Since retiring from the university, several people have asked if I miss it. I tell them I miss what it was, but not what it has become. Higher education in America has gone from being the best in the world to one of the most pathetic. Why? It’s hard to describe what academia was to me and to millions in the past. It was not just a job, but a way of life, and of Western Civilization; and I’m so close to it, that it’s hard to describe—like trying to describe one’s own mother (hence alma mater!).
But let me try. University life at its best was both the most serious, difficult, challenging and maddening existence; and yet, it was also the most exciting, lively, rewarding, and fun experience.
It was deadly serious because we constantly examined the most intense human issues: historical and personal tragedies; ethical dilemmas, philosophical complexities; theological mysteries; and scientific wonders. It was hard because it stretched you intellectually and emotionally, made you question everything and be changed by that knowledge. And it was difficult, because of the enormous workload and demands; assignments, exams, papers, presentations and seminars. I don’t know of another situation, except possibly the military during a war, where one could be tested so much.
Yet this academic rigor was so exciting, lively, and fun because it developed and fulfilled the most essential part of the human soul, what the Bible calls “Logos” and Aristotle “reasoned speech” of a naturally social being. It was exciting because that individual development occurred within a discipline, but free, intellectual and social environment—full of debate, discussion, argument, and questioning in a community of tolerance and respect, but also laughter, joking, flirting, fighting, explaining, and learning.
That “community of scholars”—open, searching, teachers and students—changed one’s life and prepared one for whatever came one’s way. Socrates’ dictum “Know Thyself” and “The Unexamined Life Is Not Worth Living” underlay the traditional liberal arts education: to learn something of every subject (“Renaissance Man”) and all perspectives on every subject and thereby to learn how to think, reason, and analyze: and then be able to handle anything in life and adapt to change.
I realize that this “life of the mind” within a rigorous but friendly community is an ideal; there were plenty of dull classes and mediocre professors at every university. But the “system” of academic freedom and its attendant experiences of intellectual growth prevailed.
Nor did the academy lack in conflict (as the old joke went: “The fights in academia are so bad because the stakes are so low”). But those battles were over policy or personalities (mostly egos), not the essential basis of the university: free thought and debate. I never can remember, even in the midst of terrible fights that led to presidents being fired or programs being altered, or board members resigning, that anyone questioned the right to free speech, academic inquiry, or liberty of conscience.
Academia was full of eccentric professors with various crazy ideas and habits (some brilliant), naïve students, and pompous administrators; but they all adhered to the same standard of knowledge. This led not just to scientific discovery and technological progress, but to every other kind of progress: economic, political, social, and ethical.
Such an open, lively, productive academic system goes back to Ancient Greece and Rome, the Medieval European monasteries and universities, and Oxford and Cambridge tutorials, but it was perfected in America. The first really modern university was the University of Virginia, founded by Thomas Jefferson (and which celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2019). Jefferson said of UVA, “Here we are not afraid to follow the Truth wherever it may lead; nor to tolerate any error, so long as reason is left free to combat it.”
That is the classic statement of academic freedom: a “free marketplace of ideas” that develops individuals and society. And it is especially important in a democracy, where the people are self-governing. It holds that the solution to bad ideas is not to censor or ignore them, but to refute them with good and reasonable ideas. Just as the best products come out of economic competition, sound religion comes out of liberty of conscience.
Jefferson experienced both the intellectual and the social aspects of this academic life at his alma mater, William and Mary College, in Williamsburg, Virginia. There, he said in his Autobiography, he had professors like his philosophy and mathematics professor “profound in most of the useful branches of Science, with a happy talent for communication, correct and gentlemanly manners, and an enlarged and liberal mind.”
Similarly, Jefferson’s law professor, George Wythe, taught legal doctrine within the liberal arts context of history, and political philosophy. Their formal instruction combined with an informal, personal mentoring that included dinners at the Royal Governor’s Palace (!), where this “partie quarree” enjoyed classical music and discussions of philosophy and literature, religion and history, forming, Jefferson remarked “the finest school of manners and morals that ever existed in America” and “fixed the destinies of my life.” And the destinies of our nation, as such education prepared Jefferson to write the Declaration of Independence.
