Universities Sowing the Seeds of Their Own Obsolescence

Universities Sowing the Seeds 
of Their Own Obsolescence
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By VICTOR DAVIS HANSON


{ nationalreview.com } ~ When mobs tore down a statue of Ulysses S. Grant and defaced a monument to African-American veterans of the Civil War, many people wondered whether the protesters had ever learned anything in high school or college.

Did any of these iconoclasts know the difference between Grant and Robert E. Lee? Could they recognize the name “Gettysburg”? Could they even identify the decade in which the Civil War was fought?

Universities are certainly teaching our youth to be confident, loud, and self-righteous. But the media blitz during these last several weeks of protests, riots, and looting also revealed a generation that is poorly educated and yet petulant and self-assured without justification.

Many of the young people on the televised front lines of the protests are in their 20s. But most appear juvenile, at least in comparison to their grandparents — survivors of the Great Depression and World War II.

How can so many so sheltered and prolonged adolescents claim to be all-knowing?

Ask questions like these, and the answers ultimately lead back to the university.

Millions of those who graduate from college or drop out do so in arrears. There is some $1.5 trillion in aggregate student debt in the U.S. Such burdens sometimes delay marriage. They discourage child-rearing. They make home ownership hard — along with all the other experiences we associate with the transition to adulthood.

The universities, some with multibillion-dollar endowments, will accept no moral responsibility. They are not overly worried that many of their indebted graduates discover their majors don’t translate into well-paid jobs or guarantee employers that grads can write, speak, or think cogently.

One unintended consequence of the chaotic response to the COVID-19 epidemic and the violence that followed the police killing of George Floyd is a growing re-examination of the circumstances that birthed the mass protests.

There would be far less college debt if higher education, rather than the federal government, guaranteed its own students’ loans. If universities backed loans with their endowments and infrastructure, college presidents could be slashing costs. They would ensure that graduates were more likely to get good-paying jobs thanks to rigorous coursework and faculty accountability.

Taxpayers who are hectored about their supposed racism, homophobia, and sexism don’t enjoy such finger-wagging from loud, sheltered, 20-something moralists. Perhaps taxpayers will no longer have to subsidize the abuse if higher education is deemed to be a politicized institution and thus its endowment income ruled to be fully taxable.

If socialism has become a campus creed, maybe Ivy League schools can be hit with an annual “wealth tax” on their massive endowments in order to redistribute revenue to poorer colleges.

It is hard to square the circle of angry graduates having no jobs with their unaccountable professors who so poorly trained students while enjoying lifelong tenure. Why does academia guarantee lifetime employment to those who cannot guarantee that a graduate gets a decent job?

The epidemic and lockdown required distance learning, but at full price. The idea that universities can still charge regular rates when students are forced to stay home is not just an unsustainable practice, but veritable suicide. If one can supposedly learn well enough from downloads, Zoom talks, and Skype lectures, then why pay $50,000 or more for that service from your basement?

Universities are renaming buildings and encouraging statue removal and cancel culture. But they assume they will always have a red line to the frenzied trajectory of the mob they helped birth. If the slaveholder and the robber baron from the distant past deserve no statue, no eponymous hallway or plaza, then why should the names Yale and Stanford be exempt from the frenzied name-changing and iconoclasm? Are they seen as billion-dollar brands, akin to Windex or Coke, that stamp their investor students as elite “winners”?

The current chaos has posed existential questions of fairness and transparency that the university cannot answer because to do so would reveal utter hypocrisy.

Instead, the university’s defense has been to virtue-signal left-wing social activism to hide or protect its traditional self-interested mode of profitable business for everyone — staff, faculty, administration, contractors — except the students who borrow to pay for a lot of it.

How strange that higher education’s monotonous embrace of virtue signaling, political proselytizing, and loud social-justice activism is now sowing the seeds of its own obsolescence and replacement.

If being “woke” means that the broke and unemployed are graduating to ignorantly smashing statues, denying free speech to others, and institutionalizing cancel culture, then the public would rather pass on what spawned all of that in the first place.

Taxpayers do not yet know what to replace the university with — wholly online courses and lectures, apolitical new campuses, or broad-based vocational education — only that a once hallowed institution is becoming McCarthyite, malignant, and, in the end, just a bad deal.

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Replies

  • Great idea!  Let the universities and colleges back al student loans!!!!    

    • Edie

      I don't think that well happen. When did all this student loans come from. Its always been the student and student parents responibity not the government or state.

  • Excellent writing from Victor Davis Hanson ... except for one remark.

    Senator Joe McCarthy saw Communism in Hollywood and sought to expose and destroy it. Brash? Probably, but definitely necessary. In fact, today's Hollywood could use such a cleansing again. Victor Davis demonizes McCarthyism ... I disagree with VD.

    I lived through the McCarthy years ... the Senator was a hero ... unrecognized at the time.

    • Yes, McCarthy was a hero and we need another one just like him to clean out Congress and the White House and all the alphabet agencies!

    • Mitchell

      I believed we all lived in the McCarthy years. I am sure we all not perfix and makes some mistakes. Hollywood needs to be cleansed again and again for I know for I so to live In Burbank, right next door to Hollywood.

  • I always said, learn a trade. Then you have the tools to climb the ladder to the American dream. Worthless degree's that leave these Young people in debt and out of work has been the elites plan for sixty years. Idle hands do the devils work.

    • You are correct!  What good is African Women's studies or underwater basketweaving when you are looking for a job?  Maybe McDonald's will not hold it against you as you serve the slop.

    • Hilary

      Oh so true

  • Most of all these problems we have today can be traced back to the day the Department of Education was developed by Exutive Order and was taken over by the NEA. and started dumbing down our society for over 50 years now. Trump needs to shut down the Nea as a terorist organization .  Then he needs to totally redevelop our school systems back to the 1960s with ONE NATION UNDER GOD. Start teaching Social Values and what makes a healthy society for ALL the people. Get rid of Dunbacratic labels like black and white people and call Obama Care- Socialized Medicine, which it actually is. Most of our Government needs to be replaced with a REAL Government By the People FOR the People.

    • The teachers union has a lot to blame for the mess as well.

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