The Corner

A Higher Ed Free of Feds!

F. H. Buckley, one of the most intelligent and engaging of fervent Trump supporters, surely deserves to have a huge place advising our new president.

He wants the federal government to get more intrusive in protecting academic freedom on campus — that is, clamping down on institutions that take extreme measures to stamp out legitimate “viewpoint diversity.”

My own view, of course, is that conservatives — meaning, in this case, defenders of genuinely higher or liberal education — should be all about radically reducing big government’s role in messing with what goes on on campus.

That would include aggressively scaling back on all the ridiculous paperwork and petty mandates that are required to get accredited — what’s required to qualify for government funding, beginning with susbsidized student loans.

I don’t want the old herd of compliance officers to be replaced with one particularly adept at the serving new federal bosses who have replaced the old ones. I want most of those officers laid off as a good first step in reducing the size of our administrations. I wouldn’t go as far as to abolish the Department of Education, but its mandate should be interpreted much more narrowly, especially when it comes to higher education.

Sure, that might mean that certain elite schools are ridiculously politically correct. But let them be what they want to be, and let the market, so to speak, decide on their future. Let all our institutions be what they want to be, with a minimum of regulation.

And let our main job be to use libertarian means to achieve non-libertarian ends. Or, as Yuval Levin says, rediscovering the virtue of subsidiarity. Our job is to preserve the genuine diversity in moral, intellectual, and religious missions that is the saving grace of our system of higher education. You can read more in my American Heresies and Higher Education, available at an amazingly low price.

Peter Augustine Lawler — Peter Augustine Lawler is Dana Professor of Government at Berry College. He is executive editor of the acclaimed scholarly quarterly Perspectives on Political Science and served on President George ...

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