I begin with a critical analysis of one of those open letters that naïve people post on websites that will not be read or visited by the target audience to whom the letter is supposedly directed.
These letters are not to the listed targets. They are letters that reinforce a particular worldview among holders of the worldview. In other words, these letters are known as preaching to the choir. They establish a person’s bona fides, proving to the readers, who are not the supposed targets of the letter, that the writer of the letter is a true believer, firmly committed to the program of the actual readers.
In other words, these letters have nothing to do with persuading the supposed recipients of the letters. They are to reconfirm the confession of faith of the letter writer, and to persuade the faithful readers that the letter writer has not deviated from the confession of faith.
With this as background, consider this letter: A Letter to Conservatives: You Need College and College Definitely Needs You
It was written by someone I have never heard of, and I am sure you have never heard of: Clay Routledge. The author is a professor of something called social psychology. I think I have some idea of what psychology is: a scientific study of how the human mind works. Scientists find out how the human mind works by studying rats. Sometimes they conduct experiments, or their graduate students conduct experiments, which involve lying to the participants. If the participants believe the lie, the psychologists then report on their findings about how people actually behave when they are persuaded by the lies.
I am not sure what social psychology is. I don’t know how you get inside the mind of an entire society. But whatever it is, someone teaches it at North Dakota State University.
This description of Prof. Routledge from Psychology Today tells us the following:
Clay Routledge, Ph.D., is a social psychologist and professor of psychology at North Dakota State University. His research focuses on how the need to perceive life as meaningful impacts mental and physical health, close relationships, and intergroup relations. Dr. Routledge is a leading expert in the area of experimental existential psychology. He regularly publishes his work in the top psychology journals, recently co-edited a book on the scientific study of meaning in life, and authored the book Nostalgia: A Psychological Resource. His work has been featured by the New York Times, New Yorker, NPR, BBC, CNN, CBC, ABC News, CBS News, The Atlantic, Men’s Health, Women’s Health, and Cosmopolitan. He also regularly serves as an expert guest on national and international radio programs.
North Dakota State University is an educational institution famous for its cold winters . . . and nothing else. It is a place where parents send their children, but only if the parents live in North Dakota.
He is listed on the website of his university as being a professor. If he is a professor, he has tenure. This means that he cannot be fired.
He begins as follows:
Dear conservative parents and students,
First, I would like to address conservative parents. Lately, I hear many of you questioning whether you should send your kids to college. Maybe they should just go to trade school or straight into the workforce.
First, he says he has heard many people questioning whether they should send their children to college. I have not heard this, and I have been in the conservative movement since 1956. Furthermore, I’m rather astounded that a professor of social psychology at so distant a place on the map as North Dakota State University spends a lot of time listening to the opinions of many conservative parents.
Second, conservatives send their kids off to the universities at the same rates as any other group, namely, rates that are way too high for the benefit of their retirement funds and their children. If conservatives were wiser, they would not send their children to college at all. They would keep them home, have them quiz out of college, get their degrees by distance learning, and save themselves room, board, and tuition. They would have their kids work part-time at McDonald’s, which will generate enough after-tax income to pay for distance learning, because you can earn a degree from an accredited university for under $13,000 if you shop.
In other words, I think it would be nice if all the conservatives the good professor says he has been listening to really were putting their children’s money where their mouths are. Then I could sell them on the idea of not sending them to college, not putting them in the moral cesspool that the modern university is, and not paying $50,000-$250,000 for a degree that they can purchase in the open market for about $13,000. Note: I am talking about degrees issued by accredited universities. I am not talking about diploma mills.
I certainly agree that college is not for everyone. There are many trade and apprenticeship-based programs that lead to higher job placement and salaries than some college degrees. Everyone, regardless of political or social ideology, should carefully weigh all options.
That being said, don’t write off college so quickly.
Understand, he is not actually writing to conservatives. He is writing to his fellow university faculty members who are on the gravy train, most of them at taxpayers’ expense, just as he is.
He earns his living because the state of North Dakota threatens anyone who will not pay taxes to the state. In other words, he lives off of stolen money. The state steals money from Christian parents to finance atheist educations at the state universities. It is a sweet deal for the atheists, liberals, feminists, and assorted ideological enemies of conservatives that they can extract money from conservatives and Christians to indoctrinate each new generation of students who come through the doors of the University. They have been doing this since the end of the second World War, and it has been a sweet deal for all of them.
There are good reasons for you to be frustrated with higher education. For one, a university degree is becoming increasingly expensive. Part of this is the result of a lack of financial support from state legislatures. But part of it is the result of something that drives many of you nuts–a growing class of university administrators.
