Full Episode Transcript
- [Audio] We believe and have always believed in this country, that man was created in the image of God. He was given talents and responsibility and was instructed to use them to make this world a better place in which to live. And you see, this is the really great thing of America.
- It’s time to discover what binds us together and finding it has the power to transform our world. That’s what I believe. How about you? Hi everyone. I’m Doug DeVos and welcome to “Believe!” Glad to have you with us again. And today we have a wonderful opportunity to talk to Larry Arnn, the president of Hillsdale College. And for those of you who are familiar with Hillsdale, you know the strength of the school and the reputation that it’s built and the topic today that we want to talk about, is in higher education or in education in general today, what should kids be learning about America? What should we love about America or learn about America and you know, Hillsdale College and Dr. Larry Arnn have been incredible advocates of understanding our history in a way that I think is helpful and that helps us grasp what we should believe or what we should consider believing ourselves as we go forward. You know, because your family, you may have different beliefs one way or the other, a lot of kids love America. And a lot of kids maybe don’t right now. So this is a great opportunity to get together with an expert, with a great friend like Dr. Larry Arnn. So Larry welcome, and thank you for joining us. And we’ll just dive right in, help us understand a little bit about how we talk about America in an educational environment. How should we? Should we be teaching kids to love America?
- Well, the first thing is teach ‘em to understand it, know it, right? We’ve extensively lost the love of America. And so now we have to have a discussion about whether it’s worthy of love. And before you even get to that, you have to start with the fact that it’s a doctrine of the classics. It’s an obvious thing. People were made to live together in political communities. Aristotle traces that to our ability to talk, which is unique to us. And so either you’re gonna live under laws or you’re going to be miserable, and there’s almost no history of nations, of groups of people surviving long without law. So studying law, the phenomenon of law, the phenomenon of politics is necessary. And you should start with your own because your own is very consequential in your life. We would probably value America better if we lived in Russia today.
- And much, much better if we lived in China today. So you need to know it to call yourself an educated person. And then what should you know about America? First of all, American history is amazingly coherent. It starts, you know, the country was born on a day. It has a birthday. You can ask yourself, when did England start? When did China start? And the answer is a long time ago, and exactly what date is controversial. We have the Declaration of Independence. We can read it and see what it says. Also the founding that produced the Declaration of Independence and its partner, the Constitution, that too is not so long ago. And it’s very much in the time of recorded history. So you can not only read those documents, you could read why they were written and who wrote them and what they thought about them. So you can know. And it’s a great thing to know. So you should start with that. You just to figure out what it is. And, you know, the Declaration of Independence is a beautiful document and an inspiring document, and also a challenging document. Because the first thing that you have to try to do is understand it. The first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence mentions the laws of nature and of nature’s God.
- It’d be a good idea to find out what those are. What do they mean by that? Because it’s a very interesting situation. The Declaration of Independence begins universally. It begins when, in the course of human events, that means any old time, it becomes necessary for one people. And that means any people to assume the powers of the earth, to which they’re entitled under the laws of nature and nature’s God. Well, that expression, that way of beginning, is the solution to a problem they have. They’re about to throw off a system of law, the British monarchy and constitution, which is by the way, a long way from the worst system of law.
- [Doug] Right, right.
- But not good in some important ways. And they need some authority for doing that. And they don’t say just ’cause we want to, they say there’s some standard above even us that makes this right. And indeed, anything, any time that violates that standard is not in the right. I mean, you know, in China right now, they control people’s speech and livelihood, not under the rule of law, but according to the will of certain powerful people, is that right? Is that right for China? It might be the best they can do, but if you lived under it, you wouldn’t like it because it’s not the right way to treat a human being. So first of all, already you see, there’s a remarkable series of things to know about the country. And so one should, you know, students, they should dwell on those. They should think what those mean, right? The work of a student is not to just believe what they’re told. They’re to think and figure out what’s true. And the American founding unusually to a unique extent, I believe, invites one to do that. So you should go into that effort. And then you know, there’s a lot of things you need to know to understand politics, you know? And I don’t mean just American politics, politics, a human phenomenon.
