Making Aliens of Our Own Citizens

Liberty without civic understanding and virtue remains impossible.

American Greatness publisher Chris Buskirk and contributing editor Seth Leibsohn on Tuesday featured George Mason School of Law professor, F.H. Buckley on their radio show to discuss his recent New York Post column, “How Trump Can End Brainwashing on US Campuses.”

The article is a reflection on this newly released report from the National Association of Scholars (NAS) detailing the growing problem in our universities of the “New Civics”—which amounts to a kind of weaponized Leftism dictated to colleges and universities from on high at the federal bureaucracy from the Department of Education and National Endowment for the Humanities. This so-called “New Civics” turns out to be little more than a crash course in student activism and “community organizing” that eschews any serious or academic teaching of the ins and outs of American constitutional government, and instead focuses on inserting students into the life of active grievance and protest.

In the interview, Seth makes the important point that even more than the need to redress the problems facing our nation as a result of illegal immigration, the United States must come to grips with this massive fact:  We are “making aliens of our own citizens.” We are doing this through what now amounts to generations of poor teaching of American history and government. Yet this injustice to ourselves is now augmented by yet another generation of poor teaching in just about every other subject. Adding insult to injury, we appear now to be determined to make it impossible for future generations even to educate themselves out of this trap of coming to hate their own country.

The conversation reminded me of another one between my old mentor, the late and much-lamented, Peter W. Schramm and Prof. Gordon Lloyd of Pepperdine. Ironically, these two immigrants (the first from communist Hungary and the second from England via the West Indies) both ended up in America teaching “the natives” what it means to be an American—and neither the irony nor the tragedy of it was lost on them. This podcast is a great introduction to the problem in America’s colleges and universities and should be kept in mind as you listen to Buckley’s interview and think about the recommendations he lays out in his article.  You can listen to it here:

One thing Buckley and the NAS report notice about the uniformity with which America’s colleges and universities have adopted these “New Civics” courses is that they are very clearly motivated by and reacting to the fact that there is money in it for them from the federal government if they do comply—and if they don’t, there are likely penalties. Buckley suggests, “Maybe that is the way back? Turning off one faucet and turning on another faucet.”

In other words, given near political impossibility of the current conservative fantasy of eliminating all federal funding of education, why not simply re-direct that funding by turning it away from programs like these that do harm and, instead, incentivizing programs that may do some civic good? Purists and self-professed conservative “gentlemen” may object and insist that we adhere to “Marquess of Queensbury Rules“—the kind that keep patriots prostrate on the floor as our opponents weaponize our good natures and exaggerated scruples. But those who, like Buckley (and some of us here at AG), have come to the conclusion that conservatism can use a few “ruffians” who know that turning public opinion requires moving on from a tired conversation (and requiring the Left to live with new rules they’ve created—for once, on the flip side) are arriving at a different view.

In the Ruffians v. Gentlemen fight among conservatives, perhaps the “Gentlemen” would do well to ask themselves if the Left is ever going to change its mind about the propriety of the old rules if they aren’t forced to suffer the consequences of their having removed them. And perhaps, in a way that is almost as ironic as two immigrants teaching American natives what it means to be American, there is more wisdom in an unconventional approach like this than one might imagine at first blush.

Do take the time to listen to the whole interview with Buckley here:

About Julie Ponzi

Julie Ponzi is Senior Editor of American Greatness. She holds an M.A. in political philosophy and American politics from the Claremont Graduate University. She was an Earhart Fellow and a Bradley Foundation Fellow while studying at Claremont and also earned a Publius Fellowship from The Claremont Institute. Formerly the Director of Academic Programs at the Claremont Institute, she also taught American politics at Azusa Pacific University. Her writing has appeared in the Claremont Review of Books, The Online Library of Law and Liberty, The Columbus Dispatch, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and The Washington Times. She was also a regular and long-time contributor to the Ashbrook Center's blog, No Left Turns. She lives in California. You can follow her on Twitter at @JuliePonzi

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4 responses to “Making Aliens of Our Own Citizens”

  1. I already gave the solution to this nonsense in the comments to an earlier Am Greatness piece. The least intrusive means of reversing the seizure of our colleges and universities by the Left is to cut off the oxygen supply (free federal money) and then let nature take its course. No need for any new principles or programs or studies or commissions or laws or regulations. Just restrict federal funding in all its forms–grants, loans, loan guarantees–to students majoring in STEM subjects who maintain a GPA of 3.3 (earlier I said 3.5 but I think that is probably too high). The policy justification is that scarce taxpayer dollars–dollars that are expected to finance a host of benefits to all segments of the population–should be invested in students, not merely consumed by them. This policy will result in the rapid reduction of bloated university administrations as make-work and virtue-signaling positions are eliminated, and the evisceration of all “______-Studies” departments and their non-tenured faculty (let the tenured ones still preside over their empty classrooms until retirement). All without any formal ideological commandments or restrictions from the federal government.

    • Great points–there is a cure to the problem you outline in your last sentence. It’s called teaching grammar, logic and rhetoric, like it was done until someone decided to turn us Westerners into civic/intellectual orphans to be adopted and reeducated by our third-world betters. It doesn’t get more traditionally humanistic than this.

  2. The one thing the left-wing understands is raw power. It must be exercised against them. If the money flow cannot be stopped, and I don’t necessarily agree it cannot be, the next best option is as you suggest, a diversion into a proper area. Leftists in general and tenured liberal academicians in particular are among the greediest people on Earth. Their avarice is just another manifestation of their hypocrisy.

  3. What the last 8 years have shown, conclusively, beyond any shadow of a doubt, is the american regressives are about power.

    If it is not confronted now, ripped out from it’s academic root, it will soon be too late.

    The reason many conservatives hold on to the notion that the left is just stupid and do not know what they are doing is wishful thinking.

    If a conservative accepts the premise that the leftist top dogs knows precisely what they are doing, you then must reach a conclusion that goes to a very dangerous, very ugly place. And most people just do not want to go there.