I don’t blame you for getting upset when you hear about a state university hiring a chief diversity officer with a salary of around $300,000 (the University of Michigan just hired one at a salary of $385,000) When you can’t afford to send your kids to the state schools your taxes help fund. Adding insult to injury, many of the administrators added to the college payroll function to promote and police progressive social agendas on campus that conflict with your beliefs.
The top-tier universities pay these kinds of wages to extreme leftists. It is an abomination, but they don’t do this at places like North Dakota State University. The University of Michigan is one of the top-tier universities in the United States. It can afford to hand out these kinds of bloated salaries to people who teach six hours a week, meaning actually 6×50 minutes. But they don’t do it at North Dakota State University.
These are real issues, but higher education still deserves your support and interest. Think about the community you live in and what it would be like if it was not populated with college-educated citizens. That would mean no doctors, nurses, veterinarians, lawyers, accountants, engineers, architects, psychologists, and school teachers. Clearly, higher education is important. And if your children want any of those or countless other careers, they have to go to college.
What about indoctrination by leftist professors? The lack of viewpoint diversity in the academy is definitely a problem. It frustrates me to see how ideologically-biased the social sciences and humanities in particular have become. Academia has long leaned left, but, as has been revealed in a number of recent surveys, this is increasingly the case. In some disciplines, it is easier to find a Marxist than a Republican. Classical liberalism is giving way to left-wing fundamentalism.
The indoctrination is not a problem for the indoctrinators; it is a problem for the students who are being indoctrinated, and it is a problem for the parents who are forced by the point of a gun to pay the taxes to the indoctrinators.
As a result, you feel like the college campus is not a welcoming place for your kind. But do you like the safe space movement on many college campuses you keep hearing about? Well, conservatives don’t need safe spaces either.
The college campus is a place of moral debauchery, and anyone who thinks otherwise is living in a fantasy world. The college campus is a center of indoctrination, as he says, and this has been true for at least three generations. The sad part is that conservatives do not fear the college campus to the degree that they ought to. They send their children to these expensive institutions, when they could keep the kids home, where it is safer and cheaper. Price competition is alive and well in American higher education, and there is no reason to pay over $15,000 for a college degree, unless it is in engineering. But there aren’t many liberals in the departments of engineering, and even when there are, they don’t talk about the need for Marxism in building bridges and highways.
Your sons and daughters should go to college and take the full range of classes, even ones from Marxist sociologists. They will learn something. In fact, if your children share your conservative views, they will receive a better education than the progressive students who are getting their beliefs reinforced, not challenged. Your children’s thinking on important issues will become more nuanced and sophisticated.
I really like this paragraph. Rarely do I see anything as disingenuous and preposterous as a paragraph like this one. This is one for the record books. This is so off-the-wall, nutcase crazy, from the point of view of conservatives, that it really ought to go into some kind of Hall of Fame of outrageous logic.
The thought of a Marxist sociologist is common enough. There really are Marxist sociologists. No university should put one on the faculty, because Marxism was a nonsensical system from the day it was created by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. Economically, it was completely incoherent, and was exposed as such at the time by the great Austrian economist, Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk, in 1884 and again in 1896. Karl Marx was famous for making predictions that did not come true, such as his major prediction, that the Communist revolution would have really taken place in industrialized capitalist societies. In fact, the major Communist revolutions took place in rural, backward societies, most notably Russia and China, but you can toss in Vietnam and Cambodia if you like. North Korea and Cuba also count. None of these was a capitalist industrial society. So, at the very core of Marxism is the worst set of predictions in the history of social science.
Why should anyone subject himself to being lectured to and graded by a Marxist sociologist? Why does anybody need to study anything from a Marxist sociologist? I studied sociology at the graduate level. I read the classic works of sociology by Tocqueville, Durkheim, Simmel, Weber, and Marx himself. I wrote a book on Marx’s thought when I was in graduate school. You can download it free of charge here. I did not have to go to college to do any of this. I could have done it on my own. How many undergraduate students need to do it at all?
There were Marxists on campus, although not that many of them, after World War II. They had respectability, but only because the Soviet Union and Communist China were executing tens of millions of people. As soon as the Soviet Union shut down on December 25, 1991, respectability ceased for Marxist professors on campus. Liberals respect power, and the Soviet Union committed suicide in full public view. That was the end of Marxism on campus. Marxists became laughing stocks of other faculty members. This should have been the case throughout the 20th century, but at least it finally took place. Marxists had bet on the wrong pony, which collapsed as it rounded the second bend of the academic Belmont Stakes.
