The Solution to Political Correctness: Higher Education at Cyberspace U.

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The
effects of ten years of political correctness on higher education
are now obvious. We have gone from mere reverse discrimination to
an environment in which "conservative" student columnists
critical of leftist shibboleths (radical feminism, open homosexuality)
are being tossed from campus newspapers in record numbers, and faculty
are being pilloried for saying anything radical groups find "offensive."
In this environment, would-be faculty members who do not endorse
the ideologies of postmodernism, radical feminism, the homosexual
agenda, and "diversity" engineering are unable to be considered
for appointments anywhere except, perhaps, at a handful of private
Christian colleges. Students, meanwhile, have actually found themselves
having to transfer to other schools to avoid ideological harassment.

What
of the opposition? For roughly the same period, a handful of groups
such as the National Association of
Scholars
have provided a significant opposing voice. However,
members of such groups report having their materials sent home instead
of to their campus addresses because they fear retaliation if their
membership is discovered. There are a few programs on Christian
and the handful of other conservative-leaning campuses teaching
the country's founding principles. But their numbers are small and
their influence in the larger enterprise of higher education seems
to be negligible. It is fair to say that within the centers of power
in academe, political correctness is practically unopposed. Members
of “victim groups” are earning six-figure salaries at Ivy League
universities, publishing books and anthologies with major academic
presses documenting their histories of collective grievance — all
the while whining about how horribly they have been treated. But
if you are an academic you do not dare communicate these unpleasant
truths. That could end your career (especially if you are white
and male). The academy has thus been transformed from the oasis
of free speech that was propagandized in the late 1960s into a bastion
of thought control reminiscent of Communist totalitarianism.

There
is, moreover, more and more stress on purely vocational training,
even at major universities, as opposed to a traditional liberal
arts core curriculum. It is not hard to see why. I don't believe
it is just the massive changes in technology we have seen during
the past few years, though that is certainly a factor. Some students
are fleeing liberal arts and social sciences, favoring subjects
where they can have real knowledge and develop a few real skills
that will make them employable outside government bureaucracies
and "women's studies" departments. While vocational training
is not real education, its meteoric rise could be seen as
having been helped by many students' desires, perhaps not even articulated
to themselves, not to have to deal with political correctness. The
liberal arts, where the principles of a free society can be articulated
and studied, are dying – if indeed they are not already dead!
I do not mean, of course, that they are dead institutionally.
They are very much alive in this sense, but as de facto colonies.
As vehicles where genuine intellectual diversity exists, and criticism
of the new orthodoxies is therefore permitted, fields like history,
philosophy, English, comparative literature, and so on, are effectively
dead in the water.

So
what is the solution, other than simply waiting for the politically
correct generation to reach retirement age? I submit that the solution
has been developing under our noses for the past several years.
It began about the time email systems were developed; it started
to come of age with the development of the graphical interface.
I am obviously referring to the World Wide Web. The number of web
sites continues to explode, and thousands more people are going
online every month. Today, colleges and universities are developing
programs in distance learning – or distance education –
mostly aimed at nontraditional students who work full time. These
programs enable the students to sign up for, pay for, and download
lectures, lessons, assignments and tests for college courses over
their home computers. Communication between instructor and pupil
occurs over the Internet.

A
few weeks back, Gary North penned an article
arguing that the World Wide Web will soon generate forms of educational
entrepreneurship that bring down the current academic cartel, the
cadres of educrats running accrediting agencies. It is possible
to expand on his argument by showing how Web-based higher education,
in the form of entire universities existing almost exclusively in
cyberspace, their students accessing the universities' web sites
from anywhere in the world, is capable of destroying the cartels
of the politically correct as well. Its modus operandi would amount
to the simple expedient of pursing its activities outside the institutional
arrangements and built in assumptions that nurtured the political
correct mindset.

Here
is how it would work: a small team of scholars, educational entrepreneurs
and crack technicians pool their knowledge and know-how into the
development of a curriculum which could offer standard majors in
subjects ranging from philosophy and political science to computer
technology and web site development. This curriculum becomes the
centerpiece of a detailed business plan.

Then,
instead of undertaking the multimillion dollar enterprise of buying
land, breaking ground, putting up buildings, etc., they obtain a
loan (perhaps no more than $800,000), rent office space, purchase
computers including their own server, and launch their web site.
While developing this site and continuing to refine their ideas,
they pay themselves and a small staff salaries they can live on
(nothing excessive!). They use what contacts they have to advertise
the new site by every available means ranging from email and word-of-mouth
advertising to professional and trade periodicals. Within a year,
our online-only institution could well generate substantial interest
from prospective Internet-savvy students, and from potential faculty
members willing to teach them. The institution could well be in
a position to enroll students within two years, maybe sooner.

It
is worth reiterating what Gary North pointed out, that on traditional
campuses much of the overhead has to do with keeping the lights
on, the grounds looking decent, the facilities operational, and
so on. The overhead costs of a cyberspace institution run out of
an office the size of a three-bedroom apartment would be sufficiently
low that students could obtain a college education for just a fraction
of the cost of attending a public university. And the faculty would
soon be in a position to earn much more than they ever could teaching
in one.

