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'Free Think U'

Far-right parents can now offer college money to their kids with strings attached: take some conservative "courses" online, then get tuition funds.
Glenn Beck
In this July 11, 2011 file photo, radio talk show host Glenn Beck speaks in the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem.
Over the weekend, Glenn Beck's website touted a story that referenced a "university" I'd never heard of before.

A new online course featuring several notable conservative figures aims to teach students about the history of the conservative movement, a Washington D.C. area based non-profit said this week. The 14-segment course, sponsored by the Leadership Institute and Free Think University, features "some of the conservative movement's most influential voices," including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), talk-show host Mark Levin and the Wall Street Journal's Stephen Moore.

The Leadership Institute is a familiar outfit run by Morton C. Blackwell, which recruits and trains young, far-right activists. Blackwell, of course, is perhaps best known for mocking Purple Hearts with band-aids during the 2004 Republican National Convention.
But "Free Think University" is a new one, at least to me. Steve M. at No More Mister Nice Blog referenced this fascinating item from the Chronicle of Higher Education, which profiled the project earlier this year.

Conservatives have long complained about a perceived liberal bias in higher education, and conservative parents might be especially irked to think that they are paying thousands of dollars in tuition only to have their children turned against them by a bunch of radical professors. Jim Van Eerden has come up with a resource that he says will give conservative parents a chance to counteract any liberal indoctrination of their children before it happens. His plan would let parents deposit tuition money into a "scholarship" that would go to a child's college only after the student had passed one or more short online courses offering a "more balanced" take on various issues.

It's quite a system. FreeThinkU offers about 30 online "courses" that include comprehensive quizzes at the end of the instruction. Conservative parents are apparently supposed to tell their kids they'll help pick up the tab for their college costs, but the students can only unlock the funds by completing the FreeThinkU lesson plans.
The classes cover topics you'd probably expect -- global warming isn't real; evolutionary biology isn't real; the Second Amendment is inviolate; etc. -- and draw upon materials prepared by the Heritage Foundation, an Exxon-Mobil financed think-tank called the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and of course the Leadership Institute.
FreeThinkU makes money by charging parents and/or grandparents a membership fee, though the program hopes to expand -- conservatives can, in time, contribute money to university-based scholarship funds, which students could become eligible for by completing FreeThinkU courses.
"Instead of trying to raise our own independent scholarship money, we're saying, 'Listen, don't you already want to make a gift to Yale? Just make it through this platform,'" said Jim Van Eerden, who serves as an "entrepreneur in residence" at Grove City College, and who's reportedly overseeing this project.
With Glenn Beck's website on board, college students with far-right parents should probably start preparing themselves for the inevitable.
For more on this, FreeThinkU posted this video online, and as best as I can tell, it's not intended to be satirical.