As critical thinking skills drop, higher education prioritizes ‘inclusion’

While academic excellence continues to decline, universities focus on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) ideology instead of raising academic standards.

‘At some of the most prestigious flagship universities, test results indicate the average graduate shows little or no improvement in critical thinking over four years,’ according to the results of a Wall Street Journal study.

Many universities fail to improve students’ critical thinking skills, according to a 2017 Wall Street Journal analysis of nonpublic school results, yet higher education institutions continue to deprioritize academic freedom and free speech with Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) offices.

The Journal reviewed the results from dozens of public colleges and universities that gave an exam to freshmen and seniors between 2013 and 2016. The test, given to students at about 200 colleges across the U.S., assesses students’ abilities to think. 

“At some of the most prestigious flagship universities, test results indicate the average graduate shows little or no improvement in critical thinking over four years,” the piece states.

“At more than half of schools, at least a third of seniors were unable to make a cohesive argument, assess the quality of evidence in a document or interpret data in a table,” The Wall Street Journal discovered.

The most critical thinking gains occurred at smaller colleges that had less accomplished students upon arrival but embraced a difficult curriculum. An example includes Plymouth State University in New Hampshire that has about 3,600 undergraduates.

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Meanwhile, many DEI offices at colleges and universities monitor speech. At Stanford University in March, leftist protesters and the Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Tirien Steinbach interrupted Judge Kyle Duncan’s discussion on “Guns, Covid and Twitter” at Stanford Law School, as Campus Reform reported.

Similarly, Bakersfield College Professor Daymon Johnson sued the California Community Colleges (CCC) system in June for stifling free speech and dissident views of faculty through its DEI policies.

In August, Campus Reform also reported that Keith J. Hand, a law professor at the University of California, San Francisco, wrote a Wall Street Journal letter to the editor in which he states, “Campus activists who want to limit expression inconveniently face clear university rules that protect academic freedom. So they are working to amend the rules to require employees to promote certain ideological principles.”

Florida International University (FIU) in Miami implemented DEI programming that depicts the U.S. as an inherently racist country. Manhattan Institute fellow Christopher Rufo wrote in his March Substack report, “The Commissars Will See You Now,” about the racially-segregated discussions, activism training for students, and dictates for diversifying students and faculty.

The DEI office-sponsored discussion series, Rufo writes, segregates students into groups labeled “self-identified People of Color” and “self-identified White Students,” teaching them that “blackness is inherently noble, and whiteness inherently corrupt.” 

Meanwhile, many universities continue to explore new ways to go around anti-DEI legislation and create “inclusive” campus climates, instead of pursuing academic excellence. 

Margaux Cowden, Chief Program Officer of The Point Foundation, writes in Inside Higher Ed that colleges and universities must find new ways to support LGBTQ students and provide a sense of “belonging” 

Cowden argues that universities should encourage staff to empower LGBTQ students and provide them with resources, regardless of anti-DEI legislation. “If your college is decreasing DEI and LGBTQ+ programming, you can still rely on nonprofits and national organizations to offer resources to students,” Cowden writes. 

In another Inside Higher Ed article, Andrea Simpson, an associate professor of political science at the University of Richmond, believes that universities should prioritize DEI over academic excellence. She says that by merely using the word “excellent” with regards to academia, universities can potentially “undermine” diversity.

“The word ‘excellent,’ in all its forms, frequently supports one of the axioms of critical race theory: institutions often do not adopt policies that promote equity and fair play unless they benefit whites,” Simpson writes.

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Campus Reform has reported on the trend of declining academic excellence for years. Nicholas Giordano, a professor at Suffolk Community College and a Campus Reform fellowwrites that the decline of academic excellence will yield extreme ramifications for society. 

“With lower standards and the introduction of equitable grading systems, the importance of merit and individual effort is disregarded,” Giordano writes. “As a result, the development of responsible and hardworking individuals is hindered, negatively impacting society as a whole.”

Many students leave college with little to no writing skills, Campus Reform reported in September. As a result, businesses are forced to spend billions of dollars on remedial writing classes to catch their employees up to speed. 

A professor who used to assign writing assignments for his biology class switched to focused questions that had one to two sentence responses because he could not adequately assess his students’ understanding of biology, Campus Reform also noted in September. This same professor told his students to practice writing professional emails in his class that’s completely online. 

DEI initiatives have become “bloated” relative to academic pursuits, according to a recent Heritage Foundation report. As a result, many states are cracking down on DEI initiatives. 

As of July 14, 40 states have introduced legislation that would prohibit colleges from having DEI offices or staff, ban mandatory diversity training, prohibit institutions from using diversity statements in hiring and promotion, or prohibit colleges from using race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in admissions or employment, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Texas, Tennessee, North Carolina, North Dakota, and Florida have enacted legislation banning various forms of DEI at publicly funded state universities.

Campus Reform contacted Margaux Cowden and Andrea Simpson for comment. This article will be updated accordingly. 

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