Sorry, Chronicle, No Swift Exit for NAS

Peter Wood

Last Friday, The Chronicle of Higher Education published an article on NAS’s 25th anniversary, “National Scholars’ Group Turns 25, Showing its Age.” Peter Wood responded to the article yesterday with this comment on The Chronicle’s site.

In “Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift,” Jonathan Swift imagined how some of his contemporaries would look eagerly for signs of his slipping into decrepitude:

Poor gentleman, he droops apace:
You plainly find it in his face.
That old vertigo in his head
Will never leave him till he's dead.

Among the constants of human nature is this alacrity with which people discover the sad decline in the health and prosperity of those they wish had never thrived in the first place.

Alas for Peter Schmidt, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and the handful of gleeful mourners who have posted comments, the National Association of Scholars is still thriving.  The day this story appeared, we began a national conference in New York City that was the best-attended NAS conference in 25 years.  The number of foundations that have awarded NAS grants is also at an all-time high; and the number of individuals making financial contributions to NAS has quadrupled in the last two years.  Our membership, after a slump, has been rebounding.

Peter Schmidt, who interviewed me for over an hour for this hit-piece and also called with numerous follow-up questions has managed to twist the facts to fit a storyline about NAS’s obsolescence and decline.  The problem is that the storyline itself is imaginary.  He has a few details that are flat-out wrong (e.g. the NAS report on American history programs was released in January 2013, not “last summer”) but mostly what he did was torture false confessions out of innocent points.

As for the comment-leavers who are gratified by Mr. Schmidt’s report, sorry to disappoint you.  The National Association of Scholars fills the vital need in American higher education for a genuinely independent and well-informed critic.  The questions we raise about the conformism and triviality of much of what now passes for “higher learning” resonates with educated men and women.  The documentation we provide on the politicization of the curriculum and bias in faculty hiring rightly alarms the public, if not the faculty members and academic administrators who ought to be most concerned.  NAS’s principled opposition to racial preferences has inspired voters in many states to enact laws that give further force to the guarantees that were the central part of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.  And our readiness to take on more recent forms of pseudo-intellectual campus ideology such as the sustainability movement demonstrates that we remain on the front lines in the battle to restore coherence and integrity to higher education.

Peter Wood
National Association of Scholars

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