The Corner

Politics & Policy

Higher Education — Part of the Battle for America’s Soul

A student stands in the entranceway of a building at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts November 16, 2012. (Jessica Rinaldi/REUTERS)

There is a battle raging for the soul of America, pitting the forces of progressivism, with its clamor for an ever more intrusive and costly government, against those of us who believe in classical liberalism and limited government. A major front in that battle is our higher education system.

Last week, Roger Ream, president of The Fund for American Studies, gave an address for the Martin Center in which he explained how that battle is playing out, and today’s article condenses his talk.

Ream writes, “Today, the American experiment in liberty is threatened, perhaps as never before, because the dangers lie within our once-respected institutions. Furthermore, an ever-growing, powerful state with unsustainable financial obligations, called “entitlements,” coupled with a dangerous and widening cultural divide, has put the future of our Republic at risk. The ideas and institutions that provided Americans with the space to invent, innovate, invest, create, and build the most prosperous nation in human history are in serious danger.”

The great principles of personal freedom, individual responsibility, and free enterprise that allowed our nation to prosper are threatened. Ream poses the question of how we can reclaim those principles. His answer: “Reform and renewal of our universities is vital,” adding that “when those who despise America and disparage our nation’s founders and founding ideas control our schools, we have little hope of preserving our fragile experiment of liberty.”

Among the ways concerned Americans can act to counter the trends in higher education is to be more careful with their money. Don’t just automatically write a check to your college or university, since it’s apt to be put to no good. Target your giving.

Ream also suggests that concerned Americans challenge “progressive” notions that so dominate many of our campuses. And we need to up our game. He writes, “If we believe that free men and women can accomplish remarkable things when left free, we must be more persuasive in making our case. Those of us who favor the use of ‘persuasion over force in human relationships’ (Ben Rogge) must present our case in such a way that we will attract others.”

That’s absolutely right. The case for progressivism/socialism/statism is weak and thanks to the enlightening but tragic case-study of Venezuela, getting weaker by the day. We need a counterattack against the deceptive allure of leftism where it’s most entrenched — our colleges and universities.

 

George Leef is the director of research for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

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