Higher Learning for the Conservative Mind

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College Admissions Scandal and Brexit

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HUGH HEWITT: Morning glory, America. Bonjour, hi, Canada. Greetings to the rest of the country and the world listening on HughHewitt.com or via our podcast. It is the last radio hour of that week that has just passed, and that means I'm joined by Dr. Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College. He is often my guest on Friday in the third hour of my program. Sometimes, Matt Spalding, his colleague at the Kirby Center, or one of his other faculty members joins me. But I'm very glad that it's, in fact, Dr. Arnn this week. Hello, Dr. Arnn. Good Friday to you.

LARRY P. ARNN: How you doing, world traveler?

HEWITT: I am glad to be back. I could talk to you about Hong Kong at great length, but we have pressing business. We have, of course, a massacre in New Zealand. I've covered that.

But I want to talk about the cheating scandal with you, because there are a few hundred college presidents out there, and nothing surprises me anymore. But what would surprise me is if anyone at Hillsdale had any connection with this. Would you give me your reaction as a long-serving college president of a prestigious university, the competition to get into which is actually kind of indescribable, given it's become the lantern of sweet freedom up in the north? What is your reaction to this scandal?

ARNN: Well, of course, it's funny on the surface. It's where it's come to. The most interesting thing about it to me is that the parents took huge steps for their children—the ones I know about—the ones that have been written about—so their children wouldn't know.

HEWITT: Right.

ARNN: And that means (1) they know it's wrong.

HEWITT: They know it's wrong. Yep.

ARNN: And (2) they've got one moral principle—take care of your kids—is at war with another, and they didn't sort that out very well. And you know, it's this notion that—it's a fact—that, if you get into Harvard, it's a little bit like winning the lottery. And everybody is going to get an average grade of an A-minus there and they're going to have a Harvard degree for the rest of their life.

HEWITT: Well, it's kind of that way with Hillsdale. It has become in ten years like winning the lottery for center-right serious students getting in. So the pressure has jumped. And I don't hide it from anyone. I have often sent you names of people I think are qualified, but I would no more think of bribing, Larry Arnn. I can't imagine anyone would ever accept a bribe at Hillsdale. It would strike at the very core of the College mission.

ARNN: Yeah. And see, that's a crime. So, you can't, to enrich yourself—defrauding your employer is a go-to-jail kind of thing. And human vice exists everywhere, including at Hillsdale College, but it would be very unlikely.

And I'll even tell you why it would be very unlikely. The person who runs admissions at Hillsdale College is Doug Banbury. And the people who work in admissions are almost all recent graduates of the College, or—a couple of them are getting to be sort of mid-30s now, and he's decentralized that thing. So, there are teams, and they have goals, and they have leaders, and they deliberate together about who gets in. So, it'd be very hard for one person to do that. And everybody else would scratch their heads, as, of course, the stories say, was going on at these other colleges.

HEWITT: At some places like Stanford and USC, a few counselors said, what? This person doesn't play water polo. But tell me something. I went on a rant yesterday—

ARNN: Long torso and short legs.

HEWITT: Yeah, that's it. It made no sense at all. My boys played water polo, I know this, and I want Hillsdale College to start a water polo team. And, in fact, if you're a generous donor out there, the best thing you can do is write Larry Arnn a $25 million check and make them the world's best water polo place. That's what I want them to do, beat Grand Valley.

So, Dr. Arnn, I went on a rant yesterday about college admissions office generally and the assumption of expertise about knowing about people's souls. I believe in standardized testing, and I believe in AP courses, and I believe in hard work, but I don't think that admissions office generally can peer into people's souls. How do you balance that improbability with the necessity of discerning excellence?

ARNN: Well, you're right about that. And you have a lot of information, and the information is quantitative—the test scores and the grade point average—and qualitative—what they write, what you think when you see them. We really love to meet. If you want to get into Hillsdale College, the first step is make sure you get an interview.

