"I was puzzled by Charles Larmore's review of Charles Taylor's new book, A Secular Age, in the current New Republic. The book is sprawling and often maddening, but it is very important (I've tried to do it justice in my own review in the forthcoming issue of First Things), and I give Larmore high marks for his accurate (if prickly) summaries of the...
Changing the Curriculum & Course Offerings on Your CampusSubmitted by augustash on Mon, 2010-11-15 13:52
Now that you're at college and the initial excitement has worn off, maybe you're thinking that the course selection is a bit biased and you'd like some options.
So how do you (the consumer) get the college (the business) to change up its offerings? It certainly won't be easy. Nevertheless it's something that should be done--particularly since you're footing the bill.
A good, education in a free society requires the exploration of ideas, weighing both sides of issues, and even learning to challenge authority by asking difficult questions. Many college and university classes completely fail in this regard. Those who teach these classes will protest, but the truth is obvious to all who are willing to look with open eyes.
Can you help bring real intellectual diversity to the classroom? For that matter, how can you possibly know what you should learn if you haven't yet learned it?
To start, take a look at the course offerings from Hillsdale College and Grove City College. Why these two colleges in particular? Because those are the only two colleges in the United States that do not accept federal money. In other words, they are the only independent colleges in the country. And as a result they have continued the tradition of educating students to be free men and women.
Two good groups to reach out to are the National Association of Scholars and the Pope Center for Higher Education Reform. They are non-profit organizations devoted to reforming higher education in America.
The Leadership Institue (LI) is also helping students in this endeavor with their Conservativism 101 effort, which aims to bring classes on conservative philosophy to various campuses around the country. LI claims successes on campuses such as American University, Brown University, and University of Virginia. Learn more here about how LI will support you in the endeavor.
Now that you have an idea about the types of courses you'd like to see your college or university offer, it's time to get the lay of the land and to network.
- Set specific and realistic goals. Do you want to see a class on say "The Founder's Views on Liberty" added to the History offerings? Do you want to see a series of classes? If so, be specific. Also, don't expect to be able to reform an entire major or discipline from the get-go. That's not going to happen. It's best to work around the edges by introducing a few classes.
- Meet with the appropriate school officials. Don't come into the meeting loaded for bear. Be friendly and polite. Find out what it would take to get your specific goal and what the time frame would be for new classes to be added.
- How that meeting goes will dictate your next moves.
- If the school works with you, great. But be careful; they may act like they're working with you, but really just dragging their feet. Ask for them to set deadlines and keep on the process. If the process fails, go to step five.
- Before you go any further, you're going to need to make a commitment to this cause. You probably will have to commit to something that may take multiple semesters to accomplish. Understand that you may want to get activist training from the Leadership Institute. Don't forget to contact Intellectual Takeout, too.
- Reach out to the conservative/libertarian/freedom-loving students on your campus. You'll know the local terrain best, but it's critical to have many voices. Let them know what your specific goals are and how you would like to work together to accomplish them. Additionally, because changing up course offerings does take time, it's good to have a group behind the push for change because that will provide for continuity in the efforts.
- Begin to market your idea. Write letters to the school paper, distribute flyers, put up posters, etc.
- Once you have a solid network of students that want to see change, do an on-campus petition. Build your numbers.
- Take the petition to your school's administration. Show them that you're not the only one who would like to have more intellectual diversity on campus.
- If the school begins to work with you, good job! If the school refuses to work with you and you want to continue attending the school, go to step eleven.
- Have students contact their parents. Parents are often the one's paying for college educations. Show them the type of courses you would like the school to offer. No doubt, they'll support your effort. It's not like you're asking for money to host a kegger.
- Once you prove that you can build a movement for change on campus and have parent support, approach the school administration again. If they're still not willing to work with you, it's time to consider ramping up your efforts.
- A good first step to ramping up your efforts would be to reach out to off-campus, local conservative and libertarian think tanks and organizations. The State Policy Network is a good place to look for contacts. You might also want to consider reaching out to local tea party groups since many have an existing grassroots network. And, of course, let Intellectual Takeout know what's going on.
- Publicize your effort in the community. Again, seek out training to do all of this at the Leadership Institute. Contact local business leaders, the school's alumni, and tax payers if you are at a state school (their money often subsidizes some portion of the schools activities). Particularly for state schools, contact elected officials. Contact the local news sources and chambers of commerce. Also, let the national organizations and talking heads know about your effort. Put videos up on YouTube. National attention will help.
- Take the petition signed by students and start to get the same thing going around the local community or state.
Your goal is to leverage the alumni community and the surrounding community (and even the national community) to get change going. Many, many people out there are displeased by what colleges and universities are calling "education" these days. You have many allies; you just need to organize them and focus their energy.
In everything you do, be respectful and polite, but don't back down. Don't be intimidated. You are paying for an education that is likely skewing your worldview to the left simply by exposing you mainly to those ideas. Why pay for that? Take back your future by demanding more.