Cut the Alma Mater Cord

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Americans love education. Any candidate that plumps for education looks good to American voters. That’s partly because the system is so bad that people want to pump more money into it to fix it up. Money only makes matters worse. Why should those in the education system cater to people’s needs when they get money tossed at them no matter how badly they perform? Education will only improve when people stop throwing money at it through the political system and instead become canny purchasers of education. The consumer of education needs to be educated about how to consume educational services.

We have a big problem at the college and university level. Public funding is entrenching numerous intellectuals who support the State’s over-extension in every realm and teach our children to support the State unwaveringly.

The human struggle between liberty and tyranny is now thousands of years old. Liberty has the upper hand and liberty will win, but the conflict is truly titanic. One enormously important front in this battle is higher education. The choice is a clear one. Live in freedom or be ruled and regulated by the State, that is, by an elite few that hold the reins of power. Although the destructive nature of the State is more and more visible to discern, if only by such extremes as Communist Russia, its presence is more overbearing today in Western democracies than it was 100—200 years ago.

Those in power comprise an elite, and they always have their court followers and supporters. Franklin Roosevelt in his day had his "brain trust." But I am not so much concerned here with them as with the far broader network of nameless and faceless academic intellectuals who reach millions of students, articulate philosophies that support tyranny, and build up a broad base of public support for state interference into every nook and cranny of American life.

The State and tyranny find all sorts of supportive intellectual voices in the colleges and universities of the land. Clever, articulate, but mistaken and terribly wrongheaded professors hold the bastions of the college diploma mills where they train millions of college students in state-subservience. These intellectuals spread false concepts. They twist the meanings of words. They endorse skeptical philosophies. They create an impression of scientific objectivity and sophistication that hides their tyrannical agenda. They are secure in professorial tenure. They control the academic journals, the newly-minted doctorates, and the content of textbooks and articles. They write the books that are often widely-read and whose ideas spread. They people the important conferences and devise the latest progressive (statist) agendas. They create the state-worshiping ideology. They move in and out of government at will, fed at the public trough with grants and support. They testify at hearings. They claim the expertise that the general public clamors for. They have the trust of the public. They have the public’s children in their hands. They train the lawyers, judges, and journalists who have wide influence. They have the time to concoct new arguments that raise doubts about liberty. They know how to disguise their endorsement of liberty’s only alternative, which is tyranny. Whether or not these statists are well-meaning innocents, dupes, dopes, minions of the state, paid hacks, or conscious evil-doers is an important question for other judges. But there is no question that their voices are tremendously influential. In the American trend toward greater tyranny and less freedom, the intellectuals in our society bear a major responsibility.

The traditional problem in liberty’s struggle against tyranny is political. The society has to find ways to bring its rulers under the common law and keep them there. It needs to limit political government. Our society is failing at this task. Too many intellectuals have drummed too many anti-freedom doctrines into too many people’s heads over too long a period of time. The climate of opinion supports tyranny. The general tenor of thought and opinion in our society, which the academics sustain, undergirds the State’s capacity to exercise and extend its power.

This is not a blanket indictment of every individual professor. That is a question of "if the shoe fits." It is not an indictment of higher education. It is a criticism of publically-funded higher education and of blind giving to such institutions. I merely am coalescing into cogent form that which is plainly visible for any of us to see. We can see and hear every day of the week the dominant political and social ideas of the dominant college-educated individuals who write the editorials, fill the pages of the magazines, broadcast over the airwaves, testify before Congress, run for office, and people Congress itself. We only need to ask where they are getting their ideas from. They get them from university intellectuals.

The universities are filled with extremely intelligent and hard-working people. They have all sorts of ideas and questions that they are attacking. Where do the professors get their ideas from? Usually from a small number of vanguard intellectuals that no one has heard of, like Slavoj Žižek. Yet if the basic orientation of these leaders is out of kilter, which it often is, they end up with corrosive results. These are the leaders of thought that influence their university followers who use their writings on reading lists that then affect student’s thought. Žižek is highly intelligent, but that does not mean his thinking is correct even if it is thoughtful, inquisitive, and subject to revision. As of 2006, he says he is an "orthodox lacanian Stalinist." He calls for a "radical re-politicization of the economy" in which capital will not be free to move and manufacturing will come under social control.

