A university is a place that teaches mostly Spanish 101, Calculus 2, Introduction to the Study of Geography, Composition, and Beginners Something-Something. The first two years we do remediation because students come to us utterly bereft of the knowledge of history, geography, English grammar, foreign languages, geography, etc. The second two years we try to teach some marketable skills. The reason why I don’t teach big ideas isn’t the woke police. I’m simply too busy teaching where the continents are located and that a complete sentence needs a conjugated verb. The most important question at a university isn’t who is going to teach the big ideas course but who’s teaching the 26 sections of beginners composition and 18 sections of Calc 1.
I looked at the proposed course offerings for the new free speech university in Texas. The university is a great idea, and I wish the fine folks organizing it every success. But they are a university like I’m a Chinese guy with a beard. They are a debate club for retired scholars or bright children of Silicon Valley software developers. The only students that can have an interest in what they are saying, the capacity to comprehend it, and most importantly, the leisure to pursue it are the tiniest of elites.
The left-wing indoctrination in colleges that is absolutely real and absolutely overwhelming doesn’t happen at the level of big-ideas courses about Plato. It happens when you take 101, and then 102, and then 201 and so on, and the professor is the person who is always there, always helping, always seeing you in their office where you go to cry and share that your very first girlfriend broke up with you or your mom has been diagnosed with cancer or your 3-year-old has been spiking a fever for 3 days. And since you are human, you get emotionally attached to that professor. And you want to be like them. That’s when it happens.
There are many people who want to teach big ideas. But the real impact rests with the grunts who teach the intro courses and explain where Mexico is on a map and what the Cold War was on the most basic level and hold office hours in the same room for 15 years and spend most of their time correcting “would had did” on the final papers. So don’t tell me who will teach about the perception of Plato’s thought in the late Middle Ages. Tell me who’ll be teaching German 101, how you will pay them, and how you’ll make sure they are with you and only you for a couple of decades. In higher ed, this is the number one issue.
It’s always the grunts who win. Always. The people who do the boring, repetitive daily work. But an extracurricular free speech activity club is a cute idea that I support. It will have zero impact on the general state of higher ed and will soon become as ideological and un-free as the phenomenon it wants to oppose but that’s the way of all humans.