Culture

New Effort To Fix Universities Just Dropped: If You Are A Colleague, Please Consider Signing

A group of scholars (of which I’m one) have begun a new effort to correct troubles of American universities. We call this “The Path to Prosperity”.

We’re working on a separate website for the statements and documents. Meanwhile, the National Association of Scholars kindly hosts a copy — with the important ability for colleagues to add their name to the list of signatories. (The process is not automated: after submitting the names are manually entered at the back end.)

The effort is tied to certain proposed and ongoing legislative proposals, which are linked in the document. The idea is to make this as concrete a possible.

Why Is This Needed?

Universities are increasingly forgetting their fundamental purpose: too many see their mission as political, to redress historic grievances, real, exaggerated and imagined. The watery principles of Diversity, Inclusion and Equity are more honored than the pursuit of Truth.

Faculty and student bodies are populated by tribal affiliation, where both the constituents of the tribes and their precise numerical representation are subjected to nice and fluctuating calculation. New faculty are required to take ideology oaths, and are overseen by zampolit who consume huge resources and contribute nothing to knowledge.

Universities overestimate their own importance, and never see the harms they cause. Cardinal Richelieu observed in 1625, “If learning were profaned by being made available to all and sundry, it would be found that there were more people capable of creating doubts than of resolving them, and many would show themselves more apt in opposing truth than in defending it.”

This warning has been well proved, but the lesson has not been learned. The nation’s employers largely side with universities and require “degrees” for even simple employment. They would be better served by hiring by ability.

Universities ought to increase the rigor of the teaching and admit that their services are not for all. Departments devoted to ideology ought to be quietly retired. The professoriate ought to wrest control from their bureaucracies and to winnow them to sober levels.

Universities ought to recall that success is not measured by the amount of money collected, but by the greatness of the minds trained by them.

None of this will happen. But we can rebuild, from within and without.

Here is a copy of the official statement: for the original, please go to the NAS site. When the document’s home site is up and running, I’ll place a link here.

The Path to Prosperity

Higher education was once a bulwark of American freedom. Today it is a demoralizing force in society. Universities have lost their way. They have become bloated and unresponsive, because of excessive government support, exploitive student loans, and foreign money. They claim to be the best way to prepare students for success in America, yet in much of what they do, they undermine America and her institutions. Nowhere do they present an accurate, coherent, or honest assessment of America’s role in world affairs.

Young men and women enroll in colleges and universities enticed by the promise that their degree certificates will open the door to well-paying, interesting, and attractive work. Instead, many of them struggle with unrepayable debt, cannot find gratifying jobs, and succumb to despair. Parents hope that through higher education their children will fulfill the American dream and be prepared for difficult challenges abroad; instead, they increasingly conclude that their sons and daughters have wasted half a decade on a degree certificate that does nothing to help them become competent, successful, citizens.

We must educate for prosperity and security, at both the personal and national level. Colleges and universities should prioritize the teaching of practical and intellectual skills, with a view to developing citizen competence. Citizen competence is the precondition for national prosperity in a challenging global economy.

Toward these ends we support:

