Phi Beta Cons

The New Fundamentalism

On Wednesday, the National Association of Scholars (NAS) released a 260-page report titled “Sustainability: Higher Education’s New Fundamentalism.” Authors Rachelle Peterson and Peter W. Wood say that the sustainability movement, which is the latest euphemism for the environmental movement, is about more than encouraging consumers to use less plastic water bottles and to recycle more. The movement’s intellectual underpinnings are rooted in an ideology that seeks to curb individual and economic liberty for the sake of the “common good.” 

The NAS report states:

[Colleges and universities] have become the linchpins of this movement. That’s where the activists focus their efforts to recruit new adherents; that’s where the movement develops its new tactics and ideas; that’s where federal research money for sustainability is concentrated; and that’s where this movement looks for its intellectual and cultural authority.

Peterson and Wood make the case that the sustainability movement has shut down open debate about environmental issues and turned higher education into a “form of indoctrination.” Furthermore, they argue, students are barraged with sustainability-related propaganda and “nudged” into accepting greater social controls. Equally troublesome is the gradual erosion of the liberal arts education, which at many universities is being replaced by the “environmental humanities.”

If you don’t have the time to read the full report, I urge you to read the executive summary and learn more about the problems posed by higher education’s sustainability movement, as well as the solutions proposed by NAS. 

Jesse SaffronJesse Saffron is a writer and editor for the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, a North Carolina-based think tank dedicated to improving higher education in the Tar ...


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