Time, Once Again, for Alpha College

Posted on November 1, 2015

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In last week’s column I lamented the state of knowledge in the country. I promised to propose a fix. This is it.

We need to reexamine closely the values and ethics which gave this country its distinctive character. And then, before the collective memory of those attributes fades away into some corner of our memory, a footnote—like the fall of the Roman Empire—to appear occasionally on history tests, then we need to recapture that spirit and bring it alive into the twenty-first century.

Our curriculum no longer demands the classic liberal arts education, things we all used to think important, like heavy doses of math, history, English, foreign languages, even the elementary sciences.

The curriculum today is dismal as students flow through a politically correct system devised to please everyone, threaten no one, and pander to the lowest common denominator.

I propose establishing an “Alpha College” as the most challenging forum for teaching students the values and ways that made this country.

Does any doubt that we need Alpha Colleges across the country?

As I see it, the world is taking us. The signs are all around us. Most everything we buy seems to be made in China.

Our unparalleled lead in technology is eroding.

Cheating in schools is rampant.

There is in fact a culture of entitlement and mediocrity where there once was excellence and pride in one’s work.

We spent like profligates during the last generation. Not so long ago we saved and invested for the long haul, not for the short term gain.

We are the “evil empire” in wars in the Middle East that contradict our history and national values.

To change our culture we begin by changing ourselves, one by one. I am not offering a solution for all people, for all time. Here’s the way we begin.

Establish an “Alpha College” at any university wishing to take the lead. The curriculum of Alpha College will be decided by faculty and people in society whose values and accomplishments we admire. Alpha College will emphasize learning the fundamentals of our civilization just as in times past, and how to apply them, justly and wisely.
It will not be a replica of any one curriculum from the past.

The first Alpha College Dean faces three tasks: one, identify those core values which make a successful civilization; two, study past educational tracks and institutions to see which ones encouraged and inculcated those values; three, create a modern track for Alpha College, one for the 21st century incorporating not only the best of the past but also the best of today into a package for the future.

That is what we are lacking, a vision of the future that lifts us up from simply existing (a job, a home, financial security) and accumulating (wealth, power, acclaim, fame) to one that looks with learning, discipline, and study to a future that truly lights our eyes with wisdom and pulls us forward with hope.

Discipline, hard work, and accountability will be cornerstones of the new Colleges.

For that we need to reach back to the values that allowed us—a free people living under republican institutions—to realize our potential as human beings, and, two, to fashion the new frontier before us, invoking the best from the past, and the promise of the future.

We need both tradition and the future, Shakespeare and computers, history and nanotechnology, and we need to teach these with conviction and high expectations.

What will be the Alpha College curriculum? Alpha College will foster true thinking and a deep appreciation for the Western tradition (recognizing its flaws as well as its merits), but with a knowledge and respect for the other great traditions and civilizations of the world.

When—if—you get your diploma you will come away with two major accomplishments.

One, you will be an educated person.

Two, you will be prepared to compete in the global marketplace of ideas, economies, ideologies, religions, and politics. You will know that you have passed the most rigorous and demanding curriculum in the U. S.

The challenge is for some institution—great or great-in-the-making, national or regional, large or small—to make a reality of Alpha College and set the model in place.

Or, perhaps, an aspiring candidate for President could absorb and reflect the vision in his or her platform.

The King James version of Proverbs 29:18 shows us the wrong way: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”

The parable of the sower in Matthew 13 reminds us, on the other hand, that “the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

Published as A Fix For the Country’s Woes: Alpha College in Sunday October 25, 2015, The Tuscaloosa News.