Jonathan Gruber and a Glimpse into the Intellectual Cloisters of the Academy

Instead of being the great repository of liberty, universities are becoming the enemy of liberty

University students study for exams. (Getty/Sean Gallup)

University students study for exams. (Getty/Sean Gallup)

Professor Jonathan Gruber’s characterizations of the American public as a bunch of ignoramuses ripe for exploitation was more than a glimpse into the thinking of government elites. It was also a view into how the professoriate views the public.

Actually, the term “ignoramus,” is seldom used. The more common slur is “the great unwashed”; “yahoos” is a close second.

Elected representatives are called “the crooks in the capital.”

Academic conflicts are to be resolved behind the scenes. The groves of academia are hallowed ground. Their sanctity is not to be defiled by outsiders.

Professors are a self-created aristocracy and academic administrators represent what socialist theoretician Milovan Djilas called the new class, a group of modern-day Gletkins (Soviet automatons) right out of the pages of Darkness at Noon.

In this hothouse environment, in the rich soil nurtured by lofty hubris, the mentality of an MIT economist like Jonathan Gruber sprouts, grows, and comes to fruition.

What you’ve witnessed in the Gruber tapes is the thinking that shapes a large part of today’s college curriculum, both within the classroom and, equally important, in the parallel university that Alan Charles Kors and Harvey A. Silverglate call the shadow university.

The tentacles of the shadow university extend even before students arrive on campus. Summer reading lists prepare students for orientation sessions that inculcate the leftist values that are integral to the students’ political socialization.

A bureaucracy comprised of administrators of diversity, ethnic retention, and just society (leftist social justice) proliferate. Their primary mission is to circumscribe a domain of appropriate values that students must hold.

Universities are supposed to preserve the best values that we have achieved as a democratic society and to transmit them faithfully to the next generation. Instead of being the great repository of liberty, universities are becoming the enemy of liberty.

One of the absurdities inherent in the university structure is that the people upon whom the university depends for financial contributions are people who have become successful through the American system of free enterprise. The university now militates against those very values. It is as if Lenin’s aphorism about capitalists buying the rope to hang themselves has come true.

The job of the academy is now to transform the progeny of the great unwashed, to mold them into left-thinking, politically correct automatons.

It is not a new idea. In the fifties, schools of education incorporated liberal values into the curriculum. Social foundations programs highlighted liberal ideology as the answer to social questions. But as Philip E. Jacob’s  study of that period showed, those attempts largely failed.

Then came the sixties and the ideology that a racist and imperialist society had spawned racial violence and an imperialistic war. A benign, compassionate, and leftist ideology would remake society in its image. The university’s resources had to be mobilized to fashion that change.

The seventies saw the implementation of affirmative action and the necessity to create a comfort zone for minorities on campus, many of whom had neither the background nor the skills to do college work. Fearing that these students would become objects of ridicule, universities launched so-called speech and decency codes, fully aware that they would not withstand judicial scrutiny.

That is a larger problem than the deception over Obamacare, for that deception is simply the logical extension of a pervasive culture of arrogance that has granted itself the custodianship of political values.

In the culture wars, the university has been surrendered to the political left and through its training of future elementary and secondary school teachers and school administrators, the educational infrastructure of the nation has been transformed. Jonathan Gruber’s repeated statements are simply a manifestation of a larger problem that threatens far more than medical care.

Abraham H. Miller is an emeritus professor of political science, who has served on the faculty of three major research universities. He is a contributor to the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity.

Jonathan Gruber and a Glimpse into the Intellectual Cloisters of the Academy