I've been thinking a lot about college lately. You see, one of my more time-consuming tasks is to write college recommendation letters. It's an occupational hazard from extended time in the state legislature, Congress and the governorship. But it's one that I enjoy; there is nothing better than to receive notice that a hardworking kid has been accepted into the (often costly) school of his or her choice.
And herein lies the great dilemma for middle-class parents. The wealthy can afford to pay considerable tuition freight; the poor qualify for a wide variety of financial aid and scholarship assistance packages. But it is the wide swath of middle-income parents who continue to leverage themselves in order for their children to punch that four-year ticket to success called a college degree.
Our post-industrial economy demands that degree. The mantra is often repeated by our political and business leaders: Gotta have that sheepskin to compete in the technology economy. It's a cultural guilt trip that has proved to be quite profitable for our four-year institutions; tuitions always increase despite the presence of considerable endowments.
(The fact that some students are more appropriately situated in a technical school, community college or other educational alternative can get lost in the fog of the guilt trip, but I digress.)
This column is directed to the aforementioned parents who sacrifice so much to send their children to college. Specifically, it is a reminder that your kids are often force-fed ludicrous, politically correct junk on your dime. And that the purveyors of this nonsense often hold those who pay the tab (aka "you") in contempt.
Some recent incidents:
•Palm Beach State College shut down the student recruiting booth for the conservative group Young Americans for Freedom for handing out anti-Obama administration materials. The information criticizing the president was published by that hotbed of radicalism, the Heritage Foundation. This, after a college administrator had specifically given the club permission to recruit during "Club Rush Week." Seems the administrator in question changed her mind after reviewing the anti-Obama opinion pieces.
•Florida community college mathematics professor Sharon Sweet asked — and by some accounts, forced — her students to sign a card that stated "I pledge to vote for President Obama and Democrats up and down the ticket." The college has now rightfully concluded that such actions created a hostile environment for the students. Ms. Sweet has been placed on (paid) leave pending a board of trustees vote on her future.
•Vanderbilt University placed four Christian groups (including the Fellowship of Christian Athletes) on provisional status because the groups require their members to adhere to religious tenets. (In some cases, students are expected to sign a statement of faith.) According to school administrators, such religious orientation violates the school's wide-ranging nondiscrimination policy. Similar sanctions have been enacted at SUNY Buffalo, the University of Michigan, the University of North Carolina, Rutgers, Marquette and numerous other schools. So there you have it: Christian groups that restrict their memberships to those who adhere to their beliefs are now viewed as discriminatory by many of our university administrators.
•Reports of military recruiters being kicked off campus or out of job fairs are too numerous to mention. The indictments include the usual charges: racism, sexism, classism, militarism. How easily these miscreants forget about who protects their fiery speech in the first place.
•Politically correct speech codes barring "offensive expression" continue unabated on many campuses. Such policies chill expression (protected by the First Amendment) that might be found offensive — to any and all. The codes are typically vague and contrary to the notion of a university as the facilitator of ideas and open debate. Fortunately, the language police almost always lose free-speech challenges in the courts.
•Last item: It's been six years since a group of 88 Duke University professors indicted, tried, convicted and sentenced three innocent (not just "not guilty") varsity lacrosse players for a non-existent campus rape. No apology was ever issued. Academic life at one of our elite schools simply moved on … as do notions of fair-mindedness, balance and open expression at so many of our leading colleges and universities.
The foregoing is most assuredly not meant to discourage the attainment of a college degree; nor do I wish to impeach all of academia. (I've even met a handful of conservative professors at Maryland schools.) It's just a reminder: Some of your kids may need to be deprogrammed after four years of expensive and progressive groupthink is shoved down their throats.
Fortunately, a glance at the flipside of a first paycheck often brings them back to reality. If only that same phenomenon worked on campus …
Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s column appears Sundays. The former Maryland governor and member of Congress is a partner at the law firm King & Spalding and the author of "Turn this Car Around," a book about national politics. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.