- Now let me interrupt right there. And just you’ve given us so much to start thinking about. And the first thing that I’m gonna read back is one of the last things you said. We’re not just telling students something to believe. We’re trying to get them to think so that they get to their own belief system. And it feels sometimes that that isn’t happening in many education situations where many times, you know, students, are to a certain extent trained. I gotta get a good grade on this test. I gotta become friends with this professor or have a relationship. And so I’d better give ‘em what they want. And you know, there’s enough speculation and there’s enough stories out there where somebody may have given a good paper, but it wasn’t what the professor wanted. And therefore they weren’t necessarily taught to think, they were taught to follow in the footsteps if you will, of someone of someone who was in power. Which kind of gets to the other things you were saying about people imposing power on the other, but let’s leave those thoughts for just a second. Tell us a little more about you and how you came, your upbringing, what you were thinking, how you got to a point of believing the things you believe today. So tell us a little bit more about you.
- Well, you know, my story is not terribly remarkable. I grew up in a very privileged circumstance. I had a poor father and mother who worked very hard, so I got to see that and they liked to read books and put those two things together. You’re on your way. And so I was curious and, you know, everybody is naturally curious and I was good at school. And it emerged over time that I saw that there were contradictions everywhere you look and contradictions invite you to try to figure them out. And so I embarked on that. A big turning point in my life, the reason I’m not a lawyer, I like to say, I’m not a lawyer. I’m an educated man.
- I’m sure our lawyers are gonna love that.
- Excuse me, lawyers. I was made to do it in undergraduate school. I was made to read Plato’s Republic. I tried to resist it. And the theme of Plato’s Republic is what is justice? What is the right treatment of other people? And early on, there’s a fight between Socrates and some and a sophist. That’s somebody who many of the Socratic dialogues involve sophists. And that’s somebody who teaches young people, ambitious young people, how to argue in order to win and get power, which is something different than the truth. And Socrates destroys that man. And those two young men become his students. Their names are Glaucon and Adeimantus and they happen to be Plato’s brothers. And so Plato’s brothers are in a contest for their souls. And Plato’s teacher is leading them as he led Plato. And so that’s a great drama. And I began to understand the significance of that. And I learned from that to ask, not just what my opinion is and not just what anybody’s opinion is, and not just what the powerful opinion is, what is the truth of the matter? ‘Cause that’s what we really want to know. We wanna know what’s right. We all wanna know that. And so that’s, you know, I became a student and was more serious. I’d always been, I used to be really good at making A’s. Then I became a student. I wanted to find out. I went to graduate school. I studied the classics and the American revolution and Abe Lincoln and Winston Churchill. Those are my main fields. And I studied them because they taught those things there. But also the particular mix of them with me was driven by what I loved, by what sung to me. Your colleague, Steven Ford, for example, I know his loves ’cause I watched him grow up and he’s better at the things that he loves in particular than he is at everything. So I followed that track and I did come very much to love the story and meaning of America. I think it’s one of the greatest things that ever happened, but that’s a conclusion that you breach, you know, you don’t start by saying, at Hillsdale College for example, we don’t start our classes by saying, “You’re gonna find out the truth and here’s what it is.” We start rather in another way, this is a beautiful thing to understand. Let’s see if we can understand it. And that’s how you read Shakespeare. And that’s how you read Plato. And that’s how you read the American revolution and that’s how you study physics or chemistry or biology. You give yourself to it. So I learned to do that. And then I discovered, you know, a huge change in my life when I moved to Michigan and I moved to Michigan because I discovered, I didn’t know it, not many people knew it back then. Hillsdale College was actually founded by people who became friends of Abraham Lincoln.
- Wow. What an incredible history, what an incredible legacy.
- Awesome to me. Right?
- And the platform that Lincoln was elected president in 1860, the first version of it was written in a building that stands on this campus today.
- Oh my goodness.
- Lincoln’s friend, Frederick Douglass, spoke on this campus twice.
- And the college wasn’t making a lot of those things, but I’ve discovered them not because they told me and I went, “Wow, that’s a beautiful thing.”
- That is a wow.
- And I just thought maybe it would be possible to what it always seemed to me impossible, which was to turn a college into a community. And so I think we’ve done that and that’s why, it’s not because of me, it’s because those things are beautiful and we study those things.