As for a bachelor’s degree in sociology, anybody who gets a degree in it is going to wind up in a fast food restaurant. That was true half a century ago, when I was a graduate student, and it has only gotten worse. These days, you would need a Master’s degree just to get a job selling life insurance.
For the record, I took graduate level work in economics and sociology, although I got my Ph.D. in history. I know how the game was played half a century ago, before the war protesters who got draft deferments in the late 1960’s got jobs teaching social sciences at universities around the country. The liberalism of the early 1960’s was at least officially neutral. Not so with the products of the late 1960’s, who got into control of the universities over the next 40 years. They remain in control.
Education is about expanding knowledge and being exposed to new ideas, not affirming existing beliefs.
That has been the official line of the academics since the time of Aristotle and Plato. It was nonsense then; it is nonsense now. Education is about indoctrination, especially indoctrination that undermines the worldview taught by parents to their children. If you want to read a play about this from classical Greece, read The Clouds. It was written as a comedy by Aristophanes. It is about a father whose now listless, impolite son comes home after having studied philosophy with Socrates. The kid is basically ruined. The more things change, the more things stay the same.
Plus, many college courses have little or nothing to do with political or social ideology.
This is true in the engineering departments, but it is not true in the social studies and humanities. In the social studies and humanities, the indoctrination goes on from the day the student walks onto the campus until the day, five or six years later, that he earns his B.A. degree, goes into the marketplace, and finds that he cannot get a job paying above minimum wage.
Now, I would like to speak directly to conservative students. You might not feel at home at many universities but your presence and contributions are important. The only way you are going to impact the fields that lean so far to the left is if you roll up your sleeves and get in the game. The academy is much better off intellectually when it enjoys a truly diverse marketplace of ideas.
Only a tiny handful of students ever want to change the opinions expressed in a college classroom. Students from the medieval era onward have only been interested in getting a certificate that will grant them some kind of monopolistic power in the job marketplace. They want a college degree because they think they can get a better job. This is no longer the case, and now they find that they are in debt up to their ears, and their parents have spent tens of thousands of dollars on a degree that doesn’t give them any leverage in the employment markets.
The professor calls the university a marketplace of ideas. It is, indeed: a rigged marketplace. There is nothing free market about it. There is nothing competitive about it. It is an institution funded by the general population by taxation. It is a place where extreme leftists live off of money extracted from conservatives. It’s the judicial equivalent of tax-funded churches. That practice ended in Massachusetts in 1833, but it was almost immediately transferred in Massachusetts to the state funding of education. Those in control want state money to indoctrinate the children of those who are not in control, but who are forced to pay taxes to the indoctrinators. This is how the system has always run, and it is the way it will be run until such time as the voters cut off the funding to the indoctrinators.
If you don’t like the leftist cultural elite echo chambers, break down the chamber doors and chime in. If you are interested, pursue advanced degrees in the social sciences and careers in the academy. Don’t let the view that these disciplines are only for progressives hold you back.
Whatever this guy is smoking, he really ought to stop. It is affecting his judgment.
Any student who does this is going to find himself humiliated in the classroom. He may even be assigned an F by his Marxist professor. He is going to find that he cannot get a graduate degree.
Yes, there are a few students who can do it. I did it. Of course, I did it from 1959-1972. I did it in a field in which I could get away with being a conservative: I specialized in colonial American history. I did not major in sociology.
I survived in sociology because I studied with America’s only conservative sociologist, Robert Nisbet. I survived in economics because I studied under a Marxist professor who was in agreement with me on the preposterous nature of the way economics was taught by the Keynesians, and who rejected the use of equations in the classroom. We were allies against the neoclassical Keynesians who dominated the faculty. He at least spoke in English. So, he gave me A’s when I wrote papers that were better than the papers turned in by all of his other students, which was every time I wrote a paper. I took a graduate class from him, and out of that came my book on Marx. I was not typical. I was a professional writer who paid his way through school in part by the money he earned from his writing. I never heard of any other conservative graduate student in my generation who did this.
I understand it is easier said than done. Surveys suggest you will face ostracism and discrimination. But, believe it or not, there are conservative, libertarian, classically liberal, and centrist professors out there, even in the social sciences, and they are doing outstanding work.
