Higher Education in the Age of Trump

National Association of Scholars

In the Fall 2017 issue of Academic Questions, contributors seek to understand the influence that President Donald Trump will have on higher education in the United States and whether his election will halt the rise of political correctness.

Both William B. Allen (“Qui Custodiet Custodies?”) and Herbert I. London (“President Trump and American Universities”) ask whether Trump’s election will lead to more intellectual diversity  in higher education. In “A Strategy to Remedy Political Correctness,” George Dent proposes solutions for taking on political correctness.

In the final entry on higher education in the age of President Trump, Richard Vedder urges the federal government to reduce its footprint in higher education..

This issue also features two articles addressing attacks on the idea of free speech, not just at home but also abroad. In “Amending the First Amendment,” Paul Rahe discusses the anti-free speech culture on many college campuses. And in “Transatlantic Tremors: Illiberal Assaults on the Academy in America and England,” Matthew Stewart discusses the rise of political correctness in the United Kingdom.

The issue also features essays by Daniel Bonevac on how Heidegger fell into Nazism, and Philip Williams on why we should learn math for its own sake. Rachelle Peterson shows how campus Confucius Institutes teach Chinese government-approved courses. Duke Pesta notes that peer-reviewed studies are not as objective as they appear.

Finally, we also have two book reviews: Isaac N. Cohen and Amy L. Wax discuss The Campus Rape Frenzy: The Attack on Due Process at America’s Universities, and David Randall reviews several books on the Russian Revolution.

NAS members will receive printed copies of this issue in the mail. (NAS members, click here for instructions on how to get full online access to all AQ articles.)

Two of this issue’s articles (Paul Rahe’s “Amending the First Amendment” and Richard Vedder’s “Doing More with Less”) are available for free through our website.


Qui Custodiet Custodies?  
William B. Allen, emeritus, Michigan State University

In the first entry of this issue’s special section, “Higher Education in the Age of Trump: First in a Series,” William B. Allen recalls the challenge Ronald Reagan presented in his 1966 landslide election as California governor—“to summon Americans to save themselves”—which helped reignite interest in America’s foundations, including among academics, a growing portion of whom have rushed instead to embrace political correctness. Williams states that President Trump has made a similar challenge today that “calls on faculty [and students] to rise and stand for what they are worth.”


A Strategy to Remedy Political Correctness

George W. Dent Jr., Case Western Reserve University School of Law

Characterizing political correctness as “a set of attitudes and policies” that “restrict free speech, academic freedom, and due process; shrink or eliminate the traditional core curriculum and infuse it…with leftist political propaganda; and staff faculties almost exclusively from the left,” George Dent asserts that this has “ideologically cleansed” our universities of conservative academics and decimated its population of moderates. He proposes a strategy to kindle a conversation that will muster real reform.


President Trump and American Universities

Herbert I. London, London Center for Policy Research

Will the ever-contentious and unorthodox Donald Trump serve as a catalyst for change in America’s PC-riddled higher education system? “It is doubtful,” Herbert London responds. Nevertheless, in reflecting on his many decades of experience as professor and dean, London considers how the president could effectively combat the current academic orthodoxy.


Doing More with Less

Richard Vedder, Center for College Affordability and Productivity

In the final entry of our special section, Richard Vedder lists the “big” problems higher education faces today—(1) excessive and rising costs, (2) questionable, worsening learning outcomes, (3) debt-strapped graduates with mediocre jobs, and (4) the forsaking by colleges of “their pivotal role as intellectual oases” of free inquiry. He then breaks down the challenge of addressing these problems to its core: “History suggests that progress will be mainly made not by increasing federal regulation or influence, but by reducing it.”


Amending the First Amendment

Paul A. Rahe, Hillsdale College

Americans have always believed that our constitutional right to freedom of speech should remain sacrosanct—until now. In describing what has changed in our thinking and behavior, Paul Rahe looks at America’s colleges and universities, “where we often see in embryo” what will appear in society, in this case “a shutting down of controversial discourse” whenever it doesn’t forward “the project favored by those who want to put an end to academic freedom.” Rahe’s article is adapted from his keynote address at “Securing Liberty: Rebuilding American Education in an Era of Illiberal Learning,” the National Association of Scholars’s thirtieth anniversary conference, held in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, in January 2017.


