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.