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Can We Save our Universities?

It took the widely reported, repellent, and exempt wave of anti-Semitism and violent pro-Hamas protestors harassing Jews, finally to convince Americans that their own hallmark universities are illiberal centers of mediocrity and intolerance—and increasingly unsafe.

Of course, Americans had long known that something had gone wrong at their colleges. They had increasingly encountered college graduates who were poorly educated in basic skills and lacked general knowledge—and yet highly politicized, and intolerant of different views and opinions. Ignorant but arrogant is a sad way to start an adult life.

College, the public knew, has certainly eroded from our cherished idea of a four-year idealized respite from adult employment. It once was intended to be a place where youth learned to be open-minded, tolerant, skilled, and eager to learn the nature and traditions of Western civilization, art, literature, languages, philosophy, and history.

Instead, all too often “college” has now descended into a six-to-seven-year misadventure that nationwide often results in only half those enrolled ever receiving degrees. Nearly all sink deeply in student debt. And yet for all the borrowed tuition money, few prove capable of writing analytically, speaking articulately, or knowing the general referents, past and present, of their very civilization.

Students, especially at the elite campuses, learn to mouth monotonously accusations of “genocide.” “apartheid,” “colonialism,” or “imperialism.” But they lack the ability to define these nouns. As a result, they so often name drop empty slogans in the context of supposed Western sins.

Again, October 7 brought these sorry facts to national attention. Adolescent screamers on video showed no awareness that dropping leaflets and sending texts to avoid collateral deaths is not “genocide.” Most chant the “river to the sea” with no clue that it resonates the very ethos of mass murdering, mutilation, and dehumanization of Jewish elderly, women, children, and infants in the most savage fashion on October 7.

Accusatory students who scream “apartheid” seemed to have no clue that a fifth of Israel’s population is Arab, with citizenship rights that vastly exceed those in all other Middle East nations.

They have no notion of the ancient and long connections of the Jewish people to the land of Israel, or how in the world the revered Al-Aqsa Mosque found itself atop the far more ancient Herod’s Jewish Second Temple sanctuary.

As far as “colonialism” and “occupation” goes, they are clueless that the longest, non-Arab colonial rule of Palestine was the more than 300-years of often brutal Ottoman/Turkish imperialistic control. Nor do they have much knowledge of the repeated and combined efforts of far larger and richer Arab nations to wipe tiny Israel out, especially during the full-scale wars of 1947-48, 1967, and 1973.

Instead, politically correct orthodoxies, not the knowledge or logic, of a student, became the hallmark of an “educated” American graduate. Students and faculty were considered “moral” for proclaiming their devotion to diversity, equity, and inclusion, without a clue that historically unity, equality, and fairness were the better aspirations. Without formal study in civics and ethics, students learned that any means were justified to advance political aims merely asserted as morally superior to others.

After October 7, it proved a small campus step from years of institutionalized racially separated graduations, dorms, and campus centers to singling out and often segregating Jewish students from campus spaces.

At Arizona State, Jewish students had to be escorted by police from a campus debate event. Even 20 years ago administrators would likely have expelled those threatening violence—or been forced to resign themselves. Today, they are terrified of mostly foreign students who abuse their visas and seem to despise the host they dare not leave to return home.

Administrators at prestigious MIT admit that some of their foreign students are openly harassing Jews. But the university will not expel such anti-Semites in fear they might lose their student visas and thus have to return to their Middle-East homes and stew about their own miscreant behavior and ingratitude to their hosts. Instead, for college administrators, entitled, and full-tuition paying children of Middle East’s elites are seen as cash cows whose money masks their bigotry.

As a result, cynical MIT grandees now simply warn Jewish students where and where not it is safe to walk on their own campuses. And thus, they confirm the embarrassing reality that the university is either unable or does not wish to stop the systematic anti-Jewish hatred on their own turf.

Yet since when did such student guests in the United States feel empowered to shut down bridges during commute hours, tear down American flags on Veterans Day, and scout out and hunt-down Jewish-Americans on campus?

If universities canonize critical race theorist Ibram Kendi, who insists that “anti-racism” requires good racism to combat bad racism, then is it any wonder that professors of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and various studies courses at UC Davis or Stanford prominently harassed and threatened Jewish students, or at Cornell cheered on news of Hamas’s murder spree?

If campuses drop the SAT requirement, and no longer rank comparative high-school grade point averages, but instead rely on racial and ethnic quotas and “diversity statements” for university admissions, is it any surprise that insecure and passive-aggressive students feel entitled and exempt from any ramifications for their venom?

And if campuses are fixated on race and superficial appearances, and reward those who are supposedly not guilty of “white privilege,” it is easy to understand why anti-Semites believe they can justify their hatred by assuming Jews are guilty for being white, and they themselves exempt for being nonwhite bigots.

If the endowments of our top universities have reached record-setting multibillion-dollar levels, and if the billion-dollar annual income on those massive sums are non-taxable on the pretense campuses are apolitical and teach inductively rather than indoctrinate, then is it such a shock that exempted huge budgets lead to more staffers than students?

