Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Politics and education

I mentioned this Steven Roy Goodman WaPo piece on education yesterday. I want to get back to it. This Goodman piece is worth reading because he brings out (in a more public way than is normal) a great problem parents and students have in looking for a good college: they are quite fed up with the political correctness they encounter and wonder whether it is worth investing over a hundred grand to send their sons and daughters to be guided some left-wing ideologues in their formative years. It is also worth reading because although Goodman recognizes part of the problem, he has no understanding of how to get beyond it (note the bad advice he gives to the Eagle Scout!). He also spends time warning us that the sheer cost of a college education is forcing consumers to re-think the value of their investment.

Here is is his conclusion:

Maybe we can learn from recent campus incidents. Maybe we can ask ourselves what we would like our universities to actually do. Maybe university communities can engage in real soul-searching to figure out how they can benefit both their students and the country in ways that the broader public can support.

If they don’t at least try, the university as an institution may have seen the heyday of its influence.

Now, volumes can be spoken about this problem, as we know. It may be sufficient to say something quite simple and clear at this point, something which all the so-called major institutions can no longer address themselves to. It is important that students (and parents) understand that unless they have a good sense of what a good liberal education is, along with an understanding of what higher education has to do with citizenship, then they will not see what the real value of a college education is. I tell potential students and their parents the truth about the problem in general, and how my university and our work at the Center deal with it, both the good and the bad. Never mislead a student, never mislead a customer if you are selling something, tell the customer what the product is, how it will benefit him, even why he needs the product, and what he must do in order to take advantage of this, shall we say, imperfect product. I remind them of something everyone (kind of) knows: school means leisure, and during leisure you do not do the necessary since it is assumed it is taken care of (even if you or, more likely, your parents, have to pay for it), you participate in what used to be called the arts of freedom. Because necessity is taken care of through economics, you learn what it means to live well. And that is a great good, good for both you and your free country. If liberty and learning are not connected, we have a problem indeed.

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