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Paul Reveres of Education Reform

March 22, 2019

In January 2018 and February 2019, the American Academy of Distance Learning, led by Dr. Richard Bishirjian, conducted two conference calls with conservative intellectuals and instructors. Their purpose was to discuss how to reverse a crisis in higher education that threatens to destroy our country. As twenty-four of us took time to participate in these conference calls, we call ourselves the “Committee of Twenty-Four.”

Committees of Correspondence were formed during the years leading up to the War of Independence in order to disseminate information and plan the Rebellion. We conservative writers and teachers stand in, and are successors to, that honorable tradition of American patriots–glorious still and enhanced by digital technology.

Today, none of us—or at least not many–keep horses and ride with the purpose of a Paul Revere. But, we are driven by concern for the damage done to our country by our system of higher education.

During our conference calls, it became clear that there are three views about how to address this deepening crisis in higher education. Bob Paquette, Steve Balch and I represent those three distinct views: Here is a summary of our views of how to address the damage done by our “colleagues” at American colleges and universities.

Steve Balch–Dr. Steve Balch founded the National Association of Scholars in 1987as a way to recall higher education to its genuine principles, the recovery of our ability to think seriously about of our civilization and place of education, properly organized, in sustaining higher culture. At its peak, NAS attracted 4,000 members.

NAS is the successor to two former academic groups, University Professors for Academic Order (UPAO), founded in 1970 and The University Centers for A Rational Alternative founded (UCRA) in 1972.

UPAO was founded by the late Dr. Charles Moser, a Professor at George Washington University, as a conservative response to the politicization of higher education during the disruptions brought about by the anti-Vietnam war movement. UCRA was founded and led by Sidney Hook, Paul Kurtz and Miro Todorovich.

NAS published the journal, Academic Questions, for 32 years, and also publishes studies of higher education problems and issues; files amicus curiae briefs and holds conferences. On November 22, 2016, the Family Research Council  conducted a Webcast of a presentation by Dr. Balch on the decline of required courses in the history of Western civilization. That event was webcast by C-SPAN

Also, Dr. Balch was responsible for the insertion of a provision in Title 8, Section 805 in the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 titled “American History for Freedom.” Dr. Balch is now requesting that the U.S. Department of Education in the Trump Administration help establish and support programs that are dedicated to the study of free institutions, traditional American history and the history of Western Civilization.

Without any federal funding, Steve Balch founded The Institute for the Study of Western Civilization at Texas Tech in 2012.

Bob Paquette–In 2001, Dr. Robert Paquette founded the Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York by negotiating the placing of the Institute on the campus of Hamilton College. When Hamilton College faculty objected.  that agreement was rescinded. Undeterred, he established the Institute off campus, but remained a member of the history Faculty until last year. At some point,  “enough is enough,” he said, and decided his talents were best utilized at his Hamilton Institute.

In our conference calls, Dr. Paquette lamented the decline of the liberal arts at his institution and the plight of aspiring scholars for whom no university appointments have been found. Many  who,  in the past, might have entered college teaching are now not entering graduate programs to qualify for college teaching positions.. They understand that there is little opportunity for employment in Academe, especially if you are not inclined to teach “Politically Correct” subjects.

If they hold unpopular views, those views will be discovered, they will not be hired, or if their views are discovered later, they will not be tenured..For that reason, the Hamilton Institute supports new scholars by providing honoraria and payment of fees for recruiting students to read the Great Books.

Bob Paquette believes that we should challenge the “brands” of colleges that have betrayed their mission. This year he will attempt to put together a program for recovery of the Liberal Arts at colleges where those subjects are in decline.

 Dr. Richard Bishirjian–In 2000, this education entrepreneur founded Yorktown University as an Internet, for profit, university and attained national accreditation in 2008.  Four years later that accreditation was rescinded for failing to meet the financial standards of the accreditation agency. Though Dr. Bishirjian was able to raise $4 million dollars via direct mail over the life of the company, half of that amount was expended on costs related to compliance with state and federal regulations and accreditation agency standards.

Since, there is also a long learning curve that is involved in developing effective courses for distance learning, experience in classroom teaching does not prepare you to start an Internet university and design effective “distance learning” courses. It took eight years to learn how to do that.

Now that he knows how it is done. he would like to start new colleges, but he has found that none of the well-known wealthy conservative donors has entered higher education by starting their own university. If they earned their money in business, they know that they should stick to what they know, which is business. Business skills do not help find conservative faculty nor keep them focused and “conservative.”

A major obstacle to starting a new college is a requirement of “regional accreditation” that courses be offered from classrooms on a physical campus,

Each course offered today from a classroom on a college campus is burdened by high “overhead” costs that push tuition cost to between $900 and $1,000 per course. Absent that high overhead, a quality education product can be offered via the Internet for no more than $350 per course.

Of course, in order to design a degree program costing $350 per course, you must have mastered the principles for instructional design for distance learning. You must be able to raise a minimum of $1 million dollars in the first two years of operating your college startup and raise whatever is required to sustain operations in future years until you are profitable. Also, you must master the marketing of education products and be prepared to invest a minimum of $200,000 in advertising about the time you are ready to enroll your first students and half that amount each subsequent year..

Because these “new” colleges will challenge the survival of all the high cost colleges in the United States, formidable obstacles stand in the way of a startup college. Not the least of these challenges are the two committees of Congress with oversight of higher education whose Republican members are “liberals.”

But, some good changes are underway at the Department of Education in the Trump Administration, so there may be hope for reversing the damage done to higher education during the last fifty years. President Trump’s people better hurry those changes before it is too late!




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