CounterCurrent: Week of 12/26
“2020’s unusual, unprecedented nature is a horse long since beaten dead, but its extreme change and stress will affect higher education’s future for years to come. … [W]e saw the continued degradation of any remaining semblance of a liberal arts education our schools have to offer.”
That’s how I started our 2020 year-end roundup. Sound familiar? It certainly does to me. Indeed, most of the big issues from last year—COVID-19, social justice ideology, and campus cancel culture, to name a few—have continued to dominate the higher ed news cycle in 2021, and in many ways have only gotten worse.
Colleges’ controversial mask mandates have evolved into even more contentious vaccine mandates. Parents sounding the alarm in K-12 school board meetings went from concerned citizens to domestic terrorists. Almost one academic per week was canceled for voicing the incorrect opinion, and those are just the cases we know about. Now, with schools closing once more for fear of the Omicron variant, we’re feeling even more déjà vu. In other words, 2021 was far less “unusual and unprecedented” than 2020—for better or worse, it was what many believe to be the “new normal” (mostly for worse).
But really, I don’t mean to be such a downer. Despite this year’s great challenges, we at the National Association of Scholars still have much to celebrate. In the spirit of the New Year, let’s take some time to reflect on the good that 2021 had to offer before jumping back down into the trenches for 2022.
So, what did the NAS accomplish this year? Here’s a brief sampling:
We are proud to have published five full-length research reports in 2021: Freedom to Learn, a collaborative NAS staff effort; Priced Out by Neetu Arnold; Climbing Down by David Randall, Jennifer Helms, and James Nations; Skewed History by David Randall, Kevin R. C. Gutzman, Jason Ross, Bruce P. Frohnen, Amity Shlaes, and William Pettinger; and the first report in our new Shifting Sands series, written by David Randall, Warren Kindzierski, and Stanley Young.
Where else but the NAS will you find in-depth research on reforming the Higher Education Act, the student debt crisis, the Next Generation Science Standards, high-school American history textbooks, and environmental epidemiology regulations … all in the same year? At the risk of tooting our own horn, I think it’s safe to say that the answer is “nowhere.” Our researchers worked exceptionally hard this year, and we are grateful for their labors.
To read and share these reports, click here.
2021 was an exceptionally productive year for NAS’s webinar content. Most of these events were part of our American History and Great American Literature series, in which we aim to provide quality discussions on must-know topics amid higher education’s languishing history and literature instruction. We also hosted some wonderful stand-alone events, including A Dubious Expediency, Fighting for Academic Freedom in America, Canada, and Britain, and The New Censorship in American Higher Ed.
We’d like to extend a hearty thank you to all of our speakers and viewers who participated in these webinars. The events have been eagerly received, and we look forward to producing many more in the year to come.
Click here to view replays of our 2021 online events.
At the beginning of the year, the NAS perceived an acute need to help preserve traditional American civics education amid its many threats, most notably “action civics.” While we are, of course, primarily focused on higher education, we felt it appropriate to step into the K-12 arena on this issue and aid in the struggle. After all, yesterday’s K-12 students are today’s college students, and today’s college students are tomorrow’s voting citizens. With that in mind, we launched the Civics Alliance, a national coalition of organizations and citizens dedicated to preserving and improving American civics education.
Since our launch in March, the Civics Alliance has gained over 500 members and countless other supporters. We’ve written a bi-weekly newsletter to update members on the latest civics news, and we are proud to launch a brand new, stand-alone website for the Alliance. There is still much work to be done, but our efforts have already borne much fruit. For those who have joined: thank you for your support! For those interested in joining, click here for more information.
Lastly, I have good news and bad news about CounterCurrent. What’s that? You want the bad news first? If you insist:
I’m sad to report that this will be my last time writing to you via this newsletter. I began graduate school in the fall and am now working a part-time schedule at NAS. While my writing may appear at NAS from time to time (keep an eye out for a couple of articles in the winter issue of Academic Questions), I will be primarily focused on my editorial duties at our sister publication, Minding the Campus. It’s been my great pleasure to write to you every week for the last two years, and I’m continually flattered that so many of you care about what I have to say. Of course, CounterCurrent has never been about me, and so it’s also been my great privilege to represent NAS in this forum. Your support of this newsletter is a vital way of supporting NAS as a whole, and for that, we thank you.
And now, the good news: CounterCurrent lives on! I’m excited to introduce Marina Ziemnick, NAS’s new communications associate, who will be taking over the newsletter starting next week. Marina holds a BA in Political Philosophy with a minor in Music from Patrick Henry College, and she most recently worked as a program manager for the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. She has already hit the ground running with some wonderful articles for NAS, and I can’t think of a more capable replacement for yours truly. So stay tuned—CounterCurrent isn’t going anywhere!
With that, I wish you a (belated) Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
CounterCurrent is the National Association of Scholars’ weekly newsletter, written by Communications & Research Associate David Acevedo. To subscribe, update your email preferences here.