Universities need reform — and FreeCons are leading the way
In the Freedom Conservatism Statement of Principles, we affirm the “freedom to say and think what one believes to be true,” oppose “racial discrimination in all its forms,” and describe the U.S. Constitution as “the best arrangement yet devised for granting government the just authority to fulfill its proper role.”
Who could possibly disagree with these propositions? Try university faculty and administrators.
Our institutions of higher education should champion a robust marketplace of ideas. They should treat students and faculty as individuals possessing moral agency and worth, not merely as members of socioeconomic categories. And they should provide America’s future leaders a solid grounding in the political, economic, and cultural history of their country.
Unfortunately, many of those who lead and staff our campuses disagree. For example, elite universities employed crude racial preferences in admissions for decades until ordered to stop by lawmakers, voters, and the U.S. Supreme Court. Even now, some are plotting to circumvent these orders.
Higher education in America is in desperate need of reform. Today we spotlight Freedom Conservatives who work on this critical issue.
Jenna Robinson is president of the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, a higher-education think tank named after a former Davidson College chemistry professor who went on to serve as a congressman and governor.
A FreeCon signatory and former university instructor herself, Robinson has written for such publications as Investor’s Business Daily, Roll Call, Forbes, American Thinker, Human Events, and Carolina Journal.
A new Martin Center paper coauthored by Robinson, David Randall of the National Association of Scholars, and Stanley Kurtz of the Ethics and Public Policy Center offered model legislation to reform general education at state universities.
The authors proposed a core curriculum of 13 courses, including Western History, Western Humanities, World Civilizations, United States History, United States Government, and United States Literature.
This would offer first- and second-year students “a common civic education that includes examination of fundamental moral and philosophical questions via a study of the history and the greatest books of Western civilization and the world.”
Their goal is coherence, not conformity. “Americans now disagree profoundly about how best to understand the intellectual and historical traditions of America, the West, and the world,” wrote Robinson and her colleagues. “Universities must remain free to expose their students to contrasting points of view on these issues.”
Opportunity for all
A former deputy assistant secretary for civil rights at the Department of Agriculture, Devon Westhill is now president and general counsel at the Center for Equal Opportunity (CEO).
It spent many years battling racial preferences. Now that admissions preferences have been struck down as unconstitutional, CEO has announced a new initiative, the After Affirmative Action Network, to monitor campus compliance.
Westhill, a FreeCon signatory, explained the network’s purpose at a recent Federalist Society convention.
“Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the Harvard/UNC cases that ‘[e]liminating racial discrimination means eliminating all of it,’” he said.
“We are passionate about that not just because it is the legally and morally right position but also, because it provides an opportunity to direct attention, resources, and effort to solving the underlying problems such as poor K-12 education, poverty, and broken families that are the principal causes of socioeconomic underachievement for people of all races.”
Qualities of mind
FreeCon signatory Wilfred McClay, who holds the Victor Davis Hanson Chair in Classical History and Western Civilization at Hillsdale College, has dedicated much of his career to improving the quality of American higher education.
A talented lecturer, McClay has taught students at Hillsdale, Johns Hopkins, Georgetown, Pepperdine, the University of Oklahoma, and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, among other campuses.
A prolific author, he’s written or edited books widely used in high school and college classrooms, including A Student’s Guide to U.S. History, the American Intellectual Culture series, and Land of Hope: An Invitation to the Great American Story.
And as a board member or advisor, he’s aided such organizations as Princeton’s James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions and the Jack Miller Center for Teaching America’s Founding Principles and History.
“What marks a genuinely liberal education,” McClay wrote earlier this year, “is its success in instilling the qualities of mind and heart and spirit that are necessary for the exercise of freedom, in the fullest sense of that word.”
Juliana Geran Pilon is a Senior Fellow at the Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization. The author of over 250 articles and reviews, her latest book is An Idea Betrayed: Jews, Liberalism, and the American Left.
Pilon, a FreeCon signatory, has chronicled the rise of antisemitism in America. Among the effects of last month’s gruesome terrorist attacks in Israel was to expose its deep roots on university campuses.
“Most disappointing, but entirely predictable,” she wrote in a recent column, “has been the one institution whose purported mission is the preservation, nurturing and advancement of Western civilization, the most prestigious university in the world — Harvard.”
Pilot pointed out that the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression used the term “abysmal” to describe Harvard’s protections for free speech on campus.
“Where is Harvard’s moral compass?” she asked. “It should be found before it is too late. If it is not, we will know who is really preserving, nurturing and advancing Western civilization. And we will know that Harvard is not among them.”
Johnny B. Davis is a constitutional-law attorney and Army Reserve JAG who teaches at Liberty University. A FreeCon signatory, Davis wrote on Substack that “despite its obvious failings, the story of America has been about the struggle to implement equality and liberty fully — to truly live up to its founding principles. This truth is essential to restoring order and civility to our society.”
NatCons say “we need more government restrictions on business, less immigration, more trade protectionism, more union power, and even more redistributive tax policies,” economist Steve Moore wrote a couple of weeks ago in The Washington Times. “This is a playbook that would guarantee to make America — and virtually all Americans — poorer.”
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