2018 was a year of wrath: Campus protesters and college administrators continued their efforts to silence academics and reinforce the intellectual and ideological homogeneity of higher education. Public confidence in our scholarly elites is at an all-time low.
Yet the National Association of Scholars has had a remarkably successful year. Following our ongoing study and reporting about Chinese-backed Confucius Institutes, several senators introduced, and the President signed, legislation preventing colleges that host Confucius Institutes from receiving Defense Department funding. We remain vigilant for efforts to circumvent this regulation, but it seems the public is waking up to the threat of Chinese influence on American campuses—all thanks to our own Rachelle Peterson’s tireless research and advocacy.
In April we published The Irreproducibility Crisis, a report on the modern scientific crisis of reproducibility—the failure of a shocking amount of scientific research to discover true results because of slipshod use of statistics, groupthink, and flawed research techniques. We launched the report at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, DC; it was introduced by Representative Lamar Smith, the Chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. This project signals our increasing commitment to address the academy’s flawed science as well as its abandonment of Western civilization and the liberal arts. We are following up The Irreproducibility Crisis with the investigation of four government agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency. We are determined to find out just how badly irreproducible science has distorted government policy.
We were pleased to host a wonderful group of speakers at our August conference at Grove City College on Government Overreach in Higher Education. They discussed how government mandates constrict student freedom and increase costs. They also presented ideas for practical measures to fix higher education. We are excited to see where these new tactics take our members.
In October we published our latest Beach Books report on college common readings. This year we published eleven years of data, from 2007 to the present. We’ve looked at 5,000 common reading assignments, which are overwhelmingly biased toward mediocre books that steer students toward progressive activism. But we also found a few colleges that do assign better books. We have highlighted them as models for common reading.
These are just a few of NAS’s accomplishments from the past year. Support from our members and our foundation donors made them possible; we thank you for standing with us. We still have much work to do, but we are confident that with your help 2019 will be a signal year for the American academy’s recovery of intellectual freedom and rigor.
Peter W. Wood