In his pithy, provocative, funny, sometimes outrageous,
and often profound book We Are Doomed: Reclaiming
Conservative Pessimism, British-born commentator John
“Education is a vast sea of lies, waste, corruption, crackpot
theorizing, and careerist logrolling.”
I wish I could say that Mr. Derbyshire overstates the case,
but surveying K-12 and university education in the U.S.
today, I cannot do so. With exceptions in some experiments
with charters, vouchers, home-schooling, and other
private schools, public urban K-12 education is a national
fiasco and disgrace. Certain school reformers also have
some interesting, if sweeping, proposals for change, but
those and public K-12 education are a subject which requires
much more discussion than I can provide in this space.
Instead, I want to point to the latest outrage in higher
education, a field which is becoming a Tartar steppe of
intimidation against free speech and an empty reservoir
of bleak politically-correct curricula.
A time-honored practice at graduation time is the
commencement remarks of prominent public figures in
American public life. These not only include presidents and
former presidents, but other elected official and cabinet
officers, as well as major personalities in science, business,
the military, and the arts.
In very recent years, and especially this year, this custom
is becoming an endangered species, as small extremist
groups are intimidating college and university
administrations to disinvite or avoid inviting at all some
very distinguished speakers because of their roles in
American or international public life.
I won’t rehash how ludicrous it was for hitherto prestigious
colleges and universities this year to turn away persons of
great accomplishment. What I want to point out how these
actions and the epidemic of political correctness, now so
pervasive on so many American campuses, is only hastening
the day when higher education will take place primarily online
or in alternative models. The primary argument for the
traditional undergraduate college or university has been the
socializing experience of college life, the personal interaction
between students, and between students and faculty. That is
not only disintegrating rapidly, but the financial cost of
providing this now-questionable experience has become
prohibitive, and it is only a matter of time before American
parents turn to alternative higher education experiences for
their children. Graduate schools and graduate education
will likely remain on smaller campuses, but undergraduate
education, I now believe, is an endangered species, made all
the more vulnerable by its own hands, and its own follies.
Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.