Culture

Conservatives Have the Ability to Fight the University Left, So Let’s Do It

(Chengusf/Dreamstime)

America’s universities are becoming a fundamentally toxic presence in our national culture. Possessing every possible advantage — a young, disproportionately wealthy base of students who come from disproportionately intact and functional homes, generations of goodwill accumulated through centuries of community influence, and vast economic power through endowments worth cumulatively hundreds of billions of dollars (the top ten endowments alone are worth more than $150 billion) — they have squandered these assets in efforts to create a leftist utopia, a “utopia” that could well tear this nation apart.

Make no mistake, while universities preach social justice, equality, and racial harmony, they practice lawlessness, exploitation, and racial strife, creating an environment that is simultaneously sexually decadent and intellectually repressive, causing real harm to countless thousands of Americans. Many students are capable of keeping their heads down, building friendships, and graduating with a good experience and a good education, but they thrive despite the university culture, not because of it. The true (and intentional) product of contemporary — especially “elite” — university culture is the social-justice warrior, the SJW, the hyper-sensitive petty tyrant who would rather wreck our republic than abide even the mildest dissent.

Is there a more lawless entity than the American higher-education establishment? A majority of colleges maintain speech codes — unconstitutional policies that restrict First Amendment–protected speech — despite the fact that federal courts from sea to shining sea have struck down university censorship, granting millions of dollars of attorneys’-fee awards to victorious lawyers.

At the same time, public universities systematically violate the law when hiring faculty and administrators, shutting out Christian and conservative voices to the extent that entire disciplines are ideological cocoons, insulated from conservative thought. Persecution of Christians extends to deliberate attacks on faith-based student groups, at a scale that would cause riots if practiced against black or gay or female activists.

And let’s not forget the Obama Department of Education, which has repeatedly imposed utterly lawless directives — ostensibly under Title IX — that are actually now purporting to compel universities to violate the most fundamental due-process rights of male students accused of sexual assault, creating witch-hunt procedures that courts are even now rejecting in cases across the country.

As for exploitation, there are few more hypocritical, despicable institutions than an American university. A tenured class enjoys its incomparable perks and privileges on the backs of poorly paid teaching assistants and adjunct professors who have zero job security, can’t make the coveted “living wage,” and endure continual scorn and disrespect from the aristocratic class that governs their lives.

Universities claim to care about the poor, yet the sprawling college athletic-industrial complex rakes in billions of dollars off the sweat of disproportionately poor and minority athletes while depriving them of the ability to even own or use their own name and likeness. No other class of college students endures such economic repression.

And then there’s the exploitation of their own students. Despite a base of wealth that’s larger than the GDP of most nations in the world, despite vast taxpayer subsidies, and despite arguably the world’s most lucrative development programs, universities price-gouge their students, with the cost of education far outpacing the rate of inflation. Middle-class parents can work hard their entire lives only to face the dreadful prospect of either picking up enormous new debt at the midpoint of their professional careers or imposing that debt on their children.

Families are paying more money for less actual education.

Yet families are paying more money for less actual education. Between 1987 and 2012, universities hired 517,636 new administrators or professional employees. That’s 87 per working day. Some universities now spend far more on administrators than they do on faculty, and so tuition dollars pour into diversity centers, student-life bureaucracies, and development offices. All the while, students study less and party more. In fact, for many parents and students, the party culture is so powerful, and the academic culture so weak, that they end up spending tens of thousands of dollars simply paying for the party, leaving kids with no knowledge, no degree, mountains of debt, and one heck of a hangover.

But perhaps the most pernicious aspect of the entire morally bankrupt system is its balkanizing effect on our fragile, multiethnic democracy. Universities are creating an entire class of people who are race/gender/sex-obsessed, viewing themselves less as Americans than as advocates for their particular ethnic or cultural tribe. The result is endless racial conflict, constant rage over sex and gender, and numerous innocent, resentful casualties of the never-ending quest for utopia. Is it any wonder that college students now face a “mental-health crisis?”

Make no mistake, conservatives and allegedly conservative politicians share much of the blame for this national disaster. A combination of ignorance, apathy, and a pathetic but vain quest for “elite” approval has caused even red states to hand the keys to the cultural kingdom to academics who hate this country, exploit its wealth, and then gleefully seek to turn children against their parents.

Years ago, I left my law firm — where I worked as a commercial litigator — to defend free speech, religious liberty, and due process on campus, first as president of FIRE (the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education), then as director of the Center for Academic Freedom at the nonprofit Alliance Defending Freedom. As I left, a friend asked why I’d give up my practice to take on higher-education reform. He was incredulous. His daughter had just been accepted to an elite college, he’d just visited, and he found the school to be everything he imagined — expensive, yes, but beautiful, prestigious, and fun.

#share#In less than a year, he apologized. He understood my career choice. His daughter had come home for the holidays, transformed. The vibrant, joyful Christian girl who’d left for school had returned sullen and depressed. She hated her family’s values, she resented her parents, and she was obviously drinking too much. The school had stripped down her value system — all in the name of “critical thinking” — and replaced it with angry groupthink. Life and hope were replaced with fear and loathing. A social-justice warrior was born.

Conservative parents have often reduced themselves to expecting that their kids will waste their college years — either wildly drunk, wildly liberal, or both — and then hope and pray that they muddle through, earn their degree, and get a job so that “real life” will “straighten them out.” Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t, but parents rarely seem to question the decision to feed their own children to the lawless, malicious beast. We do what we’re expected. We do what we must. And we deliver our kids to the very institutions that seek to destroy us.

Conservatives possess the power of the federal purse. Conservatives possess the power of the state purse in most states. Millions of conservative parents help guide (and pay for) their kids’ college choices. Given this reality, helplessness and impotence are a choice. It’s time for a cultural and political war against the intellectual and legal corruption of the university Left. Which GOP presidential candidate will fire the first shot?

David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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