Sisyphus and Higher Education

Jonathan Bean

Those of us laboring for academic reform often feel like Sisyphus, rolling a rock up the hill only to have it come crashing down again. The gods of academe seem to have condemned higher education to inevitable decay. That thought came to me as I read about the demise of an institute (at Hamilton College) that did everything right, yet the overlords of Political Correctness purged themselves of enemies and "deviationists." I use these terms because the notion that all-is-political, enemies-must-be-destroyed is linked so strongly to communism and its close cousin national socialism. In the above unhappy story, Mark Bauerlein tries to see a silver lining by noting that the Institute survives outside the college. Students can go there and read books for which they receive no academic credit, of course. If ever there was a case study in how much the Left prizes control of higher education, this is it. The next time you are tempted to think that much of what happens is a "misunderstanding" or "good intentions gone awry," please banish the thought. When push comes to shove, there are those who would put a bullet in your head if this were a different place and time. Instead, they kill ideas by depriving them of air space on campus. No institute, no nonconformist faculty. Or, as Stalin put it: "no people, no problem." We, the few, will retire some day and then there will be nobody to speak out against the barbarians. That is our problem. Postscript: Robert Weissberg nails the problem(s) exceptionally well in this article.

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