The intellectuals are mainly located in major state-supported universities, but private universities are no exception. They too are major beneficiaries of state money through state programs that disperse money for research. But all universities also receive a great deal of financial support from their graduates; and this is probably largely unthinking support, more emotionally-based than ideological.

This automatic financial support system needs to be broken. Higher education needs to move to a far more accountable market-oriented system. Entrenched university professors now have the luxury of instilling devastating philosophical doctrines in their students. That is a problem in and of itself. Beyond that are two more problems. The students do not have the intellectual defenses against these doctrines; and an atmosphere that is biased toward instilling certain ideas is not the same as discussion of ideas from all ends of the philosophical and theological spectrum.

We need radically to undermine the undue influence of the statist voices. This takes two steps: withdrawing support, state and private, and then supporting alternatives. Move out of the state’s ambit and move into the free market wherever possible. Universities run on money, like all other institutions. Withdraw their financial lifelines and they cannot survive in their present form as fertile seedbeds for pro-state ideologies. The least that anyone can do is to stop contributing money to colleges and universities that are dominated by ideologues who support tyranny. Cut the alma mater cord. Don’t support the alma mater blindly. Look for colleges that reject federal support. Look for those that promote intellectual and financial independence. Look for colleges whose faculties are not one-sided advocates of government policies and destructive philosophies. Look for new colleges or transformed older colleges that explicitly are aiming at education and not training in statist and other negative ideologies. Look toward alternative means of education altogether. Breaking the ideological grip of the existing university system requires withdrawing support from it and transferring one’s college education business to new entities.

Anyone selecting a college is choosing people who will be instilling ideas into them. Look before you leap. Look at the faculty. Look at what their thinking is before you sign up. When you join the Marines, you know you are going to be turned into a Marine. That’s the sergeant’s job. When you choose a college, you will be exposed to the thinking of its faculty. Will you be educated? Will your mind be led out into pathways of independent thought? Or will you be trained? Will your mind be inculcated with the thinking of your professors?

Education is related to two Latin roots. Ex means "out." "Duc" relates to a leader, a duke. Ex ducere means to lead out. The mind should be led out, opened up. This has a positive meaning. A school is traditionally a place for leisure and discussion, the idea being to pursue things of the mind openly. It does, however, lead to schools of thought. At some point, instruction sets in. Instruction, also a Latin-rooted word, means to build in or to pile on, to build on. The idea is to instill, not educate. Instruction often is necessary as a prelude to education, but it should not be the whole story. What is training? Train as a verb means instruct or discipline. The term disciple is related to discipline (ca. 1225), or instruction given to a disciple, that is, treatment that corrects or punishes. From ca. 1489 discipline came to mean orderly and military training. A train is a drawing out, an extension, like a train of thought, or a trailing of a skirt. Ca. 1375 train means "draw out and manipulate in order to bring to a desired form," according to the online etymology dictionary.

Our colleges and universities provide a great deal of training and far less of education. They are manipulating "in order to bring to a desired form." The question is what are the contents of the training? What are they instilling and building into the minds of their students? What is the agenda? Whether right-wing or left-wing, it is state-support and state-adulation. It is pro-tyranny and anti-free markets, even though the products of this training mouth and think in terms of the stock phrases about democracy, freedom, and law.

Do the buyers of this training know beforehand what ideologies they are about to purchase? To some extent. They choose the institutions. They have a choice of majors and some courses. This mitigates the negative influence of statist ideology found in most universities. But they still face very large pools of statist influences, usually in areas of social science, law, journalism, and English. Within any college of arts and sciences will be housed many potential cesspools of academic rot posing as areas of excellence. The overall institutions of higher learning are unresponsive to buyer demands because their funding sources are independent of what their buyers demand. They have captive markets.

Do what you can. Become an educated buyer of college services. And cut the alma mater cord.

Michael S. Rozeff [send him mail] is a retired Professor of Finance living in East Amherst, New York.

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