Thursday, March 08, 2007

Accrediting and The Politisization of Higher Education

The establishment of a college, a higher educational institution, is subject to accrediting. Each college, both private and public, is judged to fit a certain pre-determined criteria of subject matter. Perhaps the criteria varies somewhat from state to state or locality to locality. If a college conforms to that subject matter, it is accredited, and therefore is given permission to grant degrees. If a college does not conform to that subject matter, it is not accredited, and therefore it is denied the right to grant any degrees.

I would like to dwell on the significance of the latter scenario. This essentially means that the ability to get a college degree is dependant on biased political, economic and historical criteria. One cannot get a college degree at a college that teaches ideas that various governmental officials disfavor - even at a private institution! For example, the Ludwig Von Mises Institute is a functional college that specializes in economics and political science, but since the subject matter it teaches does not conform to the government's criteria, they are not allowed to grant degrees.

This is quite significant because it extends into one's worklife (particularly for jobs that require college degrees to suceed in), and therefore effects the course of people's entire lives. Why should a political science or economics job require that one have a degree only from certain state-approved colleges? Why should it effectively be impossible to get a degree without state-santioned subject matter? Basically, people who prefer to attend higher educational institutions that the government doesn't approve of are forced to go without a college degree. The only way for them to get a degree is to attend other institutions, which may very well deprive them of any alternative subject matter and methods of learning.

It should be no wonder why so many American college professors tend to teach historical, political, economic and social doctrines that are biased towards the establishment. Their ability to teach courses that grant degrees is entirely dependant on the subject matter conforming to governmentally-determined criteria. In a sense, I feel bad for them. The better of them try their best to bend the rules and encourage healthy debate. But ultimately the structure of the system is stacked against them. They can only go so far before they are being too "controversial" for the higher-ups to allow, even at private colleges.

In a system in which subject matter is determined by a one-size-fits-all criteria, there is no such thing as a genuine diversity of ideas being presented. Nor is there room for any genuine debate. The areas that are most harmed by this are political science, history, economics, buisiness, sociology, law (especially law) and even some subsets of the natural sciences (such as ecology and climatology). The majority of economics professors in America are either (1) Keynsians (2) Friedmanites/Supply-Siders or (3) Marxists. It is practically impossible to get a degree in economics without being taught classes biased towards these things. It is practically impossible to get a degree in history without being subjected to questionable revisionisms and centric historical doctrines.

All of this constitutes the politisization of education. Independant ideas and innovations cannot be created in such an atmosphere. Such an atmosphere can only slowly condition people into certain uniform ideas (most often wrong ones) and make their careers dependant on the personal and political considerations of a central planning board in an ivory tower. Every time a college is denied accreditation by the government on the basis of subject matter, people who are students and prospective students of those colleges are denied legal recognition of their work and the employment oppurtunities that come with having a degree.

A truly independant and free college system would consist of a diversity different types of colleges that each teach from different standpoints and perspectives, different methods of teaching and different selections of subject matter. While this is obviously not the case for the public college system, for the most part it isn't the case with the private college system either because it is regulated to the point where it still has to conform to the government's criteria of subject matter. A very small percentage of accredited private colleges can get away with meaningfully bending or breaking the rules.

The central planners, the determiners and enforcers of the uniform criteria, are unable to concieve of the possibility that different people prefer and/or require different/diverse methods of learning, or that it is good to expose them to different ideas. They would rather deny people educatonal and employment oppurtunities than expose them to variety and ideas that they might not personally like. Consequentially, our colleges have increasingly become bastions of irrationality, because rational debate and variance among rational people is severely discouraged.

It is often said by conservatives that the colleges are run by liberals. I disagree (that is not to say that it isn't run by SOME liberals). All public colleges and most private ones are run by the government and assorted establishmentarians who ally with it, which can include anyone of any party allegiance or any political ideology, including conservatives. However, it would be accurate to say that this group is dominated by a particular set of ideas, all of which are ultimately biased towards the government and leave little or no room for flexibility. The politisization of highschool and lower is bad enough as it is, but we have also politisized higher education and therefore onwards into the workplace.

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