Bad News About the College of Your Choice

“The people have gotten dumber”
Retiring Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY)

John Howard is truly the Dean of American education, a calling which he has faithfully served for over sixty years. He has dedicated his life to the defense of moral education and its vital role in the survival and flourishing of a free society. Because he recognizes the critical role of the home as the child’s first classroom, Dr. Howard anticipated early on the damage that the sexual revolution and the breakdown of the family would wreak on the culture, not only in the United States, but throughout our increasingly uncivilized world. With that in mind, he founded first the Rockford Institute, then the Howard Center, which today sponsors the World Congress of Families, a unique gathering that has had a significant and salutary international impact.

One of the most critical decisions facing families – and one of the most costly – is where their children should go to college. The question often arouses tension, even turmoil, in the later high-school years. In response, an entire “guidance” profession has arisen, along with highly-touted “guides” purporting to identify the “best” colleges. With this indispensable book, Dr. Howard, longtime educator and lifelong lover of truth and defender of liberty, comes to the rescue. Countless families will consider this book a treasured gift in their efforts to rear their children.

This book represents Dr. Howard’s insights gained from his decades of experience in higher education as seen from the inside. It is a godsend for prospective college students – and their parents. Here you have the unique insights of an educator who became a college president sixty years ago, and watched firsthand as countless American “institutions of higher learning” that had been built on the solid rock of faith and morals slowly drifted onto the sands of radicalism and collapse. And what is left of them? “America’s Best Colleges.” Really?

Before investing (or borrowing) tens of thousands of dollars for a college education, perhaps families should “look under the hood.” In this groundbreaking work, Dr. John Howard provides the roadmap, explaining how and why most of what passes for “education” these days is simply headed in the wrong direction.

Begin At The Beginning

That which contributes most to the permanence of constitutions
is the adaption of education to the form of government.
Aristotle, Politics [1310a12]

America’s liberty has a long pedigree, and Dr. Howard brings it to life. Perhaps the most well-known of the many gems he uncovers comes in George Washington’s Farewell Address: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who labors to subvert those great pillars of human happiness.”

Long ago, before the dark dawn of the “Age of Diversity,” character played a central role in education. After all, the work preceding Aristotle’s Politics is the Ethics – and ethike is the Greek term for “habits.” Dr. Howard introduces us to Columbia University professor Douglas Sloan, who wrote in 1979:
Throughout most of the 19th Century the most important course in the college curriculum was moral philosophy, taught usually by the college president and required of all senior students….The full significance and centrality of moral philosophy in the 19th Century college curriculum can only be understood in the light of the assumption held by American leaders and most ordinary citizens that no nation could survive, let alone prosper, without some common moral and social values…

During the late nineteenth century, however, the notion of “specialization” entered the university system, and slowly spread into philanthropy and government. And why would government be interested in university education? Simple: power lust. Dr. Howard has unearthed a most interesting observation from the famous Nicholas Murray Butler, longtime president of Columbia University, who told his trustees in 1921 that “[o]ne of the most noteworthy of recent developments in American life is the zeal with which machinery is designed and built ostensibly to serve various public interests and undertakings, but in reality to control them. Perhaps in no other way is the decline of faith in liberty so clearly marked.”

Dr. Howard matriculated at Princeton University when my mentor, Gerhart Niemeyer, was teaching there. Dr. Niemeyer once reminisced that, in those days, Princeton still fostered the notion of character, of true comity even among colleagues who were not close friends – “real gentlemen,” he said. “When I entered Princeton in 1939,” Dr. Howard writes, “President Harold Dodds wrote to my parents: ‘We will do our utmost to guide him so that he will emerge a useful, responsible member of society. We count on your assistance, believing that the influence of the home should not end at the college door.’”

That was then. Howard was a junior on December 7, 1941. He and his classmates went off to war. Afterwards, millions of American servicemen, including U. S Army Tank Commander John Howard, came home, finished school, got married, and had children. When those “children of the baby boom” started going to college in the 1960s, all Hell broke loose.

Enter the Radicals

“Ideas Have Consequences”
Richard Weaver

Bad ideas have bad consequences. Dr. Howard, president of Rockford College at the time, saw firsthand the perversion of character, morals, and truth, and the disaster that it caused. Here are firsthand accounts of the radical professors – Carl Rogers, Obama confrere Bill Ayers, Herbert Marcuse, and the Queen of the Counterculture Hop, Angela Davis. This gang led a coterie of very effective and very radical revolutionaries who spearheaded the transformation of American university life two generations ago. Alas, their progeny run most universities today.

Dr. Howard digs into the cultural record to limn the intellectual flowchart of the radical movement — how it intermingled intellectual anarchy with the sexual revolution and the drug culture. There were parallels elsewhere: Catholic schools were wracked by hijackers flying the banner of “The Spirit of Vatican II,” and America’s public schools were seized by a newly radicalized generation of union teachers whose first priority was no longer the children or the family, but politics. Both collapsed. And while scholars like Thomas Sowell and William Kirk Kilpatrick have documented the decline and ruin of America’s teachers colleges, many Catholic institutions to this day require their teachers and administrators to obtain those sullied secular credentials.

The result? Today’s colleges and universities cost more and teach less. Grade inflation is rampant – the average undergraduate grade at Harvard is an A-. “The kids are bright,” one “best college” professor friend tells me, “but they don’t know very much.” A Pulitzer Prize winner tells me that he too has succumbed – “but I still hold out for the real A.” And sex isn’t revolutionary any more: it’s “like shaking hands,” as Benjamin put it in The Graduate (1968). Fully half of college grads can’t find jobs, but their average debt hovers around the $27,000 mark.

Despite all this, the “college guides” fairly slobber over the “best” schools. One by one, like a pathologist, Dr. Howard examines the ideas they have embraced, and their deadly consequences. But he offers a prescription, one embraced by a few valiant institutions today: “worthy academic institutions,” he concludes, “will need to redirect their scholarship away from the pedestrian studies of modernism and mine the rich annals of the great thinkers of bygone centuries.”

Buy the book: Dr. John A. Howard, America’s Best Colleges – Really? (2012: Cross Books, $15.99)

Christopher Manion is the director of the Campaign For Humanae Vitae™. Write him at  Column provided courtesy of The Bellarmine Forum. ©2012, Christopher Manion. All Rights Reserved.

This article, Bad News About the College of Your Choice is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
Do not repost the entire article without written permission. Reasonable excerpts may be reposted so long as it is linked to this page.

Christopher Manion

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