There are perhaps three professors in the social sciences and humanities on any campus with 200 faculty members who hold such views regarding classical liberalism, if you exclude the economics department, which will tend to be more free-market oriented. Maybe 20% of the economics department follows Milton Friedman or some other free-market economist. There will not be anybody on the faculty who is an Austrian school economist. Every study of faculty opinion, especially in departments of sociology, indicates that 90% of the professors are hard-core leftists. This has not changed in 50 years.
They would welcome you, as would a growing number of academics who worry about ideological homogeneity and want to see a more intellectually vibrant academy. Surveys also indicate that, despite being in the minority, conservative academics are very happy at work.
Of course they are happy at work. They are paid above-market wages, and if they get tenure, they cannot be fired. They are completely outside the pressures of a free market economy. They got onto the gravy train, and if they get tenure, they will live happily ever after at taxpayers’ expense.
The truth is, it is not just the case that you need college. Colleges also desperately need you. Leftist academics accuse conservatives of not sufficiently supporting science but turn a blind eye to their postmodernist colleagues who reject the entire scientific enterprise. Many of the concepts campus progressives are obsessed with such as stereotype threat, implicit bias, and microaggressions have not stood up well to empirical scrutiny but remain the foundation of social justice-oriented training programs on campus.
This is correct. This is how the system has operated since the 1970’s. It keeps getting worse. They don’t get fired. They get raises. They get all of the positive sanctions that are associated with being a professor at a university. Economics teaches that if the sanctions don’t change, behavior won’t change. If the sanctions are overwhelmingly positive, this will reinforce the behavior.
Progressive groupthink has set in and at many universities the line between education and re-education is disappearing. At some colleges, students can earn a history degree without ever taking a class in U.S. history. Some universities are considering dropping required math courses and adding classes in diversity studies that take an exclusively leftist point of view. Teaching males how to deconstruct their “toxic masculinity” is all the rage.
All of this is true. So, what conservative in his right mind would send his child off to college in order to go through the meat grinder, merely to get a degree that the child can earn at home for $13,000 or less? What is the point of sending the student into the meat grinder, when the student can graduate two years early simply by taking CLEP exams in high school, and earning the bachelor’s degree by distance learning by the age of 19? The student can get into the workforce two years early. Why attend a classroom-based educational system in which most students take five years to graduate? It makes no sense. But it makes sense to our professor, who is part of the system.
The campus safe space movement is being aggressively used to suppress freedom of speech, particularly speech that challenges leftist orthodoxy. And, in certain fields, scholars seem to care more about engineering the social world than actually studying and understanding it. Having more conservatives involved in university life and scholarship would help restore some order to the academic universe.
All this is true. Again, why should any conservative send his child into this environment?
In short, conservative parents and young adults, our country is already divided. Disengaging from higher education will only make the problem worse. And the calls to abolish tenure, though intuitively appealing, will not help either. Without tenure, I fear conservative professors might go from being endangered to extinct. Deep down, you know that college is important. Many of the leftist administrators, professors, and students may not realize it, but so are you. Speaking from within the Ivory Tower, I can attest that we need you more than ever.
It is not the task of conservative parents to spend $50,000-$250,000 to send their children into a meat grinder for the sake of making life slightly less painful for overpaid conservative college professors, who are few and far between.
I will explain the man’s logic by discussing another institution that is famous for its professors: whorehouses. Should a conservative parent send his piano playing son into a whorehouse, to make life more pleasant for the prostitutes? They will call the son “professor,” but he will find that the institutional commitments associated with prostitution do not change because he is a really good piano player.
It never ceases to astound me how people who have their arms up to their elbows in the tax-funded university system justify this in the name of helping students to broaden their perspectives. Parents who pay a dime to broaden their children’s perspectives by sending them into accredited universities to study social sciences and humanities have been so completely bamboozled by the fake, self-centered, self-interested ideology of the professors that it is astounding that their children have enough sense to get through the system with their minds and their morals intact. They are clearly getting no help from their parents.
I am not preaching to the choir. I am preaching to parents who know what goes on at virtually every tax funded university and accredited university, and who nevertheless send their children into this meat grinder for the sake of saving face among their peers. They fear letting their peers know that their children are not going to college.
The world of accredited higher education is different today from what it was two decades ago. Make the system work for you and your family. Don’t make the system work for the tenured professors who are apologists for a rigged system that has been set up to undermine the moral and philosophical foundations of the young men and young women who walk through the doors of any university. Nobody should pay retail for a college education for his children. Keep the children at home, and let them get their degrees by distance learning. Don’t subsidize your enemies any more than you have to. You have to pay taxes to fund the system; you don’t have to turn over your children to the system.
Written Gary North and originally published at Specific Answers ~ February 3, 2017.
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