HEWITT: Get up to Hillsdale, yep.

ARNN: Because you can just know a lot about them. And we're in the success business, and that means that we want to admit the ones who will thrive here. And we need to do that for a lot of reasons, but one of them is so much of the work is done by the student—most of the work, right? And, if a bunch are not making it, or wish they hadn't come, that changes the tone of the campus, and you don't want that.

And so, you need to inform the kids. The single most important thing in my—sometimes the admissions people differ from me because they're nicer than I am. But the single most important thing is, they should know what they're going to get. You've heard me say on this show, and you say it too, now—it's hard at Hillsdale.

HEWITT: It's hard.

ARNN: And you won't get really great grades compared to what you'd get somewhere else and compared to your high school grade point average. The average high school kid getting into Hillsdale's—

HEWITT: And you're all taking half the same stuff, so there's a curve. You're not going to be able to float on the easy major.

ARNN: That's it. The average freshman here gets a 2.8, and that's a point and a bit below their high school grade point average. And then it rises after that, because they figure out how to do all of this. And there's something they don't know, and they've been very good at high school, but this is different. So, you have to lodge that in their minds, as I have just done yet for the millionth time.

And then that means that, when they show up, they're in a position to succeed, and cooperate, and have a good experience. And that's what college is about.

HEWITT: Our friend, Arthur Brooks, has written extensively about earned success—earnedsuccess—not inflated grades, but earned success. If you succeed at Hillsdale, you will have accomplished a difficult thing. And there will be pride in that. And that pride will show itself in your job interviews and in your career path.

ARNN: That's it. And you know, we're not—I guess we have the virtue. We've been a very successful college, and we're an old college with a distinguished history, but we're not part of the establishment. That means the most respectable people—they may respect us, but they're not of us or approving of us. And so, we suffer with that, too. And that means—

HEWITT: Don't you think that is changing? And I believe this scandal is another vast bit of momentum for Hillsdale because people will trust the accuracy of its judgments. People trust the brand.

ARNN: Well, I hope they do. And the only control a person can have about that is just keep doing the same thing all the time, whatever is the thing that you believe in. And, in good season and bad, do that, and that's what develops trust over time.

HEWITT: We're going to turn to Brexit after the break, but I'd like you to speak to parents who are driving to work today about what their role ought to be in the selection of colleges and the preparation of applications.

ARNN: Well, what was absent in these parents who have committed these crimes is a knowledge of what you really want your child to be. You want them to be good. That means morally and intellectually good. You don't want college to be just a credential. It's too high for that, and it corrupts it if that's all it is.

They should want them to develop the virtues that make for an excellent human being, and then the career, whether good or bad, will be a blessing to them because they will know how to react, both to triumph and disaster. So the parents should know that and they should think about that.

And I will tell you, going around with my kids when they were younger, looking at colleges—a very large number of parents think that it's just a credential, and comfort, and security, and self-esteem, and a big job later. But that's not—a serious college, you're going to spend years—hours, hours, hours—reading wonderful things, and they will change you for the better. So, they should want that.

HEWITT: I remember my son taking at class with Hank Brown, former senator and former president of the college—University of Colorado Boulder—and just being so impressed by the experience of being with a great soul—good mind. And that is important for young people. That's the whole key, actually, for young people, is to learn how to love learning at the hands of people who love to teach you how to learn.

ARNN: That's it. And, in other words, it should be real. And it's like your own children, how you have to behave better in front of them—

HEWITT: Yes, that's unfortunately true.

ARNN: —because they will notice in a hurry. Well, I've got these 1,500 young people here, and they're watching us all the time. And, if they don't like something we do, they get that flicker of doubt upon their face, and they write me a note or put something in the College paper. And so, you need to be consistent, and that's what you need to raise your kids that way.

HEWITT: I wish every network were to talk to Dr. Arnn about this cheating scandal, because there is very—with great certainty, I can tell you it has not tainted Hillsdale, and it will never taint Hillsdale.

