Accreditation? A Woke, Good-Cop-Bad-Cop Scam

Congress may soon revisit the federal law governing post-secondary education, the Higher Education Act of 1965. If it does, Representative Burgess Owens (R-Utah) wants the effort to expose and correct the murky mischief of our accreditation system. That system was supposed to ensure institutional quality before schools could get federal funds like Title IV student loans. But now accreditors want to impose left-wing politics instead, while academic rigor goes out the window. 

Owens’ bill, titled Accreditation for College Excellence (“ACE”), would prohibit accrediting agencies from imposing politics on schools as part of accreditation. Such political litmus tests or “loyalty oaths” are now actually routinely demanded by schools themselves of prospective faculty and students. For example, universities have begun to insist that professors pledge allegiance to diversity ideology—aka “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” or “DEI.” DEI is a euphemism for pitting Americans against each other based on race and it often amounts to open, reverse discrimination against those of European descent and/or Christian heritage, aka “whites.” (Some schools actually use brown cartoon figures on their websites to show which ethnic groups get favored as “diverse.’)

The ACE is valuable since it would prevent accreditors from piling on to this diversity bandwagon and it also sheds light on the obscure area of accreditation. But bad accreditors and bad-actor schools have deeper roots than the current “diversity” craze. So policy corrections must also dig deeper if they’re to be effective.

The real problem is that those running accrediting agencies are cut from the same cloth as those running American educational institutions. Unfortunately, these people are anti-American and anti-Western Civilization ideologues intent on feeding that ideology to everyone while enriching themselves in the process. This leaves American students politicized and ignorant, and American taxpayers frustrated and poorer. The winners? Diversity bureaucrats peddling anti-Americanism.

One disturbing example in higher education came from “diversity efforts” at Virginia’s James Madison University: In August 2021, the school mandated an orientation video for incoming freshmen. The video divided the country into two main classes—the “oppressors” and the “oppressed.”

Among the oppressors? Americans. 

Similar simplistic anti-Americanism is propagated through academic movements like “Critical Race Theory” (CRT), a pedagogy used in both high school and college. Promoted by people like Ibram X. Kendi, author of How to be an Anti-Racist, CRT teaches that America has been systemically racist since its beginnings, even as refugees and immigrants risk their lives to come here and as ethnic caste systems and slavery thrive elsewhere in the world. (In fact, honest researchers typically find that America is among the least racially bigoted countries.) Divisive theories like CRT actually want to create and foster racial tension since that keeps the race industrial complex alive—that is, it keeps race hustlers like Kendi employed.

This diversity bug afflicts almost all of academia; dissenters face opprobrium. But the very same mindset controls accreditors. For example, the Council on Higher Education Accreditation or “CHEA”, an oversight body that “represents more than 6,000 U.S. colleges and universities and recognizes six major U.S. regional accreditors,” now requires official commitment to DEI from the institutions it works with. CHEA officials say, “the decision to add DEI substandards represents a major step in advancing accreditation standards across the country. 

Actually, the advance of DEI in education and accreditation coincides with a decline in academic achievement. Any reasonable person can see that ideology is displacing instruction and real learning.

In graduate education like law and medicine, the story is even worse. As the sole accreditor of law schools, the American Bar Association (“ABA”) has an unchecked monopoly on accrediting institutions of legal education, so it demands whatever it wants. The result? The Left controls almost every American law school, with Democratic professors outnumbering Republicans by a ratio of 50 to one. Job openings in legal education routinely require “diversity” statements or values from applicants (or use the partner buzz terms like “inclusion” and “equity”). State bar associations follow suit and now even require “diversity” classes for lawyers to keep their law license, with the approval of state courts

The ABA was actually sued years ago by the Justice Department for antitrust violations when it unlawfully enriched law schools and law professors as part of the accreditation process. It not only hindered new law schools from entering the legal education field but it also demanded high salaries and long sabbaticals for law professors—all as a condition of law school accreditation! This rank self-interest persisted even as law graduates faced unemployment and law firms that did hire law graduates complained that they were not practice-ready. No surprise there since most law professors also lack experience in legal practice—an obvious deficiency in legal education. But the ABA has no time for that. It’s too busy demanding “diversity.” 

Schools often complain they must jump through hoops to satisfy accreditors as if they’re victims of outside political forces. Hogwash. Schools and accreditors are on the same woke team, playing good cop/bad cop against America. They work hand in glove.

Maybe Rep. Owens will consider addressing this larger picture.

The solution, of course, is to restore political balance both in higher education institutions and in accrediting agencies. Political balance is routinely required for governmental and educational entities: State Boards of Regents, which oversee state universities, are often required by law to not have more than a certain number of members from one political party, for example. The same is true of many federal and state commissions like the United States Commission on Civil Rights.

Couldn’t Congress demand a similar political balance of both educational institutions and accreditors?

Let’s hope Burgess Owens will think on that.

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About Teresa R. Manning

Teresa R. Manning is the policy director at the National Association of Scholars and a former law professor at Scalia Law School, George Mason University.

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