Sunday, June 21, 2020

In a world of sheep-like conformity, Hillsdale College takes a stand - Andrea Widburg

by Andrea Widburg

In the 20th century, as myriad colleges gave up their intellectual independence chasing after state and federal money (and, it seems, Chinese money), Hillsdale refused to do so.

Free Will Baptists founded Hillsdale College in 1844 under the name Michigan Central College. Despite the founders' religious beliefs, the college has always been nonsectarian, although its teachings are informed by Christianity's moral teachings. The college assumed its present name in 1853 when it relocated to Hillsdale, Michigan.

The Free Will Baptists who founded Hillsdale were abolitionists and true feminists, so the college immediately began admitting blacks and women. E.B. Fairfield, who was Hillsdale's president from 1848 to 1869, was one of the founders of the Republican Party, a political party dedicated to abolishing slavery in the United States.

Because of Hillsdale's abolitionist reputation, Frederick Douglass spoke there, as did Edward Everett, who shared the stage with Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg. When the Civil War began, Hillsdale sent a higher percentage of students to the Union Army than any other college in Michigan. Sixty students gave their lives in the fight against slavery.

In the 20th century, as myriad colleges gave up their intellectual independence chasing after state and federal money (and, it seems, Chinese money), Hillsdale refused to do so. As it has since its founding, it depends entirely on private donations and tuition to meet its needs. Hillsdale is also one of the few colleges in America that continues the classic inquiring tradition of a liberal education, rather than falling in line with academic leftism and mindless obedience.

In sum, Hillsdale is a bastion of intellectual liberty, founded on a moral and historic bedrock dedicated to the equal rights of all people, regardless of race or sex. So people began insisting that it issue a statement supporting Black Lives Matter.

It wasn't enough that — unlike every elite college in America — Hillsdale has spent the last 176 years dedicating itself to the principle that, in a world predicated on the Constitution and the Judeo-Christian Bible, all lives matter. In our new McCarthyite world, Hillsdale was told that "silence is violence."

So Hillsdale spoke. The official Hillsdale statement does not lend itself to an easy summary. You have to read it all, especially the last paragraph. When you're done, you'll find yourself wishing every academic institution and corporation in America would have the courage to issue a similar statement in the face of the Democrats' violent demands for institutional conformity:

Editor's note: The following is a statement from the leaders of Hillsdale College.
Amidst the events of recent weeks, a number of alumni and others have taken up formal and public means to insist that Hillsdale College issue statements concerning these events. The College is charged with negligence — or worse.
It is not the practice of the College to respond to petitions or other instruments meant to gain an object by pressure. The College operates by reasoned deliberation, study, and thought. The following observations, however, may be helpful and pertinent.
The College is pressed to speak. It is told that saying what it always has said is insufficient. Instead, it must decry racism and the mistreatment of Black Americans in particular. This, however, is precisely what the College has always said.
The College is told that invoking the high example of the Civil War or Frederick Douglass is not permitted. Perhaps it is thought that nothing relevant can be learned about justice and equality from the words and actions of great men and women in history. Instead, the College is guilty of the gravest moral failure for not making declarations about … justice and equality.
The College is told that it garners no honor now for its abolitionist past — or that it fails to live up to that past — but instead it must issue statements today. Statements about what? It must issue statements about the brutal and deadly evil of hating other people and/or treating them differently because of the color of their skin. That is, it must issue statements about the very things that moved the abolitionists whom the College has ever invoked.
It is told that failure to issue statements is an erasure, a complicity, an abandonment of principle. The silence of the College is deafening.
The College founding is a statement — as is each reiteration and reminder of its meaning and necessity. The curriculum is a statement, especially in its faithful presentation of the College's founding mission. Teaching is a statement, especially as it takes up — with vigor — the evils we are alleged to ignore, evils like murder, brutality, injustice, destruction of person or property, and passionate irrationality. Teaching these same things across all the land is a statement, or a thousand statements. Organizing our practical affairs so that we can maintain principles of equity and justice — though the cost is high and sympathy is short — is a statement. Dispensing unparalleled financial help to students who cannot afford even a moderate tuition, is a statement. Helping private and public schools across the country lift their primary and secondary students out of a sea of disadvantages with excellent instruction, curricula, and the civic principles of freedom and equality — without any recompense to the College — is a statement. Postgraduate programs with the express aim of advancing the ideas of human dignity, justice, equality, and the citizen as the source of the government's power, these are all statements. And all of these statements are acts, deeds that speak, undertaken and perpetuated now, every day, all the time. Everything the College does, though its work is not that of an activist or agitator, is for the moral and intellectual uplift of all.
There may be something deafening in the culture—certainly there are those who cannot hear — but it is not from the silence of the College.
There is a kind of virtue that is cheap. It consists of jumping on cost-free bandwagons of public feeling — perhaps even deeply justified public feeling — and winning approval by espousing the right opinion. No one who wishes the College to issue statements is assumed to be a party to such behavior. But the fact that very real racial problems are now being cynically exploited for profit, gain, and public favor by some organizations and people is impossible to overlook. It is a scandal and a shame that compounds our ills and impedes their correction. Hillsdale College, though far from perfect, will continue to do the work of education in the great principles that are, second only to divine grace, the solution to the grave ills that beset our times.

Andrea Widburg


Follow Middle East and Terrorism on Twitter

No comments:

Post a Comment