Don't go anywhere, America. We come back—Brexit with Dr. Larry Arnn. It is a week of incredible consequence for the free world, not just for the United Kingdom. Stay tuned.

Welcome back, America. It's Hugh Hewitt. That music means we're in the Hillsdale Dialogue, the last radio hour of the week. For all things Hillsdale, including an application—if you want your child to attend a wonderful institution untainted by this new scandal, go to Hillsdale.edu and download the application there. There are free courses there as well. There is an extraordinary opportunity to sign up for Imprimis, the free speech digest. And, if you enjoy this conversation, Dr. Arnn and his colleagues and I have been holding them for five—six years now. They're all available at HughforHillsdale.com.

We'll turn to Brexit after the break, Dr. Arnn, because I just came back from Hong Kong, and we were talking during the break about that. Great empires leave behind great legacies. And there is still greatness in Hong Kong, but it is on a path towards subservience to the state. And you were there at the time that happened. What was the judgment of Margaret Thatcher, because she didn't have to give back part of it?

ARNN: My wife's brother ran a Hong Kong office of a big London law firm. He's a great man and a big lawyer in England now—he's back. But I was going to Korea, and so I stopped to see him, and it happened to be two days after Margaret Thatcher left, having made the handover deal. And this is a great—something to dwell on.

The city was papered in posters calling for a bill of rights. And my brother-in-law told me that he'd never seen that there, and he'd been there three or four years. And so, the reaction to the news that they're going to be governed by Communist China was, we want a bill of rights. And the great leader of that was a man named Martin Lee, who's still alive. You can look him up. “Martin Lee Hong Kong” will find his stuff. And I got to know him.

And I admire him very much. I have had dealings with him. One of my students, who now writes for The Wall Street Journal, interviewed him for The Wall Street Journalone time, and I helped set that up. Anyway, he just understands the language and the principles of freedom in representative government. And he fought hard to get the caveats and restraints that are in the “basic agreement”—it's called—with China so that there's freedom remaining there.

And I did go over there for the handover and watched the fireworks from—a Southern California developer named Baldwin was there in his big huge yacht, a sailing boat that he and his wife handled alone. And so, our party, which was 30 people, maybe, watched it from there. That was really great.

And we met with Martin Lee that day. And the point is that's—what a loss, because the British story there is a story of freedom and prosperity, and it started in 1831.

HEWITT: A long time. Yep.

ARNN: It's just except for the five years, or four years—four and a half years that the Japanese had it—it was a British thing. And how did they run it? First of all, it was somewhat representative. They appointed governor generals. They hardly taxed anybody anything.

The way they funded the place was the land became so valuable that they would fill in the harbor. It's a huge harbor, and very beautiful to be seen from Victoria Peak. And they would sell that and get money. And so, it was this low-tax, low-regulation environment, and it just thrived and grew, and grew into the nearby province that was the most prosperous still—special economic zone in mainland China.

You could say—and there's an argument for this—the British ruled it without real control of the people, although they had an elected legislature and the British governor general listened to it. And they ruled it in the British way, which is they ruled it in the interests of the people who were there. And maybe the Chinese will do that, too, but that's not exactly their pattern.

HEWITT: No, it's not.

ARNN: Not exactly their principle, either. And so, one fears about Hong Kong.

HEWITT: And there is such an embedded British hundred-year rule that there is passive-aggressive resistance. But you really can't resist the party over a period of time.

ARNN: Well, business is such a—because the Chinese have done something remarkable and, to some considerable extent, good. They liberalized the place within limits. And so, they're very intelligent people, very hard-working people, ingenuous people. And they produced like crazy, and they're growing, and they're getting richer. And the Chinese did that. And, of course, they'll come up against a problem eventually, because one day they're going to have to let those people vote.

HEWITT: Ha. They must, we hope. Stay tuned, America. Brexit is on the table when I return with Dr. Larry Arnn of Hillsdale College.