- Wow. Wow. Wow. That thank you for that history. It always helps so much to put your perspective, your beliefs, your leadership, in perspective by the experiences that you’ve had and the curiosity that you express by gaining a level of understanding, of seeking out, of being curious about justice or truth. Let me ask a little bit and I have to get to Frederick Douglass being on campus. I just, again, a huge fan, the Constitution, the Declaration. I’m involved with the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. And so I’ve tried to learn so much. I’ve just really enjoyed it, but our nation, while it has a wonderful rich history, does not have a perfect history. And Frederick Douglass recognized that. But he also talked about his appreciation and that our best path forward was to build on the founding principles in the Declaration. Can you help us understand that a little bit more in that relationship and how our nation can learn from things, how it can redirect, how it can improve itself in the structure that we have? How we can find things we believe and then seek as a nation to pursue those things.
- Good question. America is very different than most countries because it begins with an explanation and you’re invited to believe it, which means you’re also invited to disagree with it. And many people did. There was a war fought over it and one can read them, you know, the Constitution, I regard as a great document, the people who opposed it didn’t. And to understand the people who supported it, you have to also read the people who opposed it and it has to make a case for itself. And so what’s unusual about our country is not that it’s imperfect. They all are. It’s that it holds up a standard of perfection and invites one to compare. And no serious American has ever made the argument that this is a perfect country. The most serious Americans to my mind, Frederick Douglass is one of them. Abraham Lincoln is one of them. George Washington is one of them. They called upon the nation to attempt to live up to its principles. Lincoln said this thing that just contains a world of meaning in a short statement, he says, “The electric cord that binds American is the statement of equality in the Declaration of Independence.” And then he says, “Always to be striven for, always to be sought after, never to be wholly attained.” You see? In other words, there’s no surprise in the fact that the country is not perfect. It’s a country! The remarkable thing about it is the perfection for which it aims.
- Right? What a great way to think about that. And so how do we as a nation and the division that we have, and the struggles that we have, how do we find our way forward? Because as you say, there’s people on both sides, there were people that were, you know, liked the Declaration, who knows who didn’t like it. Those are people who liked the Constitution, those who didn’t like it. There’s people who like America and those who don’t like America. What’s the right way, or maybe not the right or wrong. Let me not say it that way. What’s a productive way to not like America? Because I tend to observe a lot of people who say they don’t like America. But I don’t see them being productive to move it forward or to offer recommendations or suggestions, or to go shoulder to shoulder to work together with people who like it to make it better. Help us understand the consequences of not liking America, but, you know, and then taking that too far.
- Well, you know, that’s very good. I said before it, you know, it’s too late to simply, as things are today to simply say, you ought to like America. The question is, what is it? Let’s find out about it, right? Because it’s not what its silliest partisans or silliest enemies say, it’s a set of claims and they can be evaluated. And that’s what students do, right? You don’t educate, first of all, you don’t educate a child by doing anything to them. It’s not like manufacturing, it’s like helping something to grow. And so the question is always, let’s find out about this. And let’s find about out about this in comparison to other things, both what does it claim it is and what is in fact it is. And also what do other things claim and what are they in fact. And that’s why the first line in Aristotle Metaphysics, a very great book, is, “The human being stretches himself out to know.” Not wants to know, stretches himself out to know. We love to know. If you walk in a classroom full of 20 little kids or big kids, it doesn’t matter where they are. And it doesn’t matter who they are. You can take it for granted. They wanna know. And the first thing is just to find out and the subject is not, what do I think about this? You can’t answer that until you know what it is. And, you know, I argue and believe that America is the most beautiful of the modern countries. Imperfect though it is, of course. It is a human thing, right? They’re all imperfect. To make that argument, first you have to become acquainted with what it is. And so you start now at the high school, at the K through 12, there’s two different kinds of things we do here. In the college level, the way you find out what a thing is, is look at it directly. Read the documents, read whatever record there is. Read whatever science there is about whatever subject you’re studying and figure it out. Earlier, kids start studying some civics in the fourth grade by law, practice and tradition. And we think that’s right, and they should get acquainted with the words of the basic documents of America, but they can’t quite read them and understand them yet. And so they need a fair textbook and a fair teacher. And you don’t have to worry too much about prejudicing them because they’re gonna figure it out for themselves anyway, especially if the education goes on and by the time they get to 11th grade, and then by the time they get to college, they’re actually reading all the stuff for themselves. And so, you know, I believe that the founders of Hillsdale College were right that slavery was an evil, but that wasn’t a unanimous opinion. John Calhoun, Steven Douglas, Jefferson Davis, they argued that it was a good thing and people took to