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'Getting Close to Book Burning'

Many outside influencers are trying to tell colleges and universities what they should and should not teach. At least 16 states are considering or have already signed into law bills that punish teachers for discussing critical race theory or similar topics.

“Now we’re getting very close to book burning. Everybody has a favorite book they want to burn,” says Bob Atkins, a higher education strategy consultant, on the Lean to the Left podcast.

On the program, he explains how limiting students’ academic options are detrimental to their future, and what schools can do to hold their ground against external voices and agendas.

"It’s the stuff of demagogues, it’s the stuff of the populace, it’s the stuff of the guys who run Russia," he says. "The idea is I can make stuff up as long as it appeals to my constituency that’s consistent with my ideology. It’s very dangerous stuff, and it really does undermine the foundations of our society in ways that are difficult to quantify. It’s part of what drives these spikes between Americans that needn’t be there. We agree on a lot of the substantive issues, but these fantasy issues really can divide us up."

Atkins says that the impact of these external political pressures on institutions of higher education often affects budgets, which are being cut at many public institutions.

"That’s the first line of defense," he says. "There’s a belief that higher education is too expensive and that by cutting funding that will lower the cost of education,” but, he explains, that’s the opposite of what happens.

“When the state cuts funding, the institutions raise tuitions. So all they’re really doing is shifting the burden of paying for college from the citizenry at large to specifically students and their parents.”

In this podcast episode, Atkins discusses ways that colleges and universities can resist those outside political pressures as well as strategies that can be used to develop academic curriculum that meets the needs of students while holding down costs.

Atkins is the author of “Start, Stop, or Grow?: A Data-Informed Approach To Academic Program Evaluation And Management.” He is the CEO and founder of Gray Associates Inc., a strategy consulting firm focused on higher education. The firm helps education clients develop fact-based institutional and marketing strategies that maximize outcomes for students, the school, and its constituencies.

In leading Gray’s education industry software and services development, Atkins consults with college presidents, CAOs, CFOs and CMOs on program assessment, institutional strategy, pricing and location selection. He received an MBA, with honors, from Harvard Business School, and a BA, magna cum laude, from Harvard College.

Listen to the interview:

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