Welcome back, America. It's Hugh Hewitt, the last radio hour of this week. I am back from vacation. And I followed—the story that dominated my travels was Brexit. It matters wherever you go, because, obviously, when you travel through former British Crown colonies, both in Malaysia and in Hong Kong, they are following with great interest the meltdown in British politics.

Dr. Larry Arnn, my guest, president of Hillsdale College, is an expert on the British parliamentarian system and of British parliamentarian history. And I want to read to you the cover of The Daily Express, one of British tabloids' favorites.

It has on it a picture of Parliament and this declaration: “WE”—in capitals— “the people of Britain voted on June 23, 2016, to leave the EU.” Period. “YOU”—in capitals— “our servants, agreed to fulfill this mandate enshrining in law the date of our departure on March 29.” Period. “After the most wretched 994 days of obfuscation and chaotic infighting”—comma— “YOU”—in caps— “have decided to delay Brexit…”—dot, dot, dot. “What a damning indictment of OUR”—in caps— “democracy.” Your reaction, Larry Arnn.

ARNN: Those tabloids are pretty good, I think.

HEWITT: Yeah. Oh, that's going to leave a mark.

ARNN: So, what, 61% of the Conservative voters voted for Brexit—well, voted to leave. Two-thirds of the cabinet were on the side of “Remain” in the public campaign. David Cameron, the former prime minister, who put this on the agenda—it's the third referendum that I can find in British history. He was a Remainer. He wanted to stay.

So, they've got a Parliamentary party, or at least the leadership of the party, that's in favor of Remain, and they've got a voting pool. 61% is a lot. The referendum passed 52-to-48, which is enough. A million votes more for Leave than for Remain. And so, I think their heart's not in it, and that's why it's such a mess.

And Mrs. May has not proved to be Margaret Thatcher. She didn't run a strong campaign. She didn't build on the Brexit vote, and she lost her majority. She rules in a coalition now. And the whole thing has been shuttling back and forth to Strasbourg and Brussels—back and forth—coming back home and doing what they say. And so, they're in a fix now, because the Parliament has passed a law that says that there can't be a no-deal Brexit—that they won't leave if they can't reach a deal.

Now, that's not really in their hands, however, because the EU has to either—the EU could chuck them out, or it could give them an extension, or not.

HEWITT: You know, it's my understanding that one country in the EU could turn down the extension, and hard Brexit would happen. So I'm hoping the Poles save Britain, like the way that Britain saved Poland.

ARNN: Yeah, thank God, and pray for them. So, that's right, one country. And they're saying—first of all, they're negotiating with people who have a huge difference of interest from the British majority, the ones who voted for this, because the European Union is accreting power to itself—has been doing it steadily for two generations—and it's never been able to get a constitution passed in any major country that gave it the powers that it enjoys today.

So then, after it fails—after the vote in various countries fails—then they go on and make a treaty that gives it those powers. And the point is, at any given point, if there were a Leave vote in any major country except Germany, there'd be a big danger that it would pass.

HEWITT: It's pernicious what they're doing. Juncker and Tusk have been conspiring to make the costs so high that exactly what has happened has happened. I am curious. Your advice, Larry Arnn, as a Brexiteer—as a Conservative—to someone like Jacob Rees-Mogg, who's a wonderfully admirable fellow, and all the other—Steve Baker and the others in the European Research Group. They have four-fifths of a loaf in their hand. If they vote for Theresa May, they can get out.

And then, later, they can take additional actions in the way that George W. Bush left the ABM, whether under Article 62 of the Vienna Treaty, or simply sua sponteunder Article 51. I think self-defense could be argued, or the UN Charter. I just think that they should get as far as they can away from the EU at this point. What do you think?

ARNN: Well, I read—I don't know, but it's very complex. But I read a man named Rupert Darwall—D-A-R-W-A-L-L. He's a columnist in Britain, and he's prolific, and he's good. I know him a little bit and like him. Anyway, he's got a website called Briefings for Brexit. And that's interesting to read, and it's very pro-Brexit, as I am. You know, I inherited that from Winston Churchill.