Such a combination of formal education in classrooms and labs with informed mentoring and society became the model for Jefferson’s “academical village” at the University of Virginia and for academic freedom in America. Both effectively have been destroyed by the Liberal “political correctness” of the last 30 years, especially during the Obama Administration.
Political correctness effectively replaces free, diverse debate and a positive collegial community with Nazi-like speech control. In place of a “free-marketplace of ideas” examining all subjects and perspectives is one official ideology that eclipses all the other views. That PC doctrine, essentially, is that Western Civilization in general, and America in particular, is racist, sexist, imperialist and unjust. This means that nothing good can be said about certain figures or subjects (Jefferson, the founding, Christianity, etc.) and nothing bad or “offensive” can be said about “protected groups” (women, minorities, gays, Muslims, illegal immigrants, etc). This ideology has pretty much captured the humanities and social sciences in American universities (as well as the most prominent academic associations and journals, and the most prestigious awards).
This system of thought was codified and weaponized by the largely illegal and unconstitutional expansion of the Title IX Regulations in 2014. This was a provision of the Civil Rights Acts requiring equal expenditures on college sports along gender lines. It was deftly transformed into a PC blitz by equating “discrimination” with “harassment.” When “harassment” was expanded to include “verbal” harassment, it allowed censorship and punishment of any speech that was deemed offensive or “unwanted” by anyone. Title IX offices at every American university (with names like: The Office of Conduct, Compliance, Control, Diversity, Inclusion and Demasculinization) run Gestapo-like operations of surveillance, mandatory reporting, investigations, interrogations (without due process) and reprimands, dismissals and expulsions.
Needless to say, this has had a “chilling effect” on free speech and association. Colleges have turned into social graveyards and intellectual wastelands. The US Department of Education threatened to cut off federal funding to any university that did not enforce these totalitarian policies. Terror Reigned. Sadly, the people most hurt by this were the ones it was intended to help: women and minorities. Their education was trivialized and the informal mentoring that prepared them for professional life was lost, as professors had nothing to do with them beyond purely official activity, fearing charges of harassment.
All of this has had a disastrous effect on morale and enrollment, which is down nationwide. When universities, in effect, told young people: “Come here and be continually harassed, abused and assaulted (or accused of doing such and unable to defend yourself),” it did not seem, along with the high cost and worthless teaching to be such a good deal.
Title IX Political Correctness cleverly hid many of its assaults on intellectual liberty and freedom of speech under the benign code of “civility” and “respectfulness”—meaning any talk, laughter, or behavior that offended anyone was forbidden. But what could be more truly “respectful” than presenting all sides of an issue and letting the student decide what they believe? Professors in my day, after the fashion of John Stuart Mill’s classic essay On Liberty, were objective and detached; presenting all sides fairly before presuming to criticize. After federal court rulings declared such an approach unconstitutional, the civil rights “training” at universities often began with proud statements that freedom of speech as respected absolutely, before listing 200 ways in which it was limited.
The negative effects of these Stalinist decrees (on morale, enrollment, publicity) has caused many universities to hire marketing consultants to clean up their image with slogans and gimmicks. Such fun activities as “Cookie Day” and “The Career Closet” (I’m not making this up) were to present a “safe” and happy image to higher education institutions. But young Americans don’t relish the thought of participating either in a re-education camp or a kindergarten; they want a university. Unless the academy is run by academics, not political activists or marketing consultants, the universities will not return—to the detriment of our entire country.
My guess is that in 10 years, half of America’s universities will be turned into vocational-technical schools or closed entirely (or possibly turned into minimum-security prisons or drug rehab centers). The remaining, I hope, will return to a model similar to the lively, rigorous and useful universities we once had. Combinations of online efficiency with onsite community may be the best solution. And if secondary schools returned to teaching the best of Western Civilization (literature, history, art, music, philosophy) it would prepare Americans who do not go to college to be well-informed, thoughtful citizens, Jefferson’s ideal for American democracy.
I, like my favorite philosophers Jefferson, Hannah Arendt, and Aristotle, remain optimistic that if human beings are rational, social creatures, the academy with survive, in some form. I hope so, because without it, American greatness will not survive.
January 31, 2023 By
The World Health Organization is cobbling together a series of amendments to its health regulations that are hugely influential and effectively binding. No surprise: the are institutionalizing and codifying lockdowns (and everything associated with them) as official pandemic doctrine.
