The Corner


Can Higher Education Be Saved?

(Nathan Frandino/Reuters)

In conservative and libertarian circles there is much despair over the future of higher education. It seems to be so thoroughly infiltrated by leftist ideology that many think we steer young Americans away from all but a small number of non-infected schools.

In a new book, Let’s Be Reasonable, Ursinus College professor Jonathan Marks argues that things are not as bad as that. My Martin Center colleague Jay Schalin reviews it here.

To begin with, Marks sees that most colleges and universities have strayed from their educational missions. Schalin quotes him: “Unfortunately, from Harvard on down, the statements of purpose and principle that supposedly animate our colleges and universities may as well have been produced by Mad Libs. Adjectives, like integrative, interdisciplinary, interconnected, entrepreneurial, twenty-first century, complex, dynamic, and problem-solving, are distributed among brochures as if at random to make it appear that something buzzy is going on.”

Schalin agrees that our colleges and universities are not performing up to expectations; many students learn little during their campus years. Where he disagrees with Marks is over the author’s relaxed view of the degree of politicization. Schalin writes that Marks “maintains that the American campus is still a reasonable place run by reasonable people. For conservative critics, he offers an observation that: ‘regardless of what you may have heard, our universities aren’t governed by balding radicals and their student disciples.'”

According to Marks, we are too much influenced by the occasional “shark attacks” we read about in higher education. He isn’t overly concerned and argues that reason will ultimately prevail over leftist ideology.

Schalin is not persuaded, writing, “It is not enough to say the academy ‘should’ emphasize liberal education and ‘should’ promote reason when most indications suggest that it is moving in the opposition direction. If it is not a place of reason now, then the people who have been in charge during its decline are not likely to reverse course and make it so.”

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.


The Latest