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Friday, February 24, 2012

A College That Teaches Liberty, Not Liberalism

“What is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.” — James Madison in Federalist 51.

Higher education in the United States has become nearly synonymous with liberalism. Many conservative parents likely cringe when they imagine the mind-bending lectures that their young, knowledge-hungry, first-year college students will be subjected to upon arrival at university. Luckily, there is an antithesis to the trend.

The words college and conservative are not often used in the same context. The first years of college are considered by a great number of individuals as a time for self-exploration and pushing the limits — and rightly so. Unfortunately for many students, self-exploration is hampered by the constant barrage of liberal indoctrination that some educators consider knowledge and pushing the limits is encouraged only when the limits involve self-destructive personal behaviors. One small liberal arts college located on 200 acres in southern rural Michigan, though, has been rejecting regressive modern trends in higher education since its founding in 1844.

Hillsdale College is an independent, coeducational, residential, liberal arts college with a student body of about 1,400. Students who are accepted to the selective school embark on a four-year journey of learning that leads them to a bachelor of arts or a bachelor of sciences degree. Perhaps more important than the resultant degree Hillsdale students receive from the accredited institution, though, is the path the college’s educators take to bring them to the degree.

In the 1970s, the college made certain that liberal indoctrination on behalf of the status-quo Federal bureaucracy would never creep into its halls. The Department of Health, Education and Welfare set out to interfere with Hillsdale admissions policy during that period on the pretext that the school received Federal money in the form of student loans and financial aid. The Federal agency demanded that the college adopt an affirmative action admissions policy despite the fact that it was the first American college to prohibit in its charter any discrimination based on race, religion or sex, and became an early force for the abolition of slavery. It was also the second college in the Nation to grant four-year liberal arts degrees to women. Because the government’s unconstitutional mandate would make the college subject its admission roster to levels of discrimination that it had never before practiced, Hillsdale’s trustees responded with two resolutions:

  • The College would continue its policy of non-discrimination.
  • “With the help of God,” it would “resist, by all legal means, any encroachments on its independence.”

A decade of litigation ensued; and in 1984, the Supreme Court ruled against Hillsdale, saying it was indeed subject to bureaucratic, unconstitutional mandates. The college announced that rather than comply with unconstitutional Federal regulation, it would no longer accept Federal taxpayer money to pay student tuition. In 2007, the school also rejected any tuition assistance funded by the State of Michigan, instead opting to aid students who need financial help with private contributions.

Hillsdale has taught a Constitution course to its students since the college opened its doors in 1844 as a part of a core curriculum that takes up about half of each student’s four-year learning journey. Because the college’s administration believes that the United States has reached a point in its history when the Constitutional foundation of the Nation will either be decimated completely by Federal bureaucracy or renewed by the populace, it offers the course online to anyone who signs up here.

“Constitution 101: The Meaning and History of the Constitution” is a 10-week online course presented by Hillsdale College.

An expanded format from the “Introduction to the Constitution” lecture series with Hillsdale College President Dr. Larry Arnn, Constitution 101 follows closely the one-semester course required of all Hillsdale College undergraduate students.

In this course, you can:

  • Watch lectures from the same Hillsdale faculty who teach on campus;
  • Study the same readings taught in the College course;
  • Submit questions for weekly Q&A sessions with the faculty;
  • Access a course study guide;
  • Test your knowledge through weekly quizzes; and
  • Upon completion of the course, receive a certificate from Hillsdale College

This course is offered free, but you are encouraged to donate at least $50 dollars for the course. What you say, $50 bucks for a free course? Well, in my humble opinion, $50 dollars is a very small price to pay for an on-line college level course on our founding documents. Both Mark Levine and Sean Hannity have endorsed this college and the course. I have looked into the course and will be signing up.

Hillsdale College does not merely offer a liberal arts degree, but also offers degrees in physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, business, finance, education, economics, pre-medicine, and pre-engineering. This allows students to graduate with a BS degree and skills that allow them to go on to productive jobs in the professions. You will not find Hillsdale graduates hanging around the Occupy crowd with their useless educations in women’s studies, western civilization, African-American studies, or museum science. For a more complete listing of majors and programs click here.

