CAN WE SAVE OUR UNIVERSITIES?
[Another excellent piece by VDH – with one major flaw. Of all his suggested solutions, the most necessary is missing: the complete total abolishment of the unconstitutional federal Department of Education.]
It took the widely reported, repellent, and exempt wave of anti-Semitism and violent pro-Hamas protestors harassing Jews, finally to convince Americans that their own hallmark universities are illiberal centers of mediocrity and intolerance—and increasingly unsafe.
Of course, Americans had long known that something had gone wrong at their colleges. They had increasingly encountered college graduates who were poorly educated in basic skills and lacked general knowledge—and yet highly politicized, and intolerant of different views and opinions. Ignorant but arrogant is a sad way to start an adult life.
College, the public knew, has certainly eroded from our cherished idea of a four-year idealized respite from adult employment. It once was intended to be a place where youth learned to be open-minded, tolerant, skilled, and eager to learn the nature and traditions of Western civilization, art, literature, languages, philosophy, and history.
Instead, all too often “college” has now descended into a six-to-seven-year misadventure that nationwide often results in only half those enrolled ever receiving degrees. Nearly all sink deeply in student debt. And yet for all the borrowed tuition money, few prove capable of writing analytically, speaking articulately, or knowing the general referents, past and present, of their very civilization.
Students, especially at the elite campuses, learn to mouth monotonously accusations of “genocide.” “apartheid,” “colonialism,” or “imperialism.” But they lack the ability to define these nouns. As a result, they so often name drop empty slogans in the context of supposed Western sins.
Again, October 7 brought these sorry facts to national attention. Adolescent screamers on video showed no awareness that dropping leaflets and sending texts to avoid collateral deaths is not “genocide.” Most chant the “river to the sea” with no clue that it resonates the very ethos of mass murdering, mutilation, and dehumanization of Jewish elderly, women, children, and infants in the most savage fashion on October 7.
Accusatory students who scream “apartheid” seemed to have no clue that a fifth of Israel’s population is Arab, with citizenship rights that vastly exceed those in all other Middle East nations.
They have no notion of the ancient and long connections of the Jewish people to the land of Israel, or how in the world the revered Al-Aqsa Mosque found itself atop the far more ancient Herod’s Jewish Second Temple sanctuary.
As far as “colonialism” and “occupation” goes, they are clueless that the longest, non-Arab colonial rule of Palestine was the more than 300-years of often brutal Ottoman/Turkish imperialistic control.
Nor do they have much knowledge of the repeated and combined efforts of far larger and richer Arab nations to wipe tiny Israel out, especially during the full-scale wars of 1947-48, 1967, and 1973.
Instead, politically correct orthodoxies, not the knowledge or logic, of a student, became the hallmark of an “educated” American graduate. Students and faculty were considered “moral” for proclaiming their devotion to diversity, equity, and inclusion, without a clue that historically unity, equality, and fairness were the better aspirations.
Without formal study in civics and ethics, students learned that any means were justified to advance political aims merely asserted as morally superior to others.
After October 7, it proved a small campus step from years of institutionalized racially separated graduations, dorms, and campus centers to singling out and often segregating Jewish students from campus spaces.
At Arizona State, Jewish students had to be escorted by police from a campus debate event. Even 20 years ago administrators would likely have expelled those threatening violence—or been forced to resign themselves. Today, they are terrified of mostly foreign students who abuse their visas and seem to despise the host they dare not leave to return home.
(Although ASU last Friday, 11/17, announced: Arizona State Cancels Event With Democrat Rashida Tlaib After She Called For Genocide Of Israel. So there is hope for at least this school.)
Administrators at prestigious MIT admit that some of their foreign students are openly harassing Jews. But the university will not expel such anti-Semites in fear they might lose their student visas and thus have to return to their Middle-East homes and stew about their own miscreant behavior and ingratitude to their hosts.
Instead, for college administrators, entitled, and full-tuition paying children of Middle East’s elites are seen as cash cows whose money masks their bigotry.
As a result, cynical MIT grandees now simply warn Jewish students where and where not it is safe to walk on their own campuses. And thus, they confirm the embarrassing reality that the university is either unable or does not wish to stop the systematic anti-Jewish hatred on their own turf.