Heidegger’s Wrong Turn

Daniel Bonevac, University of Texas at Austin

Daniel Bonevac presents a sequel to “Heidegger’s Map,” his Summer 2014 “Verdicts” essay examining the perceptive yet highly controversial themes of Heidegger’s 1927 work, Being and Time. In his current piece, Bonevac describes how Heidegger’s thinking on these themes took a turn that led him away from objectivity and headlong into National Socialism—thinking that has also “inspire[ed] some of the most problematic trends in postmodern thought.”


Mathematics for Its Own Sake

Phillip Williams, The King’s College

Why should we study math? Philip Williams believes that the “hard logical standards” of mathematics cultivate a keen awareness of “common logical fallacies,” “incomplete arguments and…circular reasoning,” and the “subtle yet essential places where a plausible-sounding argument fails.” This trains us “to seek out what has not yet been established” and to develop “a healthy skepticism about what can easily be deduced from what is already known”—skills of perpetual value to academics, but especially useful in today’s cloudy cultural climate.


Confucius Institutes on Campus: A New Threat to Academic Freedom

Rachelle Peterson, National Association of Scholars

Since 2004, the Chinese government has invested millions in teaching foreign students “its preferred version of Chinese culture” via the Hanban, an agency that operates Confucius Institutes at 103 American colleges and universities and Confucius Classrooms at 501 American K–12 schools (and hundreds more institutes and classrooms worldwide). The National Association of Scholars has conducted a case study of these secretive programs, newly released as Outsourced to China: Confucius Institutes and Soft Power in American Higher Education. Study author Rachelle Peterson, NAS director of research projects, summarizes the troubling findings: that the Hanban’s Confucius Institutes “jeopardize the academic freedom of American professors and threaten the autonomy of our colleges and universities.”


“Deeper Reasons”: The Politicization of Academic Publishing

Duke Pesta, University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh

Duke Pesta compares his experiences teaching English in a politicized environment to that of Judith Curry, a Georgia Institute of Technology Earth and atmospheric sciences professor who ran afoul of the climate change establishment “for daring to argue for greater accommodation for scientists and scientific research skeptical of consensus positions,” and resigned, disenchanted, in January 2017. Pesta describes his thirteen-plus-year odyssey to publish a book on how the study of literature, specifically Shakespeare, has been “jeopardized by an ahistorical application of progressive politics.” Peer review is “anything but blind,” Pesta concludes; editors publish works that endorse their ideological biases, and he discovered that this was the nature of the peer evaluations his book received that “illuminated the problem of unscholarly bias.”


Transatlantic Tremors: Illiberal Assaults on the Academy in America and England

Matthew Stewart, Boston University

Many of the changes and problems plaguing American campuses are occurring with “comparable intensity” in the UK. Matthew Stewart reviews “I Find That Offensive!” by Claire Fox; Unsafe Space: The Crisis of Free Speech on Campus, edited by Tom Slater; and What’s Happened to the University? A Sociological Exploration of Its Infantilisation, by Frank Furedi, and maintains that the “headline-grabbing insurrections and open flouting of rules and conventions of decorum” they describe, while damaging and demoralizing, do not reflect the beliefs of many on campus and among the general public who reject the progressive agenda. Stewart emphasizes that Fox, Slater, and Furedi encourage those in charge and those who teach “to take a stand” for academic freedom and against “illiberal bullying and political coercion.”


Presumed Innocent No More

Isaac N. Cohen

Amy L. Wax, University of Pennsylvania

Mother and son Amy Wax and Isaac Cohen again team up to write for AQ, here reviewing KC Johnson and Stuart Taylor Jr.’s The Campus Rape Frenzy: The Attack on Due Process at America’s Universities, Cohen from the perspective of recent college graduate, Wax from that of law professor. Analyzing governmental policies, campus procedures, national statistics, and individual cases involving claims of sexual assault, which Taylor and Johnson catalog in “riveting,” exhaustive detail, Cohen and Wax argue that it all adds up to “a comprehensive assault,” on America’s “civil liberties and principles of fundamental fairness.”


October’s Sumerki

David Randall, National Association of Scholars

In his review essay of The Russian Revolution: A New History, by Sean McMeekin; Lenin on the Train, by Catherine Merridale; and October: The Story of the Russian Revolution, by China Miéville, David Randall observes that there seems to be a popular history “for every political persuasion” of the 1917 revolution that, one hundred years later, offers various lessons “depending on which light you see in its distant image.” 


Image: Wikimedia

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