As an example here is the published curriculum for a student wishing to pursue a course in engineering, something close to my heart:

“During the freshman and sophomore years, students should take: University Physics (Physics 201, 202 and 203), 15 hours; Mathematics (120 (or 113), 220, 320 and 340), 14-15 hours; Chemistry (101), four hours; Freshman Rhetoric and the Great Books (English 101 and 102), six hours; humanities, nine hours; social science (including economics) nine hours, Computer Programming (C), six hours; speech, three hours. The above curriculum should be a strong basis for entry into any engineering program but should be adjusted to reflect specific requirements for the chosen area of study at the engineering school of choice. Some engineering fields require additional chemistry courses. Chemical engineering students would replace Physics 203 with Chemistry 102. Students wishing to receive a degree from Hillsdale under one of the programs described above should add the College core requirements.”

Physics at Hillsdale College is a rigorous program designed to prepare students for a wide variety of careers in all areas of science and engineering. Students study everything from the basic laws of nature to the behavior of subatomic particles; they also develop important problem-solving and analytical abilities along with essential qualitative and quantitative skills. Since the knowledge and skills obtained from the study of physics are a fundamental part of a liberal arts education, students of all majors participate in physics classes.

While a large number of students take physics, only a very small group of students major in it each year. This creates a program rich in hands-on experimentation and personal attention. Ask any physics major and the first thing you are likely to hear is that the teachers are exceptionally passionate and involved. Each physics major must complete a senior thesis involving original research. Research is frequently done one-on-one with a chosen advisor, which allows students to tailor their research to their specific interests without sacrificing any access to equipment or resources.

As you can see from the examples shown above Hillsdale is much more than a liberal arts college. They prepare a student for good paying jobs in the professions. A student not only prepared to a physicist or economist, but also a student well-grounded in the basis of our civil society and our Republic.

In a recent interview with the college’s publication, Imprimis, Hillsdale President Larry P. Arnn discusses the importance of all Americans’ dedication to the values set forth in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Of the Declaration he says:

“There are three incredible things to keep in mind about the Declaration. First, there had never been anything like it in history. It was believed widely that the only way to have political stability was to have some family appointed to rule. King George III went by the title “Majesty.” He was a nice and humble man compared to other kings; but still, when his son wanted to marry a noble of lower station, he was told he mustn’t do that, no matter what his heart said. That was the known world at the time of the American Founding.

Second, look at the end of the Declaration. Its signers were being hunted by British troops. General Gage had an order to find and detain them as traitors. And here they were putting their names on a revolutionary document and sending it to the King. Its last sentence reads: “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” That is how people talk on a battlefield when they are ready to die for each other.

The third thing about the Declaration is even more extraordinary in light of the first two: It opens by speaking of universal principles. It does not portray the Founding era as unique—“When in the Course of human events” means any time—or portray the Founding generation as special or grand—“it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another” means any people. The Declaration is thus an act of obedience—an act of obedience to a law that persists beyond the English law and beyond any law that the Founders themselves might make. It is an act of obedience to the “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God,” and to certain self-evident principles—above all the principle “that all men are created equal” with “certain unalienable Rights.”

For the signers to be placing their lives at risk, and to be doing so while overturning a way of organizing society that had dominated for two thousand years, and yet for them to begin the Declaration in such a humble way, is very grand.”

Here is what Dr. Arnn had to say about the Constitution

“As for the Constitution, first, it is important to realize that some of the most influential modern historians suggest that it represents a break with the Declaration—that it represents a sort of second founding. If this were true, it would mean that the Founders changed their minds about the principles in the Declaration, and that in following their example we could change our minds as well. But in fact it is not true that the Constitution broke with the Declaration. It is false on its face.

The Constitution contains three fundamental arrangements: representation, which is the direct or indirect basis of the three branches of government described in the first three articles of the Constitution; separation of powers, as embodied in those three branches; and limited government, which is obvious in the Constitution’s doctrine of enumerated powers—there is a list of things that Congress can do in Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution, and the things that are not listed it may not do. And all three of these fundamental arrangements, far from representing a break with the Declaration, are commanded by it.”

When queried on his remarks about the Declaration and Constitution by the interviewer:

“I quote you again: “Woodrow Wilson and the founders of modern liberalism call these doctrines of limited government that appear in the Declaration and the Constitution obsolete. They argue that we now live in the age of progress and that government must be an engine of that progress.”

