Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Liberal education is over

By Owen Wiggins

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(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No rebuttals were made to address the problems of Marxism and socialism making Smith’s theories seem outdated.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]

6 Comments

6 Responses to “Liberal education is over”

  1. The_Chairman on February 18th, 2016 12:49 am

    Wiggins’ interpretation of conservatism is seriously flawed. Conservatism has an honorable tradition rooted in Enlightenment values…what was once called classical liberalism. Modern conservatism is the exact opposite of that. The people today that call themselves conservatives are essentially in favor of a powerful state, restrictive social norms, and a high level of corporate control. That’s a view that would sicken Adam Smith and Thomas Jefferson…that is to say, the real Adam Smith and Thomas Jefferson, who were sharply critical of the power of wealthy industrialists and bankers.

    The conception of socialism presented here is also grossly mistaken. Wiggins seems to be under the impression that the Soviet Union was a socialist economy. Interestingly, the Soviet Union was called “socialist” by the two major power system at the time…the U.S. and Soviet Union, and for opposite reasons. The U.S. called it socialist in order to delude the public into thinking that is what socialism looks like…a miserable, totalitarian society. The Soviet Union called itself socialist in order to benefit from real socialism’s appeal to a large number of people in the world. True socialism has always referred to workers and communities being in control of their own lives, free from outside state or corporate control. But in the Soviet Union there was no worker control whatsoever.

    I don’t even agree that universities today are all that liberal…but I won’t move on to that topic since so many ideas in this article taken as given are false.

  2. Kenny G on February 18th, 2016 11:11 am

    Great article and the petition is very well written.

    The_Chairman, could you please let me know where Wiggins mentions in this op-ed or the petition that he wants, “a powerful state, restrictive social norms, and a high level of corporate control” ? To me it just sounds like he is asking for a more diverse education, which I agree is not something offered at UMass.

  3. Objective Thought on February 18th, 2016 12:29 pm

    For those uninformed of ‘Modern Conservatism’ it can be summarized to 5 pillars:

    1. Foremost among the transcendent values is the individual’s use of his God-given free will.
    2. Political freedom cannot long exist without economic freedom.
    3. The purposes of government are to protect these freedoms through the preservation of internal order, the provision of national defense and the administration of justice.
    4. The market economy is the single economic system compatible with personal freedom and constitutional government.
    5. The forces of international communism are the greatest single threat to these liberties, and the United States should stress victory over rather than coexistence with this menace.

    As a recent graduate, I agree with the points bought up in this article. To stand for conservatism on a college campus, is like wearing a scarlet letter at most East Coast and West Coast schools. Ironically these same states have a high number or representatives in the electoral college system. I believe it is important to educate students on all political ideologies with independence and objectivity. In that way, students can make their own judgement on what they stand for. It was not until I took a Business Legal Studies class that I truly understood the Constitution in its entirety. Thankfully my professor was an experienced lawyer with over 30 years of practice and did not try to push political agendas on us. However, that is not the case at all universities. I found through dialogue in my current city of Philadelphia that other graduates were taught purely liberal ideologies with no understanding of conservative views. Furthermore, they did not know the history of each political party, how they developed, and how some died. When the people are not educated on the issues at hand in their entirety, the power is no longer held by the people. In which, allows major media and political conglomerates to control public perception and shape public policy.

    Edwards, Lee. “This Document Established the Five Central Themes of Modern Conservatism.” The Daily Signal. N.p., 11 Sept. 2105. Web. 18 Feb. 2016.

  4. The_Chairman on February 18th, 2016 3:38 pm

    Kenny G.,

    It is true that this author does not define conservatism, but let’s go with the petition that he cited. Every one of those five points has absolutely nothing to do with the classical liberal beliefs of men like Adam Smith, Thomas Jefferson, and David Hume. Indeed, “free-market” theory (which has nothing to do with freedom) is the very essence of the private tyrannies that Jefferson warned about. Professors who “demonize the right” are against modern conservatives who grossly misrepresent the ideas and values of the conservative tradition. It’s clear that Wiggins has little understanding of either Adam Smith or Karl Marx. We all learn Adam Smith’s theories about division of labor and how it’s great for efficiency…but the class never gets to the part where Smith says that a laborer would become “as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human creature to become,” which would lead to “almost entire corruption and degeneracy of the great body of the people. … unless government takes some pains to prevent it .”

    I do not agree that universities in general are homogeneous. In fact higher education is usually a barrier to progress (except in the hard sciences…it isn’t threatening to the masters if people have new ideas about physics). UMass is probably more to the left, but only marginally. The “atmosphere of debate” that supposedly once existed is a farce. Yeah, maybe there is debate, but it is within a very narrow spectrum.

  5. Objective Thought on February 19th, 2016 4:42 pm

    To The_Chairman,

    In your comment to Kenny G., you say “Every one of those five points has absolutely nothing to do with the classical liberal beliefs of men like Adam Smith, Thomas Jefferson, and David Hume”. I was explaining “Modern Conservatism”, and they make no mention of “Free-Market Theory”. I was attempting to list the viewpoints without relying on typical talking points used by political pundits. Pillars 2-4 actually prove that free-markets need some form of regulation to allow an equal playing field. Also in your first comment on the article, you failed to separate fact from opinion by explaining “Modern Conservatism” with blanket statements, without elaborating on what you meant. By doing so, I would a have to assume what you mean, which would not be fair to you.

    I did not attend UMass. I went to school in the Midwest and do not know from experience how left the school is. However, I do believe schools are becoming more homogeneous in liberal political ideology. It is obvious when so many universities prevent students from expressing opposing views under the guise of “political correctness”, “Tolerance”, and “Acceptance”. Ironically the administrations are guilty of intolerance by demonizing the opposing viewpoints. A quick google search will reveal universities across the nation that have liberal professors teaching anti-american rhetoric. When schools are censoring speech that does not conform to their viewpoints and employing a majority politically aligned administration, then schools are becoming homogeneous because they are trying to control the way students behave and think. Coincidentally this strategy is being enacted across universities in favor of liberal political ideology.

  6. The_Chairman on February 19th, 2016 10:37 pm

    Objective Thought:

    Not really sure what you’re talking about. I wasn’t responding to you, I was referring to the petition cited in the article, which says (and I quote) “Conservatism includes free-market and libertarian theory… [and four other points].”

    The brand of modern conservatism that I referred to is exactly what they (and you) espouse: worship at the alter of free-markets, submission to the authority of the moneyed interests, and support for a powerful and intrusive government. They don’t make any effort to hide it…in fact they’re pretty open about it, so we have to give them some credit for that. I mean just take at the platforms of the leading conservative candidates…none of this is a secret. Of course not all conservatives are so inclined, but the great majority of them are, and I use the term as it is generally understood.

    I should amend what I said earlier: universities are indeed becoming homogenized, but not in the way that you think. Student activism is nowhere near the level that it was back fifty years ago. Yeah, there’s some conflict over free-speech, but it is on the margins. The incidents that receive so much press are not consequential for the vast majority of the people. In fact many liberals are quite happy to rail against racism, sexism, etc. but immediately fall silent when the discussion turns to class issues. It happened to MLK and that continues right up to the present.

    The idea that universities are extremely liberal is just false. The faculty are considered liberal within a very narrow spectrum. American political opinion has shifted so far to the right over the past decades that universities appear liberal, but really aren’t as compared with Europe. On the international spectrum, American universities are pretty conservative in their structure. Issues of distribution of power within the society are systematically ignored, administrators are essentially corporate-style bureaucrats, and the poor are increasingly being shut out. If that sounds liberal to you, then I have no idea what conservative would look like.

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