by Mike Pyatt
Expanding on my earlier Facebook post last week “Indulge Me Please” there’s more to say. The main thrust of that post was that within the last month in the U.S., we’ve graduated more than three million students from high schools and colleges, including those who’ve endured the rigors of professional studies in dentistry, engineering, law and medicine, according to the National Center for Education, 2018 statistics. How can one estimate, not their productivity or contribution, but their support of our Republic’s founding documents, and first principles, that make our country the envy of the world? For the sake of making a case, let’s assume half of those graduates, that’s wildly generous, understand and support this remarkable experiment, and have a whit of understanding of the value and myriad benefits of our roots in Western Civilization; and believe socialism’s inimical to all that make America exceptional in this world; and agree that the Eternal God of the Old and New Testament had His hand on us since our beginnings. It begs the question, “What about the other half?”
Are we undermining our own stability by being duped by a leviathan education process that churns out a horde of students with heads full of facts, but a heart vacuous of those “permanent things” that have been systematically denigrated, marginalized or lost by recent graduates who can’t recall what they never knew? It raises the scepter of how morally strong are will internally? We’ve been warned by sage historians that countries crumble and perish from within primarily by moral decay, and unrestrained prosperity. One may take pause regarding multiple exterior threats around us such as Iran and North Korea saber rattling, launching rockets, and that boiling caldron in the Middle East stoked by Iranian and Russian proxies, and economically by Communist China, until recently “eating our lunch.”
Since WWII and the Korean Conflict, we’ve had few credible threats in terms of an external attack on our soil, except during the Cold War Russia breathed ominous threats, and the Cuban Crisis was a seriously closer call than most citizens knew at the time. President Trump, contends our militarily’s stronger than ever in terms of readiness. Internally, porous borders are one of our greatest threats to national security and sovereignty. Statistics are sketchy, and likely inaccurate, regarding Isis Jihadist infiltration of our fifty states, and equally alarming, their menacing presence on social media. According to the RAND Corporation threat assessment, China has already invaded us with their products and cyber espionage warfare for nearly thirty years. Asian experts and pundits claim it’s better to fight over tariffs than in a military encounter where China, who could field up to 3.3 million troops-three times our active military. Despite Joe Biden’s observation about China, “They’re not in competition with us!” most Americans think otherwise. Russia’s meddling into our voting vex many. Analyst at RAND advise us to keep those two powers separate in terms of our strategies and risk assessments.
Back to the original premise that the potential threats from outside our borders, are less ominous and dire as the internal one, while millions of students, who’ve rarely considered or understand the menacing consequences of those who’ll occupy teaching classrooms, social agencies, legislatures, military, hospitals, news media and social platforms; yet are unlikely to advance longstanding verities, values, traditions, and moral underpinnings that’ve served as a linchpin for our society for more than two centuries; those that secured each graduate the benefit of relative freedom to choose their educational path.
Victor Davis Hanson distinguishes between economic vibrancy and the modern university’s dismal failure of preparing students to function with degrees that are marketplace relevant. He maintains they’ve failed on four fronts that matter. First, generally students are unable to reason inductively and deductively, absent a rigorous undergraduate liberal arts curriculum. Second, the loss of legitimate diversity of thought and vigorous exchange of ideas. Third, a four year degree once trained students for a career with some assurance that it was a wise investment is no longer true. Fourth, universities at one time weren’t monopolistic price gougers, and sought affordability to permit access to a broad middle class that had neither federal subsidies or unbridled wealth. Davis claims they’ve lost their way on all four fronts. Socially universities now emulate greenhouses where “fragile adults” are coddled as if they are “hothouse orchids,” constantly warning of “micro-aggressions” that are imperceptible to the average “feet on the ground” citizen. Institutions hide landmark authors like Mark Twain, Joseph Conrad and William Golding. This desultory masquerading’s an extension of “safe spaces” shielding “snow flake” students from topics or issues that threaten their implacable reverie. This reveals the educational elite’s endless attempts to pamper generation X, Y and Z sensibilities, juxtaposed by students actively embracing endless coarse rap lyrics, engaging in sordid spring break indulgences, sexual promiscuity, epidemic drug and alcohol abuse, and turning a four year trip into a six year excursion, or more.
The Chronicle of Higher Education reports campuses have a higher administration-to-student ratio than ever before. Bloated at the top. Counterintuitively, staff actively involved in teaching are a decreasing minority. The outlook is rather bleak. Most prominent on the agenda are equity and gender studies, minority and race studies, social justice and “VP’s of Diversity & Equity,” all of which bear no measurable relationship to educational outcomes. Another compelling reason for a new emphasis on affordable vocational education; many states recognize that master mechanics, paramedics or skilled electricians and welders are at least as valuable as cultural anthropology, and budget busting “special seminars” on “self-esteem” and “feminine assertiveness” prevail. Consider these remarkably absurd credit courses at major colleges; “Demystifying the Hipster,” “What if Harry Potter is Real,” and “Sociology of Miley Cyrus,” at Skidmore, where it costs $70K annually to attend. Too many university board’s of trustees are nearly as daft as the presidents running the institution. Political persuasion of the institution’s president’s no longer a mystery. Public university speakers shouldn’t be dis-invited because they’re identified as “too conservative” or God forbid, a notable Evangelical. Many liberal campuses are haven’s for malcontents, out of touch with middle America, places where the only unforgivable “sin” is disagreeing with them-civility and tolerance are campus folklore. Conservative faculty remain on the endangered species list.
Any solutions? Ironically, most institutions demand performance tests like the SAT or ACT to get in the door. What about instruments to accurately assess outcomes when students exit these “bastions of learning?” Most public university boards are appointed by governors, like Wyoming. Let Governor Gordon hear your opinion about UW’s trajectory. Parents must be engaged in their investment. Push colleges to publish employment rates of their graduates. Did students and parents get a good deal for their money? Recent admission scandals remind us we’re dealing with a burgeoning elitism that rears its ugly head when confronted or questioned about transparency and outcomes. Donors, legislatures and tax payers must be vociferous, demanding transparency and outcome metrics.
It’s remarkable how some colleges perform extremely well with the fraction of the resources of elite ones. Harvard’s thirty billion dollar endowment’s no guarantee one’s offspring won’t sacrifice their soul on the alter of elitism. Wyoming Catholic College in Lander’s one of those remarkable places where a vigorous Great Books curriculum liberates young minds, exposing them to great ideas, first principles, and extol values like traditional marriage, love of the born and unborn, the pre-eminence of Western Civilization, and why it matters. We aren’t called to account for three million recent graduates. Our calling is to uphold permanent things and Godly diligence. Will this threat jeopardize our internal security? What do you think?
Mike Pyatt’s a Natrona County resident. His email’s firstname.lastname@example.org