killing on each other over that. And so what you do is read those arguments, right? What seems true? And it’s only when you’ve done that, that you can intelligently think about what you think. And here’s a rule. It’s an overriding rule. Education is not about you. It’s about the thing you’re studying. And if you study it truly, that will have an effect on you. So one of the first jobs you’ve got to do with kids is get them to still themselves and open themselves to see this thing, right? We have a constitution reader here that we think is the best microcosm of the story of America. And it’s all in original source documents. Well, on one page, you can read John C. Calhoun writing, arguing that slavery is good for the slaves. And on the next page, you can read the Alabama slave code. And, you know, that’s the rules that govern slaves and slave owners and free people too in Alabama. Every free white male in Alabama had to ride posse one night a month as a volunteer, whether were slave owners or not, looking for runaways. And the intelligent student will say, “Wow, I wonder why they were trying to get away.” You know? So, you know, in other words, you have to suspend what you think and open yourself. And that’s what, you know, the possession of the moral and intellectual virtues are very closely related. And one thing the moral virtues teach you to do is to look at other things and see them as they actually are not tempered, not altered by your wants or your fears. You know? You have to learn to sit down and look at it and possess your soul when you do it. And we don’t do that in school so much anymore because we’re actually presenting them an arbitrary world. You know, the New York Times has done that frightful 1619 Project. And they claim that the movement of the founding of America from the colonies forward was in the direction of perpetuating slavery. Now, the leading American historian today is a man named Gordon Wood, a student of the former leading historian, a guy named Bernard Bailyn. And Gordon Wood has written in response to that, no colonist wrote such a thing ever. In other words, there’s not a shred of evidence for it. And they didn’t retract the New York Times. They just altered their explanation on the website without calling any attention to it. What they had said was, “This is the true story.” Now they say, “This is the new narrative.” But see the narrative is something different than the story. And that means that’s something they’re proposing to the students, and it should be identified like that to them. And honest people would invite the students to compare what they say to what was said at the time. And, you know, we have hindsight, that’s one of the things you have to take out of it because you don’t get to use it, in making your own choices. But we should certainly look at what people say today, but we should compare it to the record that exists, which in this case, it’s very rich.
- I’m sorry. Again, Larry, when you talk about education, students, teaching, learning, you have a reverence about you that this is, not only for you, but for the student and for the teacher, that this is a calling. And for those of us listening to you, you know, I’m hearing your encouragement say, you’re not gonna tell us what to believe. You could tell us what you believe, but you’re gonna encourage us to be curious enough and work enough to go to the documents, to sign up for a class or do something so that we can form our own beliefs. And you seem so powerfully committed to that idea. Am I seeing that right? Hearing that right?
- We all make choices in our lives and Hillsdale College has been successful since I’ve been here. And that means I could go and do a lot of other things. I don’t want to.
- You know?
- The sublimest human activity outside church is contemplating the best things with friends and that’s what college is supposed to be.
- Wow. Wow.
- And you know, I mean, colleges are scenes of strife and hostility today. Ours is not. And the reason is, by the way, everyone here, every transaction at Hillsdale College is done by people who want to do it, you know, they’re volunteers. And so, you know, I just had a bunch of kids in here for lunch and we just sat and talked about nothing in particular, supposed to be 50 minutes. And it lasted until this conversation started, almost two hours, because they wanna figure out the world.
- And so I know about the world quite a lot, I’m older than they are, and they know a lot about it. And so we just talked about that and it was sublime. It was awesome. I actually believe the key to recovering America, which I think is being lost, maybe fatally, is to learn about it ’cause it’s a great thing to know. And you know, I mean, you know, we got all these charter schools, right. And they’re just besieging us with so many people who wanna start ‘em.
- Right, right.
- And why parents want their kids to know, you know? No parent gets up in the morning and says, “As a final end, I want my kids to love America.”
- What they all want is they want their kids to be happy, which requires them to be good. And that means they’re gonna have to know a lot of things and all of the fundamental things. Right? So, you know, in school, schools fight with the parents all the time. We don’t.
- Right? You know, first of all, you don’t have to be there. It’s a choice. But second let’s say my daughter founded a school. It’s a very great school. I’m partial of course to her,
- Right, right.
- When she started it, she’d been a college professor. She’s an attractive woman, PhD, great teacher, the world’s her oyster. And she wants to have a family and she wants her husband to get a big job, academic job. And she wants flexibility. And I said, “Well, you should start a school.” And she said, “I could never do that.” And I said, “All right.” A few minutes later, she said, “Why did you say that?” And I said, “Well, who’s the world leading expert about two things? You and running a school. You’ll be good at it in three months.” Now I’ll tell you the first week, you know, girls and dads are a remarkable thing, right? Boys and dads are remarkable too, just in a different way.
