After watching students at several major universities announce support for the Hamas terrorist group, some experts at The Heritage Foundation say it’s time that schools focus on teaching morality.
However, many schools may be too far gone, according to Heritage senior research fellow Jay Greene, the former head of the University of Arkansas’s Department of Education Reform.
“It feels like we’re bargaining in Sodom if there are 10 righteous people to save the higher education system,” he said. “And I’m not sure that there are. I actually think that most universities are beyond reform. I don’t think it should be our project to rescue them.”
On Nov. 29, The Heritage Foundation hosted an event titled “For the Promotion of Learning and Virtue: Moral Education in the University.”
In many ways, the event was a reaction to higher education’s support for Palestinian terrorists.
Hamas has denied that its members beheaded children or attacked women.
Schools Teaching RadicalismWidespread student support for a violent terrorist group shows that U.S. universities are profoundly broken, Mr. Greene said. This embrace of terrorism flows from the logic of the critical theory that many colleges teach, he said.
“[Critical theory] tries to divide the world into ‘oppressor’ and ‘oppressed,’ and everyone by their group identity can be placed in those categories,” he said. “Therefore, there’s no limit to how roughly you could treat a person other than what you think the badness of their group is, or the goodness of their group is.”
Many believers in critical theory see Israelis as oppressors and Palestinians as oppressed people.
Schools’ teaching critical theory led directly to students’ chanting “genocidal slogans” against Israel, Mr. Greene said.
Instead of critical theory, students in both high school and college should be getting a “classical education” that teaches moral reasoning and logical thought, according to Albert Chang, an assistant professor at Arkansas’s Department of Education Reform.
“Students that go through classical education, some will get inoculated from critical theory and illogical things and whatever is politically popular these days,” Mr. Chang said. “They think for themselves, they can think independently.”
Changing CollegeHistorically, academics have searched for truth by making logical arguments and trying to prove their beliefs, Mr. Washut said. But critical theory’s division into “privileged” and “oppressed” identities rejects this framework, he said.
Under critical theory, “there’s no actual academic solution to the problem,” Mr. Washut said. “The only solution is one of power.”
And right now, critical theory advocates hold more power in universities, Mr. Washut said.
“The overwhelming weight of the propaganda ... makes it really hard to find places that are actually committed to genuine academic freedom and goodness,” Mr. Washut said.
So few universities oppose critical theory that the number practically “rounds to zero,” Mr. Greene said. In response, people who want freedom of education should stop donating to colleges and start building new universities, he said.
Americans should also work to take federal tax money away from universities, he said. Often, tax dollars that go to schools help fund critical-theory-driven diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) budgets that serve as “a slush fund for administrators,” Mr. Greene said.
“If we begin to starve the beast of money by donor strikes, by cutting back on excess subsidy from the public treasury, the first things they'll eliminate are the things that are the most wasteful, and DEI will be among them.”
The United States doesn’t need thousands of new universities to fix higher education, Mr. Greene said. A few dozen would do the trick.
“We have the money,” Mr. Greene said. “This is not a financial problem. This is a matter of will. The wealthy people of the late 19th century founded a whole set of universities because they were dissatisfied with American universities at the time.”
Universities providing moral education should put students in environments that encourage community, Mr. Washut said. Students are most vulnerable to radical indoctrination when they feel lonely and see the world through online networks, he said.
“You’ve got to turn off the screens in some way.”