It is common enough in conservative American dialogue to critique the sorry state of the modern university. Fair enough. People, both on the left and right, have been bemoaning the sorry state of public higher education in America since the 1980s. Back then, liberal Allan Bloom penned The Closing of the American Mind in order to rage against the collapse of Western civilization and the Greco-Roman classics in the American university system. Bloom got tagged as an “elitist” for his thought crime, but it remains true that a vast majority of Americans today, whether educated publicly or privately, are intellectually inferior to the British schoolboys of the Victorian era.
More recent complaints about the universities come from right-wing writers who correctly recognize the ideological echo chamber that our youth are subjected to. Smarmy liberal Nicholas Kristof even spent ink in The New York Times arguing that college-educated liberals are the ones with their minds closed and their hearts hardened. Statistics back this up, with Canada In Decay author Ricardo Duchesne noting that a large percentage of Canadian professors identify as left-leaning and many would have no qualms about nixing any research project proposed by a known conservative. It is the same in the U.S., where countless studies have found that upwards of eighty-percent of all faculty members in the humanities are registered Democrats.
Conservatives are right to criticize this monstrosity. Millions of American teenagers go to college every year, and all are at one point or another subjected to cultural Marxism, Third World-ism, and other diseased off pourings of the postmodernist mind.
I, a humble scribbler who has been in and out of the American academic complex for twelve years, offer up another, lesser explored reason for criticizing our universities—state formation. Specifically, one of the great issues facing us is the fact that millions of twentysomethings in this country have come to the conclusion that the perfect state and the perfect society would look like their university campus.
The separate, indeed isolated sphere of university life is nothing new. The town versus gown conflict goes back to the Middle Ages when university students in Oxford, Bologna, and elsewhere belonged to corporations that had their own laws, councilors, etc. Town or village law often ended at the gates of the university. Rowdy and violent students beat the living daylights out of the locals and faced few repercussions. Such can still be seen today, where drunk and disorderly coeds often get weaker punishments than their non-undergrad peers. Similarly, places like Oxford and Cambridge have always been towns that have relied on their universities for sustenance, thus automatically privileging students as the central consumers and citizens.
However, back then, only a very small percentage of the population went to university. Today, well over sixty-percent of American kids are enrolled somewhere across the country. What do they find once they become students? First of all, universities are protected by their own police forces. These forces are armed, but they are also attuned to the needs of their students. Given that a large portion of U.S. undergrads are on some kind of prescription drug (mostly anti-depressants), this means that campus cops are part psychiatrist too. As for actual psychiatrists, they are all over the university, with student health clinics offering free mental health screenings, condoms, and other accouterments of therapeutic civilization.
Universities also offer state-of-the-art gyms, public transport, public dining options, and federal money in the form of grants acquired via FAFSA applications. Grad students, who often bellyache about their impoverished circumstances, essentially get paid to sit around, read, write, and grade papers. In Boston, which is a city controlled by its many universities, grad students get paid middle-class salaries, with the first year often being tax-free.
Outside of the classrooms, most U.S. universities are ringed by restaurants, cafes, and stores that all but exclusively serve students. Factor this in with the fact that hardly anyone fails any more, then you can understand why younger Americans are known for being highly self-centered. There is no reason to be anything less, for the increasingly corporate universities treat each student like a valued customer. Most professors will tell you this so long as they are not being recorded or standing in front of a lectern.
American universities are the apotheosis of consumer society. Every whim and desire is granted to the already pampered students. Not happy with your grade? Just go see your professor or teaching assistant, and they’ll melt like wax. The customer is always right.
One must keep these facts in mind when we approach the gun debate in the United States. Yes, most of these anti-gun movements are completely astroturfed (i.e., funded by the super wealthy, almost all of whom are leftists). However, what we are also seeing in such stunts as March For Our Lives is the caterwaul of college and soon-to-be college kids who want society to look like the university. In academia, safety is now more important than learning or academic freedom. When marchers protest against guns, they are protesting for big state security a la the ever-growing university complex. When students go on a tear and bar center-right speakers from attending their campuses, this is nothing but a display from people who have been constantly reaffirmed and have been told that their mental health, security, and happiness are the most important things in the world. The university wants them to think this way because that means more money and more happy customers.
David Hogg, the misshapen face of the whiney generation of gun-grabbers, showed how important the university state model is to the youth by taking time to complain about his inability to get into the University of California. Hogg decried the fact that he is “changing the world,” but cannot spend a day in a stultifying classroom in Berkeley. Many of us must ask: why is college that important? Why would a media darling like Hogg care at all about higher education?
The answer very may well be mundane. We have all imbibed from the poisoned chalice of “everyone should go to school.” Or, conversely, Hogg and his ilk could see universities as the finishing school for professional radicals. Either way, we must face the stark reality that a majority of our youth think that the closest thing to state utopia is the college campus.
One would be hard-pressed to create a worse tyranny than that.