Over the past several months I hope that I have made it clear that I believe the only solution to our cultural crisis is for the liberal establishment and the institutions that they dominate to take a leadership role in addressing the contradictions and false narratives that plague our social discourse. This should start with our leading liberal arts colleges and universities that have in many ways given birth to and harbor the anti-Americanism that has undermined the very principles that are necessary for this resolution. It is simply mandatory that the liberal arts establishment in higher education get hold of itself and return to a critical role that they have all but abandoned over the past several decades and, in fact, have been a big part of the problems we face.
Thankfully, there are some leaders in higher education who share this view and are questioning what the response from higher education should be. One in particular is my friend Dr. Lorraine Pangle, Co-Director of the Thomas Jefferson Center at The University of Texas at Austin, who recently authored an essay entitled “The Task of the Liberal Arts in Troubled Times” for the Heterodox Academy, in which she suggests that the response to the current malaise from the colleges of liberal arts should be “a renewed commitment to a core task of the university, a task that schools and colleges of liberal arts, of all institutions, are best equipped to carry out: to serve as centers of deep, searching, courageous inquiry into our society and into the ideas about human nature and human thriving and justice that it rests on….as scholars the most important contributions we can make to a nation in turmoil lie not in the actions or even the stands we take but in slowing down and asking the right questions, often the questions that no one is asking….and creating constructive dialogue between diverse and even clashing perspectives….There is no other institution in our society that is as well equipped to lead in this delicate but crucial work”.
Very well put, but not without extreme difficulties in implementation. After all, almost all of the country’s elite academic establishment, most of the control of news and cultural output, and a significant portion of America’s corporate elite view the United States as home of “systemic racism” and institutionalized white supremacy and oppression, views that predominate in the higher reaches of the universities that will be necessary for this crucial work to succeed. So it seems that a critical mass of mea culpa will be necessary, and it will be very interesting to see what level of introspection can be reached in order for the required leadership that Dr. Pangle has in mind to rise to the occasion. We should all pray that it does, for the alternative will not be pretty for the liberal arts or for the country.