  1. Fiscal Accountability
  2. Career Education
  3. Freedom
  4. National Interest
  1. Fiscal Accountability
    1. Net Price Calculator Improvement Act: Make technical improvements to the Net Price Calculator system so that prospective students may have a more accurate understanding of the true cost of college. Senate Bill 1448: 117th Congress (2021-2022).
    2. Understanding the Truce Cost of College Act of 2021: To require a standard financial aid offer form. Senate Bill 1452: 117th Congress (2021-2022).
    3. Ivory Tower Tax Act of 2021: Amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to apply a 1 percent excise tax on large endowments of certain private colleges and universities, to require that such institutions distribute at least 5 percent of large endowments in each taxable year. Senate Bill 1547: 117th Congress (2021-2022).
    4. Require a reduction of the size of higher education administration and non-academic support staff. Freedom to Learn: Recommendation 1.1: Title IV Eligibility to Administrative Reduction (National Association of Scholars, 2020).
    5. university eligibility to receive federal student loans to prohibiting material benefits to foreign citizens, including illegal aliens and permanent residents. Freedom to Learn: Recommendation 8.6: Forbid Sanctuary Campuses (National Association of Scholars, 2020).
    6. Higher Education Reform and Opportunity Act of 2019: To amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to provide for accreditation reform, to require institutions of higher education to publish information regarding student success, to provide for fiscal accountability, and to provide for school accountability for student loans. Senate Bill 2339: 116th Congress (2019-2020).
  2. Career Education
    1. Supporting the goals and ideals of Career and Technical Education Month: Supporting the goals and ideals of Career and Technical Education Month. House Resolution 99: 117th Congress (2021-2022).
    2. American Workforce Investment in Next Generation of Students Act: To establish a pilot program to promote public-private partnerships among apprenticeships or other job training programs, local education agencies or area career and technical education schools, and community colleges, and for other purposes. House Bill 4655: 117th Congress (2021-2022).
  3. Freedom
    1. For the Parents Act: To ban the teaching of critical race theory in public education. House Bill 6262: 117th Congress (2021-2022).
    2. Campus Free Speech Restoration Act: To ensure that public institutions of higher education eschew policies that improperly constrain the expressive rights of students, and to ensure that private institutions of higher education are transparent about, and responsible for, their chosen speech policies. House Bill 4007: 117th Congress (2021-2022).
    3. Federal Student Loan Eligibility to Due Process Protection. Freedom to Learn: Recommendation 4.1: Federal Student Loan Eligibility to Due Process Protection (National Association of Scholars, 2020).
  4. National Interest
    1. Concerns Over Nations Funding University Campus Institutes in the United States Act; or, CONFUCIUS Act: to establish limitations regarding Confucius Institutes. Senate Bill 590: 117th Congress (2021-2022).
    2. Zero Foreign Influence in Education Act of 2021: To Amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to strengthen the disclosure requirements for institutions of higher education related to foreign gifts and contracts. House Bill 3136: 117th Congress (2021-2022).

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Categories: Culture

18 replies »

  1. This is a well thought out approach to reforming and restoring academia. I especially approve of measures to force universities to reduce the bloated tumor that is the administrative bureaucracy. Requiring some level of fiscal accountability for the future success of their graduates is another good policy.

    I’m not terribly sanguine about the chances of this effort succeeding, however. The rot seems too far gone. I’ve been writing up my thoughts on the subject of the DIEing academy over at my substack:

    https://barsoom.substack.com/p/academia-dies-students-suffer

    In my opinion, the best course of action is simply to abandon the academy, and watch it burn from a distance while talented scholars of good will get on with the business of building successor institutions that can actually fulfill the core societal functions going unmet by the universities.

  2. There’s simply no need for colleges or universities given modern technology. There should be open standards for instruction and examination and people would take modules certifying their competence to an internationally recognized standard. Degrees wouldn’t be awarded by institutions they would be earned by a person. Specialist vocational centres could deliver narrowly focused excellent instruction. Much could be done online with no requirement for formal teaching. I could go on but the main thing to bear in mind is that the days where people needed to travel to centres of academic excellence are long gone. It’s a racket that’s long overdue for burning to the ground and salting the earth.

  3. What they’re doing is just easy. Social justice, gender theory, black studies these are all really easy courses since they’re all just based on how you feel. You don’t have to learn anything you don’t have to think critically or rigorously study, memorize, understand concepts, you can just trust your feelings. And for the vast majority people that are accepted into college now that’s all they can do. The correction of the University starts with understanding that not everyone can go to the universities. I don’t see how that’s possible. That’s a great quote by Richelieu by the way.

  4. John Pate-

    There is such a wealth of high quality content available on YouTube alone that I’m beginning to agree with you.

    More structured options with certificates are available on the MOOC sites, with Udemy regularly putting courses on sale for $10.

    The only piece really missing now are lab spaces supporting technical education. I’m wondering if there is a business model that works for that.

  5. Whitney-

    You nailed it.

    I had the exact same thoughts the other day.

    People are diving headfirst into careers of racial grievance because they require no skill or knowledge in return for handsome remuneration under the current paradigm.

  6. awildgoose

    If nothing else all those industries just prove the impossible economics of late stage empire and make me fervently pray for a bronze age collapse scenario. I think that’s the only thing that’s going to bring us back to reality at this point

  7. I don’t know Mr Briggs if you have be watching what has just happened to a man who was seeking to expose the truth.

    Julian Assanges plight shows there are truths and then there is big brothers truth.

    What Universities are there for is to teach the next leaders the correct source of information and truth. What Assange is there for is to demonstrate what happens if you choose unwisely!

  8. 1.e. above is missing the initial verb: “Link”. But that’s not important.

