The Freefall of the American University, By Jim Nelson Black, WND Books, 2004, 366 pages, $24.99
Malice, recklessness, betrayal, exploitation – those are words that are associated with prisons or insane asylums. One wouldn’t usually associate them with colleges or universities. But Jim Nelson Black, in Freefall of the American University, shows us that in many ways the characteristics and attitudes of prisons and asylums turn out to be frightfully similar to those of academic institutions.
The focus of the book is the erosion of higher education, but Black lets the reader know that our problems really begin in K-12 education. He quotes from an address by Harvard psychiatrist Chester M. Pierce to members of the Association of Childhood Education:
Every child in America entering school at the age of five is mentally ill because he comes to school with certain allegiances to our Founding Fathers, toward our elected officials, toward his parents, toward a belief in a supernatural being, and toward the sovereignty of this nation as a separate entity. It’s up to you as teachers to make all these sick children well—by creating the international child of the future.
The obvious thing to do then, if you are a follower of Pierce, is to erase the Founding Fathers and “reprogram” students by turning them into “international children.” Many schools have enthusiastically taken up that challenge, which then carries over into college. Black writes that “there is perhaps no more troubling aspect of the radicalization of the university campus than the revision that passes for history today.”
Not only do American college students fail to learn much about our history, but the transformation of the classroom also manages to obliterate our children’s reasoning skills, thus depriving them of the ability to resist the reprogramming:
Even as liberal teachers attempt to discredit our greatest thinkers and inventors, they cast scorn on any who dare question their own corrupt practices. The spiritual and emotional damage to the Republic inflicted by this fraudulent retelling of history is incalculable. Not only are the educators attempting to rewrite history, but they are rewriting the tests, as they’ve done with the SAT, removing entire sections that examine students’ ability to reason and make logical comparisons. After more than twenty years of declining SAT scores, test developers decided to give every student a hundred-point bonus to disguise the fact that young people preparing for college today are substantially less knowledgeable than their predecessors a generation ago.
Once upon a time, colleges and universities might have been trusted to faithfully act in loco parentis. That is, parents may have once trusted colleges and universities with their children.
The truth is, Black argues, that most schools simply cannot be trusted with students. There is no respect in academia for parents’ traditional role in upbringing children; colleges and universities today actively socialize their subjects. It’s clever, really, since the college years are the best time for brainwashing, favored by drill sergeants and academics alike. Indispensable to the plans of both, of course, is the happy realization that those irritating parents are, at long last, nowhere to be found. As Black says:
[T]hanks to twelve years of social indoctrination in the nation’s primary and secondary schools, the vast majority of young people entering college today are under-educated, disinterested in learning, morally and intellectually undisciplined, and sitting ducks for the mind-control agenda of the Left.
[The] favored means of control are (a) freshman orientation, (b) diversity indoctrinations (or brainwashing), (c) sexualization that is patently exploitative and abusive, enforced through campus housing and dormitory arrangements, and (d) forced compliance with the hyper-sexualized environment that includes the requirement to accept deviant behaviors and the loss of personal privacy.
For the doctrinaire campus leftists, it is not enough to merely question tradition or authority, or to win the recruitment drive for our children’s ideological allegiance. They also feel the need to implement speech codes to stifle dissent. Vaguely-worded policies allow officials to crack down on speech that anyone might find “offensive.” Of course, academics couldn’t accomplish all of this if it were obvious. So they hide their actions.
Just as the coward hides behind an aggressive show of feigned bravery, the truly intolerant—the modern academics—hide behind phony notions of “diversity” and “tolerance” while promoting the most odious kind of intolerance and uniformity of all: uniformity of thought itself. The objects of their hatred are naturally the two biggest things upon which they can cast their enmity: Religion and the United States. Black notes that students are aware of this, but there is little or nothing that they can do:
Students discover quickly that tolerance cuts just one way. Perverse, vulgar, and anti-American behaviors are tolerated, while chastity and moral restraint are not. Vandalism and arson by ethnic and liberal groups who are “offended” by the behavior or words of Americans who hold tradition or conservative values is tolerated, but criticism of vandalism and arson by ethnic and liberal groups is not.
At the Universities of Arizona, Massachusetts, and Indiana and Brown and Amherst, “student publications that spoke honestly about contested social issues have been confiscated and burned by angry minority groups” with “no reprimand or restitution” whatsoever required. So much for tolerance.
Black also draws the reader’s attention to the outlandish courses that now clutter the catalogues of many schools. He offers a sample of the course offerings in our most elite institutions:
• University of Pennsylvania: “Vampires, The Undead,” and “Feminist Critique of Christianity” • Columbia: “Sorcery and Magic” • Dartmouth: “Queer Theory, Queer Texts” • Princeton: “Sexuality, Bodies, Desires, and Modern Times” • Brown: “Unnatural Acts: Introduction to Lesbian and Gay Literature” • Bucknell: “Witchcraft and Politics” • Stanford: “Homosexuals, Heretics, Witches, and Werewolves” • Wesleyan: “Pornography Writing of Prostitutes” • University of Michigan: “Crossing Erotic Boundaries,” and “How To Be Gay: Male Homosexuality and Initiation” • University of North Carolina: “Magic, Ritual, and Belief” • Bowdoin: “Witchcraft in the Modern World” • University of Chicago: “Third Wave Feminism and Girl Culture,” “Contemporary American Monstrosity,” “Fetishism, Gender, Sexuality, Capitalism,” and “Love and Eros in Japanese History”
The condition of higher education in America, as Black describes it, is as infuriating as it is frightening. It is a situation that will only get worse unless revealed and confronted, and Black’s book does a great service in both respects. Bad as things are, he finds some cause for hope. Black observes that academic radicals have overplayed their hand, especially in the wake of 9/11. Their reactions to that event in particular have struck many Americans as downright batty, and have caused many to reassess their perceptions of the intellectual elite. Ironically, therefore, it may be through the madness of the academy that its redemption is ultimately realized.
Freefall of the American University is an important book, one that I strongly recommend.
Tim Ferguson is a 2005 graduate of the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Law