Thirty years ago, Allan Bloom wrote the book, The Closing of the American Mind. Charles Koch wrote an op-ed with the same title. There are some similarities between the two, but also one important difference.
Charles Koch looks back at the revolutionary technological advances we have made and now take for granted. He is concerned that government and the academy are stifling progress. When he attended MIT, he discovered that “scientific and technological progress requires the free and open exchange of ideas. The same holds true for moral and social progress.”
In America, we used to believe that progress comes from this free exchange of ideas and from challenging other people’s views and hypotheses. The spontaneous process of collaboration and challenge led to the technological advances we have today.
Charles Koch is concerned that, “The U.S. is already far down the path to becoming a less open and free society, and the current cultural and political atmosphere threatens to make the situation worse.” In previous commentaries, I have talked about how political correctness and a bias against contrary views are transforming the colleges and universities.
Charles Koch laments that “Education in America, and particularly in higher education, has become increasingly hostile to the free exchange of ideas. On many campuses, a climate of intellectual conformity has replaced open debate and inquiry, stifling discussion on a host of topics ranging from history to science to economics.” Many liberals and progressives may dislike the Koch brothers but I would hope they would agree with his diagnosis.
Three decades ago, Allan Bloom wrote about how higher education failed democracy and impoverished the souls of today’s students. Charles Koch now sees how intellectual conformity on the campus and in government stifles innovation. This is the legacy of closed minds.