Yet since when did such student guests in the United States feel empowered to shut down bridges during commute hours, tear down American flags on Veterans Day, and scout out and hunt-down Jewish-Americans on campus?
If universities canonize critical race theorist Ibram Kendi, who insists that “anti-racism” requires good racism to combat bad racism, then is it any wonder that professors of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and various studies courses at UC Davis or Stanford prominently harassed and threatened Jewish students, or at Cornell cheered on news of Hamas’s murder spree?
If campuses drop the SAT requirement, and no longer rank comparative high-school grade point averages, but instead rely on racial and ethnic quotas and “diversity statements” for university admissions, is it any surprise that insecure and passive-aggressive students feel entitled and exempt from any ramifications for their venom?
And if campuses are fixated on race and superficial appearances, and reward those who are supposedly not guilty of “white privilege,” it is easy to understand why anti-Semites believe they can justify their hatred by assuming Jews are guilty for being white, and they themselves exempt for being nonwhite bigots.
If the endowments of our top universities have reached record-setting multibillion-dollar levels, and if the billion-dollar annual income on those massive sums are non-taxable on the pretense campuses are apolitical and teach inductively rather than indoctrinate, then is it such a shock that exempted huge budgets lead to more staffers than students?
At Stanford, the Wall Street Journal recently reported that there were 16,938 graduate and undergraduate students, but they were out-numbered by the combined total of 15,750 administrators and their staffers, and 2,288 faculty.
Would it not be easier and perhaps even cheaper just to hire one tutor for each student and forgo the administrators?
If anti-Semitic and racist professors enjoy life-long tenure, and if such guaranteed lifetime employment has de facto eliminated conservative voices among the faculty, why would any bigot mouthing genocidal chants ever worry about his job security?
So again, ignorant and arrogant describes what the public has concluded of campuses in the last few weeks.
In contrast, there is little such anti-Semitic violence at community colleges or trade schools, where the majority of students attends, and must work to pay for their education, and learn skills in a world apart from therapeutic gut courses. In truth, a multiple-choice American history test at a junior college now demands more knowledge from a student than the weaponized essay requirement of an Ivy-League -studies class.
Taxpayers soon will no longer wish to subsidize elite education, especially when campuses no longer can guarantee their graduates are broadly educated and their professional and graduate programs can no longer turn out top-flight experts and specialists.
So, what happened to America’s once monopoly on global excellence in higher education?
In a word, there was too much money—and too little accountability. Tuition soared faster than the rate of annual inflation. The federal government subsidizes almost $2 trillion in student loans, regardless of the quality of education the student receives, and often with the expectation there will be few if any consequences when indebted but poorly educated students’ default on their repayment obligations.
The professors who harass students, and rant endlessly off topic about current politics, are often not audited or reviewed on the quality of their scholarship and teaching as much as their political views, and their racial, gender, and ethnic status.
Most have little knowledge of the reality outside the academic world—having spent their entire lives as students and then faculty confined to campus. Tenure is seen as a birthright rather than an ossified privilege only accorded to a tiny fraction of the workforce on the pretense that faculty should be heterodox, independent thinkers, without ideological blinders.
So, to save us from the monsters we created, Americans must get the government out of the student loan business.
We must demand that universities’ endowments back their own student loans.
The government should tax endowment income and end lifelong tenure. Universities must expel and deport foreign students who violate campus laws as they violently act out their various hatreds.
Reinstate the SAT for admissions, and end racial quotas. And require a national SAT-like exit exam to reassure the public that graduates at least know more when they leave college than when they enrolled—an increasingly dubious assumption.
But most important of all: the public should stop giving money to elite institutions. To continue such philanthropy is akin to supplying heroin to an addict, gas to a fire, or fireworks to children.
Do not consider our prestigious schools any longer necessarily prestigious. Many are not. Do not hire a graduate simply because she graduated from Yale, or he attended Stanford—unless one prefers to risk dealing with an employee poorly schooled but likely to act out a pampered victim status and to disrupt a workplace.
Victor Davis Hanson is an American military historian, author, classics professor emeritus, and scholar of ancient warfare. He is currently the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.