Phi Beta Cons

Don’t Just Complain, Do Something

Writing on the New Criterion’s blog, my friend Stephen Blackwood argues that for higher education, it’s time to begin again.

“Imagine,” he writes, “a group of entrepreneurs sitting around complaining about rotary phones, or rear-wheel drive automobiles, or fax machines, or cable TV; imagine them lamenting these products, wringing their hands, wishing, just wishing the powers-that-be would do something about them; imagine these hand-wringers continuing to purchase and thus perpetuate these goods, all the while writing countless critiques of them, their manufacturers and regulators — but doing, actually doing, nothing at all.”

That, Blackwood maintains, is pretty much the situation regarding higher education in America. People complain about it a lot, and with good reason. Complaining, however, is accomplishing nothing.

Last summer, the Pope Center’s Milton Friedman Day speaker, Isaac Morehouse, made the same argument.

Why hasn’t all of the criticism helped to turn at least some institutions away from dumbing down, rampant political correctness, mission creep and so forth? Blackwood says that it’s because higher education’s “dominant institutional culture no longer believes in higher education at all.” I think he’s right.

Instead of all the lamentations, Blackwood writes, “We can and must found new and superior institutions — not conservative colleges, or liberal colleges, but colleges that confound these passing partisan labels by utter and fearless devotion to truth….”

I happen to know that he is trying to do just that. Good luck!

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

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