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Reblogged:Universities Could Stand to Be Entrepreneurial

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In an age when many "Red" states (such as Arizona) are considering measures to force their government universities to be more intellectually diverse on campus, it is instructive to see someone from the notoriously left-leaning technology sector speak up for intellectual diversity. (I have no idea what the author's political views are, but this post appeared on and received numerous up-votes on a pretty leftish site I frequent.)

How well do you think we're going to do at our goal if the people building it are all ex-Facebook, ex-MIT senior engineers? If everyone has the exact same reference points and professional training, we will all have the same blind spots. Even if our team looks like a fucking Benetton ad.
If only more people in technology realized that this can apply not just to professional knowledge, but to ideology! (Even when another person is provably wrong, one can strengthen his own grasp of the truth by understanding that person's position.)

But I am more concerned with the right, whose method of implementation is at best a stopgap on the way to what it should be doing. To begin to see why, it is worth considering that Ayn Rand, who vehemently opposed the "Fairness Doctrine" for airwaves, supported one for the public universities as a stopgap measure. (The former threatened to remove private broadcasters' control over their own content; the latter was to be a brake on complete strangulation of the universities.) Here are relevant portions of her 1972 essay on the subject:
Image by Dylan Gillis, via Unsplash, license.
If the public allegedly owns universities, as it allegedly owns the airwaves, then for all the same reasons no specific ideology can be permitted to hold a monopoly in any department of any public or semi-public university. In all such institutions, every "significant viewpoint" must be given representation. (By "ideology," in this context, I mean a system of ideas derived from a theoretical base or frame of reference.)


Would this doctrine work in regard to universities? It would work as well -- and as badly -- as it has worked in broadcasting. It would work not as a motor of freedom, but as a brake on total regimentation. It would not achieve actual fairness, impartiality or objectivity. But it would act as a temporary impediment to intellectual monopolies, a retarder of the Establishment's takeover, a breach in the mental lethargy of the status quo, and, occasionally, an opening for a brilliant dissenter who would know how to make it count. (The Ayn Rand Letter, vol. 1, no. 19, p. 81.) [italics in original]
Rand favored completely privatizing education, and clearly saw the above as something doable, in the political context of her time, to buy time for better, more pro-freedom ideas to take root. At best, the same holds true today: I doubt anyone in Arizona is seriously even floating the idea of privatizing its university system.

That is too bad, for the example I opened with shows that, when someone's mission and money are on the line, they can see the value of bringing a different perspective to bear.

Just as central planning -- as we have for education today -- leads to ideological complacency and stagnation, so do free markets and competition lead to keenness and vitality.

Conversely, our educational system will be in no great hurry to discover the value of differing perspectives so long as it is owned and run by the government. Such measures as Arizona's might well be a decent stopgap, but they really should be just the beginning of a broader effort to liberate education from government control.

-- CAV

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