A Blueprint for Higher Education Reform

Marina Ziemnick

CounterCurrent: Week of 10/23

It’s easy to identify the problems with American higher education. From skyrocketing tuition to plummeting academic standards to the ever-encroaching diversity, equity, and inclusion bureaucracy, the rot in America’s colleges and universities goes from top to bottom. This academic crisis has led some to abandon the prospect of reform altogether and to encourage young Americans to pursue alternative paths, leaving the universities to collapse in on themselves in the coming decades.

The National Association of Scholars (NAS) has taken a different approach over its thirty-five-year history. We believe that every generation of Americans should have the opportunity to pursue a liberal education centered on the search for truth. While some (perhaps many) of our nation’s colleges and universities may be beyond repair, others may correct course and refocus their programs on meaningful education. Rather than causing us to despair, the abysmal state of colleges today should motivate us to persevere in our efforts to repair and restore American academe.

This, of course, is far easier said than done. We know this as well as anyone. Over the past several decades, NAS has attempted to change higher education from the inside, promoting reform within the academy and defending individual professors from the persecution of university administrators. Although our research reports sought to inform the public of the deep-rooted problems in the academy, we primarily focused on encouraging universities to reform themselves and equipping professors and administrators to use their influence to push for meaningful change within their institutions.

We have not given up on this goal. But the rapid radicalization of university leadership and the increasing ideological conformity of faculties have led NAS to conclude that a change in tactics is needed. The leaders of America’s universities have proven again and again that they will only listen to the most radical voices on campus and will ignore—or silence—those who disagree with their agenda. If American higher education is to be reformed, the pressure must come from outside the institutions, not from within.

To that end, NAS has unveiled a new section of its website dedicated to federal and state policy proposals. These proposals provide legislative solutions to problems facing American higher education, including specific reforms aimed at promoting intellectual freedom, depoliticizing campuses, limiting foreign interference, and combatting administrative bloat.

Our announcement about the new section of the website explains why government intervention is needed and outlines what our policy proposals seek to accomplish:

The federal government and the state governments must play a crucial role in the necessary reforms to America’s education system. American citizens ultimately provide the vast majority of funds to our education system, whether by direct support, student aid, research grants, or other means. Progressives have used this financial dependence to impose a revolution on higher education. A counter-revolution can only succeed by using the regulatory and financial levers of government to free our students from the radical regime.

NAS’s policy recommendations offer the American public a map of how the progressive left uses administrative machinery to maintain control of the classrooms despite broad public resistance. They also are intended to inform the public and policymakers about the scope of needed legislation and the best means by which to proceed toward the goal of liberating our schools. Our policy proposals seek to show Americans what needs to be done to reform American education, to give them hope that American education can be reformed, and to provide a detailed roadmap for how to go about the task.

Higher education has played a crucial role in the formation of America’s character and culture. Rather than abandon our colleges and universities to their own devices, we must double down on our efforts to restore an education system centered on the pursuit of truth. NAS’s policy proposals will serve as a crucial weapon in the battle over academia’s future.

Until next week.

CounterCurrent is the National Association of Scholars’ weekly newsletter, written by Communications Associate Marina Ziemnick. To subscribe, update your email preferences here.

Image: Daniel McCullough, Public Domain

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