Daily Press (Sunday)

As a former professor, I’m ashamed of today’s college students

- By Steven D. Papamarcos

As a professor and dean for the last 30 years, I’ve been a lucky man. I realized a dream that began on my first day as a university student. I knew, after that first day, that I had found a home, that one day I would be the one standing in front of bright young faces, teaching, hopefully inspiring, and sharing the joy of knowledge.

Today, as I reflect back on my profession­al life, I have never felt so ashamed.

The previous generation, the Greatest Generation, saved the world by sending George Orwell’s rough men into the crucible of war in the interest of peace. White marble crosses and Stars of David in faraway places testify to the enormous price of that purchase.

But now our young people, in large numbers, along with the leaders of some of our previously great universiti­es, stand in direct opposition to the principles they died for.

The latest Programme for Internatio­nal Student Assessment survey was released on

Dec. 5. In 2022, nearly 700,000 15-year-old students from 81 Organisati­on for Economic Co-operation and Developmen­t (OCED) members and partner economies took the Programme for Internatio­nal Student Assessment test.

Statistica­lly, 18 countries and economies performed above the OECD average in mathematic­s, reading and science. The U.S. was not among them. We finished 34th in math, ninth in reading, and 16th in science. And where do you think this level of ignorance stops? Not with math, reading and science.

A 2018 survey conducted by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany revealed that nearly one-third of all Americans and more than 4 in 10 millennial­s do not know which war the Holocaust was associated with.

Although there were more than 40,000 concentrat­ion camps and ghettos in wartime Europe, 45% of U.S. adults and 49% of millennial­s cannot name one.

Surprising? Not when only

34% of all respondent­s and 23% of millennial­s are certain they’ve even heard of the Final Solution. Education in this country has reached a crisis stage, and it may well be leading us into an abyss rarely seen here (for a frightenin­g exception see: Bund, German-American).

One would be wise to revisit previous examples of anti-intellectu­alism being used to stifle reason, perhaps mankind’s greatest gift. And to stifle it in sometimes awful ways.

Following his failure to get into the Viennese Academy of

Fine Arts, Adolf Hitler developed a loathing for intellectu­als. Hitler believed that only a few basic ideas should inform education in Germany, the supreme importance of race being one of them. The first book a child in Nazi Germany came across after kindergart­en was the so-called “Primer.” On the front cover was a caricature of a Jew with the words: “Trust no fox on the green heath; trust no Jew on his oath.”

Today, similar books are used in Palestinia­n schools, and similar caricature­s are featured.

One would think that the recent slaughter of Jews would have a tendency to concentrat­e the American mind, but this modern holocaust is celebrated by the weak-minded, even among our supposed elites.

“From the river to the sea” has become a campus code for awful things. Of course, consistent with other areas of glaring ignorance, surveys show that fewer than half of today’s campus-based antisemite­s can even name the river or the sea — and amorphous calls for “context” have become the hiding place of the presidents of Harvard University, the Massachuse­tts Institute of Technology and the University of Pennsylvan­ia, among others. It may be time to marginaliz­e the true haters and their enablers, provide courageous leadership unencumber­ed by tribalism, and grow up as a nation.

In “Requiem for a Nun,” William Faulkner wrote, “The past is never dead. It isn’t even past.” Unfortunat­ely it seems he was right: the past is still with us. Now the question is, what will we do about it this time?

Steven D. Papamarcos, Ph.D., of Williamsbu­rg, was a professor at William & Mary and a professor and business school dean at Norfolk State University and St. John’s University in New York.

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