The Disrupter-in-Chief who lives at the White House has not fixed his gaze alone on immigration policy, taxes, the Supreme Court, and certain other policy pillars. He now has in mind higher education reform. In late January he named the president of Liberty University, Jerry L. Falwell, Jr., as head of a new task force looking at prospective changes in U. S. Department of Education policy and procedures.
Falwell told the Chronicle of Higher Education that he understands his mission–vague as its contours may be at the moment–as paring back federal meddling and giving colleges and universities “more leeway in governing their affairs.” Which sounds like what any institution of higher learning needs to fulfill its calling; but these days, of course, the agendas of the political left frequently dominate campus affairs. Title IX, for instance, which, in spite of its nominal purpose–underwriting female access to intercollegiate athletics–has become an instrument for fighting the “rape culture” that by feminist accounts rages on college campuses: bad, bad college boys doing their usual thing, to the shame and degradation of us all.
The idea of the federal government making and enforcing moral standards anywhere would have seemed derisory to a society capable of deciding for itself, thank you, how young men and young women should conduct themselves. That society, seemingly, is comatose.
Whether Falwell’s task force will wrestle with Title IX, we shall see. Getting the government out of the student loan business may be even a higher mission, not least because government’s willingness to throw loans at students has helped drive up tuition and other costs. (With Washington, D.C., through egregiously generous loan policies, subsidizing student aspirations, the need to keep tuition affordably low goes away.) Falwell also told the Chronicle of Higher Education that government micromanagement of accreditation policy is another facet of “overreaching regulation.”
Higher education reform shaped in Donald Trump’s Washington won’t get the attention that immigration, say, receives; or climate change; or health care. One tributary benefit of Falwell’s labors may be public exposure of the extent to which Washington, through power of the purse, has superseded the academicians and community leaders who formerly made education policy: minds, not methods, working toward the cultivation of minds and hearts and consciences, with room aplenty for the explosion in many directions of human creativity.
Practically all politicians and government officials have university educations. Yet many – possibly most – see education as less an affair of the intellect than as a tool for achieving particular social ends and objectives. Left-wing attempts to suppress on campus non-left wing viewpoints, and frequently to punish those who hold such viewpoints, show the supreme value the left places on campus control, gained and maintained with the help of federal money.
Someone – a someone of consequence, furthermore – is now going to look hard at the various policies and devices that have contributed to the present state of things on campus. It can’t help but help. As the academicians and thought-molders of yore sometimes melodiously put it: Gaudeamus igitur. Let’s rejoice, kids.