He points to the fact that as people grow older their opinions tend to migrate from the left toward the right. In the end, he argues, it does not much matter that a biased view of the world is inculcated at school because this will eventually be corrected once graduates must deal with reality for themselves.
Recently the conservative economist Thomas Sowell made some useful suggestions about the sorts of books alumnae can be provided to counteract the propaganda that flooded their minds in university classes. Indeed, I just finished reading a biography of Calvin Coolidge that helped dispel myths I learned in high school.
But my question is: Why should students need to do this unlearning? Why are we so complacent about the misconceptions they are force-fed in the name of education? If what they are being taught is so one-sided that it distorts the truth, what is the point of exposing them to this in the first place?
Colleges remain good places to obtain technical skills. If the goal is to become a mechanical engineer or a registered nurse, there are few better venues to acquire the relevant skills. Yet what of learning about life or how to be a social leader? Shouldn’t a higher education be helpful here too?
For the last several decades, undergraduates have been voting with their feet regarding these issues. Fewer and fewer decide to be English or history majors. The liberal arts, which were once considered the core of what every educated person should know, have fallen on hard times.
So have social sciences such as sociology and political science. As interesting as these subjects can be, they are avoided by first-class minds because what they teach is already known by those familiar with the tenets of political correctness.
Long ago, upon graduating from college as a philosophy major, I faced the problem endemic to philosophy majors, namely what sort of employment could I obtain. Consequently, as an accomplished test-taker I decided to sit for the City of New York’s welfare caseworker exam.
And indeed I did well. Without ever taking a single course in social work, I came in third among the hundreds of applicants testing alongside me. The way I did this was by answering the questions how I thought social workers would want them answered. In other words, I pretended to be a goody-two-shoes.
A parallel strategy applies to contemporary colleges. Their bias is so predictable that an intelligent person can figure out what is expected without having to crack open a book. What then is their purpose? Why not skip the entire exercise and head straight for the job market?
It seems that I am not alone in this reasoning. College enrollments have begun to decline. Michael Barone has gone so far as to write that the college bubble has burst. If he is correct, perhaps the public has begun to figure out there is little “there, there” on campus.
Liberal faculty members would thus be wise to note these trends. For their own professional survival, they might consider moderating their biases. At the very least, it is in their interest to hire, and promote, colleagues who present the other side of the ideological picture.
Nonetheless, I am not holding my breath. In the hermetically sealed environment of the contemporary college campus, the atmosphere has become so stagnant that most of the oxygen has already been sucked out. Thus, my guess is that there will be few meaningful reforms until people begin to expire of intellectual asphyxiation.
Still we must try. There is too much as stake.
Melvyn L. Fein, Ph.D., is a professor of sociology at Kennesaw State University.