And I'll say a word about that, because that's important. So, Britain's role in the world—we were talking about Hong Kong, but Britain's role in the world stems from two facts that Churchill thought were both extremely important, and one was Britain is separate from the continent, and the other is it's near the continent. Take the same island and put it in the middle of the Pacific, and it wouldn't be what it is. But it's there and the Channel is narrow.

And, because it's a sea power, it could defend the Channel, because you can't get anywhere in Britain without getting on the sea, and the seas are hard there. So, they won their naval battles, and that made them a powerful force, and a force for freedom, by the way, separate from, but near, continental politics. And so, when some dominant power comes up—and this is not just Germany and the two world wars. This is France and Spain, you know, going back to 1588 when the Spanish Armada came. The British were a force to check them.

And so, Churchill wanted the European Union. He helped to make it. He didn't understand it ever to be—he explicitly denied that it should do the things that governments do, but it should be a free-trade union that coordinates its defense. And that was partly built to stop the Soviet Union, which was overwhelming at the end of the Second World War. But then he thought it should be a customs union. And, until the very last, what, 24 months of his life, when he was old, and somebody else was writing stuff for him, he always said, Britain should not join it.

And he did—in 1963, I think the date is. I just was working on that. I should remember it. He did say that Britain should be admitted to the customs union—that is to say, free trade—as long as it didn't disadvantage its relations with its Commonwealth countries, with which it also had free trade. So, the point was, Britain, to do its job, I think, in the world—historic job—it doesn't need to be a member of this thing.

HEWITT: It must get out, actually, to do its job.

ARNN: Very much. Yeah. And it's become a government, remember. And the whole problem of government—you know, it's what's amazing about the American Constitution—is to make it depend upon the people. It's the only way to be sure that it won't become despotic. But of course, that's just the beginning place. You also have to figure out a way so that the people control it in some orderly way, where their deliberate decisions are made. And there's no mechanism for that in the European Union.

Daniel Hannan, the British MP for the European Union forever and ever, the enemy of—he is a big Brexiteer, a Leaver. He said that most people don't know what he does in his constituency. Don't know who he is. Don't know—most don't vote, right? And, even if they did, what possible influence could one country have—

HEWITT: None.

ARNN: —among so many, and when the Germans and their mostly allies, the French, are dominant?

So it's not a good accountable system of government, and it shouldn't be a government. But, because they're sitting on a powerful lawmaking union that is of questionable popularity with its constituents across Europe, then they revel in the fact that Britain is going through hell. That'll be a lesson to the next one.

HEWITT: When we come back from break, I'm going to read the most recent briefings for Brexit, which you've just turned us on to, because it nicely summarizes the situation. Have you comment on it. So, to the audience out there, during the break you can go to BriefingsforBrexit.com, all right? That's it. BriefingsforBrexit.com. And read it in advance of our conversation about it, because it nicely sums up a real dilemma for every democratically elected member of Parliament. It is a genuine question of first principle about whether or not you're going to be an elected representative of a constituency. It's a moment of choosing.

I'll be right back with Dr. Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College.

Welcome back, America. Hugh Hewitt in the ReliefFactor.com studio finishing this week's Hillsdale Dialogue. All things Hillsdale at Hillsdale.edu, including sign-up for the free speech digest, Imprimis. Dr. Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College, is my guest. And he recommended—he rarely does this—he recommended a website.

So, I went to BriefingsforBrexit.com, and this is what was posted most recently: “One thing Theresa May said last night that was—strangely enough—actually true, is that a no-Brexit deal on 29 March remains the default position unless the law is changed to prevent it. It remains the default position even if MPs continue their betrayal of their constituents today by voting on a motion to extend the Article 50 negotiations. That motion does not change the law any more than yesterday's did. All it does is send Theresa May back to Brussels to take more orders from the EU.

