To Restore American Liberty, We Need Colleges that Actually Teach the Liberal Arts

The following article was originally published by The James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal. View it here.

Collectivists of many stripes—but one aim—have been eating away at our free society for over one hundred years.

If we want to reverse America’s current slide into authoritarianism and actively move towards a fully free society, we need to be as clear about our goals as the collectivists have been about theirs. And theirs have always been power and control—to that end, ingeniously using indoctrination masquerading as education.

To counter this, our educational goal should be to vigorously nurture that autonomous, active minority in every profession who are capable of being society’s change agents and who are entrepreneurial. It is this active minority who change societies everywhere—the Medici in Renaissance Florence, the U.S. Founders, and Cobden and Bright in the U.K.

In that effort, the greatest guardian of liberty is autonomy because autonomous people do not tolerate being ruled. Free human beings recognize each other’s sovereignty and seek to persuade others and trade with others as equals, rejecting the force that collectivists use when they can’t persuade.

We need a college (colleges!) specifically dedicated to nurturing autonomous individuals who are well-schooled in the values of reason, individualism, and freedom. We have to keep in laser focus: What kind of education helps young people learn how to live in freedom? To develop autonomy? To discover how to be entrepreneurs of their own lives?

In other words, what is a truly liberating education?

This is why I’m working to open Reliance College in 2024. We want Reliance students to enter the world as self-reliant individuals. We’ll endow them with a rich portfolio of knowledge and skills, and build a portfolio of work, so they can plan and succeed in the lives they imagine for themselves, able to overcome any obstacles and adversities that stand in their way.

Reliance will be a residential college offering a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts, with deep emphasis on reasoning well and objectively, complemented by a real-world problem-solving project in the student’s career interest.

The program will be a specially organized version of a classic Enlightenment liberal arts curriculum, dedicated to the free inquiry of free minds. The college will be entirely endowed by private funding to ensure utmost independence from governmental mandates. It incorporates:

1) Classic works from across the ideological spectrum, treating those of Ludwig von Mises, Ayn Rand, Frederic Bastiat, and other free-society advocates in many fields as equal to other great and influential thinkers;

2) A special methodology which incorporates the study and practice of careful reasoning, concept formation, integration of knowledge across categories, and connecting ideas to their effects on life and the world;

3) Real-world problem projects (in the field of student professional interest) that will connect students to outstanding, accomplished professionals as mentors and create valuable experience and material for a professional portfolio. We’ll find extraordinary mentors, such as The American Optimist’s Joe LonsdaleUCG Group’s Jim KandracExplaining Post-Modernism’s Stephen Hicks, and Laitram’s Jay Lapeyre;

4) Special work on crucial skills such as writing, active listening and teamwork, personal finance and economics, and the role of art in a well-lived life.

Over many years, I have built my knowledge about human development, starting with my work at Council Oak Montessori School for students ages 3-15, which I founded and ran for 27 years. The Montessori educational philosophy has been ahead of its time for 100 years in understanding the importance of human development to optimal learning and growth. I have used the Montessori framework while honing my knowledge of what young adults need to grow into flourishing human beings. We have incorporated this knowledge into every aspect of our educational programs.

By developing their autonomy and self-reliant entrepreneurship, the program strongly influences students to grasp and accept the values and ideas of living as a free person in a free society. It does so by:

1) Helping them to develop an objective, reality-oriented way of thinking (and we know that a free society is, objectively, the best way for humans to thrive);

2) Providing a process by which students can deeply examine the meaning and consequences of ideas from all sides, collectivist to individualist, while treating the works of the freedom movement thinkers as equal to that of other great thinkers;

3) Offering a culture of inspiration, love of beauty and greatness, and deep community of shared ideas and values. Young people desperately need such a culture, especially when surrounded by as many postmodernist, nihilist intellectual and artistic influences as we find in contemporary America.

At Reliance, we will offer young people the vision of a life full of adventure and achievement.

We already have a successful track record with this program. For the past 13 years, we have implemented it in carefully crafted summer and weekend programs with remarkable results, and we’re running one this summer, July 23-30, in Chicago. (See The Great Connections for more information.)

Student after student has spontaneously reported to us that their approach to their lives has been transformed by these programs. To this day, we hear from them about their successes due to what they learned at The Great Connections. Students attending our full college program will have the opportunity to learn and develop far more.

Given the caliber of the students who have attended our summer program, Reliance will likely attract highly intelligent students who are dissatisfied with what’s available elsewhere. Reliance’s program will boost their functioning so they will be outstanding in their work performance. Their academic performance, combined with their real-world problem project work, will make us attractive to more and more employers, students, and parents. This will build the College’s reputation quickly.

The program will also achieve our end goal: to develop an active and self-confident minority who can defend their rights to their own lives and the free society. We’re aiming for a New American Revolution!

Our long-term plan is to:

1) Start with a small school in rented quarters where students get the individual attention and guidance they need;

2) Rapidly add a continuing education program for retired adults looking for their next path in life (and who will become great supporters and allies);

3) Build and facilitate a rich cultural community for free-society advocates, with events and discussions on movies, art, architecture, poetry, plays—you name it—emulating the vibrant salon community of the 19th century;

4) Expand our campus to hold multiple small colleges, similar to the Oxford University model.

We are growing a private scholarship fund and endowment for the program. Given the rigorous nature of the program, we don’t expect acquiring accreditation to be difficult.

