LET’S BE REASONABLE: A Conservative Case for Liberal Education | Jonathan Marks, Princeton University Press (2021), 231p.
Marks pushes conservatives to not abandon the academy but to reform it. He first tackles common stereotypes and misconceptions about the sources of the failure of higher education economics. Secondly, and more interestingly, he makes the case to embrace the fundamentals of a liberal (small L) education.
Here, Marks pays homage to those who sought to bring elements of the “elite” subjects to the economically distressed.
The author rejects the utilitarian claims for a purpose amongst higher education planners who often use adjectives like “integrative, interdisciplinary, interconnected, entrepreneurial, twenty-first century, complex, dynamic, and problem-solving...” Nor does the writer support the outcome of a certain kind of “cultural literacy” or the massive production of, in Locke’s terms, those who are “logical chicaners.”
In the end, Marks argues for a system that produces productive pluralism, the type of open inquiry that buttressed the creation of the Enlightenment and the attendant Industrial Revolution.
Academic freedom only matters when at least two competing ideas can clash - if only one is present, debate is not. The range and veracity of debate are a keen indicator of the academy's health and worth.