Last month’s column discussed the virus of Jew/Israel hatred that is spreading throughout America’s institutions of higher learning. However, this perfidious hatred is symptomatic of an even more malignant disease that has been raging with increasing ferocity on America’s college campuses. If you have read George Orwell’s Animal Farm, you will already be familiar with it. When people of great accomplishment such as — Condoleezza Rice or Ayaan Hirsi Ali — can be kept from speaking on campus by screaming protesters, the animals have taken control.
In preparing to write this piece, I researched the different definitions of the word “education.” In its most traditional sense, it has been used to describe the process of developing the skills and the powers of reasoning and judgment necessary to prepare oneself or others intellectually for mature life.To my mind the word “mature” is what gives the definition meaning — and maturity is exactly what has been eliminated as a concept in much of American education today. Increasingly, the inmates are taking charge of the asylum. When will the adults reassert authority? Time after time, college administrators behave like cowards, folding like cheap suitcases in response to the childlike tantrums of students and faculty alike.
It was not always this way. Colleges and universities used to be places where ideas would be posed and challenged. The purpose of a liberal arts education was to expose students to new and different ideas, to make them think, to make them question authority, to go beyond whatever they thought they knew and to enable them, after four years, to have gained the maturity to enter the world able to deal with the challenges of business or government or life itself. So how did those colleges become places where students are encouraged to fear hearing something they might disagree with, where students, trembling at the thought of someone expressing an opinion contrary to their own, are permitted to cower in “safe spaces,” protected from having to justify their beliefs or hear about other’s truths?
My years on college campuses (B.A. l965; J.D. 1968; LL.M. 1969) immediately preceded the nascence of the disease (the glorification of immaturity) that originated in 1968 on the campuses of Columbia University and the University of California, Berkeley, with the “free speech riots” and their aftermath. When I was in law school in Washington, D.C., it was the unwritten custom for law students to wear coats and ties to class.When I visited D.C. in 1971, a mere three years after my graduation, I visited my alma mater and saw a student standing barefooted on the front steps, wearing overalls, no shirt and carrying Prosser on Torts. How quickly the world had changed.
The barefooted slovenliness of that law student exemplified an immaturity that demonstrated a lack of respect for the majesty of that for which he was preparing — a career in the law. That is what has happened to American universities; there is no longer any respect for the task of preparing to live life with maturity. Now, 50 years after the Columbia “free speech” riots, the faculties at those universities are comprised to a significant degree of those who participated in those riots, and their acolytes — leftists who have never earned a free-market dime, who have remained sheltered within the cocoon of university life where their immature and unrealistic theories on life have remained unchallenged and untested, because instead of the “free speech” they once espoused, they now impose “political correctness,” the ultimate fascism of thought.
It is my considered belief that the reason for this is that American society itself refuses to mature. The avoidance of responsibility is baked into the cake early on. Too many American universities have become warehouses for children who are “trying to find themselves.” Students come to the universities, having been inculcated with the mantras of the left from high schools forced to parrot the Common Core curricula, unable and unwilling to have their immature ideas challenged. If they don’t get their way, too many express their frustration with violence. Indulgence is the order of the day. Administrators are in fear of students and faculty. Students and faculty fear no one. What kind of “education” is this?
It is past time for donors to universities to step up and call a halt to the anarchy. Alumni donations are the life blood of institutions of higher learning. It is time for alumni to put conditions on those donations. Either that, or refuse to give. Do you really want to pay for Bill Ayers’ pension? Really?
If the trustees and the donors don’t take control, there will no longer be anything left that could be properly called “higher education.” Bring back core curricula, eliminate courses and departments that are without any value (e.g., “Womyn’s Studies,”“Gender Studies,” etc.), eliminate tenure, require that each student must earn a degree within six years of matriculation and hire faculty with actual life experience (a doctoral degree should not itself determine whether or not a teaching candidate can be considered for a position).
Most important, it is time for parents to step up, take responsibility for their children and investigate the schools to which their children are applying. Recently, it was reported that in the wake of the demonstrations at the University of Missouri based upon fraudulent claims of racism, there was a sharp drop in the number of freshmen enrolling in the school. There will be 1,500 fewer students there next year, which will cause a budget shortfall of $32 million, according to a recent report in the Washington Examiner. The administrators at the University of Missouri indulged the immaturity of the demonstrators, and the direct result will be a cost in the millions to the taxpayers of the state of Missouri. Actions have consequences.
At the very least, every parent who is paying for his child’s education must insist on reviewing the list of courses in which their children want to enroll. If there doesn’t appear to be a serious educational purpose for the course, refuse to pay for it. American History can serve a serious educational purpose; LGBT Politics will not. Sue me. If your children insist upon enrolling in these absurd courses, let them know that they are free to do so but that they must pay for it themselves. If that doesn’t speed up their maturity, nothing will.
American civilization is on the cusp of oblivion as a direct result of our failure to educate properly the next generation. Will we be done in by the immaturity of those whom we have indulged for far too long, or will the adults assert control over “Animal U?” Unless American universities return to the original definition of “education”—“the process of developing the skills and the powers of reasoning and judgment necessary to prepare oneself or others intellectually for mature life”— American society and culture will continue down the path to destruction.
Stuart Kaufman is a retired lawyer, investment banker and businessman. He relocated from New York to Mount Pleasant in 2012. A friend recently told him that he has been a South Carolinian all of his life ... but he just didn’t know it.