If You Want To Defund Something, Start With Higher Education

If You Want To Defund Something, Start With Higher Education

If we’re going to defund major American institutions, the place to start is not the police but higher education. America’s colleges and universities have largely abandoned their genuine mission in favor of polemics and proselytization, while slamming the door to viewpoint diversity and open debate. All this they provide at tremendous expense to taxpayers as well as ideological and financial ruin to the nation’s young people.

Higher education must be significantly reconstructed. We must eliminate systems of viewpoint discrimination, stop the erasure of legitimate taxpayer interests, and end the economic disenfranchisement of America’s youth brought about by saddling them with mountainous debt to maintain administrative and tenured-professorial privilege.

Higher education should teach both subject matter and ways of thinking. It should challenge students’ preconceptions while allowing them vigorously to debate difficult issues. Students should graduate ready to earn their livings and to participate thoughtfully in our citizen government.

Modern universities — especially in the humanities, social sciences, and law — provide few such benefits. Rather, they have become factories of coddling, cajoling, and oppressing.

Already-left-wing students are protected from anything that might “trigger” them or challenge their fixed worldviews. Centrist students receive steady diets of social justice propaganda, while outside speakers who seek to share counterarguments are chased off campus. Right-of-center students are silenced, intimidated, mocked, and sometimes quite genuinely attacked.

This structure of rampant viewpoint discrimination is not accidental. Conservative views are largely absent from the faculties in these fields not because right-of-center thinkers don’t want to teach, but because administrators actively and aggressively discriminate against them in hiring and tenure decisions.

Even tenured professors who express entirely conventional opinions that depart from the endorsed narrative of leftist faculties receive only the most grudging, backhanded support from university hierarchies. Consider how Cornell Law School Dean Eduardo Peñalver shamed Professor William Jacobson for daring to criticize the Black Lives Matter organization before the dean grudgingly acknowledged Jacobson’s academic freedom.

This mission-crippling discrimination occurs even at public schools in very red states. By just one measure, and including all departments: Arizona State has 12.4 registered Democrats on faculty for every Republican, Iowa State’s ratio is 11:1, and Oklahoma State’s is 9:1.

The result is that citizens pay taxes to support institutions that have abandoned their legitimate roles in favor of miseducating the citizens’ children. They fill young people with absurd notions about unidirectional bigotry, generational guilt, and the illegitimacy of disagreement with leftist orthodoxy that is right now tearing our republic apart and leading it toward civil strife, hopeless Balkanization, and universal viewpoint discrimination.

The only reasonable response: Defund the universities. This can happen directly at state schools. Where the majority of voters are not disciples of woke doctrine, they should demand that taxpayer higher-ed funding end entirely until the schools commit to — or are committed by law to — end all viewpoint discrimination in hiring, teaching, and student life.

The path to regeneration of the country’s private colleges requires just an extra step or two. The federal government is the lender for most college loans. Colleges that practice racial discrimination have long been denied federal funds. The next step would be to deny federal funds to schools that commit viewpoint discrimination, including federally issued college loans to students who attend them. This should drag almost all the country’s universities away from the evils of discrimination fairly quickly.

We should also put absolute caps on the amount students can borrow for any course of study. This would end and hopefully reverse the obscene tuition inflation of the past three decades and help to free rising generations of students from crushing loan bills that are stirring up anger in our newest generation of graduates. This would mean cutting far back on the administrative elephantiasis that has infected colleges these last decades.

It should be very clear exactly what I mean by “defund” in this article, but surely higher education representatives and the press will review this call for defunding with the same tenderness and nuance they have shown for the other recent defunding call. To do otherwise would prove my point, wouldn’t it?

Scott Shepard is the coordinator of the Free Enterprise Project at the National Center for Public Policy Research.
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