At Stanford, the Wall Street Journal recently reported that there were 16,938 graduate and undergraduate students, but they were out-numbered by the combined total of 15,750 administrators and their staffers, and 2,288 faculty. Would it not be easier and perhaps even cheaper just to hire one tutor for each student and forgo the administrators?

If anti-Semitic and racist professors enjoy life-long tenure, and if such guaranteed lifetime employment has de facto eliminated conservative voices among the faculty, why would any bigot mouthing genocidal chants ever worry about his job security?

So again, ignorant and arrogant describes what the public has concluded of campuses in the last few weeks.

In contrast, there is little such anti-Semitic violence at community colleges or trade schools, where the majority of students attends, and must work to pay for their education, and learn skills in a world apart from therapeutic gut courses. In truth, a multiple-choice American history test at a junior college now demands more knowledge from a student than the weaponized essay requirement of an Ivy-League -studies class.

Taxpayers soon will no longer wish to subsidize elite education, especially when campuses no longer can guarantee their graduates are broadly educated and their professional and graduate programs can no longer turn out top-flight experts and specialists.

So, what happened to America’s once monopoly on global excellence in higher education?

In a word, there was too much money—and too little accountability. Tuition soared faster than the rate of annual inflation. The federal government subsidizes almost $2 trillion in student loans, regardless of the quality of education the student receives, and often with the expectation there will be few if any consequences when indebted but poorly educated students’ default on their repayment obligations.

The professors who harass students, and rant endlessly off topic about current politics, are often not audited or reviewed on the quality of their scholarship and teaching as much as their political views, and their racial, gender, and ethnic status. Most have little knowledge of the reality outside the academic world—having spent their entire lives as students and then faculty confined to campus. Tenure is seen as a birthright rather than an ossified privilege only accorded to a tiny fraction of the workforce on the pretense that faculty should be heterodox, independent thinkers, without ideological blinders.

So, to save us from the monsters we created, Americans must get the government out of the student loan business. We must demand that universities’ endowments back their own student loans.

The government should tax endowment income and end lifelong tenure. Universities must expel and deport foreign students who violate campus laws as they violently act out their various hatreds.

Reinstate the SAT for admissions, and end racial quotas. And require a national SAT-like exit exam to reassure the public that graduates at least know more when they leave college than when they enrolled—an increasingly dubious assumption.

But most important of all: the public should stop giving money to elite institutions. To continue such philanthropy is akin to supplying heroin to an addict, gas to a fire, or fireworks to children.

Do not consider our prestigious schools any longer necessarily prestigious. Many are not. Do not hire a graduate simply because she graduated from Yale, or he attended Stanford—unless one prefers to risk dealing with an employee poorly schooled but likely to act out a pampered victim status and to disrupt a workplace.

 

 

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About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness and the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He is an American military historian, columnist, a former classics professor, and scholar of ancient warfare. He has been a visiting professor at Hillsdale College since 2004, and is the 2023 Giles O'Malley Distinguished Visiting Professor at the School of Public Policy, Pepperdine University. Hanson was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 by President George W. Bush, and the Bradley Prize in 2008. Hanson is also a farmer (growing almonds on a family farm in Selma, California) and a critic of social trends related to farming and agrarianism. He is the author of the just released New York Times best seller, The End of Everything: How Wars Descend into Annihilation, published by Basic Books on May 7, 2024, as well as the recent  The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won, The Case for Trump, and The Dying Citizen.

Photo: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, US, on Saturday, Aug. 26, 2023. The US Supreme Court effectively barred universities from using race as a factor in university admissions, marking the start of a new era in higher education and rolling back decades of precedents. Photographer: Simon Simard/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Notable Replies

  1. Avatar for Alecto Alecto says:

    During the halcyon days of undergraduate edjumacation at a top university’s Engineering school, the mandate came down to “round out” my studies with electives. I opted for philosophy, thinking (first mistake) that I would be studying the Pantheon of the Greatest Thinkers in History, right? Wrong! By the time the course finished, I had witnessed several tantrums by the T.A. who taught the course, which consisted mostly of spewing forth condemnations of Capitalism, anyone with whom he disagreed, and one which included throwing a chair across the room because a local dentist had dared charge him for his labor. That was several decades ago and informed my perspective on “higher” education. I wish I could write that any of the students in the class challenged the bastard. I got him good on the course evaluation having composed a scathing overview of just how miserable it was sitting through 50 minutes of this man’s ignorance. I wouldn’t send a dog to that university, let alone any impressionable mind to be educated.

    FWIW, I ascribe to the advice given by the central character in “Good Will Hunting”,

    See, the sad thing about a guy like you is, in 50 years you’re gonna start doin’ some thinkin’ on your own and you’re going to come up with the fact that there are two certainties in life: one, don’t do that, and two, you dropped 150 grand on a fuckin’ education you could have got for a dollar fifty in late charges at the public library!

    Yep, that about covers it.