There will be no faculty tenure. Teachers will be expected to uphold our values and follow our mission.

We seek teachers in love with our program and dedicated to our methods. Our teachers will attend a special training course in our methodology and approach. We also plan regular faculty sessions in which we’ll reflect on whether we’re following our mission and will strive for teaching improvement. Thus, we will avoid drifting into the “wokeness” that afflicts so many colleges.

We have created a comprehensive, well-funded, and expert marketing plan to get started. We have a business model that enables reasonable budgets with affordable tuition for the next seven years, created after years of research conducted on the administration and funding of colleges in the United States.

Reliance College will offer all this to people who expect to pay a reasonable price for a real education rather than a price inflated by no-longer-deserved prestige. We will look for students who want more than vocational training or ideological programming.

Given the current state of education, it’s an auspicious time to start a new, independent institution of higher learning.

Marsha Familaro Enright created the Reason, Individualism, Freedom Institute (RIFI), which runs The Great Connections Seminars. She is the co-founder of Council Oak Montessori Elementary School, one of the top private elementary schools in Chicago.

Why the U.S. Needs New Colleges

This article was originally published by The Chalkboard Review. View it here.

Collectivists of many stripes—but one aim—have been eating away at our free society for over 100 years. If we want to reverse America’s slide into authoritarianism and move towards a free society, we need to be as clear about our goals as the collectivists have been about theirs. And theirs have always been power and control, especially through the means of education.

This is why I’m working to open Reliance College, dedicated to developing autonomous and entrepreneurial young people. Our program focuses not only on crucial knowledge but on what learning experiences develop the habits and skills, as well as courage, autonomy, and entrepreneurship. 

As we look around at what historian Brad Thompson calls the education apocalypse, I am reminded of its origins in the 1960’s student “rebellions.” I remember sitting in a biochemistry class at Northwestern University in 1971 when some students forced their way in to protest the Vietnam War — the keyword being ‘forced.’

As George Leef and others have written about, Herbert Marcuse’s Repressive Tolerance justifies the use of force. Leef writes: 

“the spirit of his book Repressive Tolerance animates the speech code enthusiasts. Marcuse argued that free speech was actually repressive because it allegedly put status quo ideas in a position of dominance and suppressed the voices of dissent. His ‘solution’ was to suppress ideas critical of his radical Marxist notions to make things more fair.”

Bottom line: If others don’t accept your demands, force them into compliance. Sound familiar? We see that endgame played out all around us today: the violent occupation of city centers, condoning of looters, and heavy-handed controls throughout the epidemic.

The left advanced their goal but didn’t succeed in the 60’s and 70’s so they went into education. Violent 1960’s radicals became influential professors, such as bombing Communist Weatherman Underground leader Bill Ayers who was a Distinguished Professor of Education and Senior University Scholar at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He’s spread his social justice vision far and wide among teachers. And he’s but one, albeit very active, example. With all the teachers they have influenced, any wonder this ideology is being taught and enforced everywhere from pre-school to graduate school?

Department after department in school after school made it difficult for professors who disagreed with them—see the recent study by Langbert and Stevens of how ridiculously far Academia leans to one side, politically.

What’s worse, students have become gleeful enforcers of the authoritarians, using such tools as cell phone videos, Twitter, and the heckler’s veto. It allows students to enjoy the thrill of power over their superiors while believing that they are moral crusaders when outing ideological violators.

Thankfully, alumni are waking up and refusing to support these institutions; and some of the less financially stable schools have been folding. But, with all the government loan money and vast endowments at the elite institutions, defunding the universities is unlikely to happen any time soon.

Countering this trend is Hillsdale College, along with a few others. And free society advocates have been creating wonderful centers for study at schools around the country, such as the James Madison Center at PrincetonGeorge Mason University Law School, and the Institute for the Study of Capitalism at Clemson. They’re doing terrific work for their students but they aren’t able to change their institutions.

At this juncture, we need a Parallel University System, as free as possible of government controls. Bari Weiss and Panos Kanelos have thrown their hats in the ring with the proposed University of Austin, which has the laudable aim of the “fearless pursuit of truth.” I look forward to the university’s success, but is one alternative enough to restore us to a free society?

Free societies emerged from the eminence of reason, the development of individualism and autonomy, and the recognition of individual rights during the Enlightenment. The greatest guardian of liberty is autonomy because autonomous people do not tolerate being ruled.  We need a college specifically dedicated to nurturing autonomous individuals who are well-schooled in the values of reason, individualism, and freedom. 

For the past 13 years, we have implemented such an education in carefully crafted summer and weekend programs with remarkable results. Now we’re ready to expand to Reliance College, opening 2024. Reliance will be a residential college that offers a Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Arts, with deep emphasis on reasoning well and objectively, and complemented by a real-world-problem solving project in the student’s career interest.   

We are looking for people who want more than vocational training or ideological programming. We seek people who want to think for themselves and pursue their own happiness. Contact me if you want to join us.

Austrian Economist Bob Murphy Interviews Marsha Familaro Enright on School Vouchers

Austrian economist Bob Murphy talked to Marsha Familaro Enright about the reasons for her opposition to school vouchers, even though she founded, and ran the private Council Oak Montessori School for 27 years. Enright warns that they will ruin the independence of private schools.

Enright also describes her work towards creating optimal higher education using the Montessori philosophy, through The Great Connections Seminars. Listen to the discussion on Murphy’s podcast, The Bob Murphy Show here.