North Carolina is “blessed” with a statewide center dedicated to right-wing attacks on higher education, the John W Pope Center for Higher Education Policy. One of their more prolific commentators is Jay Schalin, a small-time journalist with no credentials, experience, or expertise in education, research, or scholarship, but who apparently feels entirely qualified to present himself as an expert on higher education policy.
Some of Mr. Schalin’s gems in the past have included calls for less education overall, and a thoroughgoing plan for redesigning “essential education” to match Mr. Sahlins’ personal preferences. Yesterday’s entry, though, was particularly revealing.
In this item, Mr. Schalin discusses the new chair of African and Afro-American Studies at UNC, Eunice Sahle. Prof. Sahle is an accomplished, well-published political scientist and political theorist with global interests, a strong academic pedigree, and teaching awards. No matter, though, about her accomplishments, expertise, or qualifications; Schalin judges her ideas to be “injurious,” claiming that “sometimes ignorance is better” than exposure to uncomfortable ideas like hers.
Unlike the Pope Center’s other writings, in which their overall disdain for intellectualism and independent thought is veiled (if thinly) under a veneer of claims about instructional quality and public expenditures, this piece makes a thorough, unvarnished, and unabashed anti-intellectual case. It is better to keep students ignorant than to expose them to ideas that might encourage them to disagree with Schalin. Dangerous ideas–presumably categorized as such by intellectual luminaries like Schalin–should be suppressed, their proponents marginalized. So much for the marketplace of ideas. So much for the critical evaluation of evidence. It is now entirely clear that Mr. Schalin and his sponsors have no interest in quality education; they are interested in ideological indoctrination and are happy to engage the most blatantly authoritarian claims to achieve it.
I suggest a new motto for the masthead of the Pope Center’s website: IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.