This little gem popped up on Twitter:
Now, I don’t know anything about Mr. Cheong, so this is not a general endorsement of his views, but he’s dead on here. Couple bullet points:
- “Academic freedom” is an Orwellian euphemism. Unlike anyone else working at any other job, what academics are free from is any outside oversight at all, anyone judging their work or their character, including, especially, the people who pay their salaries. They are free, in other words, to impose the tyranny of the bureaucracy – the tyranny of whoever shows up for all the meetings.
- Dissidents have no choice but to set up their own colleges. In most fields of study, the dissident will simply not get hired, get passed over for tenure, driven out or otherwise silenced.
- What the dissident is dissenting from is, fundamentally, that the jokers currently in charge ought to be in charge; this seems to generally take the form of not teaching the party line.
- Thus, you get PragerU, St. John’s College (refounded as a Great Books school back in the 30s, when academic freedom was first enforced and classical (or, more simply, ‘real’) education was being thrown into History’s dustbin) and the whole smorgasbord of Catholic and Christian schools.
One of the first books I read on education history was One-Room Schools of the Middle West: An Illustrated History. Over the course of describing the rise, decline and fall of those schools, beloved of both the children who attended them and farmers who built and supported them, the author talks about how the champions of ‘consolidated’ schools at first tried to claim their schools produced better ‘product’ – better educated children. But their very own tests and standards proved them wrong: the one-room educated kids did better (at a fraction of the inputs in time and money) and went on to college and careers at a higher rate than their graded-classroom peers. So they just changed the attack vector: consolidated schools were all up to date, well supplied (they ought to be, since they cost something like 4X as much per unit), neat and tidy! One-room schools were old fashioned, poorly supplied and tended to have about the same level of furnishings as the parlors of the houses of the farmers they served.
The schools ARE the good being promoted. Any angle will do. What’s good for the kids is getting them standardized in school, so pointing out how they are better off without it is, to the champions of public schooling, missing the point.
That Thomas Aquinas, St. John’s and, I suppose, PragerU do better by the standards of the students and their parents isn’t irrelevant so much as it is heretical to consider it important. PragerU is the target today, because it’s comparatively large and growing. All the little Catholic and other Christian colleges that deliver something like a classical education taken together don’t have 10% of the enrollment of the University of California, and have been thus far largely ignored.*
That’s likely to change. Stuff’s about to get real.
*It’s just rumor, for the most part, but the long delay Thomas Aquinas College experienced in getting approval from the State of Massachusetts for their Springfield campus is difficult to explain except as the action of an educational establishment that didn’t like them. As it is, they can’t hire any non-Catholics for any positions if they hope to escape the imposition of state laws that no Catholic institution can abide by. Massachusetts: at the forefront of totalitarian education policies for over 200 years.