Liberal education is over

By Owen Wiggins


(Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)
(Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

A liberal education once meant students would be exposed to a diverse range of theories, philosophies and traditions. High school students yearn for a liberal education when applying to college, hoping they will be challenged and given the tools they need to improve society.

Liberal education and liberal political ideology are two entirely different things – but are becoming one and the same. A liberal education is supposed to cover a wide range of thought. For some reason, many professors who adhere to liberal ideology have forgotten (or perhaps they never knew) how to provide a liberal education.

I have found that many students do not understand conservative thought because they simply do not know what it is. The classes don’t exist. For example, at the University of Massachusetts, nearly everyone knows who Karl Marx is, and some students believe Marxism is the way to equality, social justice and prosperity.

Very few have heard of Edmund Burke, the founder of modern conservative thought, or know he waged an ideological war against the British government over its imperialism in India. Many would believe that adherence to conservative thought and the fight against imperialism are contradictory, because professors who teach postcolonialism have demonized the right.

A petition put forth by the University Union, a debate society at UMass, addresses areas of study where UMass is lacking. Of course, there are classes that cover some of the topics in the petition but it is the way they are presented that is the problem.

In the introductory economics courses I have taken at the University, we started off by learning about Adam Smith and his “Wealth of Nations.” We learned about the invisible hand and capitalist theories. Corrections to market failures are taught through the implementation of Marxist and socialist policies.

No rebuttals were made to address the problems of Marxism and socialism making Smith’s theories seem outdated. We didn’t learn about the fall of the Soviet or Cuban economies. We didn’t learn about the problems of the economy in North Korea. Despite its failures, capitalism can be just as successful and prosperous as any other economic system.

There is an atmosphere of non-debate and non-dialogue, not just on our college campuses, but in the United States in general. Even President Barack Obama has taken note.

“Democracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens,” Obama said during his 2016 State of the Union address. “It doesn’t work if we think the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice.”

Our universities have become polarized. Perhaps there are schools in some places that fail to provide enough leftist thought. This is a problem too. When a university fails to provide a wide spectrum of worldviews on campus, the education ceases to be liberal and in fact becomes illiberal.

Owen Wiggins is a Collegian contributor and can be reached at [email protected]