Building America's Counter-University | Opinion

The tactics the American Political Science Association (APSA) deployed to sideline the Claremont Institute's panels at its annual meeting served as a chilling reminder of how timid and narrow-minded America's higher education system has become.

ISI's first president, William F. Buckley Jr., was on this beat earlier than most when he wrote his seminal 1951 book God and Man at Yale. Reflecting on his experience at his alma mater, Buckley lamented not that the academy was closed to free speech and open debate but rather that it was disconnected from its vocation to pursue and apprehend truth.

By claiming to be open to everything, the academy had closed its mind to the possibility of discovering, embracing and instilling the love of wisdom—philosophy—in the rising generations. Disconnected from their true purpose, the academy and adjacent institutions like the APSA have not rendered themselves impotent, but in fact harm the body politic by dissolving the bonds that unite us: the family, the church, the nation and Western civilization itself.

As the old adage goes, the fish rots from the head down. From the vantage point of Harvard University, law professor Adrian Vermeule summed it up best when he reflected: "I don't think we should be shocked by the intellectual collapse of the American universities. Sure, it happened fast. But sooner or later a system not centered on a substantive view of human ends has no natural defenses against a substantive and passionately imperial ideology."

And so we find ourselves beset by debt, decline and decadence, with threats emerging from within and without, lacking the institutions of learning needed to renew our minds and restore our republic. With less than 3 percent of faculty members at Harvard and 7 percent at Yale identifying as conservative—and self-identified moderates constituting less than one-fifth of Harvard's professoriate—its long past time for Americans to look beyond the Ivies for learning and leadership.

In a recent article for Law & Liberty on the pressing need to build new universities, Professor James Patterson of Ave Maria University echoes this sentiment by asserting that "strategies of counterattack and corporate-style management have failed. But there are new opportunities for conservative higher education." More succinctly put, professor Pavlos Papadopoulos at Wyoming Catholic tweeted: "Build your own APSA."

Harvard University campus
CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS - JULY 08: A view of the campus of Harvard University on July 08, 2020 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology have sued the Trump administration for its decision to strip international college students of their visas if all of their courses are held online. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

That's exactly what ISI will do. For nearly 70 years, we have laid the groundwork on campuses throughout the nation by establishing a faculty network of more than 4,000 ISI-affiliated professors. The education that we as a nation provide our students is only as good as the professors who teach them. The APSA's decision is only the latest indication that the vast majority of scholarship in America today is limited by ideological litmus tests. Our professors need alternatives. In the fall of 2022, ISI will provide one.

Our inaugural American Politics and Government (APG) Summit will convene professors across disciplines on Oct. 27-30, 2022 in Wilmington, Delaware. The summit will host serious academic dialogue about emerging research in the fields of politics, philosophy and economics.

With the corruption of higher education in America nearing its completion, what students need is a counter-university, capable of bringing together the best academic minds who have been—or likely will soon be—exiled from civil discourse on most college campuses.

The aim of the APG Summit is what ought to be the aim of the academy: the unapologetic pursuit and apprehension of truth. In this pursuit, ISI welcomes scholars of goodwill from across the political spectrum who share this vision of liberal learning and who long for an alternative to the moribund musings ubiquitous at academic association conferences today.

Our nation's first president, George Washington, described education "as one of the surest means of enlightening and giving just ways of thinking to our Citizens." He saw the creation of a national university as a way to develop friendship and common intellectual pursuits among scholars with diverse interests throughout the nation, smoothing over local prejudices and developing sentiments of liberality among America's leaders.

At a moment when America feels more divided than ever before, ISI's inaugural American Politics and Government Summit will fulfill Washington's vision by being the first step, among many, in a long but urgent journey towards illuminating the American mind.

John A. Burtka IV is the president and CEO of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.