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  • Writer's pictureCorey Lee Wilson

Universities Breed Anger, Ignorance, and Ingratitude

In turning out woke and broke graduates, our higher education system has a lot to answer for like the question of:

What do widely diverse crises such as declining demography, increasing indebtedness, Generation Z’s indifference to religion and patriotism, static rates of home ownership, and a national epidemic of ignorance about American history and traditions all have in common?

Answer: 21st-century higher education.

A pernicious cycle begins even before a student enrolls.

A typical college-admission application is loaded with questions to the high-school applicant about gender, equality, and bias rather than about math, language, or science achievements.

How have you suffered rather than what you know and wish to learn seems more important for admission. The therapeutic mindset preps the student to consider himself a victim of cosmic forces, past and present, despite belonging to the richest, most leisured, and most technologically advanced generation in history.

Without a shred of gratitude, the young student learns to blame his ancestors for what he is told is wrong in his life, without noticing how the dead made sure that almost everything around him would be an improvement over 2,500 years of Western history.

Once admitted, students take classes from faculty who, polls reveal, are roughly 90 percent liberal. According to one recent survey, Democrat professors on average outnumber Republican faculty by a 12-to-1 ratio on the nation’s supposedly diverse campuses.

But such political asymmetries are magnified by a certain progressive messianic self-righteousness that turns the lectern into the pulpit, the captive class into a congregation. The rare conservative professor is more resigned to the tragedy of the universe and, in live-and-let-live fashion, vacates the campus arena to the left-wing gladiators who wish to slay any perceived heterodoxy.

Campus activism has replaced the old university creed of disinterested inquiry.

Students are starting to resemble military recruits in boot camp, prepping to become hardened social-justice warriors on the frontlines of America’s new wars over climate change, gun control, abortion, and identity politics. In Camp Yale or Duke Social Warrior Base, they learn just enough about purported historical oppression to make them dangerous, as they topple statues, demand the renaming of streets and buildings, and swarm professors deemed politically incorrect.

No wonder that certain issues — abortion, global warming, illegal immigration — are mostly off-limits to campus disagreement. Safe spaces, racial theme houses, and censorship have replaced the 1960s ideals of unfettered free speech and racial and ethnic integration and assimilation.

Today’s students often combine the worst traits of bullying and cowardice.

They are quite ready as a mob to dish it out against unorthodox individuals, and yet they’re suddenly quite vulnerable and childlike when warned to lighten up about Halloween costumes or a passage in Huckleberry Finn. The 19-year-old student is suddenly sexually mature, a Bohemian, a cosmopolitês when appetites call — only to revert to Victorian prudery and furor upon discovering that callousness, hurt, and rejection are tragically integral to crude promiscuity and sexual congress without love.

The curricula in the social sciences and humanities are largely politicized.

Culture, history, and literature are often taught through the binary lenses of victims and victimizers, as a deductive zero-sum melodrama. There is little allowance for tragedy, irony, and paradox or simply the complexities of the human experience. That preexisting slavery, imperialism, and atrocity were as common in the New World, Asia, and Africa as in Europe is rarely mentioned in the boilerplate campus indictment of the West.

Regarding the cost of a university education, the federal government guarantees student loans to pay skyrocketing tuition and room and board. That guarantee has empowered crony-capitalist universities to hike their annual costs far above the rate of inflation — without much worry over what happens to their customers when and if they graduate.

Eighteen-year-olds entering college are seldom warned by campus financial officers exactly how long their debt obligations will last — or which majors are likely to lead to better salaries after graduation. None are given itemized bills that are broken down to show where their money is going. Many who will remain in debt for years might have wished to know how much they paid for the vast swamp of non-teaching facilitators and high-paid administrators.

Colleges today can never assure students that after graduation they will at least test higher on the standardized tests than when they entered.

If colleges could do that, they’d long ago have required exit examinations to boast of their success. Instead, the higher-education industry insists that almost any baccalaureate degree is a good deal, without worrying about how much it costs or whether their brand certifies any real knowledge. Again, the logic is that of consumer branding — as we see with Coca-Cola, Nike, and Google — in which status rather than cost-benefit efficacy is purchased. Does anyone believe that a graduating senior of tony Harvard, Yale, or Stanford knows more than a counterpart at Hillsdale or St. John’s?

The net result is a current generation that owes $1.6 trillion in college loans to the federal government. And that debt is now affecting the entire country, including those who never went to college, who as taxpayers eventually may be asked to forgive some if not all the debt. An entire generation of Americans has costly degrees; many cannot use them to find well-paying jobs, and they increasingly forgo or delay marriage, child-rearing, and buying a car or home until their mid-twenties or thirties. All that pretty much sums up the profile of Antifa, Black Lives Matter, and Occupy Wall Street adherents — or the environmental-studies major who is shocked that a skilled electrician makes three times more than he does.

Colleges are turning out woke and broke graduates.

They are not up to ensuring the country that they will pass on to the next generation an America that’s as prosperous, secure, and ethical as what they inherited and have so often faulted.

Ignorance, arrogance, and ingratitude are now the brands of the undergraduate experience. No wonder a once duly honored institution, higher education, is now either the butt of jokes or cynically seen as a credentialing factory.

This critical article by Victor Davis Hanson is from the National Review published on October 22, 2019.

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