    The reliance on Congressional Acts to fix anything is pollyannish. Business is business. If you think you can make a better burger, do it. If you build it, somebody might show up. The market will choose.

  9. While I most certainly agree with this description of the situation and endorse the recommendations, this is as quixotic a quest as anything I’ve ever seen.

  10. The quest may indeed be quixotic but thank God in Heaven that someone is giving it a go. Sitting around and saying how far-fetched success would be virtually guarantees that nothing will happen.

    Look around and even now you will see glimmers of hope in the great cultural wasteland. Too little, too late? Maybe. Let’s find out. Godspeed to your efforts, Sgt. Briggs!

  11. @awildgoose you’re way behind the times. For cost reasons much, and in some specific cases all, of the lab-based and technical education you refer to has moved to using computer models and virtual classrooms. For instance, animal dissection is largely or completely absent in the UK for medical and vet students. The first time a doctor puts a knife to something of actual flesh will likely be when he’s an intern at a hospital. As for practical engineering once the computer models are deemed insufficient (hardly ever, for cost reasons) see makerspaces. As I said the time for universities is gone, there were good reasons for it centuries ago now it’s demonstrably a liability. It’s time for the UK to follow the Henry VIII model and have a dissolution of the universities. The problem of that is what to do with the basket cases that work there.

  12. Student Loans (Abolish Them Entirely) {Lives and careers are not collateral for an indentured tutelage}

    The Academy is too large. Its colonies too numerous. Its magistrates too legion. Its administrations proliferous.

    Hidden within the thickets of these vast and long untended tutelary woodlands are many clever profiteers and charlatans, whose lifestyles are richly upholstered with shimmering fabrics woven entirely from fine-spun threads of student debt.

    Nature regulates over-abundance through infirmities, age and limited resources.
    The Over-Abundant-Academy must now be exposed to a similar challenge; for the good its diverse species.

    Abolish Student Lending. Replace it with a system of Universal National Educational Credits (UNEC). Allow these credits to be used for Tuition at any level and in any Qualifying Institution. Supplement UNEC with programs which reward committed public service activity with educational support on a scale which attracts interest in performing such vital services. Reinvigorate scholarship programs for those demonstrating exceptional abilities.

  13. Sounds great!

    If I were an American academic, I’d sign up.

    On the “furthermore” side, things start in grade school so a genuinely good university system might have a difficult time finding students if the grade school system isn’t fixed before hand. – q.v. https://winface.com/node/17 (Me, on the future of education)

  14. As always, it’s easier to criticize an effort than offer a better approach, but . . . I can’t help but think that the effort as described is doomed to failure, simply because it doesn’t address root causes. The approach reminds me of Nixon’s wage and price controls (all stick, no carrot), which didn’t exactly accomplish it’s intended goal, to put it mildly.

    John Pate seems to be on the right track here. Online learning using non-traditional sources seems to be the best path forward, with certifications/accreditations instead of traditional degrees. I think it’s important that the certifying institutions are completely separate from the learning/training side (to avoid conflicts of interest). In other words, one can obtain one’s training in any way desired, and how one obtains this training wouldn’t be part of the student’s record. Once the trainee deems themself qualified, they contract with one of the certifying institutions (which compete with each other) to test for the next level of accreditation. Of course, not everything can be done online, so in-person options would also be important, more so in some fields than in others. And the accreditation testing probably needs to be done in-person, since it’s so easy to cheat online.

    Clearly there is an enormous amount of missing detail needed here. But the gist of the approach is to create an attractive alternative to the traditional university system, and not to completely replace it (at least right away), so as to introduce some true competition into the system. The key would be getting wide acceptance of the certification /accreditation system by employers. Somebody like Elon Musk could really make an impact here (once he finishes farting around with Twitter), as he could preferentially hire from the new alternate talent pool.

    If you asked me to summarize root cause with one word, I guess it would have to be “tenure”, both institutional and professorial, which I equate with a lack of accountability in the university system. Very few humans do their best work, or even mediocre work, without the sword of accountability hanging overhead.

  15. @Milton Hathaway it’s a good idea to have the certification separate from the teaching and there needs to be a recognition that the certification is time sensitive. One of the conceptually useful money making schemes of current universities is life-long learning. I got a degree back in 1982 which is for a world of reasons very different from a degree of today. Qualifications are essentially of extremely limited use it’s job (task) performance with real world feedback that matters. The world can’t change for the better when there are entrenched institutions whose primary function is the maintenance of those institutions rather than the public good.

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