So while we are winning some victories, we are nowhere where we need to be on the greatest threat to human liberty in our time. Brownstone hopes to put together more studies and investigations on this topic, effectively establishing a Shadow World Health Organization. You can donate support now or write us if you want to have a conversation about larger gifts.
Here is some content so far from this week:
It All Began with Fear BY GABRIELLE BAUER. When Covid-19 came along, Laura Dodsworth grew alarmed—not at the virus, but at the fear swirling around it. She watched the fear grow legs and wings and wrap itself around her country. What troubled her most was that her government, historically charged with keeping people calm during times of crisis, seemed to be amplifying the fear. The media, which she had expected to push back against government edicts, gave the fear train an extra shove.
Covid Insider Farrar and His Eugenics Agenda BY PAULA JARDINE. Let’s call a spade a spade and go back to calling this what we used to call it – eugenics. And be ever mindful as the WHO pandemic treaty and vaccine passport projects continue, with the potential for your DNA to become the means by which your identification is verified, that the man who will soon be in charge of setting the global agenda for it is Sir Jeremy Farrar.
Amendments to WHO’s International Health Regulations: An Annotated Guide BY DAVID BELL. The amendments to the IHR are intended to fundamentally change the relationship between individuals, their country’s governments, and the WHO. They place the WHO as having rights overriding that of individuals, erasing the basic principles developed after World War Two regarding human rights and the sovereignty of States. In doing so, they signal a return to a colonialist and feudalist approach fundamentally different to that to which people in relatively democratic countries have become accustomed. The lack of major pushback by politicians and the lack of concern in the media and consequent ignorance of the general public is therefore both strange and alarming.
A Freudian Critique of the Pandemic Response BY BERT OLIVIER. Considering that Freud associates the life instinct (Eros) with the aggregation of families and communities, and with the panoply of creative endeavours comprising culture, and its antithesis, the death instinct (Thanatos), with decomposition, diverse kinds of destruction, and with aggressiveness, the current predominance of the latter – Thanatos – in the world should be obvious, if not conspicuous.
The Decline and Fall of the University BY GARRETT SHELDON. Academia was full of eccentric professors with various crazy ideas and habits (some brilliant), naïve students, and pompous administrators; but they all adhered to the same standard of knowledge. This led not just to scientific discovery and technological progress, but to every other kind of progress: economic, political, social, and ethical.
The Biomedical Security State, British Edition BY AARON KHERIATY. In Britain, Orwell’s country of origin, seven decades after the publication of 1984, it turns out that Big Brother is Always Watching. Perhaps this is a good moment to remind everyone that Orwell’s classic dystopian novel was meant to be a warning, not an instruction manual.
How the “Unvaccinated” Got It Right BY ROBIN KOERNER. The continued insistence on rolling out the “vaccine” to the entire population when the data revealed that those with no comorbidities were at low risk of severe illness or death from COVID was therefore immoral and ascientific on its face. The argument that reduced transmission from the non-vulnerable to the vulnerable as a result of mass “vaccination” could only stand if the long-term safety of the “vaccine” had been established, which it had not.
The Compulsive Delusions of the Imperial Mind BY THOMAS HARRINGTON. Perhaps it is time to admit that much of what occurred during the acute phase of the Covid crisis was, in many ways, the culmination of a long multi-decade process of intense, top-down social pedagogy designed to separate us from our most basic empathic instincts.
Blindsight Is 2020 BY GABRIELLE BAUER. Epidemiologists can do epidemiology. Public health experts can do public health. But none of these experts can do society or human nature any better than intellectuals from other disciplines or even “ordinary people.” No scientist has the legal or moral authority to tell someone they can’t sit next to a parent on their deathbed.
It Started Before the Outbreak: A BioNTech-“Pfizer” Vax Project Timeline BY ROBERT KOGON. There is no avoiding the conclusion that BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine project must in fact have started before any Covid-19 cases had even been reported.
Eugenics, Then and Now BY JEFFREY A. TUCKER. We have solid historical and contemporary proof that eugenic ambitions are capable of sweeping up the most elite intellectuals and policy circles. The dream of curating the population by force to make it more fit is a historical reality and not nearly as discredited as people tend to believe. It can always make a return in new guise, with new language, and new excuses.
