Modern education generally provides only the negative impulse, the impulse to distrust: an unfledged cynicism full of bluster but empty of real substance. This impulse is peculiarly treacherous, and cunning propaganda will readily conquer it; for the skepticism inculcated by modern education will rarely include a distrust of one's own emotions (the doctrine of original sin having been discarded) which comprise precisely the organ at which propaganda aims its contrivances. Moreover, to leave discontented the human hunger for belief in something, to provide no armor against the poison of despair, is simply to make vulnerable young minds. It is no accident that Nazism began as a student movement in an age of disillusionment; or that the ideologists of what Burke so memorably labeled "armed doctrines," together the greatest of modern scourges, bled the ground red with the blood of young skeptics and freethinkers.
Just the usual culture-war stuff? Not quite. Paul J. Cella continues,
It is fashionable in Conservative circles to vilify the universities; but as a fact this thing predates what passes today for Conservatism by a great many decades. In fact, most Conservatives today, for all their harangues against leftist academics, have largely bought into the philosophy from which this blunder I have just described descends. That philosophy goes by the name Utility; and they are with Locke and Bentham against men like John Henry Newman. Locke condemned the classical liberal education on the very familiar grounds that it failed the test of usefulness: "Can there be any thing more ridiculous than that a father should waste his money, and his son's time, in setting him to learn the Roman language?" Bentham enlarged the objection into an entire philosophy. And the modern critics of academe hardly offer a refutation. They denounce our schools on essentially utilitarian grounds; that is, they interrogate about practical results, but do not question ends. They charge the schools with failing to achieve their own ideals, and they expose many instances where professors replaced useful fact with useless cant. The universities are mistrusted because they are now failing to even lay a foundation of utilitarian information and method. This jeremiad, about the politicized university peddling ridiculous ideological gibberish, is all for the good as far as it goes; but it does not go to the heart of the matter. To the decline of the University, the critics of today answer that it does not pass the test of utility or practical usefulness. They do not answer as Newman did, resoundingly, that health of the intellect, like bodily health, is useful because it is good.
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