The jewel wasp is a curious insect that has a rather frightening method of reproduction. The female will sting a cockroach and administer sequential injections of a neurotoxin that will transform the cockroach into a kind of zombie. The neurotoxins cause the cockroach to void its instinctive desire to escape, and to be muscularly compliant in its own demise. After the jewel wasp prepares a nest, it compels the cockroach to accompany her there so that it can be a repository for her egg. When hatched, the wasp larvae will devour its alive and fresh host, whose metabolism has been slowed by the venom and tranquility maintained by dopamine.
This bizarre fact of nature demonstrates how, on occasion, human endeavors can mimic nature in all its curious detail. It is a commonly recognized fact that the administrations and many of the departments in America’s prestigious institutions of higher education have been hijacked over the last two or three decades by faculty who wish to instantiate critical study and “intersectionality” majors with the cooperation of woke executives trying to impose “diversity” quotas and programs. In this way, it is easy to see how many of these institutions of higher learning have, like a cockroach ensnared by a female jewel wasp, been “zombified” by faux grievance mongers and critical theory radicals, who have made the bureaucracy and curriculum of a large number of these institutions compliant in their own demise.
Furthermore, as author Jon Schweppe has pointed out, the radical Left’s domination of higher education is part of a much larger problem with what he has called the “Hydra” of Big Business, Big Technology and Higher Education. These three institutions constitute a formidable force that are hostile to American interests, and will resist any efforts from conservatives to attenuate their influence, especially on a national level, where no political consensus avails. Moreover, despite their animosity or indifference towards traditional American values, for the foreseeable future the services they provide are vital to our national security to defend against cyber and military aggression from China.
Thus, when it comes to undoing the damage these zombified institutions have done and will continue to do by the likes of Howard Zinn and Nicole Hannah-Jones, rather than taking the “Hydra” on directly, perhaps a more discreet flanking action is called for. Instead our attention should be focused on the feed stock, i.e. the young and impressionable minds that social justice activism requires in which to lay its ideological eggs. Perhaps, it is time to develop alternative programs that will re-purpose how we educate our young.
Time to Rethink How We Educate Our Children
At this writing, twenty-one states have Republican trifectas, where non-woke executive and legislature control could effectuate long-lasting change in re-balancing higher education. This is adequate, as only a handful of states would be needed for this program to become fruitful. Frederick Hess over at the National Review has suggested that generous philanthropists could fund new academies. However, the problem is that many good ideas simply don’t spout, as Charles Murray’s dormant Madison Fund, a legal defense fund set up to counter tyrannical edicts from administrative agencies, demonstrates a case in point. There’s also a matter of control. We should expect our legislators to be less susceptible to flattery towards political correctness if their voters disapprove of such behavior, than say woke executives or directors of non-profit charities. Thus rather than chasing private donors, state governments in flyover country represent a more politically viable avenue for circumventing neo-Marxist indoctrination campuses.
Thus one proposal would be to establish state-funded academies for undergraduate and vocational studies or for existing ones to be appropriately reformed, that can confer both associate and bachelor degrees, and perhaps skill-qualification certificates as well. For purposes of this exercise, such an academy can be called an undergraduate polytechnic institution (UPTI pronounced “up-tee”). These UPTIs should be without research or graduate studies so that the faculty can focus on teaching and devote their time to providing classroom instruction and laboratory workshops in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and vocational trades such as welding, machining, wiring, plumbing and equipment repair.
The value of STEM in society is self-evident, and these fields of study are fairly resistant to social justice ideology based on their emotionally-immutable nature. These proposed UPTIs should be tailored towards learning fundamental physical, chemical and biological concepts, instead of advancing state of the art technology that would preferably be reserved for research elsewhere. Furthermore, the incorporation of vocational trades into the curriculum is important not just to teach valuable marketable skills, but also to alleviate the overall paucity of certifiable and affordable instruction for ambitious apprentices.
To expand civic appeal and reduce discomfort from this nerdy emphasis, programs for classics and music could be incorporated into the curriculum. Non-departmental language classes in grammar, syntax and composition could augment communication skills. Music instruction would focus on informed practice to develop skill with instruments or voice together with an understanding of wave mechanics.
The study of classics imparts glimpses of western heritage from various sources that have stood the test of time by delving into the human condition under circumstances long passed. In essence, the classics would entail writings from the pre-modern past with possible suggestions such as the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Odyssey, the Book ofJob, Oedipus Rex, Beowulf, das Nibelungenleid, the Travels of Marco Polo, and of course Dante’s Inferno. Example pre-Renaissance historians include the Deuteronomists, Herodotus, Xenophon, Livy, Ssu-ma Ch’ien (aka Sima Qian – Records of the Grand Historian), Josephus, Eusebius and al-Ṭabari.
