The New College of Florida Experiment Must Succeed

Americans, including many conservatives, do not realize how essential it is that the “controversial” experiment being run at New College of Florida succeed, and succeed overwhelmingly. But the current horror show of pro-Hamas student and faculty protests at elite and, even, non-elite ones—evoking 1930s Germany—should sharpen the realization.

Traditionalist, pro-American conservatives continue to do battle with radical progressives in newsrooms, corporations, public schools, government, and virtually every American institution. These are essential but ultimately hopeless battles because we have failed to go after the source. We complain about the source, but we don’t do enough to encourage what is within the power of governors and legislators to do.

The wellspring of all the progressives flooding into these institutions is our utterly broken higher education system. Until we attack that problem head on and cap the spring, our fight against all other institutions and those who inhabit them will keep drowning in fresh waves of new progressive graduates.

If conservatives get rid of a few Ivy League presidents and maybe the CEO of NPR, there are thousands more just like them, or worse, being churned out every year. Our tax dollars are paying to propagandize our children against us in the fight for America and have been for a long time.

Of course, Bill and Hillary Clinton and John Kerry were all ’60s radicals in college. Barack Obama, famously, was a college radical who hung out with Weather Underground terrorist Bill Ayers. He was the next generation and even more radical than his ’60s counterparts. It’s far worse now. Without rapid changes, in 30 years these anti-Semitic, anti-American, reality-confused radicals we see attacking other college students will be running all the country’s institutions. Yes, that is intended to terrify.

New College of Florida is the first serious attempt to begin to seal off this fountainhead of intellectual poison at the state school level. There are a handful of tiny, private colleges such as Hillsdale, Biola, Pepperdine, Liberty. They are but tiny drops of antidote in a raging river of poison.

What clearly needs to change are public universities, which should be answerable to elected representatives and their constituents—that is, the American people. The Ivy League schools may be private, but other elites such as Stanford, Michigan, and Duke are not. And tens of thousands graduate every year from the bevy of average state schools.

The radicals do not inhabit just some Ivy League or elite schools. It’s on campuses everywhere. A quick check up on my alma mater, Michigan State University, showed ongoing pro-Hamas protests, while an hour to the east, University of Michigan students have set up tent encampments, a la Columbia University. The University of Texas student walkout turned into a violent riot where horse-riding Texas police (because it’s Texas) rode in and broke it up, arresting 10 students.

De-radicalizing our system of higher education turns out to be a thing within the power of governors and legislators across the nation. It is something they have always had the authority to do but our political class, being riddled with finger-in-the-wind politicians, never did it.

When Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the dramatic changes at New College in January 2023 he set out to return a dogmatically leftist wasteland with withering attendance to a true liberal arts college in the traditional sense. President Richard Corcoran, under a new Board of Trustees appointed by DeSantis, has set about doing that by eliminating degrees such as gender studies and returning to studies in Western Civilization—long out of favor on university campuses.

New College was supposed to be the honors college of the Florida university system, but despite $10 million to recruit new students a few years ago, attendance continued to drop as it became a cesspool of barefoot, non-graded LGBTQ activists—what the New York Times labeled “proudly unconventional” in a spin job that would make political operatives swoon. Prior to this new move from DeSantis, I was reliably informed, nearly three out of every four students at New College identified as bisexual and enrollment had fallen below 700.

The initial results of the changes are promising. The freshman class of 338 is the largest ever in college history and more than half of the total school attendance from the previous year. Interestingly, that large freshman influx also has a higher proportion of black, Hispanic, and male students than in previous years. While the school “lost” about three dozen faculty members who could not accept change, it has been swamped with applications from professors at other universities who are just suffocating under the DEI, Marxist identitarianism poisoning most universities.

Contrary to the New York Times reporting, most of these professors are not politically conservative. They just want to freely teach their subject of expertise. Radical indeed.

But it won’t be enough for New College to have a great first year. It must be a booming success over time. If New College succeeds, it will stiffen the spines of other governors to do what needed to be done a generation ago. But if it fails, it’s hard to see any hope of regaining higher education, meaning the annual churning of thousands of freshly minted, anti-American progressive activists into our institutions and the inability to ever regain America.

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