- I have three girls myself. So I know what you’re talking about.
- I bet they’re good looking too. I know your wife. And she said, she called me, you know, three, four times a week. And she said, “Dad, they treat me like a servant.” And I said, “Okay.? She said, “They give me list of things, move the bicycle rack, stuff like that.” And I said, “Well, that’ll stop.” And she said, “How will I stop it?” And I said, “You will stand in front of them. Do I remember you wrote your doctoral thesis on Aristotle?” She said, “Yes, I did.” And I said, “Maybe, you know what to tell ‘em? Tell them what’s going to become of their children. They will become good people, which means courageous and moderate and just, and wise, right? A blessing to all who know them, tell them that.” She said, “How will I get them to come?” And I said, “Silly goose. You have their children. They will come.” And you know, two weeks later she called and said, “Boy, that works.” See? Because it’s nature, right? It’s how things work. And so we want our children, you know, we don’t actually want our children to have a particular disposition in anything political. We want them to be just, we want them to be free. We want them to be fair. Right? And so they have to learn what those things are. And there needn’t be any controversy about the good of those things. Everybody recognizes the good of those things.
- Right. Right.
- And so then you have to study, how do you get that good? And it turns out that’s very hard and there are major wars and generation long controversies about that. But you can study those things and then maybe you can get a better opinion. And be a better benefit to everybody you meet.
- Yeah. Well, you articulate this idea of learning and teaching in a really beautiful and important way for all of us to learn and to think about things differently. I’m sure that people would, when they think of Hillsdale, they would have this as a brand and they teach this and they might break it down to this type of philosophy or this type of thinking. But what we’re hearing from you is your passion for having people to be curious to search out for themselves. You teach them how to learn or help them.
- And we can define the word teach. And it doesn’t mean when we use the word, it doesn’t mean telling them what we think. It means helping them understand.
- [Doug] Right.
- You know, I knew, you know, I’m very scandalous person. So I knew Rush Limbaugh for many years. Liked him a lot too. And don’t apologize for it today. Well, he said to me one time, “How do you make them conservative?” And I said, “I don’t.” He said, “You don’t?” I said, “No, you can’t do that.” I mean, if there’re any good, you know, because I say so it doesn’t work.
- [Doug] Right, right.
- And he said, “Huh?” He said, “Are they conservative?” And I said, “Yeah, mostly.” And he said, “How does that happen?” I said, “If you teach them to find the value in an old book, you have undercut the central premises of modern liberalism.” You know, if Shakespeare was as good or better a writer than anybody we have today, that means it’s not just all a progress. And it means that the standards of the past could reflect something eternal.
- [Doug] Wow.
- And so you gotta get, you know, another thing about education is it has to take you out of yourself. Right?
- I mean, I swear, I look at what they do in the public schools now. And it’s like they want ‘em to just learn everything about civics from reading the newspaper today.
- And that’ll turn ‘em into slaves. Right? People often tell me it’s a crisis, you know, kids don’t pay any attention to the news. And I say, “Why is that a crisis?” It depends on what they’re doing with their time. But the news you’ll never understand the news until you understand some history and some political thought and some literature. And so that’s what kids should be doing. Getting good at that.
- It’s hard today, with anything coming at them, whether it’s the news or social media, it always feels to me like you have to put it in context, you know who you are, you know, where you are, you have a place and therefore whatever’s coming at you doesn’t feel overwhelming. Is that, as you are articulated, that’s a flaw or a challenge in a lot of the education that’s done today that, subjects or information is just kind of pushed at somebody. And it’s about getting it into their heads so they could pass a test. Am I observing that correctly versus really trying just to unleash their curiosity? Am I hearing that correctly? And does that then drive the anxiety that a lot of parents feel when things like the 1619 Project are taught or like you articulated or critical race theory is taught, or your involvement with the 1776 Project, is that the gist of the angst that maybe many parents are feeling?
