent radicalism. It’s even used to forbid saying that hiring should be done on merit.
Dennis Prager is quoted as follows: “if you send your children to university, you are endangering both their mind and their character. There’s a real chance they will be more intolerant and more foolish after college than before they entered college. You are taught to have contempt for America and its founders, to prefer socialism to capitalism, to divide human beings by race and ethnicity. You are taught to shout down those who differ with you, to not debate them. And you are taught to place feelings over reason which is a guaranteed route to eventual evil.”
Chapter 7 – The campus world of lies and deceit
Since what is happening on campuses is forbidden everywhere by statutes, institutional regulations, bylaws of governing boards, professional standards, and the common understanding of the public, the radical campus can’t admit to what it is doing. That the campuses promote radical politics is beyond question, yet professors and administrators at all levels deny what is going on. The partisans lie to allow radical control to continue tightening. Others lie to cover up their complicity and still others because they are afraid of the campus left.
The radicals know they can’t openly proclaim political goals without breaking the law, so claim to be promoting “social justice”. Using social justice as a rallying cry conceals their political agenda – redistribution and a vastly increased role for government. The deceitfulness of the phrase “social justice” is now fundamental to campus life.
Another deceit is the idea that racism and sexism are everywhere. Ellis cites Christina Hoff Summers and Heather McDonald’s work debunking much of this stuff. The huge diversity bureaucracy justifies its existence by finding racism where it does not exist. To suggest that Blacks adopt middle-class norms is to strike at the base of the belief system that racism can be the only real source of minority distress.
In 2012 the California Association of scholars (CAS) challenged the Regents of the University of California in a report entitled “A Crisis Of Competence: The Corrupting Effect Of Political Activism In The University Of California” which Ellis wrote as president of CAS. This study documented multiple abuses of the University’s prohibition of political influence including quoting directly from the University Course catalog and other documents. The report revealed in detail that the University was violating its own rules and CAS went to The President, the Faculty Academic Senate and the Chair of The Board of Regents with the evidence. All repeatedly stonewalled the CAS and ultimately did nothing to address the situation.
Ellis’s point in explaining this was to show how every group responsible for safeguarding the University against politicization was either staffed by political radicals, or by those who were afraid of the radicals. Apparently, similar conditions exist at most American colleges and universities.
Chapter 8 – What can be done to restore higher education?
First look at the evidence – “most students after four years in college showed no improvement either an ability to reason are in general knowledge; college faculty is now virtually cleansed of all but left-leaning professors, and with the controlling faction being radical political activists; classrooms everywhere are used for preaching the ideology of political activists, not to teach students how to think for themselves – minds manipulated instead of minds opened; a campus atmosphere where vicious intolerance of right of center opinion makes serious discussion of the issues of the day impossible; an extreme, destructive version of identity politics entrenched both in the faculty and in aggressive politicized bureaucracies; a climate of fear with respect to matters of political or social ideology; major damage to the prospects of upward mobility for minorities; a virtual absence of the teaching of the U.S. Constitution, and US history no longer taught in a balanced and intelligent way, but instead to further the radicals war against their own society; a dominant campus ideology that has been discredited by the misery it has brought wherever it has been tried; resistance to that ideology crippled by the silencing of contrary opinion; bitter, intolerant and ignorant hatred of the social and economic system that has made this nation the most successful in the history of the world; a determined attempt to ignore the kind of education that transmits the knowledge and wisdom of past generations; the nation’s political climate poisoned by the hate filled attitudes that many students absorbed from radical professors; all sustained by a culture of deceit at every level of the campus; and students who are strangers to any serious and well-informed discussion about social and political matters.”
“This is a national crisis. Excellence in higher education was one of the major reasons for this nation’s success. The kind of left-wing radicalism that has destroyed so many countries could achieve supremacy here too if indoctrination of college students is allowed to continue. We must act to stop this madness now.”
There are still some good courses and some good professors but it is getting more and more difficult to find them. The left right ratio among faculty has been rising for 50 years. With the rising number of radicals comes ever more outlandish politics because the more politically unbalanced the faculty, the more extreme its political ideology will be.
There are already signs of the decrease in the quality of teaching and research in the STEM fields showing that something has gone wrong with the peer review process. We cannot regard the STEM fields as reliable islands of sanity within the politicized campus. The STEM fields are becoming politicized and evidence of it is seen throughout the high tech industry. Even the STEM courses are adopting diversity requirements.
Campus administrations already have all the authority they need to stop the politicization. New rules will be ignored by faculty and compliant administrators will be no more likely to enforce them than they have been to enforce those already in place. Neither new nor old rules prohibiting politicization will be enforced while radicals control all the enforcement mechanisms.
