Trumping the ivy walls


After parallel careers in the military and higher education, I believe our recent campus unrest reflects a lethal combination of bad parenting and leftist indoctrination thinly disguised as teaching. Raised on participation trophies rather than real responsibilities, the me-first generation infests campuses miraculously transformed from preserves of higher learning into leftist cactus gardens where every succulent bites, stings or scratches. Our students learn less and less while being programmed more and more, their skyrocketing tuition coaxed from obliging parents or the bottomless coffers of taxpayers.

Recently, some professors canceled exams to assuage the post-election angst of their students. Others discovered the new obligation of the university (Harvard, Yale, Brown, et. al) to serve as a sanctuary. After decades of disinformation, it was a comparatively simple matter to turn campuses that once taught the canons of Western civilization and other conceits of dead white males into sanctuary cities for the indigent or the undocumented. One hand-painted sign at Columbia recently asserted, "No one is illegal!" Wanna bet?

But even faculty club Jacobins may be sensing that the tectonic shifts of recent politics could soon spawn other tsunamis. In their cover story, "A Humbling of Higher Ed" the Nov. 11 Chronicle of Higher Education begins, "The president-elect's resonant skewering of elites, political correctness, and immigration policy resonates with the country's longstanding skepticism of academe." But the recent humiliation of campus pundits, pollsters and prognosticators was so intensely painful that their institutional house organ could barely bring itself to whisper the dread word, "Trump."

For decades, there has been a growing conviction that American academics, like their counterparts in Hollywood and the American media, have abandoned any pretext of objectivity or fair-mindedness. While U.S. education levels were dropping to 17th - well behind Finland, South Korea and Hong Kong - University of Virginia social psychologist Jonathan Haidt surveyed his colleagues at a 2011 professional gathering.

He found that in an audience of over a thousand, more than 80 percent were liberals while only three people haltingly identified themselves as conservatives. According to The New York Times, "Dr. Haidt argued that social psychologists are a "tribal-moral community" united by "sacred values" that hinder research and damage their credibility - and blind them to the hostile climate they've created for non-liberals."

No one seems to have worried that some of those non-liberals might actually be students, still less that they might have naively hoped that their tuition dollars would prepare them for productive careers. Instead, student potential was less important than the one-sided ideologies of their professors. Maybe there should be an academic version of the Hippocratic Oath: "First do no harm."

Even if there were, some would still oppose it. One of them would presumably be professor Donald Lazere, author of, "Why Higher Education Should Have a Leftist Bias." As he explained to the American Association of University Professors, "For many years I have been making the case that the ceaseless conservative attack against bias and political correctness among leftists in both education and media disingenuously stands the truth on its head: the far greater bias pervading American society is conservative, but it is not widely perceived as a bias - just as the normative, natural order of things."

Got that? When the professor at your son's university disses or ignores conservative viewpoints, he does so only because he is a caped crusader, relentlessly exposing the inherent biases of Western society. When the lecturer at your daughter's liberal arts college insists that any religion except Islam is sexist crowd control, then she is merely pointing the next generation toward the sunny uplands of new truths. Ironically, such indoctrination takes place while the professoriat enjoys a cushy lifestyle and protectionist job security. Anywhere else, such "feather-bedding" is either condemned or outlawed. But in academe, those same practices are collectively known as tenure, meaning you can't be fired. Nice work if you can get it.

What is most astounding is that this PC-crazy, Alice-in-Wonderland world of safe spaces, white privilege and micro-aggressions is actually built upon the shifting sands of benign toleration. American colleges and universities are financially supported by an interlocking directorate of parents, alumni groups, generous donors, gullible state legislatures and an eager-to-please federal bureaucracy. Yet the sea change will shortly arrive as an impressive number of these institutions reconvene in January under the adult leadership of Donald Trump, Republican governors or conservative-minded state legislatures.

Among the most urgent questions facing them: Why should we continue to overlook the ongoing scandal of American academe, paid for by private and public dollars? Above all: Why should we continue to finance the subversion of our youth, much less the institutional obliteration of our most cherished Western values?

A version of this piece also appeared on Washington Times

Colonel Ken Allard is a widely known commentator on foreign policy and security issues. For more than a decade, he was a featured military analyst on NBC News, MSNBC and CNBC. That experience provided the backdrop for his most recent book, Warheads: Cable News and the Fog of War. 

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