Video: Christopher Long on The Future of "Educating for Liberty"

Chris Long, the new president of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, is this week's guest on Inside Academia. He talked about ISI's mission to reach today's college students and help them understand what it means to be a citizen in a free society. 

Click on the video below to watch the 15-minute interview.  


Key Take-Aways

  • 1:06 – A primer on Chris Long’s background and activism (3 mins)
  • 5:23 – ISI is geared toward students’ “mind, body, and person” (1 mins)
  • 6:09 – A new focus on developing interdisciplinary leaders (2 mins)
  • 8:09 – Civic literary and “negative learning” on campus (1 min)
  • 10:15 – Drawing out a remnant of leaders by casting wide nets (2 mins)
  • 13:17 – A survey of ISI’s digital/print content, study guides, etc. (3 mins)


Andy’s Show Notes:

Chris Long returns to become the new president & CEO of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, taking over for 22-year president, Ken Cribb (who was president Reagan’s chief domestic policy advisor).  As a student in college he became involved with ISI, Young Americans for Freedom, (becoming executive director), and theHeritage Foundation, among others, which he credits as bestowing the vital leadership experience as well as fundamental knowledge allowing him to become a successful managing director of a global investment bank and asset management company, as well as holding several other executive financial positions.

Many successful and prominent people have been active or in some way involved with ISI, such as Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia who was an ISI undergrad, Charles Kessler of Claremont InstituteLarry Arnnpresident of Hillsdale College; Edwin Feulner, president of the Heritage Foundation, John Goodman President of the National Center of Policy and Analysis, and a litany of many well-known authors and academics.

American Spectator publisher and current chairman of the board of trustees of ISI Alfred Regnery, explained in his book Upstream: The Ascendance of American Conservatism, that ISI founder Frank Chodorov wrote that ISI’s purpose would be to “teach individualism—economic, philosophical and spiritual—as a counter agent to the collectivism to which the (college) students are exposed”.  This was amidst a growing political and academic culture by mid-20th century America that looked toward European socialism as the future.  Regnery also writes that in 1956 the ISI trustees adopted a mission statement that included:

The … object of ISI shall be to promote among college students and the public generally, and understanding and appreciation for the Constitution of the United States of America, the Bill of Rights, the limitations of the power of Government, the voluntary society, the free-market economy and the liberty of the world.

According to their website www.isi.orgISI works ‘to educate for liberty’—inspiring college students to discover and embrace the principles and virtues that make America free and prosperous.

And from their History page: ISI was established in 1953 to convey to successive generations of college youth an appreciation for the values and institutions that sustain a free and virtuous society. In two articles appearing in the early 1950s, ISI’s founder Frank Chodorov outlined ‘a fifty-year project’ to reform the university and society in favor of freedom.

But speaking in broader terms, Chris Long explains that ISI, as a nonpartisan organization, “is geared to educate the student and help them develop as a whole person”, in which “the student is an end not a means to an end”.  So to clarify its mission given its obvious conservative origins and affiliations, Long describes ISI as “not some political organization trying to force some dogma, or ideology, or promote some a political perspective”, but rather to “help a student develop as a whole person”.

ISI conducts hundreds of educational programs around the country, “including lectures, debates, student conferences, and summer schools”, “offering graduate fellowships for aspiring college teachers”, and distributes millions of copies of “ISI books, journals, and affiliated student newspapers on college and university campuses”.  They facilitate Honors and Fellowships Programs and work with faculty of schools around the country.  Their American Studies Center develops seminars such as the Summer Institute at Princeton University teaches America’s heritage “to help faculty design intellectually serious and philosophically engaging courses that deal with the foundational principles of the American Republic and the broader traditions of the West.”  They state they aim “to nurture in the rising generation an appreciation of our nation’s founding principles—limited government, individual liberty, the rule of law, a free market economy, personal responsibility, and moral standards”.

But despite the breadth and depth of political philosophy, history, civics and great works of Western Civilization, ISI is not limited to a mere liberal arts curricula.  Their aim is to embolden values and virtues in students built on past human achievements and experiences, and offer great knowledge and leadership experience for everyone whether they’re studying science, business, finance, or law.  And moreover, while there is a focus on leadership development, the net is cast wide to be of great impact and significance to whole future generations.

But a new generational challenge faces organizations like ISI over the course of the last couple decades that was not so evident in the 1950’s and 60’s.  What has become mass-higher education—the movement to send virtually every young high school graduate to college with the presumption that it’s the only real ticket to middle class success—has flooded academies with ever growing ranks of students.  The culmination of grade inflation and consequent degree inflation, along with what ISI lecturer and Faculty Associate Mark Bauerlein described in Gen-Y as a trend of anti-intellectualism, and lack of a desire to understand and appreciate history, combined with the narrow purpose many students today hold of college as being job-prep / credentialism, make for a perfect storm of newer generations of young Americans not receiving a thorough, rich and well-grounded education.  Chris Long cited studies indicating students tending to be less civically literate and proficient as previous generations.  And while universities inherit many of the problems and deficiencies from primary and secondary education, they too pass the buck along to graduation and degree conferment.

Long cited de Tocqueville: ”every generation is a fresh people”, and Ronald Reagan: “freedom is never more than a generation away from extinction”.  So as Chris Long admitted, while there is a lack of core-curriculum within the academy, students are also not reading enough, if much of anything at all, let alone merely not reading the right material.  He says students need to be presented with the many great ideas in new ways and become excited with debates to ensure that future generations receive the benefit of a core-curriculum and what a college education used to provide.

How can groups like ISI meet the challenge of fulfilling their mission of enriching new generations intellectually, while simultaneously closing the widening gap of disengaged and disconnected students amidst the changing landscape of higher education of the future?

Find out in our interview with the new ISI president Chris Long.

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