George Leef writes for the Martin Center about higher education and the threat of fascism.

In a recent essay published in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Yale philosophy professor Jason Stanley is haunted by a spectre—the spectre of American universities aiding the rise of fascism. (The essay, “Fascism and the University” is subscriber-only content, unfortunately.) He says that “patterns have emerged that suggest the resurgence of fascist politics globally” and lists the United States as among the countries where he sees that occurring. Moreover, he argues that our higher education system could become complicit in the advance of fascism. …

… Before going any further, we at the Martin Center oppose authoritarianism in all its forms. We do not want to see right-wing ultranationalism triumph; nor do we want to see left-wing internationalism (Marxism) triumph. Nor do we want the authoritarianism of the administrative state that Alexis de Tocqueville warned about in Democracy in America. Stanley’s feared fascism is just one of an array of threats to freedom and civil society we face.

Surveying the nation and its higher education system, which of those threats are serious?

In our colleges and universities, virtually no one advocates nationalistic fascism. Stanley declares, “In fascist ideology, only one viewpoint is legitimate. Colleges and meant to introduce students to the dominant culture and its mythic past.” Indeed, that’s how education was used in Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini’s Italy, and Imperial Japan. Happily, however, there is no support in our educational system for authoritarian nationalism. It is completely discredited, and properly so.

On the other hand, throughout our higher education system, you find numerous courses where other authoritarian ideas are voiced. Marxism is well-represented, with many professors advocating statist solutions to economic and social problems that erode personal liberty, property rights, and the rule of law. (Read about several who lauded Hugo Chavez for “giving hope” to the people of Venezuela here.)

Advocacy of government economic and social control short of full-fledged Marxism is much more common. A great many “progressive” academics tell students that the concepts of limited government, private property, and economic liberty are outmoded, and that government must constantly increase its sphere of power. Many students are taught to embrace “progressivism,” which is responsible for the empowerment of government and erosion of liberty on a wide front. Rarely do they hear that government power is prone to abuse by dominant groups and causes new socio-economic problems.