For more than a century, the United States was home to the best college and university system in the world. High-potential students from all across the globe came here to study. Many stayed after graduating and used their education to benefit America. During this time, few institutions contributed more to America’s prosperity, quality of life and technological superiority than the academy. Unfortunately, over time, higher education in America has changed, and not for the better. The academy is in decline because it is suffering from self-inflicted wounds.
Too many of our colleges and universities have become “woke” institutions governed by political correctness rather than a commitment to free speech and genuine scholarship. By allowing themselves to fall under the control of leftist ideologues advancing an agenda at odds with the purposes of higher education, many colleges and universities have become academic gulags focused primarily on leftist indoctrination. Many now operate more like the “reeducation” camps associated with communist nations than institutions of higher learning.
Too often, college graduates have been taught what to think, not how to think; sheltered from differing points of view; encouraged to supplant logic and reason with feelings; and given dubious degrees without having to work for them. Too many have majored in meaningless academic programs meant to advance a leftist agenda, such as critical race theory, rather than develop skills necessary to become the leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs of tomorrow.
In short, too many college graduates have spent four or more years in adult day care rather than higher education. As a result, disillusioned graduates now ask themselves if pursuing a college degree was worth it. Many now believe they paid too much, got too little and wasted four or more years of their lives majoring in pseudo-degree programs of no value except in the minds of leftist indoctrinators masquerading as college professors.
Can America’s colleges and universities be saved from the left? Perhaps, but major changes will be necessary. First and foremost, the academy must return to the values that made it great, including the pursuit of truth, free inquiry, free speech, free thought and respect for a wide range of opinions and worldviews. Next, professors must be hired, promoted and granted tenure on the basis of competence and merit. Holding political or religious views at odds with leftist orthodoxy must no longer bar qualified professors from holding faculty positions. Restoring intellectual pluralism to the academy is essential.
Students must be exposed to a wide range of opinions and worldviews, be encouraged to think critically about them and be allowed to draw their own conclusions concerning them. Dissenting opinions should be welcomed, respected and encouraged. Institutions must remove toeing the line of leftist orthodoxy as a requirement for advancement for students and professors. Student grades and admission to graduate school must be based on merit, not fealty to “wokeness.”
The teaching and learning environment must be conducive to the civil exchange of ideas. Differing points of view must be welcomed and the right of people to hold them must be protected. Academic freedom must be revived and practiced in ways that bolster and ensure the integrity of the teaching and learning process.
Furthermore, our institutions must stop treating students like helpless children whose delicate feelings must be protected and start requiring maturation. Colleges and universities are supposed to prepare students to excel in a world that does not revolve around them, not protect them from such a world. Institutions of higher education should be intellectual boot camps developing our future leaders, not daycare centers coddling adults who refuse to grow up.
This reorientation to academic excellence must begin in our local government school systems, starting with kindergarten, but that’s a topic for another column.
Oliver L. North is a combat-decorated U.S. Marine, No.1 bestselling author, and founder and CEO of Fidelis Publishing LLC and Fidelis Media LLC. Find out more about him at www.olivernorth.com. David L. Goetsch is a Marine Corps veteran, member of the Florida Veterans Hall of Fame, professor of business, Christian counselor and author of 76 books. Find out more about him at www.david-goetsch.com.