WASHINGTON - SEPTEMBER 27: U.S. President Barack Obama greets supporters after signing the Small Business Jobs Act in the East Room of the White House September 27, 2009 in Washington, DC. The legislation provides $12 billion in tax incentives and establishes a $30 billion fund to increase credit access for small businesses. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

President Obama’s Department of Education, where Secretary Arne Duncan appointed a longtime homosexual activist who was part of the sometimes-violent Act Up organization to head his “safe schools” office, now is proposing to force colleges and universities to submit to a political agenda, according to critics.

Under the proposed federal rule change, institutions of higher education “would be required to
have a document of state approval … to operate an educational program,
including programs leading to a degree or certificate,” explained an analysis by Shapri D. LoMaglio for the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities.

“I think it is the greatest threat to academic freedom in our lifetime,” former Sen. Bill Armstrong, now president of Colorado Christian University, told WND. “But only if you love liberty.”

Read about what happens to students in college, in “Already Gone.”

Armstrong is so alarmed over the proposal identified by the federal agency as a rule change regarding “Program Integrity Issues” that he’s joined with another former Colorado senator and higher-education leader, Hank Brown, in writing a commentary on the subject.

Brown was president of the University of Northern Colorado and the University of Colorado.

The educators were joined by prominent columnists Cal Thomas and Jay Ambrose in alerting readers about the proposal.

Armstrong is encouraging members of Congress to look into the measure, since, as a proposed “regulation” change, most lawmakers probably haven’t even heard of it.

Armstrong said the implications are not complicated, despite the 86 pages of tiny type in the federal agency’s rule change.

“The Department of Education is attempting to subject every college and university in America – public and private – to political supervision,” he said in an e-mail to WND.

Somebody, he said, needs to blow the whistle and put a stop “to this takeover, a huge threat to institutional autonomy and academic freedom.”

WASHINGTON - AUGUST 11: U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan addresses the opening session of the first federal Bullying Prevention Summit August 11, 2010 in Washington, DC. Duncan said that 8.2 million students reported being bullied during the 2007 school year. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Accreditation, now established by relatively independent educational councils, already is a life-or-death rating that requires institutions to meet high educational standards. But the new requirement for a “state approval” provides that “the State is expected to take an active role in approving an institution and monitoring complaints from the public about its operations and responding appropriately.”

“While these regulations only encourage rather than require state involvement and oversight, if these proposals are passed as written, it is apparent the direction that future regulations will head,” the analysis said. “Some states are already involving themselves in curriculum decisions for education, nursing and other such programs for professions that require state licensure. In addition to the practical considerations of staffing and expense, this also implicates the large issues of academic freedom and religious freedom.

“As religious schools, we could particularly be adversely affected by state attempts to regulate curriculum (science, religion, etc.). Currently Colorado requires education courses to include phonics, but what if as part of ‘authorization’ a state required that a science course or a counseling course include certain components?”

Armstrong and Brown, in their commentary published on Colorado Christian University’s website as well as in the Denver Post, ask whether colleges should “be subjugated by federal and state government.”

Armstrong and Brown said what is “ominous” is “the whole idea of political supervision of higher education.”

“As a practical matter, the department’s power grab carries with it an implicit invitation for various pressure groups to seek legal mandates requiring colleges and universities to implement their pet theories about curriculum, degree requirements, faculty qualifications, teaching methods, textbooks, evolution, phonics, ROTC, climate change, family policy, abortion, race, sexual orientation, economic theory, etc.,” they wrote.

“If adopted, regional accreditation will be denied to any institution that has not first been given ‘substantive’ state ‘authorization.'”

They pointed out that all colleges already are licensed by one or many states and are subject to state fraud and consumer-protection laws.

That, however, is “not what the Department of Education has in mind,” they warned.

“Although details are sketchy, the department’s proposal calls for ‘substantive’ oversight, not ‘merely of the type required to do business in the state.’ Moreover, this legal authorization must be ‘subject to adverse action by the state,’ and the state must have ‘a process to review and appropriately act on complaints … and to enforce applicable state laws,'” they wrote.

“In other words, the state will be required to set standards, establish guidelines and enact rules and regulations by which each college and university will be judged,” they said. “This assault on academic freedom and institutional autonomy is a slap in the face to regional accreditation agencies whose peer reviews have been bulwarks of integrity and academic quality for decades. Loss of accreditation is literally a death sentence.”

Thomas, in a column for Tribune Media Services, said the new Department of Education rule could take effect as early as November. He said a number of state lawmakers already have raised concerns about the government potentially being involved in “setting course requirements … [and] how and what to teach.”

“Imagine the outcry if someone identified with the tea-party movement had made similar demands of a Republican administration concerning what is taught at Harvard or UC Berkeley. There would be protests in the quads and a lawsuit by the ACLU,” Thomas wrote.

“If imposing outside agendas – from textbook content to course selection – is supposedly bad when conservatives do it (mostly in reaction to the liberal assault on any ideas that conflict with theirs), why is it not equally onerous when liberals push for state control and the dictation of course content at private colleges and universities?” Thomas questioned.

Further, Ambrose, a longtime editor with Scripps Howard News Service, said the proposal’s possible impacts “are enormous, including a frightening assault on academic freedom as crucial decisions are transferred from faculty and administrators to bureaucrats and legislative bosses who just might use weapons of mass authority to demolish instruction of a kind they don’t like.”

“What strikes me (and Armstrong, too) is that the move is more of the same,” Ambrose continued. “The Obama administration does not much trust liberty. If something out there sneezes, regulate it. Surround it with endless pages of rules, blankets and blankets of rules, enough rules to smother the slightest hope of autonomy. Do more if necessary. Take over things. Take over health care. Take over the auto industry. Take over financial institutions. Government knows all. Government should do all. Government, we praise thee!”

The suggested rules, specifically explained under “State Authorization,” call for states to grant colleges “authorization” to operate if the “authorization” is “subject to adverse action by the state and … the state has a process to review and appropriately act on complaints.”

WND previously has reported on Duncan’s appointment of Kevin Jennings, the founder of the pro-homosexual advocacy organization Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network to head the office of “Safe Schools” in the Education Department.

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