AZ funds 'freedom schools' to counter liberal hegemony on campus

Arizona colleges and universities are implementing new academic programs designed to broaden intellectual diversity by examining the importance of Western culture and America’s founding.

According to The New York Times, the new initiatives, referred to by some as “freedom schools,” are backed by Arizona’s GOP lawmakers and funded by the state. 

Arizona State University describes its School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership as a “new kind of program” that “looks beyond time and borders to explore the fundamental questions of life, freedom, and governance.” 

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The school explains that the new initiative “looks inward to the guiding principles of America’s founders and the leaders who have inspired us,” while also seeking to combine “classic works and altruistic statesmanship to develop a new kind of leader: trained in critical thought, humble about human imperfection, and ready for anything.”

Last weekend, ASU’s newly-funded school hosted a conference that welcomed students and faculty to discuss “the meaning of the First Amendment on college campuses and free inquiry and intellectual diversity in higher education.”

The conference included lectures by various experts from across the country and panels on free expression, diversity, and challenges in higher education. Other events addressed topics on “Negotiating Controversial Speakers on Campus,” “Freedom of Speech and Thought on Campus: What Role for the First Amendment?” and “State Legislative Remedies to Free Speech Challenges on Campus: Are They Consistent with Academic Freedom?”

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Alongside ASU’s School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, The University of Arizona has also launched a new academic project called the “Department of Political Economy and Moral Science.” 

According to the school’s website, the new department was approved last October and will teach a variety of courses relating to Political Science, Philosophy, Economics, and Law.

“We also are part of the team of scholars at Arizona that for the past six years has been peer-ranked as the world’s #1 graduate program in political philosophy,” the department boasts. “That astounding ranking seems to be based largely on our distinctively empirical approach to theorizing about principles of morality and justice, and about how people have to live in order to make sure that their world is better off with them than without them.”

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Republican State Representative Jay Lawrence, one of the lawmakers who backed the initiatives, told the Times that there is “too much revisionism being taught in universities today,” adding that “it’s a big deal to those of us who feel very strongly about a more conservative education.”

According to the newspaper, Arizona State University President Michael Crow has also welcomed the new program, but admitted that he would have liked to see the legislature also pay for other programs.

“They were interested in having a broader set of curricular offerings than the one we presently have, particularly as it related to economic thought or political theory, philosophy,” he explained. “The fact that someone from the state came along and gave us money for it, O.K., good. The fact that they weren’t giving us money for other things, bad.”

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