Roger Kimball rants in the New Criterion about the cuurent state of American Universities, ranging from the Ward Churchill fiasco to the transgender phenomenon sweeping even elite women’s colleges. He offers much in the way of diagnosis, but other than suggesting we need to do something about tenure, I don’t see much in the way of solutions offered.
I do find this interesting, however. He comments:
The chief issue is this: should our institutions of higher education be devoted primarily to the education of citizensâ€”or should they be laboratories for social and political experimentation? Traditionally, a liberal arts education involved both character formation and learning.
Could we paraphrase this comment as, “Do universities exist to educate people or to socialize them?” It looks to me like today’s university faculties are seeking to produce both “character formation and learning.” What we have is some radically different notions of what kind of character ought to be formed combined with a near monopoly by one particular viewpoint. Are we surprised that when faculties have such a strong position (no real competition, piles of government & corporate money, money from parents, and students waiting to hear their wisdom) that they don’t seek to socialize their students into their own world?
Perhaps one solution to this problem, then, is to find ways to introduce competition – competition over ideas – into higher education. If Baylor can carry through with its 2010 plan (even with the loss of Robert Sloan) and make it work, that will be a first small step. If other schools, in other traditions, can take similar paths, it will be for the good of us all.