When Michael Isaacson, an adjunct professor at John Jay College, publicly tweeted about his looking forward to teaching future dead police officers, more than a bit of truth about our system of post-secondary education was encoded in that message. You might think of Isaacson, a self-congratulatory founder of the Antifa thugs, as something of a deviant. He isn’t.
His tweets reflect what far too many professors on campuses nationwide think but are afraid to say outside the confines of their classroom. Since the 1960s, universities have been increasingly taken over by the far Left, whose members have cloned themselves by imposing tacit political tests for recruitment, promotion, and tenure.
The wide-eyed, long-haired militants who smashed their way into the dean’s office, shouting, “Up against the wall, [expletive deleted],” in a few decades became deans. Within the university, they fashioned every hare-brained policy from social promotions to leftist-dominated studies departments that are merely propaganda fiefdoms organizing for off-campus political activities while masquerading as intellectual disciplines.
There are really two universities: the humanities, the social sciences, and the studies departments versus engineering, business, and the natural sciences. Serious intellectual work still occurs on campus in the latter fields but far less so in the former.
Universities are bureaucratic hierarchies, and hierarchies are status systems. In the contemporary university, status is defined by access to external research support. Universities, especially public universities, can no longer count on public largess as they did decades ago. Departments that can bring in external funding with its generous allocations of overhead money are valued. Others are not. Universities need research contracts and grants to survive.
Universities might talk about their commitments to political correctness, but as Congress exempts itself from its own legislation, so too do universities exempt high-valued departments from the political nonsense they sell the public. As my colleagues in engineering used to chide me, “p.c.” to them meant simply “personal computer.”
The traditional argument for the liberal arts and social sciences was that they broadened students’ intellectual horizons, made them think conceptually, and compelled them to grapple with unpopular ideas. We can debate whether that mission ever was achieved, but one thing is eminently clear: Those goals no longer exist. They have not for decades.
The liberal arts and social sciences are largely, although not exclusively, little playpens inhabited by faculty and students more concerned about the conflict in the street than the life of the mind.
The liberal arts and social sciences are largely, although not exclusively, default majors for students and an assumed safety valve for institutions. These are little playpens inhabited by faculty and students who are more concerned about the conflict in the street than the life of the mind. Their function is to sop up tuition money and provide a dress parade when the government representatives come to do their so-called cultural audits.
The time, energy, and intellectual commitments in the real university do not allow for demonstrating or being concerned about which speakers should be disinvited. And while the University of California, Berkeley, has gotten a lot of attention for its demonstrations, it should be remembered that at the height of the Free Speech Movement, the strongest and most populous student group was Campus Crusade for Christ, which outnumbered FSM participants about five to one.
During major demonstrations at Berkeley, most students were in class, not in the streets. But that is never news. Even today, Berkeley, which needed phalanxes of armed police to protect the free-speech rights of mainstream conservative Ben Shapiro, boasts one of the best engineering colleges in the country. Rest assured, few if any of Berkeley’s engineering students were embroiled in demonstrations.
The students and faculties of a lesser god have been left to create their own propaganda mills and therapeutic societies based on a leftist ideology that has worked nowhere and came visibly crashing down with the Berlin Wall. At some point, serious intellectuals would not be saying that real Communism has not been tried. They would be responding to the overwhelming weight of evidence that Communism and other leftist fantasies simply do not work. But propaganda mills masquerading as academic disciplines do not care about evidence.
The academic sandboxes, where ideologues were supposed to indulge their fantasies, have spawned a virulent cancer that threatens the very foundations of academic institutions and freedom of thought itself. The propaganda mills need to be broken off physically from the university, and their required propaganda sessions given for course credit need to be terminated.
Most students would never take those courses were they not part of a coercive requirement. If students are left to make their own choices, the worst of the propaganda sessions would die for lack of enrollment.
The function of a university is in part to preserve the best that we have produced as a civilization and to transmit it faithfully to the next generation. Large segments of our universities no longer do that. Professors like Michael Isaacson are concerned more about what glee they might experience in our societal destruction than in its preservation.
The cancer that grows in our universities threatens our society. It needs to be removed.