Many in the United States worry about the erosion of democratic norms. Too few, however, exhibit concern for the steady deterioration over the last half century of the essential democratic norm of free speech.
The well-documented inability of American colleges and universities to reverse the several-decades-long curtailment of free speech on campus is a matter of considerable public interest. Whether the federal government is capable of producing effective reform is another question. President Trump seems to believe Washington is up to the task.
Of all the strange and remarkable features of politics in the Trump era, among the least strange and remarkable is the alliance that has emerged between conservatism and populism. That it seems so striking to many conservatives reflects a certain disconnection from their tradition. The uncertainty and agitation that the alliance introduced into conservative ranks underscore the importance of recovering a lively appreciation of conservatism’s origins, major ideas, and perennial task.
There’s no doubt that the current aim of higher education – “reproduction of ideology and the formation of like-minded political activists” – is harming America and the students and taxpayers who pay vast sums to these indoctrination factories.
The crisis of higher education imposes severe, if indirect and long-term, costs on the country. The harms it inflicts on conservatives in particular are direct and immediate. All students and the nation at large pay the price when universities replace transmission of knowledge and cultivation of inquiring minds as their primary purpose with reproduction of ideology and the formation of like-minded political activists.
Like an individual mixed up about his convictions, a nation perplexed about its principles is prone to self-inflicted wounds. Both are likely to wander aimlessly and choose friends poorly while falling for the blandishments of adversaries. They are prone to misjudge their interests and misconstrue justice. A nation perplexed about its principles exacerbates citizens’ muddle about their convictions.
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In early July, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo launched the Commission on Unalienable Rights. “The commission’s mission,” he explained in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, “isn’t to discover new principles but to ground our discussion of human rights in America’s founding principles.” The announcement of the panel’s existence and mandate immediately triggered a barrage of skepticism, indignation, and anger. The misunderstandings that the criticisms embody underscore the urgency of the commission’s work.
Donald Trump’s presidency has provoked an outpouring of anguished commentary about the norms — that is, customary behavior and moral standards — that underlie liberal democracy in America. The president has certainly disrupted settled patterns of campaigning, politics, and governance. The reasons for his success, the limitations of his style, and the consequences for the nation deserve careful examination.
[Subscription Required] Of all the strange and remarkable features of politics in the Trump era, among the least surprising is the alliance between conservatism and populism.
The world continues to feed Palestinians’ delusions that they will one day return to land that is now part of Israel—encouraging the Palestinians to spurn peaceful solutions that could actually be attained.