How Two Conflicting Covid Stories Shattered Society BY GABRIELLE BAUER. The two stories continued to unfold in tandem, the gulf between them widening with each passing month. Beneath all the arguments about the science lay a fundamental difference in world view, a divergent vision of the type of world needed to steer humanity through a pandemic: A world of alarm or equanimity? A world with more central authority or more personal choice? A world that keeps fighting to the bitter end or flexes with a force of nature?
Drinking and Excess Deaths in lockdown BY TOM JEFFERSON, CARL HENEGHAN. These are deaths wholly attributable to alcohol, which means that at least 27.4% more of our fellow citizens have drunk themselves to death thanks to the imposition of curtailment of individual freedom. Males die more frequently – twice that of females. Mental disorders and accidental poisoning events were present but played a small part in adding to the tally. Most of the deaths will have been habitual heavy drinkers who found refuge by increasing their daily intake.
The Sovietization of Medical Care BY JEFFREY A. TUCKER. The further we move away from health care as essentially a doctor/patient relationship, with freedom of choice on all sides, and the more we allow central plans to replace on-the-ground clinical wisdom, the less it looks like quality health care and the less it contributes to public health. The Soviets already tried this path. It did not work. Health-care by modeling and data targeting: we tried it over the last three years with horrible results.
Humanity Must Move Beyond Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt BY MICHAÉLA C. SCHIPPERS. FUD first brought about by a crisis in health, cascaded into loss of faith in government, in the people around us and sometimes in ourselves. Three years is too long a time for FUD to be considered a crisis, but when a crisis is not resolved, loss of hope is the outcome. Many people have lost work, friends, health and even their lives as a result.
The War on Doctors and Patients BY PIERRE KORY JANUARY 27, 2023. The suppression of doctors’ freedom to advise and treat patients began early in the pandemic. Promising alternative courses of treatment, such as generic drugs like ivermectin or hydroxychloroquine, were shouted down by false news narratives. Media companies took their cues from public health agencies, which exaggerated concerns over people using medicines to treat COVID in ways that were not intended and against medical advice. Positive clinical data was ignored.
The Grim Future of Establishment Journalism BY DAVID JAMES. The professional liars have won. Newsrooms have been eviscerated because Google and Facebook took all the advertising revenue, and the spin merchants in business, government and nonprofits have almost limitless resources. If journalism – as opposed to commentary in blogs, websites, social media, and online channels – is to have a future, a new approach is needed.
How Government and Big Tech Colluded to Usurp Constitutional Rights BY WILLIAM SPRUANCE. Not only did the government turn its capability on the American people, but it recruited the most powerful information companies in the history of the world to advance its agenda, leaving American citizens poorer, stripped of their rights, and left with no place to hide.
CIA Agent Cloaks Lockdown Propaganda in Concern for China BY DEBBIE LERMAN. If anyone is wondering why it’s important to debunk and expose all of the fictions and propaganda of the Covid biosecurity agenda, this tiny window into the terrifying vision they have for our future is the answer.
The West Must Never Again Go Totalitarian BY JOAKIM BOOK. We might still have food on the shelves — though of worse quality and at much higher prices. We might still have the ability to move and work and travel, but heavily circumscribed, always at risk of canceling and always with papers showing the number of needles in your arm, or your scarred heart tissue. Nobody is torturing us (yet anyway) and for the most part we have some semblance of rights and freedoms remaining. ut we’re closer to that horrific totalitarian world today than we were, say five years ago.
The Impending US ICD Vaccine Passport and Its Unconstitutionality BY HARVEY RISCH. The government itself—through the CDC—has determined that vaccination status is not of policy importance. There can thus be no compelling interest for the government to forcibly collect this information against the wishes of the population, even were it not stigmatizing. So much more so after the government has spent the last two years publicly demonizing unvaccinated people for their rational and legitimate personal health choices.
Timeline: The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2 BY EMILY KOPP. This timeline compiles numerous sources in an effort to covey the backstory of the enormously influential article. The timeline is likely to grow as more information emerges. All times have been approximated to Eastern Time.
Engineered, Yes, but in the Wuhan Lab? BY WILL JONES. In fact, there is no evidence the Chinese were aware of the outbreak at all before December. U.S. intelligence has stated it does not have evidence the Chinese were aware of it prior to then, and this is consistent with how the Chinese themselves behaved.