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What U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin Doesn’t Know About Higher Education

June 30, 2010

Senator Dick Durbin (R-Il), acting as lap dog for the radicals in the Obama White House, has picked up the baton from departed Undersecretary of Education Robert Shireman and gave a stunning and biased speech at the National Press Club. You can read the text of that speech given at the National Press Club by clicking HERE. The National Press Club is but a few miles from Georgetown University where Sen. Durbin earned the B.S. in 1966 and the J.D. in 1969. It’s clear Sen. Durbin didn’t learn much about education at Georgetown. 

Here’s what he missed: 

1) Traditional higher education is in crisis because of a broken business model. 

Despite the size and importance to the domestic economy of the United States of more than 4,000 accredited colleges and universities, the operation of these institutions is inefficient, highly fragmented, lacking in professional management, based on 19th century technology and governed by the government sanctioned Cartel defined by regional accreditation. Added to the dysfunctional administration of operations is an ideology of “Political Correctness” which politicizes the administration of most academic Departments and residence facilities. The transition to cafeteria style education in the late 1960s was accompanied by the introduction of pseudo academic disciplines in Gender, Women, Black, Chicano, Peace and other politically motivated studies. The growth in college administrators versus classroom teachers also has enhanced the power of a new class of non-academic administrators whose responsibility is to conduct re-education programs in residence halls. Modeled on classic prisoner interrogation methods, these programs are designed to break down traditional attitudes of impressionable students and replace them with politically correct views about gender, race, politics and the environment. This politicization leads to expenditures for politicized programs and non-market oriented business decisions that add to a pattern of spiraling tuition costs. In 2007–08, public institutions spent $261 billion ($27,176 per student in 2008–09 dollars). According to the National Center for Education Statistics, only 28 percent of this amount, $7,703 per student, was spent on instruction. Between 1987-1988 and 2007-2008, the cost at a four-year public institution rose 78 percent from $7,631 to $13,589. Average undergraduate tuition, fees, room and board rates increased to $13,424 at public 4-year institutions and $30,393 at private 4-year institutions.

The education consumer now faces college tuition costs that have been driven to levels far beyond the ability of most middle class families to pay and students are compelled to seek low cost alternatives at two-year public institutions.

Public institutions that are subsidized by the states are incapable of reducing tuition costs at a time when students from middle class families are moving from high tuition private colleges to public community colleges and universities. Proprietary education companies now find that they can compete, even on the basis of price, with some public institutions. In that context, proprietary Internet universities that do not grant academic tenure, operate with “flat” organization structures and programs attuned to market demand are a substantial threat to traditional higher education. As such, the first glimpse of a future reorganization in the 21st Century of higher education has become visible.

In light of these high college tuition costs, a crisis of major proportions is in development that is challenging the ability of many small colleges to survive. Dick Durbin wants to bar the acquisition of those failing colleges by for-profit colleges.

2) Traditional education costs more than for-profit education. 

Here is a list of tuition costs at Internet-based institutions, many of which are “for-profit.” 


3) Traditional education lacks intellectual diversity. 

Social, political, and economic developments since the Great Depression have created a void of course content in classical Economics, humanistic studies grounded in the Judaeo-Christian tradition and the traditional Liberal Arts. College Faculty in the Humanities and Social Sciences who challenge Wilsonian Idealism in foreign policy and state intervention in the economy represented by New Deal, New Frontier and Great Society economic programs represent an insignificant percentage of all Faculty teaching in these disciplines. In History Departments few traditional “History” programs remain offering potential scholars instruction in “Western Civilization.” In Political Science and Government few and far between are the Universities where graduate students may study Classical political philosophy. And in Economics, George Mason University, Texas A&M, Auburn and a few others are the only Economics degree programs that continue to offer classical studies that are focused on markets and public choice. Few institutions feature Supply-Side economists. If graduate students earn degrees and write dissertations in these subjects, they find that tenure-track University employment is often difficult to obtain. 

Classical Economics usually associated with Adam Smith and neoclassical schools that we associate with the Austrian economists, Milton Friedman and especially the Supply-side Economists, are under-represented in Academe. That is also the case with historians schooled in the history of Western Civilization who formerly taught Western Civilization survey courses that are no longer required. Also absent from today’s university curricula are courses in philosophy exemplified by Christopher Dawson, Eric Voegelin, Bernard Lonergan and other philosophers and political theorists rooted in the philosophical traditions of ancient Greek philosophy and Christian philosophers such as St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas. The recovery of the history of the American Founding and the philosophy of limited government of the Founders of the Constitutions of the United States that has enriched American post-World War II historical scholarship is absent in the Core Curricula of American institutions of higher education. The traditional Core Curriculum of American higher education has been abandoned for cafeteria style education that puts undergraduates at a loss to acquire the knowledge required of citizens of a representative government. By dropping these traditional subjects, higher education has become an engine of cultural and civilizational disaffection, disdain bordering on hatred of our core institutions, and shoddy instruction scaled up for mass consumption that has helped to put American higher education into steep decline. The new elite that is moving into general succession of America’s basic institutions has less love of country, less understanding of history, and less regard for its civilizational inheritance than any previous generation in the nation’s history. If it is collectively moved by anything, it is the earnest desire to rid the world of American prosperity and power and to usher in the imaginary era of “global citizenship.” 

1National Center for Education Statistics,
2Neal McCluskey, “Unbearable Burden?” Cato Institute Policy Analysis, No. 629, December 15, 2008.
4Klein & Stern, “Among social-science and humanities professors up through age 70, the overall Democrat:Republican ratio is probably 8:1.” Your author learned recently that the University of Oregon doesn’t employ even one registered Republican on its Faculty.

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