By guest columnist Patrice Johnson
January is almost a wrap, but something is in the wind. Take the University of North Carolina. On Jan. 26, the Wall Street Journal reported that UNC’s board of trustees wrapped up the month with a 12-0 vote “to create a new school committed to free expression in higher education.” Midway through January, Governor Ron DeSantis unveiled Florida’s version of the “Hillsdale of the South.” About a week earlier, on Jan. 6, Stanford University eliminated its harmful language list in response to “mockery, ridicule, and widespread internal and external criticism.”
What is going on?
In a word: Antiestablishmentarianism (antiestablishment + arian). The term, coined in the ‘60s hippie counterculture, refers to the predictable, if uncomfortable, phenomenon of young people rebelling against society’s norms and expectations.
Incredible as it may sound, progressive politics has dominated elite universities since woke was but past tense for wake. As Christopher Rufo, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute wrote in Recapturing Higher Education:
Trending: DOJ Releases Sentencing Statement On Violent Jan 6 Defendant Who Smashed Capitol Window, Sprayed Cops In Face With Pepper Spray...Doesn’t Mention He Encouraged Others to Attack Cops, Voted For Obama TWICE, and Did NOT Vote For Trump in 2016
The most significant political story of the past half-century is the activist Left’s “long march through the institutions.” Beginning in the 1960s, left-wing activists and intellectuals, inspired by theorists such as Italian Communist Antonio Gramsci and New Left philosopher Herbert Marcuse, made a concerted effort to embed their ideas in education, government, philanthropy, media, and other important sectors.
It’s a tough pill to swallow, but wokeism has erupted like projectile vomit and splattered over the land of Normalcy.
According to a College Fix survey of 14 humanities and STEM departments at UNC, “Democratic professors outnumber Republicans 16 to 1. In the English department, the ratio is 23 to 1, and in Chemistry 28-1. At private and Ivy League schools, the ratios are often steeper.”
Journalism fell farthest. As Investor’s Business Daily reported, “Despite journalists’ denials, it’s now pretty much a fact that journalism is one of the most left-wing of all professions.” An IBD survey found that 95.59% of all journalists admitted being “left of center” or “moderate.”
The astonishing fact is that wokeism, progressivism, communism, the Left—pick your term—has become The Establishment. We see its imprint each day in print and broadcast news, in the drop of prickly one-liners in television shows, in a BLM lanyard swaying beside a stethoscope cradled around a physician’s neck.
Is the establishment established?
Psychologist Erik Erikson postulated that humans mature through various stages of development. Erikson’s Stages of Development determined that youth between ages 12 to 18 undergo a turbulent yet essential phase. Teenagers need to question social norms in order to arrive at a sense of self and personal identity, “which will continue to influence behavior and development for the rest of a person’s life.” Success leads to an ability to stay true to oneself; Failure leads to role confusion and a weak sense of self. Snowflakeism.
As anyone who has survived the turbulent teenage years will attest, Erickson’s views have the ring of truth.
If the ’60s taught us anything, it is that no self-respecting youth wants to play in the old-guard sandbox.
The world keeps turning, and what was old—spins up new. The forums of open debate that many of us took for granted as we marched against the Vietnam War (or empty foot powder dispensers in our high school locker rooms) to the lamenting croons of Bob Dylan were trampled underfoot during the past few decades. Alternative views, no longer tolerated on college campuses, were cold-shouldered or harassed to silence.
But just as Punxsutawney Phil is about to poke its nose into the light on Ground Hog’s Day, so too free speech is burrowing tunnels bound to surface on campuses.
Florida and North Carolina: Forever Young.
North Carolina is reviving “the academic ideal of a campus as a haven for free inquiry and debate.” Rather than trying to reform the entrenched, UNC is going to let the free marketplace determine who wins. On Jan. 26, the WSJ Editorial Board published UNC Takes on the University Echo Chamber. In it, the writers stated:
UNC will establish the School of Civic Life and Leadership and plans to hire professors from across the ideological spectrum to teach in such academic departments as history, literature, philosophy, political science and religion. These disciplines have become enforcers of ideological uniformity at most schools. Board Chair David Boliek and Vice Chair John Preyer tell us that the idea is to end “political constraints on what can be taught in university classes.”
Rather than replacing current professors or creating faculty turf battles, UNC plans to create a discrete program with its own dean and at least 20 new professors to build a syllabus free from ideological enforcers. Students will be able to choose the new classes to fulfill university core requirements. Those who aren’t interested can stay in the existing courses.
In their new experiment, UNC will have students debate openly. “I don’t want to indoctrinate on the right any more than I want to indoctrinate on the left,” says Mr. Preyer.
Watch medical students at the University of Minnesota, who were caught on video reciting a disturbing woke pledge that’s being dubbed the “woke-acratic oath.”
Governor Ron Desantis (R) in Florida took a novel approach as well. As Rufo reported, after the left-dominated New College repeatedly failed to meet recruitment targets, achieve financial stability, or improve its dismal dropout and graduation rates, after accepting almost anyone with a 74 percent admissions rate but yielding a grim 13% matriculation rate and after legislators contemplated shutting down the college, DeSantis threw a Hail Mary. He brought in a new board of reformers and turned the school around.
So, New College is shedding its tired, old skin and becoming the “Hillsdale of the South.” In a Woodstock-like transformation, it is re-emerging as a classical liberal arts college to provide a distinctly traditional brand of education and scholarship.
The premise of this reform is simple. Voters in Florida, who charter and fund the public-university system through their legislative representatives, deserve to have their values reflected and transmitted in their public institutions.
Talk about a revolutionary concept.
Meanwhile, word is spreading about the mismanaged, ethically challenged Electronic Registration Information Center. As Alabama joins Louisiana in terminating its agreement with the opaque, third-party, and Soros-funded organization, authorities in other states are asking:
Does ERIC represent the largest government-sponsored data breach of personal identifying information in history?
Could ERIC be bad for America?
Why in the blazes are we using a system that is bloating the rolls instead of cleaning them when effective alternatives are available?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind. Something tells me we’re about to find out. Meanwhile, it’s time to dig out our bell-bottomed jeans and let out the seams.