Recently Thomas Lindsay, Ph.D. was announced as the new Director of the Center for Higher Education at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. Higher education reform is at a crisis level and a compelling issue for American families. Tuition inflation must be addressed as most families find it a real struggle to finance their children’s college education. Dr. Lindsay notes that the average price of an undergraduate degree has risen by 202% since 1981. Parents, as co-signers for student loans, share the burden as the average student debt reaches $24,000 at graduation.
Dr. Lindsay is concerned about the academic culture. In his long career in academia, he came to be a believer in a curriculum which centers around the study of the Western canon. This means introducing students to the “foundational values of our nation and our culture”, as he describes it. He notes that a “liberal” education, in the classic description of the word, has its roots in liberty. He concludes “the highest liberty to consist in the freedom of the mind; that is, in freedom from unexamined assumptions, for example, swings in intellectual fashion, partisan politics, and ideology. Liberty at its peak is thus identical with the pursuit of truth.”
He agrees with the quote from Socrates, “the unexamined life is not worth living.” All students within higher education institutions should be required to study the Founding documents – the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constituion, and the Federalist.
The problem with Dr. Lindsay’s very common sense style of educational philosophy is that today’s higher education institutions are threatened by programs based around the pursuit of knowledge of our country’s basic founding documents. As crazy as that sounds, in today’s academic culture this style of college mission is looked upon as too conservative or even libertarian in political ideology.
Dr. Lindsay brings three lessons from his academic career: 1. Higher education entities are peerless at institutional self-defense. 2. No reform is possible without the full engagement of all stakeholders – even those who may disagree. 3. Reform is essential.
Texas is leading the way in higher education reform. Governor Perry has a desire to increase online learning and implementing a college degree at a traditional state college for the cost of $10,000. Tuition incentives can be offered to encourage students to finish in a traditional four year time frame instead of a more common five and six year plan now used by many. The community college system is an excellent resource for a low cost two year education before transitioning to a four year university for degree completion.
Texas is leading the way.