The National Association of Scholars (NAS) has unveiled a new section of its website dedicated to policy, where our members and the public can read in one place the broad sweep of our different recommendations to policymakers.
The new policy section registers a shift in emphasis by the NAS. While we long have been involved in efforts to pass legislation for true and salutary higher education reform, we first focused on promoting reform within the academy, defending individual professors suffering persecution, and writing research reports to illuminate the politicized character of modern higher education. Our most direct interventions in the political realm were amicus curiae briefs, especially in lawsuits against higher education’s race discrimination regime. NAS members also spearheaded California’s Proposition 209 in 1996, which forbade California’s government (including the public universities) from discriminating by race. On the whole, because we still believed that American universities could reform themselves, we did not think either of these goals best served by promoting particular policies.
We no longer believe that American universities can reform themselves. They have grown ever more illiberal and authoritarian in the thirty-five years since NAS was founded. More to the point, the radical activists who have seized control of higher education have imposed political screens on admission to higher education administration and the professoriate, and have thereby precluded reformers from even entering the academy. These political screens have become even more explicit and restrictive since the rise of diversity statements and similar loyalty oaths to Woke ideology. It is no longer tenable to believe that America’s universities can reform themselves—at least not without some carefully considered and prudently applied incentives coming from off-campus.
Nor do we any longer believe that the radicalization of America’s campuses is only a potential danger to the American republic as a whole. Our radical campuses have been radicalizing every job that depends on a college degree, above all professions such as teaching, medicine, and the law. America’s government and corporate bureaucracies likewise have been radicalized by the universities. America’s universities must be reformed—and the American republic must be guarded against the radicalization emanating from the universities.
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.
NAS provided its first major series of policy recommendations when we published Freedom to Learn, which focused on recommendations for how to amend the Higher Education Act and other federal legislation affecting higher education policy. Since then, we have drafted for the Civics Alliance suites of model bills focusing on K-12 civics education and on higher education, as well as coordinated the publication of American Birthright: The Civics Alliance’s Model K-12 Social Studies Standards. In our voice, we have just published the Model Education Licensure Code, which focuses on reforming education schools and teaching licensure.
Our policy website unites these discrete recommendations. It includes links to the large majority of NAS’s policy recommendations—for federal policy and for state policy, for K-12 schools, higher education, and education schools and teacher licensure. As we expand the number and the range of our policy recommendations, they will find a home on our policy website.
The NAS must rally the American public and policymakers if we are to restore an American education system that fosters intellectual freedom, searches for the truth, and promotes virtuous citizenship. Our new strategic focus on policy recommendations is an essential means to achieve that goal.