Last week, the New York Times published a story on what they called the “anti-college” college experience. With student loan debt reaching stratospheric levels and battles to preserve free speech being waged on campuses across the U.S., parents, students, and taxpayers alike should be intrigued by the article’s sub-head: “Students, teachers and reformers are pushing back against the failures of mainstream higher education.”
The author writes of learning experiences in Alaska that include work-study assignments with the ultimate goal of helping students “figure out what life is really for.”
Excellent, tell us more.
“Students will read works by authors ranging from Plato and Herbert Marcuse to Tlingit writers. The point is to ‘develop and flex a more rigorous political imagination.’”
Encouraging so far.
There is a “deepening sense that mainstream American colleges are too expensive, too bureaucratic, too careerist and too intellectually fragmented to help students figure out their place in the universe and their moral obligations to fellow humans.”
“Outer Coast and Arete Project represent one strain of higher education reform: call them communitarian pragmatists…”
“A second set of new programs — the humanist individualists — owe more to the experiments of the counterculture era: schools like Evergreen State College, founded in Olympia, Wash., in 1967.”
Let’s stop right there. The second installment of the horror movie It — based on a Stephen King novel — is due out this summer, but Pennywise’s antics are tame compared to the three-part documentary released in January on the nightmare at Evergreen in 2017. The NYT
In the third segment of the documentary, students stand outside a room where faculty are meeting and chant, “Two, four, six, eight, this time you cannot escape.” Students blocked the exits with furniture so that faculty could not leave and police couldn’t come in.
“All hell broke loose on campus,” says Heather Heying, who was chased into hiding after her husband, Bret Weinstein, “challenged coercive segregation by race.” Weinstein objected to the idea that individuals of any color should be forced to stay off campus for a day.
Before accepting them as authentic alternatives to bureaucratic colleges laden with administrators, these “anti-college” programs must answer the same questions that parents should pose to all colleges today: Do you allow free expression, and how? Does anyone lawfully present on your campus have the right to protest or demonstrate there?
Such questions do not just point to the experience at Evergreen, but to Middlebury and Berkeley and Texas Southern and the University of North Carolina and Clemson and the University of Arizona—and on and on.
It’s not enough to be experimental, a real departure from the contemporary college experience would be one marked by ideological diversity and where students are taught how to engage in civil discourse.
That has the makings of a film I’d like to see.