  2. I received my MBA from U of GA around 2008. I remember one class in particular. The professor asked each person in the room to mention one challenge they had in life and what they did to overcome the challenge. There were great stories from all the students. The professor went last. He spoke about being an Israeli army sergeant. When you are in Israel he said, you are surrounded by enemies. But his proudest accomplishment was having two platoons in Syria and not one life was lost. At the break, five seemingly Arab students did not return and subsequently dropped the class.

    It was their loss. He was a brilliant professor. But I wish now that I had said something to the administration about the five student’s actions.

    This hatred has been around us for a long time. I’m glad that we are waking up.

  3. Typical conflation of issues to try and sneak in the Zionists crimes against humanity as not awful and problematic. I’m good with vocabulary and will show why Colonialism and Occupation and Apartheid are excellent and accurate words to describe the Zionist project in Palestine.

    Colonialism - The “self determination of peoples” was a key concern and goal of the U.N. along with it’s charter goal of ending colonialism. This occurred in the midst of a larger nationalist movement that was sweeping Eastern Europe, Arab lands and elsewhere. Woodrow Wilson most famously championed these ideas and build the doomed League of Nations to supposedly deliver on these ideas but it did nothing of the sort.

    1947, the U.N. issues it’s resolution, ending the British mandate and creating to zones in Palestine, a Jewish one and an Arab Muslim one. But the Jewish zone had a majority of Arab Muslims in it and the Jews could not create a Jewish state with a majority Arab Muslim population. This Jewish partition was not supported by any Arab or other states in the region and was decided mostly by the Brits and Americans to grant it in the first place. It utterly ignored the self-determination rights of Arab Muslims living in the wake of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and then WWII. The imposition of a Jewish controlled territory that they quickly declared a nation was an act of colonialism by the West.

    The entire act of 600k Jews invading Palestine from 1890 till 1948 was an act of “Occupation” by 'changing the facts on the ground. Most here are utterly ignorant so they do not know that the Zionist pursued their goals using terrorism constantly. blowing buildings up and killing and kidnapping etc. There was nothing righteous about it.

    Apartheid - The former head of the Mossad (Israeli intelligence service), Pardo, told the Associated Press that Israel’s mechanisms for controlling the Palestinians, from restrictions on movement to placing them under military law while Jewish settlers in the occupied territories are governed by civilian courts, matched the old South Africa. Israel imposing apartheid on Palestinians, says former Mossad chief | Palestinian territories | The Guardian

    Do facts matter to any of my fellow conservatives? Are you all so blind on this issue that you are willing to go to war rather than face the facts and truth of all this? Do my fellow conservatives realize they are peddling lies and half truths that have been long debunked about Israel and Zionism and the Palis? Do you? Go read Benny Morris’s 1948: A History of the Arab Israeli war - he’s a real historian, and a Zionist, Israeli Jew. You’ll be astonished to find out that the Zionists have done everything the Arabs accuse them off and more, ethnic cleansing of 750k Arabs, terrorism, slaughter and worse.

    Facts used to matter to conservatives. What happened? Does saying the word Israel turn your brain off?

  4. Every institution reaches it sell-by date. The good thing about Cap-it-al-ism (spoken with a Slavic accent) is that corporations come and go without anyone having to do something about it. But non-profits and governments don’t quit when they are shown the door. Therein lies a problem…

  5. Avatar for task task says:

    Your comment is funny. I had a somewhat similar experience. Many students were concerned that I was responsible for changing the curve in chemistry. Needless to say I was leery of damaging close to a 4.0 average with electives since getting into a Veterinary School required required about a 3.75 average. So when I took my first economics course and received an 84 out of 100 I was worried. My concern was unfounded since that 84 was the highest mark given. After continuing to get the highest grades I came to a conclusion that I still hold today. It was not so much that I was smart as it was that so many were stupid. I did get a B, which I deserved, in second semester English comp. Getting into Veterinary School was no problem. I applied to only one out of state school and I applied late without having received a BS degree. Since I actually met all the requirements I said “why not?”, even though I expected to be turned down. Well I got in and became one of the youngest graduates. Professional school is actually quite easy. It’s getting in that is difficult.

    For years I made some good money writing term papers for others. I even did it for free while practicing my profession for many of the young people I wanted to help get ahead. Needless to say I saw the trend. Either I wrote the paper based on illogic, with a dose of sophistry, or risked the student getting less than an A.

    My son developed a similar ability but much of what he did was, unfortunately, illegal. He became proficient in many diverse areas unrelated to what he actually did for a living and took many professional exams for people who could not pass them. Today that is impossible to do. He lived in Japan and learned the language and the Kangii when he was very young. Needless to say he could never take any exams while in Japan to help Japanese students. He has blue eyes and blond hair. He got that from his mother and my mother. He helped a lot of Japanese students but obviously because of appearances he would have been spotted taking exams for them. All that changed when he arrived back in California. At one time someone, anyone, could take an exam for someone else quite easily and get away with it. And, as we all understand, that still is possible and quite easy to do… but only when it comes to voting.

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