The problem of a corrupt higher education can’t be corrected without correcting the character and temperament of today’s college faculty. Any solution that does not correct the problem of a one-party, radical activist professorate will fail. The problem is one of personnel, not of rules or guidance. Large numbers of professors have neither the interest, the aptitude, nor the knowledge for genuine academic work; their interests are completely incompatible with it, and fundamentally at odds with the nature of the University. Reform must focus directly on the people who don’t belong in academia but are now numerous enough to control it. Because the campuses are controlled by the people who are the source of the problem, they can’t be reformed from within.
With any attempt at piecemeal reform, the majority of the faculty would create a tidal wave of opposition to ideas that oppose their political agenda. No meaningful change is possible while the campuses are tightly controlled by well-organized cliques of radical faculty who are hostile to genuine, all ideas open for consideration, higher education.
Real changes can happen only by dismantling the radical faculty regime whose powerful political cliques will have to be broken up and removed. Nothing short of this can restore excellence to higher education. Radical activists have rebuilt the Academy to serve their political purposes, which will continue until what they have constructed is dismantled.
The damage done to our society includes both the corruption of K-12 education and serious damage to the political life of the nation by the spreading of a radical politics that loathes this country and its traditions. We cannot do without higher education. We must restore our capacity to get it.
The destructive rule of radical activists on campus will be overturned only when the broader society sees clearly that the radical left has infiltrated and eventually gained control of academia to promote its political ideology. Restoring academia means undoing what they have done and it can’t be done while its advocates are still in a position to block it. One lever of control is the enormous sum of money paid for higher education by taxpayers, parents, and students. The public must be alerted to the fact that much of that money is subsidizing radical left politics. On the campuses, the politicized faculty have an impregnable position but their crucial weakness is that they are diverting education funds to an unauthorized purpose.
A place to start is with state legislatures that appropriate funds to support state universities. The legislature might impose a new management team on campus, with independent power to make thoroughgoing reforms. That power would have to include the ability to abolish departments, 1) whose sole purpose is political (for example, the notorious “studies” departments), or 2) that openly proclaim the mission to be political, usually by invoking the need for “social justice,” or 3) whose proper academic mission has been replaced by a political one (as in many sociology, history, and English departments).
Political science departments have almost completely excluded conservative political ideas from the faculty. One approach would be completely defunding the worst humanities and social sciences departments, and beginning again from scratch. Faculty tenure is not an obstacle when an entire department is terminated. The state legislature could cancel funding for hopelessly corrupted departments. Reform should always include the campus units and structures in which excellence in teaching and research has been replaced by radical activism and identity politics. The diversity bureaucracy should be defunded and dismantled to end its poisonous influence.
The base on which reform can build is becoming smaller every year which makes reform more and more difficult. Those pockets of quality are assets that we must use to guide reform – the reason to act quickly. Reform will have to start where political opinion is most hospitable, in more conservative states. State legislatures in states controlled by Democrats have seen themselves as protectors of the radicalized campus.
The situation provides a great opportunity to a state that restores a State University and makes it a genuine institution of higher learning. It would have an opportunity to build an outstanding faculty and become the de facto leader of American higher education. It could become a standard against which all others are compared.
Accreditation agencies might also help reform, but only if they are first reformed. They have become obsessed with diversity, so have become enforcers of the politicized campuses agenda – the opposite of their proper role. A reformed accrediting agency could withdraw validation from an incompetent political science department with an all left faculty. On most campuses they could attack the narrow ideological conformity of almost the entire faculty in the humanities and social sciences. Accrediting agencies should promote academic competence instead of enforcing political correctness.
The Department of Education could use its influence to steer accreditation agencies back to their proper role. Universities rely on federal funding in many ways and those funds now support and encourage a corrupted and politicized higher education.
Students can already find real alternatives online, as there are many excellent courses if they want to educate themselves in American history – real history, not distorted history. They can do so with courses of high quality. The same holds true for many other fields. You can get a genuine education from some of the world’s best professors at a tiny fraction of the cost of attending college. An effort should be made to acquaint parents with this opportunity.
It was once universally acknowledged that political influence will completely corrupt higher education and make it worthless. We now have undeniable proof that it does. Another lesson is that identity politics is always an enemy of truth and integrity because it puts tribal allegiance above merit and truth. When the academic world adopted “diversity” as a core value, it was taking on a political purpose. Education can only accomplish its proper role when it avoids the corrupting effect of direct involvement in political and social causes. The iron grip of identity politics must be broken, for it cannot coexist with the pursuit of truth.
Everything depends on the public will to reform academia. The reform must include an end to the one-party faculty, the removal of radical activists, an end to condoning intolerance, the dismantling of the campus diversity apparatus, the reintroduction of knowledge of and respect for history and our Constitution, the replacing of co-dependent administrators with people who will protect the integrity of the campuses, and the appointment of trustees who are watchdogs and not lapdogs.
This summary largely consists of direct quotations from the book, (often without identifying them as such by quotation marks), and often shortened, paraphrased or otherwise changed.
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Copyright @ 2020 by John M. Ellis