- Yeah. And see you don’t, you think America’s terrible. And I think it’s great and you’re wrong. Right? You’ll never get anywhere of that. The question is, what is it? Let’s find out what it is. And as I say, remember, it makes claims for itself that are amazingly coherent and deliberate. It’s not lost in the midst of time. And that’s, you know, you want your kid to navigate through the world today. First of all, they need to become intellectually and morally virtuous. ‘Cause they’ll never be any good if they don’t. And you know, that takes work and it takes and see here’s a wonderful thing in Aristotle. ‘Cause see, I’ll backtrack a second because science is an old word that means “to know.” Technology is from an old word that means “to make.” Those are not the same thing. And so now we live in an age when we think we, by our own efforts can revolutionize the world and we’re impatient with anything that doesn’t make change. Change, hope, and change. So that leads us to do something in education. And we do it both Republican and Democrat, by the way.
- We think we’re going to make children into something. We think it’s like manufacturing. It isn’t. It’s like helping something grow.
- Right, right.
- And to be a teacher is a really great thing because what you see in the classroom is it doesn’t matter what you think. I mean, what you know at least. What matters is what they learn. And their learning is to them a serious effort. In fact, it’s hard. It makes them tired. If they’re not straining at it, they’re not learning. And so the growth is in them, you see? They wanna know. They’ll never know if they’re asleep.
- And we think we’re going to do something to them. And that is very much not the way. And it’s good for a person to teach a bunch of kids. I mean, we’re very privileged here at Hillsdale. Everybody wants to be here. Everybody’s smart.
- That’s great.
- You know, and everybody understands they gotta behave themselves and mostly they do, but it’s also true that they strive and you get to help them.
- Right, right. Help them grow.
- And if they don’t strive, they don’t grow. You know, the only conversation you can have with somebody who gets, you know, it happens, young people live under pressures today. And there is more depression than there used to be. I don’t think as much here as most places, but there’s more than there used to be.
- And, and you know, when they’re in that condition, the only conversation you’re having with them is what’s wrong here.
- How can we help you? Above all, how can you help you?
- Right, right.
- Because we are made in a difficult situation. We’re just like a dog or a cat and needing to eat and strive and aging and getting sick and all that. And yet we have these free souls. And that raises the question, what are we gonna do with ourselves?
- What are we gonna do? Yeah. What a great question to contemplate. And you know, as we kind of wrap our time up here, you’ve worked very hard. The history of Hillsdale has worked very hard to avoid any undue restraint from the government to not take government funding, to avoid those sorts of things. Certainly you apply standards to your curriculum and things of that nature. Help us understand why is that so important for you to have that level of independence and ability to continue to do what you do? And what are you seeing from other institutions that you look at and you observe and you learn and you see their claims and you go, okay, don’t want to go that direction. We wanna go our direction. I’m trying to take on your learning here as best I can.
- Well they’re all going broke, right? So, first of all, you have to understand the government has changed. There are two American histories and the original one was a thing. It had lots of trouble in it. And the new one is a new kind of contest. The old one, it was deeply aware of the things that I’m saying. That the virtue of the human being is in the human being. Others can only help. Education happens in the student. Government programs. America was a very remarkable place. Tocqueville writes that when he comes here in the 1830s, he says, there’s more government in America than in France, which is the first centralized nation state. But the way of the government is different. In America, it’s local and voluntary. That means we get to do it. And that’s inefficient in some ways he says, but it gives everybody practice in living a life as a free person. And the whole goal of America, the beauty of it is everybody gets to live a fully human life. And that means make your living, raise your family, learn what you can, all that. Right? And it doesn’t matter who your mom or your dad is. And that’s the claim of America. That’s the beauty of it. That’s what the Declaration of Independence means.
- [Doug] Right, right.
- And so today and schools were always very decentralized things and you know they were subsidized by the way. In the Northwest ordinance, the biggest subsidy for education in American history was given. It was given 1⁄32 of the Western lands here in Michigan, where we live, but then the federal government didn’t have anything to do with it after that. It was for education in each township. And it was given as an endowment to the states to manage. And that meant the 16th section of Hillsdale Township is about 400 yards behind me. And the policies that were made, what to do with that money were made here. And that’s America at its greatest. Now everything is done scientifically and bureaucratically. Scientifically means experts figure it out. And bureaucratically means there are detailed rules, governing behavior, and that’s what’s wrong with everything in the American government today. And that’s why schools don’t work very well. ‘Cause the rules are made by people who don’t actually come into contact much with the students.
- [Doug] Right.
- And you know, the Republicans are as guilty of that as the Democrats are, ’cause they believe that centralized testing is the key. You know, there’s a certain recent secretary of education who’s the best I ever saw.
