Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
The first eight weeks of Trump’s administration have been filled with executive orders attacking the unconstitutional excesses of the Obama presidency. He’s also pledged to kill the regulatory Hydra, increase defense spending, reform the tax code, and restore America’s prestige. And all these changes and promises have been met with vicious attacks and outlandish charges from the media, and scorched-earth obstructionism from Congressional Dems.
All of which is as entertaining as an MMA blood-fest. But to effect real change, we need to get beneath the telegenic food-fight and transient click-bait, and start dynamiting the foundations of the deep state. And that means going after higher education, the one institution that more than any other shapes the young and indoctrinates them with progressive ideology.
But it’s not enough to go after the ideologically biased professoriate and administrators, or ridicule the pretentious “research” churned out by pseudo-disciplines in the humanities and social sciences. No doubt such critical exposure of the “higher nonsense” is important, for those bad ideas trickle down from the research universities to the state colleges, where most of the K-12 teachers get their teaching credentials. And most of those teachers inflict these political prejudices and false knowledge on the impressionable young, who by the time they reach college will already have been primed for even more pernicious indoctrination.
Take, for example, the silly notion of “microagressions.” This is the preposterous idea that systemic racism, sexism, etc. are so pervasive that people can subconsciously inflict injury on women, homosexuals, “people of color,” and all the other certified victims due special treatment like “safe spaces.” This wacky idea got started back in 2007 with a scientifically dubious paper called “Racial Microagressions in Everyday Life.” An even more influential bad idea, “Islamophobia,” traces its origins to Edward Said’s 1978 Orientalism, a “work of malignant charlatanry,” as Middle East scholar Robert Irwin described it, and one of the most-assigned books in social science and humanities courses. Like bacilli, such ideological prejudices disguised as scholarship have infected curricula from grade school to university, and from there sickened the whole culture. And they replicate themselves through the education industry’s monopoly on training, hiring, and tenuring of teachers.
Beyond this sort of research, however, lies the mother of all bad ideas, “diversity.” This pseudo-concept became part of national law in the 1978 Bakke vs. University of California case. In the Bakke decision, Justice Lewis Powell promulgated the idea that a vaguely defined “diversity” could justify racial discrimination in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s ban on–– racial discrimination. How? Because “diversity” along with its alleged pedagogical benefits is a “compelling state interest.” Yet despite the continuing failure to specifically identity, define, or empirically substantiate this “state interest” or its benefits, the Supreme Court has continued to justify race-based policies by invoking “diversity.” Backed by the highest court in the land, promoting “diversity” now has become the dominant policy in nearly all colleges and universities. The result has been the institutionalizing of an illiberal identity politics that corrupts curricula, compromises liberal education’s traditional mission to promote “the free play of the mind on all subjects,” stifles free speech, and privileges politically selected “victims.”
Another example of how the deep state polices institutions to ensure their compliance with progressive ideology is the unconstitutional and unjust campus tribunals created to adjudicate claims of “sexual misconduct.” Robert L. Shibley, the executive director of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, has explained how the political corruption of Title IX of the Civil Rights Act has put the coercive, fiscal, and investigative power of the Department of Education behind ideologically based violations of the Constitution.
In 2011, the DOE’s Office of Civil Rights sent universities a “dear colleague” letter offering “guidance” about how schools should handle charges of sexual assault. As Shibley points out, the term “guidance” allows the agency to skirt the Administrative Procedure Act’s requirements that new agency regulations must notify those affected by the new rules and allow them time to comment. Thus the OCR in effect created two new laws, usurping the law-making powers of Congress. One allows both sides in a complaint to appeal the outcome of the proceedings, creating the possibility of double jeopardy if the accused is found guilty. Second, colleges have to use the “preponderance of evidence” standard, basically 50.01 percent certainty, when determining guilt, in contrast to the criminal justice system’s “beyond a reasonable doubt standard, a 98-99 percent certainty.
The result has been campus tribunals that violate the canons of justice and due process, leading to travesties of justice such as the falsely accused Duke lacrosse team, or the fake rape story published by Rolling Stone. In fact, the system is designed to be unfair. Administrators choose who presides over the hearing and who will be jurors––mostly other administrators with a vested interest in the outcome. Neither party has a right to counsel, cross-examination, or examination of the evidence, which can include even hearsay. As Shibley writes, “Such a system is not, by any stretch of the imagination, just, fair, or equitable.”
And huge difficulties face the unfortunate student found guilty who wants to sue, for his future in higher education could be compromised by allegations even if later proven false. Colleges and universities also have standing to sue, but either are ideologically committed to the politicizing of sexual encounters between adults, or fear the ever-present threat that the DOE can withhold federal money––$76 billion in 2013–– from colleges and universities that fall afoul of the agency’s diktats. Such leverage is so powerful that only one school, Oklahoma Wesleyan University, has filed suit against a Dear Colleague Letter.
The solution to this corruption of both the Constitution and the mission of liberal education is for Congress to pass legislation that reforms Title IX and corrects the over-vague and elastic language that gives the DOE scope for such bureaucratic tyranny. Yes, the DOE’s latest assault, the 2016 “Dear Colleague Letter” mandating that students can use whatever restroom fits their assumed sex identity, was suspended by Trump’s Executive order. But that’s a temporary fix that doesn’t get at the root of the problem, which goes beyond one federal agency. Congress must step up and reclaim its Constitutional right to make the laws. For just as appeasement begets appeasement, ignoring deep-state violations of the Constitution will create even more. The DOE’s tyranny permeates the federal bureaucracy, as we’ve seen under Obama with the politicizing of the IRS, the DOJ, and the intelligence community. That’s to be expected from a regulatory leviathan staffed by unaccountable partisan functionaries that every day encroaches on the Constitutional rights of American citizens and compromises their freedom.
It is easy to put a low priority on our how progressive ideology has corrupted higher education, and spend our time and energy on reforming the tax code or reining in the EPA. But remember the Jesuit maxim: “Give me the child until he is seven and I’ll give you the man.” Education today gets children at five, and in some cases continues to mold them until they’re 21. Changing the laws that empower bureaucratic ideologues to indoctrinate our children is the necessary first step to dismantling deep-state tyranny.