A discussion that hits home with me…

About the amount of political discussion going on in the classroom… about the number of liberal college professors… about the indoctrination of students into a culture that believes the worst about America.

My son has bought into this, through his reading on the net and his classes at the college.

Peter Wood, writing at the National Association of Scholars says:

[College} is the time and place in the lives of many when they decide once and for all which of the great narratives will be their own.

Somewhere far down the list of possibilities is the narrative that emphasizes the exceptional nature of American society and its radical break with prior human history in developing institutions that foster personal freedom. Today, the main role played by this great narrative is to be the foil to the others. The diversity narrative mocks it as a lie intended to disguise centuries of group oppression. The cosmopolitan narrative smiles derisively at its naïve simplicity. The sustainability narrative groans in embarrassment that such profligate freedom could ever have been unleashed to cut down forests, plow the long-grass prairie, and pollute the waters and skies.

One might think that Bush’s No Child Left Behind policy with its relentless regime of academic testing would have countered the rise of ideology in schools, but that is not what happened. Rather, the ideologists captured the textbooks and the tests. The National Association of Scholars has published several detailed critiques of the current K-12 curriculum, including this by University of Arkansas professor Sandra Stotsky.

Thus many students come to college primed for the more sophisticated counter-narratives they will study in classes. Much has been said recently against the proposition that college professors actively indoctrinate students. A year ago, two professors at a Harvard symposium presented data they said showed that most professors are actually moderate. (NAS president Steve Balch raised an eyebrow at their methods.) The University System of Georgia released a study in August that purported to show that students see little bias in class. (I found fault with that study.) A new book, Closed Minds? by three George Mason professors argues that campuses are not “saturated by politics” at all; rather professors shy away from political controversy. (NAS’s Glenn Ricketts has doubts.) This week New York Times reporter Patricia Cohen took notice of the George Mason book and other research to argue the case that the faculty, though overwhelmingly liberal, don’t force their views on students.

Yes, indeed, higher education has a lot to do with preparing a skilled workforce. But it has even more to do with transmitting to the next generation the core legacy of a civilization. Men and women don’t just work, like ants in an ant colony. Nor is the prospect of building a more competitive ant colony much of an inspiring ideal. Men and women work for the ideals and purposes that they find meaningful and compelling, and the deep wells of meaning are family, religion, and civilization. Higher education connects with all three, but most centrally civilization. It is in college that we have our first and best opportunity to weigh the claims of civilization against the possible alternatives.

We [the National Association of Scholars] were until yesterday the principal voice for traditional ideals of scholarship in a free society. Now it seems we may be unofficially something more: a key voice for traditional ideals of intellectual culture during an era when the campus culture we have opposed appears ready to break its bounds and move into society at large.

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