Pano Kanelos: America’s Illiberal College System

Writes Pano Kanelos in “We Can’t Wait for Universities to Fix Themselves. So We’re Starting a New One,” Common Sense:

Over the last three decades, the cost of a degree from a four-year private college has nearly doubled; the cost of a degree from a public university has nearly tripled. The nation’s students owe $1.7 trillion in loans.

…The warped incentives of higher education—prestige or survival—mean that anincreasing proportion of tuition dollars are spent on administration rather than instruction. Universities now aim to attract and retain students through client-driven “student experiences”—from trivial entertainment to emotional support to luxury amenities. In fact, many universities are doing extremely well at providing students with everything they need. Everything, that is, except intellectual grit.

…our educational system has become illiberal and is producing citizens and leaders who are incapable and unwilling to participate in the core activity of democratic governance.

Universities are the places where society does its thinking, where the habits and mores of our citizens are shaped. If these institutions are not open and pluralistic, if they chill speech and ostracize those with unpopular viewpoints, if they lead scholars to avoid entire topics out of fear, if they prioritize emotional comfort over the often-uncomfortable pursuit of truth, who will be left to model the discourse necessary to sustain liberty in a self-governing society?

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