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Mona Charen
Mona Charen
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It's Education, but Higher Is a Misnomer

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I will not get sentimental, or so I keep telling myself. Well, maybe a little sentimental, but never maudlin at the approaching departure of my 17-year-old son for college in the fall. Fall? Did I say fall? No, he leaves in August — cruel calendar!

If I sometimes find myself leafing through photos of him at 2 and 5 and 11 — here nodding off in the stroller, there in his Harry Potter costume — and if there's a smile at the memory of how enthralled the preschool David was with the Triassic, Cretaceous, Jurassic and its fearsome denizens, well, that's the way of mothers. One video I happened to pick off the shelf featured an 8-year-old David narrating a tour of the backyard with, as he put it, grinning, "my dimwitted assistant, Ben." That would be his little brother, who knew well how to give it back.

"Mom," Ben called on another occasion, "David hit my hand with his face. Can you punish him?"

Now we count the days until David is off to college. A liberal parent may glow with excitement and pride at the prospect of his child attending college. Isn't that why she got straight A's, crammed for the SATs, played travel soccer, and dug wells in Guatemala during summer breaks? But no conservative can be entirely cheerful at the prospect of an impressionable youth being bundled off to a university in the United States. Academia is a conquered land — the playground of the ultra-left.

A recent report by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education counts David's college as among the seven best for free speech in the nation. That such a list is required speaks volumes. The seven are Arizona State, Dartmouth, William & Mary, the University of Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon, the University of Tennessee Knoxville, and the University of Virginia. Not that these seven are moderate in their political or social views. Don't make me laugh. Not that they have more than one or two Republicans in the whole humanities faculty. Ha! No, these schools excel simply because they don't exert the kind of totalitarian thought and speech control so commonplace on American campuses.

We scrape together our hard-earned income (lots of it) to deposit our cherished offspring at schools that are determined to teach them to despise everything we revere — even learning.

Three decades ago, at Stanford University, Jesse Jackson led chants of "Hey, hey, ho, ho, Western Civ has got to go." If you were in any doubt, the National Association of Scholars reports that the mob was wildly successful.

The institutions that are (or were) one of the glories of Western civilization — universities — now no longer see the worth of teaching the history of the West.

In "The Vanishing West," the NAS examined the curricula at 50 leading colleges over time. In 1964, all of them required some sort of Western civilization survey course or interdisciplinary course treating the same themes. They began with Greek civilization and encompassed Rome, the rise of Christianity, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, literature, art, music, the history of science, political philosophy, the modern era, and so forth. By 2010, none of the 50 colleges required any course in Western Civ. Even for history majors, survey courses on Western civilization are rarely required. The same is true for American history.

Students can still find courses on these subjects, but only as choices in a vast cafeteria of offerings that also includes courses like "Lesbian Queer Media Cultures" (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), "The Living and the UnDead: An Inquiry into Zombies in Cinema and Literature" (University of Mississippi), "the Militarization of American Daily Life" (Oberlin), and "The American Sexual Past" (Temple University). The term "higher education" is fast becoming a misnomer. American students are graduating with scads of courses on zombies and queer theory — which is why we're importing an ever-larger number of our Ph.D.s.

David, thankfully, will have little time for nonsense courses (not that we'd pay for them anyway) because he will be studying music — specifically trumpet performance. Like the hard sciences, music remains a realm largely uncontaminated by the absurd political and sexual obsessions that afflict so many other disciplines.

Someone who aspires to play in a symphony orchestra has a sheaf of requirements: Music Theory, Keyboard Studies, Harmony, Solfege, Eurhythmics, and (huzzah!) survey of Western Music History. That's in addition to studio, ensembles, and practice time. He will have time for just one elective in his first semester (and that must fulfill a distribution requirement).

We are thrilled for David — and relieved that because he has chosen music, the corrupt culture of American "higher" education will get very few opportunities to miseducate him.

To find out more about Mona Charen and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.

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