Moreover,
with the number of nontraditional students on the rise – older
students changing careers, married or divorced students (often with
children to take care of), students working at full-time jobs in
addition to going to school – distance education solves a myriad
of scheduling as well as financial problems. Educational packages
can be dispensed in any number of ways, ranging from web-based lessons
or lectures uploaded to the web site at given intervals, e.g., three
times weekly, where student could access them, to relatively inexpensive
CD-ROMs which could contain courses or years of coursework or even
entire majors. North observed that for all practical purposes we
have the technology to deliver education this way now. And privately
– without a single dollar taken from the federal government,
either for start-up costs or by way of student loans.

I
envision at least one such Cyberspace University that is deliberately
organized as a niche institution. Its vision would endeavor to present
the kind of liberal arts education envisioned by the Framers, that
necessary to sustain the institutions of a free society. That is,
it would offer courses on how our conception of law has developed
from the days when the kings did as they pleased to the idea of
individual natural rights as seen in the writings of, for example,
the British philosopher John Locke. From there, the core curriculum
would contain a central component on the Declaration of Independence,
the U.S. Constitution, the Federalist Papers (also the widely
and unjustly neglected Anti-Federalist writings), and so
on.

Cyberspace
University would, that is, stress individual natural rights, personal
responsibility, limited government, the rule of law, and –
where relevant – explore the role of the Transcendent in human
life. It would stress such skills as logic and critical reasoning,
and encourage independent thought (students and faculty, that is,
would not be required to sign "statements of faith" in
this or that specific doctrine). This is the kind of framework necessary
for opposing political correctness. It does not challenge PC in
public universities or the Ivy Leagues. These institutions are clearly
lost causes. The founders of Cyberspace University will have set
up an alternative kind of institution, publicized it to set up a
flow of information, and then allowed market forces to take over.
Students would be able to study both web site development, if that
was their interest (for there would be plenty of it going on that
they could observe first hand), or study the writings of the Framers.
They might even be able to develop their own insights and perspectives
on a very threatening subject: secession, i.e., whether those of
us who want to live as we see fit and be left alone are better off
if we separate from those whose entire existence revolves around
power.

How
much interest would such a project generate? This, of course, depends
on factors ranging from how much publicity could be generated to
how fed up potential customers of distance education are with political
correctness. It depends on whether would-be university students
are out there who would sign up for curricula that did not ram "ethnic
studies" down their throats. I believe there are such people.
My correspondence proves it. How many, of course, is another question.
Therein lies the element of risk, which is bound to be present in
any entrepreneurial venture. There are also plenty of people who
believe that the introduction and widespread acceptance of programs
in "ethnic studes," "gay / lesbian studies,"
etc., in public universities constitutes progress, that science
is sexist because so many of its practitioners are men, that opponents
of race-based admissions are motivated by racism, and that Bill
Clinton has been a great president.

Of
course, there would be obstacles. There is the accrediting agency
problem, and the more serious one of whether potential employers
would recognize degrees obtained from Cyberspace U. as valid and
legitimate. The initial graduates would have something to prove.
There can be no doubt, moreover, that such an enterprise would generate
opposition as soon as it was perceived as a threat. This would be
particularly true if it became the prototype for more such
institutions providing slightly different philosophical orientations
and slants, but sharing a rejection of the new status quo. We should
never underestimate the control the politically correct mindset
has over the media and the legal system. Cyberspace U. could find
itself an immediate target of bitter attacks just like those directed
against independent political movements such as the League of the
South today. Openly politically incorrect institutions ought to
have at least one good libertarian lawyer on retainer, as they could
easily find themselves swimming against a tide of legal challenges.

Gary
North, I believe, pointed the ultimate way out of legal and accreditation
difficulties when he noted the number of places outside the United
States that could serve as potential home bases where Cyberspace
U. could continue operating outside the reach of the long arm of
Big Brother.

In
the last analysis, Web-based higher education in one form or another
is here, now, and here to stay, with or without the approval of
accrediting agencies. As a medium for opposing political correctness,
the World Wide Web has already proven itself formidable by having
given rise to sites including WorldNetDaily,
NewsMax and LewRockwell.com,
where one can find an abundance of information and perspectives
that often simply go unreported in the print and network media (reports
of reverse “hate crimes,” unabashed defenses of property rights,
open discussions of secession movements). What remains is to shape
this medium into a vehicle for breathing new life into the traditional
liberal arts curriculum – updated with healthy doses of high
technology.

We
need not call it Cyberspace U., of course. I personally prefer the
name Internet University of the South. IUS, for short.

HTML,
anyone?

September
23, 2000

Steven
Yates
has a PhD in philosophy and is the author of Civil
Wrongs: What Went Wrong With Affirmative Action
(San Francisco:
ICS Press, 1994). A frequent contributor to LewRockwell.com and
The Edgefield Journal,
he lives and freelance writes in Columbia, South Carolina. He is
at work on a new book entitled The Paradox of Liberty.

Steven
Yates Archives

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