Peter Wood Appears on Inside Academia TV

NAS president Peter Wood was this week's guest on Inside Academia, a new video interview program that examines current issues in higher education. He spoke about the radicalization of the college campus, the movement to send more and more students to college, and the work of the National Association of Scholars. Click on the video below to watch the 16-minute segment.   




Key Take-Aways


  • 1:29 – NAS focuses on academic curriculum and education bubble (1 min)
  • 3:30 – NAS opposes racial preferences in admissions. (1 min)
  • 7:21 – Liberals far outweigh conservatives in humanities and social sciences (1 min)
  • 8:45 – Classrooms should be free of ideology, politics should end at door (1 min)
  • 11:00 – Mass education results in regression to the mean/poor performance (1 min)
  • 12:19 – Nearly 1/3 of college students (7 million) learn virtually nothing in four years (1 min)
  • 13:25 – Idea of college shifts from culture transmission to societal transformation (30 seconds)
  • 14:20 – Political agendas of radical left and mass education movement converge (30 seconds)
  • 15:45 – College itself does not produce social, economic or personal prosperity (30 seconds)


Andy’s Show Notes


What does mass higher education (sending everyone to college with the hopes of a good education presumably for greater prosperity), have to do with the politicization and radicalization of academia?

In the our most recent interview with Peter Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars, we coalesced that very subject by examining NAS’s founding mission and efforts since their inception in 1987.

Two recent stories have emerged in the news. The first is the research study and subsequent book by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses; and the second is the controversial NYT article Social Scientist Sees Bias Within, spotlighting the “statistically impossible” disparity among academics–particularly in psychology and sociology–along political and ideological lines. These are just the two newest installments, serving as reminders, of the trends and problems in higher education that have been stewing for decades, for which groups like NAS were founded in the first place.

In Academically Adrift, the authors reveal an alarming level of a lack of critical thinking skills being developed by most college students today. Peter Wood even mentions that about a third of college seniors (about 7 million students), under a testing instrument called the Collegiate Learning Assessment, were shown to learn virtually nothing more than when they were freshmen. Marty Nemko, in our previous interview, pointed out the similar trends, and consequently not only argues for the reform of universities, but questions the very idea behind mass education.

In the subject of political bias, Dr. Jon Haidt observes a “tribal moral community” among many academics, who “embrace science whenever it supports their sacred values, but they’ll ditch it or distort it as soon as it threatens a sacred value”. In our interview with Peter Wood, he cited the Port Huron Statement of the Students for a Democratic Society from 1962. He explained that the push to politicize and radicalize the universities came as a result of the American working classes proving too uninterested in fomenting revolution. But universities produce future leaders, writers, journalists, scholars, thinkers, opinion leaders, etc. By 1972, he says that the idea that institutions assumed they could be the instruments of societal transformation became pretty mainstream.

So how does that tie into mass higher education? Presumably, the more people you send to college, and the more you use college as the vehicle to transform certain social ideals, then the more proponents you’ll have for those changes. Thus Peter argues, the benign well-intentioned desire to ensure everyone’s educational and economic betterment begins to converge with the radical Left in sending everyone to college.

But we should consider an additional effect of mass higher education, in relation to politicization. If the research studies and statistics are true, and so many students are not honing the critical thinking skills they should in college, then how can they evaluate and critically analyze politicized agendas in the classroom, especially when they are subtle? It stands to reason they’d be all the more ill-equipped to challenge, scrutinize, and demand more from their professors. After all, is not he who is uncritical and of undisciplined mind more susceptible to ideologies of the day?

But while some may argue that the watering down of grading, course-work rigor, and degree requirements, combined with general apathy and laziness has left many students oblivious to social and political agendas, others contend that the rigors of humanities and social science curricula has suffered at least in part directly from the shift in academia’s mission. One of the very issues that NAS identifies is “the post-modernist evisceration of the humanities”.

Clearly these issues are distinct, but they conflate as far as shaping what modern higher education has become and the effect it has had on today’s college student. Will students continue to be saddled with enormous amounts of debt to attend college, developing no real skills or scholastic achievements, while being imbued with advocacy of socio-political change? And will or can such graduates successfully change society at all, and if so into what? And what can groups like NAS do about it?

Find out in our interview with Peter Wood, and in our ongoing series at



  • Share

Most Commented

May 1, 2017


Binghamton University Responds to NAS’s Report

SUNY Binghamton offers critiques and corrections to Outsourced to China. ...

March 23, 2011


Looking for Answers? Ask a Scholar!

NAS is partnering with Intellectual Takeout to answer questions that call for scholarly judgment and can't be answered by Wikipedia. ...

September 5, 2014


Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome

"[PTSS] provides an evidence-proof explanation that lifts away moral responsibility from those engaged in self-destructive, anti-social, and criminal behavior."...

Most Read

January 3, 2011


Estimated 40 Percent of Scientists Doubt Manmade Global Warming

S. Fred Singer said in an interview with the NAS that...

May 15, 2015


Where Did We Get the Idea That Only White People Can Be Racist?

A look at the double standard that has arisen regarding racism, illustrated recently by the reaction to a black professor's biased comments on Twitter....

May 29, 2013


Ask a Scholar: How Did Women's Suffrage Impact the USA?

Prof. Jonathan Bean assesses the impact of the women's suffrage movement on the American polity....