On Feb. 12, a president-in-residence of the Harvard Graduate School of Education urged higher education bureaucrats to blacklist Florida’s public universities for refusing to establish offices of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA). The institutions “have no right to be accredited,” wrote Professor Brian Rosenberg.
If you think this argument is all bark and no bite, think again. Wokeness has penetrated virtually every institution in America. School accrediting agencies are no exception. Increasingly, they are demanding that schools incorporate DEIA into their policies and curricula—or else. If current trends continue, it won’t be long until non-woke colleges lose their accreditation, jeopardizing their reputation and very existence.
This poses obvious threats to free speech. Conservatives are already close to 100 percent underrepresented in the academy. When DEIA is forced on every college, liberals will feel all the more justified in censoring their political opponents on campus. And intellectual diversity—arguably just as important as diversity of skin color, ethnic origin, gender, etc., if not more so—will plummet. (RELATED: JOSH HAMMER: Mob Rule Is Taking Over The West)
Want a sneak peek of that future? Two months ago, Ohio Northern University enlisted security and local police officers to evict Professor Scott Gerber, an outspoken DEIA critic, from his post. The school offered no grounds for Gerber’s dismissal apart from his lack of “collegiality.” Gerber compares his experience to something out of a nightmarish dystopian novel. Unfortunately, it is all too real—and it doesn’t bode well.
But censorship isn’t all we have to fear from DEIA. The more accreditors force leftist ideology on colleges, the more those colleges will stray from their academic mission. Because every dollar, every second spent on political indoctrination ultimately detracts from real education.
Research from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni shows that roughly 90 percent of our schools no longer require their graduates to be proficient in basic fields like foreign language, U.S. history, and economics. Meanwhile, curricula are stocked with courses on “ecofeminism,” the “construction of gender,” and other progressive manias.
This suggests a desperate need for institutional reform—but to refocus colleges on the basics, not accelerate their transformation into activist training camps. America is in the midst of a conflict with the Chinese Communist Party that will define the 21st century. We need educated citizens to counter Beijing’s ambitions, not armchair ideologues. (RELATED: SUZANNE DOWNING: Biden’s Wacky Student Loan Plan Is An Insult To Common Sense)
To be frank, the challenges of the 21st century also require less emphasis on college in general and greater investment in alternative pathways, such as apprenticeships and vocational training. The high school-to-college pipeline only works for about one-fifth of the American population, and it offers no solution to our dangerous shortage of essential workers. We need other options to strengthen our economy and compete with our adversaries, as I’ve pointed out for years.
But college will remain an important part of our education system, and it needs protecting. That’s why Senators Rick Scott (R-FL), Mike Lee (R-UT), and I have introduced the Fairness in Higher Education Accreditation Act, a measure to prevent accreditors from using the presence of a DEIA office, or the lack thereof, as a criterion for school accreditation.
This bill would not rid the academy of wokeness, but it would prevent unelected bureaucrats from imposing wokeness on schools by force. In doing so, it would enact a powerful safeguard against the forces of censorship and indoctrination.
I hope senators and representatives from both parties find the courage and sense to join our effort. Because in the end, this isn’t about politics. It’s about preserving free speech and ensuring quality education for future generations. That’s something all Americans should support—and it’s vital to the national interest.
Marco Rubio represents the state of Florida in the United States Senate.
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