- Right. I’m kind of partial to that one too.
- You know, I think you may know the woman and she’s is very stubborn about that. She she wouldn’t do that stuff. Right? And it’s hard to do anything else ’cause there’s this huge bureaucracy. But she held the line on that stuff. And so yeah, we, and you know, we started refusing the federal money in about 1960 and it wasn’t very much money back then. We didn’t like the principle of the thing because we’re gonna train the leaders of the country, the government shouldn’t be funding that. How will they have any critical distance from the powerful people who run the government? Well, that’s just got worse and worse and now it’s a lot of money. You know, I think it’s, I think I can show you, our auditors are very good. They don’t catch me at the stuff I do. And they do surveys of how the rest of the world works ’cause we don’t really know. The average private college is collecting $16,500 a year. But of that 9,000 comes from federal student loans and 5,000 comes from federal student grants. That means, what is that? That’s five, 5,000. That’s 85% is paid by the government. And then there’s the state government after that. And so they call the tune now and they do it. You know like your family company is a marvel to me. I’ve always admired it. And why? It’s not built on rules. It’s built on people working and benefiting and you know, and doing a good job, which means serving the customers well. And you know, the only rule that you can actually enforce. And everybody will remember is like a student rule here. We have very few student rules, but the overarching one is just be good. Be good.
- Yeah. The golden rule. If we stick with the golden rule will be pretty good.
- Yeah. And make that operative.
- And that means everybody’s gotta agree that that’s the goal.
- And then when they mess up, here’s a discipline conversation around here. What did you do? And I don’t have as many as three or four of those. I have one or two, if that, a year. Right? And they’ll do something kind of bad and I’ll end up talking to ‘em and I’ll say, “What’d you do?” And they’ll tell me, and I’ll say, “Was that a good thing to do?” And they say, “No.” And I say, “Don’t do that anymore.” There, I told them. If they do it again, then maybe that’s more serious, but they don’t very much, so yeah. In other words, we are made to govern ourselves and we need powerful external government of course. But its purpose is to preserve our own self government. And we forget that these days and we think, you know, the schools, I mean, you know, I’ll mention it. I didn’t get along with the Bush administration, either of them very much, because I care about the independence of our college. And I think they should all be more independent and then see if they are more independent. Then the effect of that is there’s somebody who works on the campus, who can be held responsible for the wellbeing of the college and the wellbeing of the students. And also you can invite the parents in to help. And so I didn’t like all these centralized testing things and I didn’t like them giving the department of education, more authority over accreditation. And why? The accreditation system started in 1900. The first one was in Chicago where charter members of that one.
- [Doug] Right, right.
- Education Department started in the late seventies. Now it has extensive control over all that and what it was before it was founded to be, colleges would join up and every 10 years they’d go audit each other and report whether they seemed to be doing what they were saying they were doing. And that’s a healthy outside check. Right?
- Yeah. Kind of a peer review sort of thing.
- That’s right. That’s all it was. And you know, I have the report of our 1900 accreditation and what it basically says is yeah, they seem to be doing what they say they do. And that’s all you need because if it’s a competitive world and it ought to be, except remember I just told you 80, 90% of the money of all the colleges comes from a single source now, but the truth is, if it weren’t like that, then you could say, “Here’s my college. This is what we do. Wanna try it?”
- And that would be good, you know? And we’re trying to abolish that these days.
- Yeah. Yeah. Well the whole competitive spirit is vital, certainly in business. And when you’re competing for an opportunity to help a student grow, you want the best people doing it. Absolutely. And so Dr. Larry Arnn from Hillsdale College, thank you for your time and, and helping us understand the perspective that you bring and Hillsdale College brings to learning, helping us understand the importance of our own curiosity in that process to seek out what it is. And so that we understand what it is before we figure out what to believe about it. And pick a side if you will. So we’re grateful for your wisdom. We’re grateful for your time. Thanks for sharing with us and just appreciate all that you do and the fine folks and your friends at Hillsdale College. It’s a great adventure. So thanks for spending time with us.
- You and your family are a blessing to our state, and I appreciate you too.
- Well. You’re very kind. You’re very kind. And so Dr. Larry Arnn, Larry thank you for joining us. This is we’ll wrap up this episode of “Believe!” and we’ll look forward to seeing y’all again very soon. Thanks everybody.