“Far from asserting parliamentary sovereignty and ‘taking control over Brexit,’ by voting against no-deal MPs have just handed the keys of the whole process and thereby our democracy to unelected Eurocrats.

“It's fair to assume that Brussels will insist that there be yet another vote on the twice-rejected BRINO deal or a very long extension to allow for a second referendum. Either way, Brexit will be stopped for now and in mid-April we become liable to the whole full 2019 budget contribution.

“So it would be a win-win for the EU.

“If it comes to that, the deal must still be voted down. It's far worse than an extension, which in fact is akin to entering the transition period but with no deal, thereby allowing the UK to retain a lot of room for maneuver. For Article 50 to be extended, a motion is not enough. Primary legislation must be passed by 29 March to commit the biggest betrayal in British politics within living memory.

“Every single MP in a lead constituency (the majority) is going to have to commit the ultimate breach of trust, consciously aware of the political risk personally and to their party.

“So no deal is still on the table. It ain't over yet. But it will surely go down to the wire. The repercussions on British politics, the pact between the electorate and the representatives if the EU is allowed to dictate the terms of our humiliation and decide our future, will take much longer to resolve.”

That's pretty clear, Larry Arnn. He says, don't take the deal.

ARNN: Yeah and it's my opinion. And you know, you got to remember, these are big, huge, complicated things, and the prediction is that the world markets are going to be—the British markets and the world markets are going to be destroyed. And I don't know that. I do know that our friend, Brian Wesbury, notices that Britain has a trade deficit with Europe. In other words, they're not losing a market net, they are the market.

And so, of course there's going to be a wish to trade with Britain. And Britain can liberate itself and trade with the world. And why not? That's what it used to do.

HEWITT: And we would be quick—Donald Trump said, yesterday, we would be quick to enter into a free trade deal. And I would imagine the EU would be quicker because it's the closest market.

ARNN: Yeah. And, you know, if they put tariffs on Britain, then they're going to get tariffs back. And Theresa May doesn't seem to have the spit that Donald Trump has. But what you do is threaten them back and then negotiate.

HEWITT: But it does come down, doesn't it, I mean to whether or not you will fundamentally breach your trust as an elected representative? It is one of those moments where everyone has to ask themselves, why am I in this business? And I think it might increase the Leave margin if the British Parliament—the elites have talked themselves into thinking everyone knows they made a mistake. I think the exact opposite will happen.

ARNN: Well, the browbeating that goes on there is like the browbeating that goes on in this country. You know, we've elected—the storyline is we've elected this crook, and he's totally unfit, and all of that is without any reference to what he's doing. But what he's doing is bringing the government better under control, and that's what he said he would do.

And so, he may be a corrupt man. He's a New York real estate developer. And that's what they want to talk about, right? But the same thing in Britain. They don't want to talk about the regulations that are passed that affect Britain powerfully and have the force of law that Britain has no effective ability to control.

And so, the issue is in there. It's in form of governance, which, over the long term, is very important. And so, I hope they do the no-deal.

HEWITT: And I also hope that Theresa May does the right thing and steps down, as some British prime ministers have in the face of failure. They recognize they cannot change it, and they leave. And that is good.

ARNN: Well, that's under the control of a—because, remember, she's doesn't have a majority, she's got some Northern Ireland guys voting with her that keep her in power. But she's survived several votes of no confidence. She's not likely to keep doing that because, in the end, the votes of no confidence on the floor are not the thing.

The Conservative members of Parliament, when they meet in their committee of just them—it's called the 1922 Committee. And the 1922 Committee is named for the year in which Stanley Baldwin threw out Andrew Bonar Law in a surprise and took his place as leader of the party. And so, that's where the thing is.

HEWITT: We will watch that space and we will talk again next week with Dr. Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College. Remember, all things Hillsdale at Hillsdale.edu. No cheating going on there.

C.S