I’m fortunate to have had what seems to be a very rare gift these days: A great college experience. I went to Hillsdale College, where students are challenged with competing ideas and forced to think deeply about what it is they believe and why it matters. This mission is emphasized by Hillsdale’s belief that a good education strives not just to make students better academics, but better people.
But my experience was rare because Hillsdale is rare. More often than not, America’s universities are focused on ideological goals that have nothing to do with academic inquiry and, in fact, regularly undermine it. Students on college campuses today are coddled by leftist administrators who see it as their responsibility to impose their values on the next generation, and by faculty members who either support this mission or are too intimidated to stand up against it. The result has been playing out across the country over the past few years: Conservative speakers are shouted down and chased out by intolerant students who know they won’t face any consequences.
There are many other problems plaguing higher education, but most stem from the fact that it’s been captured by ideologues who have distorted its purpose. This week in our Restoring America section, the Washington Examiner has partnered with a number of leading organizations to highlight this problem and point to possible solutions. We also hosted a panel discussion with the American Enterprise Institute on Tuesday, featuring AEI’s Sam Abrams, who is also a professor at Sarah Lawrence College, Steve McGuire from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, the Independent Women’s Forum’s Inez Stepman, and Washington Examiner senior columnist Tim Carney.
It was important that the panel focused largely on how to win back our universities and restore them to their original purpose because although conservatives have been rightly pointing out academia’s leftward turn for decades, very little has been done to move the needle back. A few ideas proposed by our panelists included putting pressure on college trustees to reform universities from the inside out, leveraging the power of the state government to make changes within publicly funded institutions, and bolstering the conservative presence on campus through regular lectures and meetings.
I hope you’ll take the time to watch the discussion and consider an important question: What does the academy owe the public? Is higher education’s job just to prepare young adults for their future careers, or are they also responsible for preparing them to be good stewards of the time and talent that’s been given to them?
At Hillsdale, the answer is simple — and I, for one, am glad it was.