Wilson was dealing with conditions that the Founders could scarcely have imagined: industrialization, dense urban populations, and enormous waves of immigration. So what did he get wrong?”

Dr. Arnn responded:

“The first thing he got wrong was looking back on earlier America as a simple age. There was nothing simple about it. The Founders had to fight a war against the largest force on earth. They had to figure out how to found a government based on a set of principles that had never formed the basis of a government. The original Congress was called the Continental Congress, although no one would understand the extent of the continent until Lewis and Clark reported to President Jefferson in 1806. They had to figure out a way for the first free government in history to grow across that continent. These things took vast acts of imagination. And this is not even to mention the crisis of slavery and the Civil War. So the idea that the complications of the late 19th century were something new, or were greater by some order of magnitude, is bunkum.

The second mistake Wilson makes is fundamental, and goes to the core of the American idea. Wilson was opposed to the structure imposed on the government by the Constitution—for instance, the separation of powers—because it impedes what he calls progress.

In other words, human nature is such that human beings need to be governed. We need government if we are not to descend into anarchy. But since human beings will make up the government, government itself must be limited or it will become tyrannical. Just as we outside the government require to be governed, those inside the government require to be governed. And that has to be strictly arranged because those inside the government need, and they will have, a lot of power.

Against this way of thinking, Wilson argued that progress and evolution had brought human beings to a place and time where we didn’t have to worry about limited government. He rejected what the Founders identified as a fixed or unchanging human nature, and thought we should be governed by an elite class of people who are not subject to political forces or constitutional checks and balances—a class of people such as we find in our modern bureaucracy. This form of government would operate above politics, acting impartially in accordance with reason.

Now, it’s pretty easy for us today to judge whether Wilson or the Founders were right about this. Look at our government today. Is the bureaucracy politically impartial? Is it efficient and rational, as if staffed by angels? Or is it politically motivated and massively self-interested?”

Now this is something you would want to hear from a college president or professor, not the disrespect of the Deceleration and Constitution expressed by Obama, the so-called Constitutional expert and lecturer he is purported to be. As Obama stated,” the Constitution is a document of negative rights stating what government cannot do and not what government should do for the people. This reflects the ideology of a Hobbesian utopian mastermind expressed over and over by the progressive left.

The basis of Dr. Arrn’s argument is well detailed in Mark Levine’s book Ameritopia. It is the age old conflict between those who subscribe to the utopian philosophy of Plato, Moore, Hobbs, and Marx and that of Locke, de Montesquieu, and our Founders. In essence it’s the conflict between those who would be governed by the elite masterminds and those who would choose liberty.

Arnn contends that the Constitution is more important than ever by quoting James Madison in Federalist 51, “[W]hat is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.”

The college President says Americans should take a look at the Federal government and ask themselves the following questions: Is the bureaucracy politically impartial? Is it efficient and rational, as if staffed by angels? Or is it politically motivated and massively self-interested?

No. No. Yes. That, Arnn contends, is why the Nation’s founding documents are as relevant today as they have ever been and should be studied and revered by all citizens of the United States.

I have been a subscriber to Imprimis for three years and find the articles interesting and informative. Of course they always have a conservative bent that I find refreshing as they offset the constant barrage of liberal clap-trap emanating from our “prestigious” Ivy League and state colleges and universities.

Imprimis is the free monthly speech digest of Hillsdale College and is dedicated to educating citizens and promoting civil and religious liberty by covering cultural, economic, political and educational issues of enduring significance. The content of Imprimis is drawn from speeches delivered to Hillsdale College-hosted events, both on-campus and off-campus. First published in 1972, Imprimis is one of the most widely circulated opinion publications in the nation with over two million subscribers. You can click here for your free subscription — I highly recommend it

At a time when the curricula of many colleges are chock full of liberal indoctrination — some are now even teaching classes in Occupy Wall Street, no joke — it should be refreshing to any conservative American to know that institutions like Hillsdale are still around. Anyone who may be worried that his children or grandchildren getting ready to send off college applications will end up wearing the blinders of liberal indoctrination may want to suggest Hillsdale College. The country can never have too few Constitutionally-minded citizens.

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