Episode #15: Steve Balch and the Story of NAS

Peter Wood

Dear Listeners,

When the very first issue of Academic Questions came out in the winter of 1987, I read it cover to cover. I was working in John Silber’s administration at Boston University at the time, and the journal arrived as an advertisement for the newly formed National Association of Scholars. It worked.

Almost immediately AQ became a must-read for our office. There was nothing like it. Many of us felt alone in an academic world that was veering sharply toward political correctness, but here was this journal showing us that there were lots of people around the country with similar concerns.

On today’s podcast, Steve Balch shares the story of the NAS. In 1982, then a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Steve started gathering names of other academics who were alarmed by higher education’s direction. He hosted lunches where they could meet, added a newsletter, and by 1987, the National Association of Scholars was born.

Steve reviews some of NAS’s early projects and key victories—and he also talks about his own transformation from a Democratic Socialist to a classical liberal. He earned his Ph.D. at Berkeley during the height of the 1960s protests, which convinced him that “shouting, screaming, and mobbing were not the life of the mind.”

We also talk about the Texas Tech University Institute for the Study of Western Civilization, which Steve founded—and about a new competition for college students who study Western Civilization. Steve judged the competition, which Grove City College won over Harvard. 

I hope you enjoy our conversation.

Yours,
Peter Wood

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