Meanwhile, sociology and other so-called critical theory fields, as well as any other post-modernist specialties that are rife with aggrandizing and stultifying group think, should be excluded, let alone subsidized by taxpayers
Instead of intercollegiate athletics, an UPTI might instead offer courses in emergency medical aid, martial arts, and even firearm marksmanship (which given the wide range in student ages and low levels of trust in present society, self-defense might be in high demand!). After all, civic participation involves not merely esoteric analysis and rhetorical debate, but practical effect and tactile sensation such as treating wounds, dodging kicks, aiming pistols. How well do we hold to our principles when punched in the face? Moreover, such eclectic offerings should inspire inter-discipline crossover rather than near-exclusive focus on a narrow field.
Students could be offered the option of pass/fail or audit for each class, including repeat attendance to better comprehend the material. Frequent use of class auditing would reduce intimidation from pursuing unfamiliar academic ventures and foster broader perspectives. This way, a sophomore of classical Roman philosophy might learn engine repair or Python code, while an electrical engineering junior could dabble in ancient Chinese history or Greek playwrights, and a budding musician would engage krav maga or explore quantum mechanics.
Paying for it All
Absent enormous scholarships, private colleges are neither affordable nor cost-effective. Combine this with an expanded oeuvre in STEM and vocational endeavors, and only a state sponsored initiative could serve this overarching impetus for actual sundry disciplines. To ensure affordability, tuition and textbooks for UPTIs must be sufficiently low so that students working at part-time minimum-wages can enroll and attend without incurring debt. One way to keep tuition low would be to preclude costly and intrusive bureaucratic demands by the Department of Education, these institutes must eschew involvement with Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
In a homage to community colleges, these UPTI’s could also cut costs by omitting varsity teams, inclusion administrators, manicured lawns and other frills such as resort-like facilities and dormitories. After all, spartan accommodations have the added advantage of making campus life less pleasant for the students, thereby encouraging their goals of a credentialed escape through expeditious graduation. Furthermore, unlike a liberal arts school, an UPTI must buy tailored equipment and building facilities filled with breakable and/or consumable materials. That adds substantially to the school budget. Adding a few additional part-time tutors and student assistants to alleviate professorial responsibilities would also keep tuition low.
UPTI admission should be open to all state residents above twelve years of age, but without offering remedial courses for lack of preparation. Further, students should be able to depart and return without reproof, either to work or join the armed services. While states could retain their traditional schools, especially for professional fields such as medicine and law, the proposed UPTI arrangement facilitates greater educational opportunities to students and parents of modest means.
After a few years of accumulating STEM and classics alumni from UPTIs, these pioneering states might then offer generous early retirement to unionized public school teachers. This would incentivize the departure of less dedicated employees in elementary schools and thereby enable school boards to replace them with new UPTI graduates who lack “education” certification credentials, which often signal little more than woke indoctrination. These substitution efforts could be extended to high schools as well, if any teenagers still decide to attend them. In this way, the education pipeline sustains itself by competent young adults instructing school-age children to grasp actual facts and gain command of relevant skills to operate with that information. As the UPTIs gain in reputation, students from neighboring jurisdictions may decide to avail themselves of competent no-frills instruction, albeit paying out-of-state tuition, thereby modestly contributing to these state coffers. Or perhaps this exodus can goad other flyover legislatures to enact similar competing establishments.
Rethinking What it Really Means to Invest in Our Future
And yet, the question arises, would all of this work? Outlandish charges to pamper students with non-academic, seemingly superfluous offerings raises a reasonable objection. Why should tax dollars be spent on academic exploration? Because exercise of citizenship necessitates knowledge beyond the skills used to earn a living, and the public has a vested interest in an informed populace. The objective of a college is to foster post-secondary instruction to students in subjects still alien to them. As economics journalist Megan McArdle advocates, all of us must experience and overcome failure in order to succeed. Only enrolling in non-challenging subjects to avoid less than stellar grades is utterly disheartening, and the chase for high grades distorts motives for learning and induces risk averse choices.
This higher education proposal may seem both politically onerous and timidly pusillanimous, however as Angelo Codevilla explains, as political conflict between deplorables and intersectionals worsen, more imaginative ideas might be entertained to educate our nation’s youth. From this vantage, the UPTI concept seems ostensibly plausible on a local level by offering an escape route away from the dystopia that our pseudo-meritocratic elite seek to inflict on us.
Photo Credit- Jeswin Thomas @Upsplash.