Having observed and worked for over 30 years in what is euphemistically called American higher education, it seems to me that what is worst about it is not what it teaches but how it misrepresents itself. Contrary to the impression created by neoconservatives and some misguided traditional humanists, educators (at least the ones I have known) do not corrupt the rising generation by lecturing on post-medieval or postmodernist texts. I would be exhilarated if most of my colleagues read William of Ockham or Martin Heidegger—or belabored their students with the ideas of these putatively subversive figures. I also see no evidence that p.c. lightweights like Cornel West and Andrea Dworkin are being digested (if that is the proper term) in our classes. Professors are too busy enhancing their own evaluations by making the kids feel good about the “college experience.”

On the basis of Ockham’s “non sunt multiplicanda entia praeter necessitatem,” it appears foolish to manufacture ideational causes for what is simply crass behavior. In the 60’s and 70’s, we mass-produced dummies with doctoral degrees, most of whom had taken advantage of “defense loans” or some other federal subsidy. We compounded the error by expanding the number of degree-granting institutions which could provide jobs for the newly certified intelligentsia. A large pool of badly educated high-school graduates, whose parents and the job market wanted them warehoused for four years, made the first two blunders temporarily less catastrophic. As long as there was disposable income (provided by both parents working) and a supply of quasi-sentient bodies, higher education would remain a growth industry.

But the cultural result is burnt-out wannabe intellectuals teaching those whom my parents would have recognized as “definitely not college material.” Colleges are becoming theme parks. In return for inflated tuition, adolescents can play at being students—aconite, as the Greeks used to say—without the dust and grime of hard work, or the advantage of genetic predisposition. Parents pay for the admission card, and the reimbursed staff create the “virtual reality” of Joe or Heather College receiving an “awesome learning experience.” Like the staff of Disney World, academics and administrators are trained to be nice, i.e. “student friendly,” and those intractable sorts who don’t go with the program are financially penalized and shunned.

One may be tempted to ask the state to enact solutions. And “conservative” foundations have not been slow to call for political fixes, from government-mandated standards in the humanities and history to the appeal to courts to prosecute college administrations for violating the “First Amendment rights” of dissident professors. There are at least two problems involved in pursuing such strategies. One, it is imprudent to put employment situations in even vestigially private institutions under further government control. Those who work for or attend educational enterprises remain employees or consumers. They are not victims of political persecution at the hands of the federal government, which is what the First Amendment was designed to prevent.

Two, the government itself has produced or exacerbated this educational decadence. Whether enforcing “non-hostile work and learning environments” for the beneficiaries of affirmative action or mandating a liturgical celebration for designated victims. Big Brother has his hand deep into academia. It is ludicrous to believe this involvement will become beneficial if “conservatives” insist the state uphold their standards. The values and role models being pushed by neoconservative educational critics seem to be almost always variations on left-liberal themes: e.g., exalting Martin Luther King, Jr., in the place of Malcolm X or teaching neoconservative conceptions of global democracy and human rights instead of those of Bill and Hillary Clinton.

It may be best, therefore, to get the government out of universities and colleges as much as we can. The regime encourages ideological grandstanding while doing everything conceivable to politicize learning. Let mediocre schools compete for bodies and the better ones attract good minds! The parents of students and prospective students at Penn, Princeton, and other elite educational institutions have been amply forewarned about what to expect in university classrooms—and, for the most part, do not seem to care. Unfortunately, most Americans are not terribly offended by the transmission of social lunacy as higher learning. Until this changes dramatically, there is no incentive for either the government or educators to clean up their acts.