In Pursuit of Liberty

Kali Jerrard

CounterCurrent: Week of 04/01/2024

Why did the ability to reason critically, act with temperance, and pursue knowledge in an effort to better oneself disappear in higher education? Why have the great institutions of higher learning become corrupt and a mere shadow of their former greatness? 

These are questions those of us concerned with the future of our nation and of academia have pondered. The answers are inextricably linked with the hatred toward our Western heritage and morals, and subsequently, a hatred toward America itself. 

The decay of American higher education corresponds with the decay of our nation. Or as David Randall, Director of Research at the National Association of Scholars (NAS) puts it, “America was a land of the free and the virtuous. Now American higher education inculcates tyranny, conformity, and depravity.” 

Randall’s newest report Curriculum of Liberty aims to address the deterioration of academia and offers a path to restore higher education’s poor curricula choices in the spirit of NAS’s principles. His thoughtful presentation of a rich curriculum designed to restore rigor, critical thinking, and love of virtue could be the remedy to the rot that eats away at the Ivory Tower.  

The report’s content is vast, so a brief overview of some highlights is all that can be done here. Randall suggests several solutions as a starting point to course correct academia. One, a reform of the K-12 education system; two, preserve and continue liberal arts education; three, prepare students to be successful, functioning members of society thus bringing American greatness back onto the world stage economically, scientifically, technologically, and militarily. 

The curriculum itself is broken down into ten sections: Education Structure, Human Sciences, Liberty, Scientific Reasoning, Scientific Knowledge, Humanities Reasoning, Humanities Knowledge, Language, Self-Reliance, and Virtue. In addition to these courses, Randall suggests the reinstatement of basic admissions requirements because “American colleges cannot serve their students or their nation adequately unless they possess rigorous admission requirements, keyed to individual merit rather than to identity-group ‘equity.’” The suggested minimum admissions requirements are straightforward: 

  1. read 200 pages a week in an English literature course, 
  2. write an intellectually and stylistically sophisticated 10-page paper with perfect command of English spelling and grammar, 
  3. and take rigorous introductory courses in calculus and statistical methods.

If implemented, such requirements would mean that meritorious students are admitted for their abilities, not just to fulfill diversity quotas. Too often, college classes are dumbed down to account for the lack of reading, writing, and arithmetic among incoming students. This is a problem that should be addressed well before entering college and one that affects the education of students who already possess such skills. Colleges and universities should not educate at the level of those falling behind. We should expect and teach excellence in primary and secondary education.  

The Curriculum of Liberty “is only the latest of a great many sketches on how to redo higher education,” so says Randall. Corruption abounds in the Ivory Tower and will require intense reform to rebuild the erosion of excellence and virtue. The Curriculum of Liberty is a solid and rigorous starting point which colleges and universities can stand to learn from and implement to their benefit. With that, I leave you with Randall’s own words.

America’s colleges and universities should seek to provide each student an education that prepares him for a decent life even as it habituates him to the joy of freely seeking to know the truth. American higher education also should seek to sustain the American nation and the American republic—to support the American people’s desire for liberty, security, prosperity, and the choice of their own happiness, and to sustain the republic that provides the constitutional framework within which the American people pursue these goals. It also should prepare Americans to continue the long conversation of Western civilization, which has formulated America’s ideals.   

Until next week.

CounterCurrent is the National Association of Scholars’ weekly newsletter, written by the NAS Staff. To subscribe, update your email preferences here.

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