PROF JENKINS: Academia is bringing about its own destruction

It is now beyond dispute that most 'institutions of higher learning' are no longer about learning, nor are they 'higher' than, say, your average bloodthirsty street mob.

Rob Jenkins is a Higher Education Fellow with Campus Reform and a tenured associate professor of English at Georgia State University - Perimeter College. In a career spanning more than three decades at five different institutions, he has served as a head men’s basketball coach, an athletic director, a department chair, and an academic dean, as well as a faculty member. Jenkins’ opinions are his own and do not represent those of his employer.   

Higher education, it seems, is in free-fall. If it were a stock, analysts would be advising investors to sell, rather than buy or hold. 

I take no joy in saying that. Having spent my entire adult life in the academy, believing deeply in its traditional role of uplifting society by preparing young people for lives of purpose and prosperity, I find it painful to witness higher ed’s slow-motion implosion. 

Yet I don’t think I’m imagining it or being overly dramatic. The signs are all around us, beginning with a precipitous drop in enrollment. Since 2020, the nation’s campuses have lost more than 1.3 million students, and that trend shows no sign of reversing. Indeed, it’s likely to get much worse before it gets better—if it ever does. 

Meanwhile, the value of a degree has also been steadily declining. As my colleague Professor Nicholas Giordano wrote for Campus Reform a few weeks ago, several large companies have already stopped requiring degrees for many corporate positions. 

That worrisome trend, Giordano says, “represents a failure of our institutions, and…indicates that [they] are not producing graduates with the necessary skills to compete and function in the workplace.”

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He goes on to cite a recent survey showing the problem isn’t limited to a handful of employers. According to Gallup, “only 11% of business leaders said they believed college graduates were well prepared for the workforce.”

Another poll, conducted by The Wall Street Journal last spring, found that only 42 percent of Americans now believe college is worth the cost. To understand how potentially catastrophic that is, imagine what would happen to the housing industry if less than half the country thought buying a home was worth it.

So what’s to blame for this sad state of affairs? Competition from the private sector? Budget-slashing politicians? Students who are just too dumb to know what’s good for them? 

No. The main culprit is the institutions themselves, individually and collectively. As Obi-Wan Kenobi told Annakin Skywalker, when the young Jedi blamed his former mentor for the loss of his beloved Princess Padme, “You have done that yourself.”  

Colleges and universities have driven away students, and are on the verge of making themselves irrelevant, because they have abandoned their core mission of pursuing and disseminating truth. Instead, they insist reality is both subjective and malleable and objective truth does not exist.

It’s as if the American Dental Association suddenly announced that tooth decay is no longer a thing, thereby repudiating its own raison d’etre. How long would the profession survive?

But it’s worse than that. Colleges don’t just waffle on truth; they actively embrace lies. Like the lie that any racial disparity must be due solely to ingrained “systemic racism.” Or the lie that “gender is on a spectrum.” Or the lie that “transwomen are women.”    

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Colleges have become so invested in these “narratives”—which any rational person can see are false—that they have lost all credibility with wide swaths of the population. What is the advantage of an “education” if practically everything you “learn” simply isn’t true?

These last few weeks, however, may drive the final nail into the proverbial coffin, as many institutions have revealed to the world that they not only eschew truth and embrace lies—they reject common decency and actively celebrate evil. 

I am referring, of course, to the way campuses like Harvard, Stanford, and Penn (just to name a few) have reacted to the slaughter of innocent Israeli civilians, including children, by Hamas terrorists: pro-Hamas rallies, social media posts from terrorist-sympathizing faculty, anodyne “both sides” statements penned by morally bankrupt administrators. 

The mask has been ripped off; they ripped it off themselves. It is now beyond dispute that most “institutions of higher learning” are no longer about learning, nor are they “higher” than, say, your average bloodthirsty street mob. They are radical left-wing indoctrination centers, pure and simple, and everyone can see it—including, as it turns out, wealthy donors.

I’m guessing there isn’t as much of a market for radical left-wing indoctrination as the higher education establishment seems to think. And if I’m right, if the whole rotting edifice does indeed collapse—well, we will have done that to ourselves. 

Editorials and op-eds reflect the opinion of the authors and not necessarily that of Campus Reform or the Leadership Institute.