Rethinking Higher Education

Colleges as Centers of Malevolence Training

Abraham Lincoln is often credited with saying, “the philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.” While his authorship seems uncertain, it contains a critical truth, especially in light of what is taking place in the country today. And while headlines have us conceding the truth of Lincoln’s alleged statement, they might at the same time have us rethink Aristotle’s assertion that “the roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.”

Aristotle’s truth has been fiscally and socially costly. We all imbibe that there is nothing more prized than that sacred, equalizing college degree to not only impart to our children a skill, but to teach them how to be law-abiding, fruitfully participating members of society. Our politicians are only too happy to fill the Kool-Aid keg with expensive programs such as Bush’s No Child Left Behind in the early 2000’s, followed by Obama’s Race to the Top initiative. Every sipping American parent and student knows from the language of these programs that the fundamental objective of primary and secondary education is college readiness. So convinced were we of education’s fundamental function that we offered little pushback as home economics, auto shop and woodworking spaces were replaced by college prep drill and kill and standardized test prep. We were all willing to do anything to get our children into college so they could enjoy that promised good life.

Enter summer 2020. It seems the “good life” that education promised us has not yielded the sweet fruits of economic hope, contentment, and civility. With education’s chickens coming home to roost, cries against social injustice abound in the form of hashtags, menacing chants, civil unrest, and toppled statues of leaders from their pride of place on local and national monuments. The college-educated genteel class has grown up, and fed all of us a good dose of reality in terms of the school-room nihilistic philosophies they have been learning (which are quickly becoming political philosophies). One wonders how many parents would have taken out that second mortgage to fund their kids’ college if they knew that that very institution would turn them into miserable political anarchists.

If philosopher Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) were alive today, he would find no surprise at the civil unrest among our elite educated. He challenged the notion that higher education could actually tame the wild beast within man, noting that education, badly directed, could be more pernicious than useful. In his day, statisticians reported that criminality increased as access to post-secondary education increased. French magistrate M. Adolphe Guillot observed that “3,000 educated criminals are met for every 1,000 illiterate delinquents.”1 So prevalent was this trend that many statisticians even remarked that “the worst enemies of society, the anarchists, are recruited among the prize-winners of schools.”

French polymath Gustave Le Bon (1841-1931), educated as a physician, having studied the French Revolution and culture, noted, “The French system of education transforms the majority of those who have undergone it into enemies of society, and recruits numerous disciples for the worst forms of socialism,” and that by its methodology renders its pupils impotent. He adds: “It gives those who have been submitted to it a violent dislike to the state of life in which they were born, and an intense desire to escape from it.”

Certainly, we have observed that with the availability of “education,” our children have only grown more discontent, anxious, depressed and angry. In the land of opportunity, their professorial superiors have convinced them there are no opportunities in capitalist America. Of these very political doctrines of devils, the brilliant Frenchman indicts French higher education (the “system”) further:

At the bottom of the social ladder the system creates an army of proletarians discontented with their lot and always ready to revolt, while at the summit it brings into being a frivolous bourgeoisie, at once skeptical and credulous, having a superstitious confidence in the State, whom it regards as a sort of Providence, but without forgetting to display towards it a ceaseless hostility, always laying its own faults to the door of Government, and incapable of the least enterprise without the intervention of the authorities.

Written in 1895, it would seem socialistic movements, regardless of their temporal, cultural or geographical manifestations, never really change anything but their names. The doctrines and philosophies that inform them are forever the same, as are their calls to action. Note that Le Bon is accusing the “system” of generating many losers and few winners who are all dependent on a deified government. Graduates of this system blame the deity for their own faults, and at the same time feel incapable of any success (enterprise) without significant intervention by this same deity.

Le Bon’s treatise on the malevolent outcomes of liberal education comes from his book The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind.[1] He characterizes education as being one of the principle factors contributing to destructive mob behavior, exemplified no better than the real-world model provided him by the French Revolution. Informed not only by this history, Le Bon brings to his seminal book the work of statisticians and brilliant philosophers. For anyone wanting to know where we might be going from here, his book is worth a read. For a free PDF click on the link in the notes below.

Finally, Lincoln’s words (or alleged words) should give all of us an ominous warning to not be so dismissive of the foolishness that comes from our college students' mouths when they come home at Christmas. Listen carefully, because the philosophy they are learning in the school room today – no matter how absurd – will be the political philosophy of tomorrow. In a fallen world, it is doubtful that any such philosophy making its way into your children’s classroom today is informed by a biblical world-view. Maybe it’s time to quit drinking the Kool-Aid and confront what's propagandizing our children as we would with any existential threat to their well-being.  Perhaps it’s time to rethink the value of a college education.


Emily has had a lifelong appreciation for science, teaching, and research. She graduated summa cum laude from California State University, Fresno with a BS degree in molecular biology and a minor in cognitive psychology. As an undergraduate, she conducted summer research in immunology, microbiology, behavioral and cognitive psychology, scanning tunneling microscopy and genetics; she also published research in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, and co-authored a chapter on scanning tunneling microscopy. She is currently completing a Master’s degree in Instructional Design and Technology at University of Cincinnati and a Certificate in Apologetics with the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University. Emily has had the joy of teaching high school chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, anatomy & physiology, and pre-engineering classes over the last thirteen years. As a former Darwinian evolutionist, Emily enjoys stating the case for intellectual agency, considering the arguments posited by the intelligent design movement as much more credible than those proffered by Darwinists.

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