Dicta

The home of “things said” by the National Association of Scholars.

The Education of Clarence Thomas

Peter Wood

A review of Myron Magnet's biography of Justice Clarence Thomas.

Restoring the Promise

Peter Wood

A review of NAS board member Richard Vedder's new book, Restoring the Promise

Curriculum Vitae: Episode #7

NAS

Jude Russo, Rachelle Peterson, and David Randall sit down with Peter Wood to talk about the books they have been reading and those they recommend for the year ahead.

Ambient Rage

Peter Wood

A review of Howard S. Schwartz's Political Correctness and the Destruction of the Social Order: Chronicling the Rise of the Pristine Self.

The New Age of Orthodoxy Overtakes the Campus

Peter Wood

The greatest threat to academic freedom today is the campus "social justice" machine, writes Peter Wood in his review of Joanna Williams' Academic Freedom in an Age of Conformity.

Chasing Eels

Peter Wood

The new book The Closing of the Liberal Mind helps us get a better grasp on the slippery modern academic Left. 

Should Conservatives Lead Secret Lives?

Peter Wood

NAS President Peter Wood's review of Passing on the Right: Conservative Professors in the Progressive University.

On the Alleged Need to "Improve Diversity" in Grad Admissions

George Leef

Professor Jonathan Marks critiques Julie Posselt's most recent book on grad school admission processes. 

Book Review: Will and Ariel Durant, The Lessons of History

Edward R. Dougherty

The Lessons of History offers a "stimulus to seriousness" in the study of history. 

Stanley Fish's New Book on Academic Freedom

George Leef

George Leef reviews Versions of Academic Freedom and argues that there does not have to be a single, one-size-fits-all approach to academic freedom.

Stanley Fish's Postmodern Take on Academic Freedom

Peter Wood

NAS president Peter Wood reviews Stanley Fish's latest book, Versions of Academic Freedom.

Revisiting the Classics: Rereading William Faulkner's Go Down Moses

Glynn Custred

Glynn Custred, Professor of Anthropology at California State University East Bay, reviews William Faulkner's Go Down Moses.

Revisiting the Classics: Barry Lyndon

Bruce Gans

Written in 1844, William Thackeray's Barry Lyndon might be a century ahead of its time.

Revisiting the Classics: Stoner

Peter Wood

Peter Wood reviews Stoner, a book for those who persist in loving great imaginative works.

Revisiting the Classics: Michel de Montaigne

Peter Cohee

Dr. Peter Cohee teaches Classics in the Boston area. Here he reviews essays of Michel de Montaigne.

Revisiting the Classics: Anthem and the Joy of Pursuing Knowledge

Joshua Daniel Phillips

Dr. Joshua Daniel Phillips, author of 1,800 Miles: Striving to End Sexual Violence, One Step at a Time, distinguishes between Ayn Rand's Anthem and contemporary dystopian literature.

Revisiting the Classics: Joan and Peter by H. G. Wells

Adam Kissel

"Oswald’s concern—Wells’s, too—is that a fully unregulated marketplace of ideas, the open curriculum, if you will, has no telos."

Revisiting the Classics: Le Rouge et le Noir and French History

David Kaiser

Author and historian David Kaiser reviews Stendhal's Le Rouge et le Noir.

Revisiting the Classics: What's New and What's True

F.R. Duplantier

Political author F.R. Duplantier reviews Evelyn Waugh's Scoop.

Revisiting the Classics: “The End of the Tether” by Joseph Conrad

Jackson Toby

Jackson Toby, Professor of Sociology Emeritus at Rutgers University, writes on why he considers "The End of the Tether" to be the best—and perhaps most underappreciated—novella Joeseph Conrad ever wrote.

Revisiting the Classics: Native Son

Jim Hartley

Jim Hartley, Professor of Economics at Mount Holyoke College, reflects on how Native Son is taught in contemporary classrooms.

Revisiting the Classics: Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics

Mitchell Langbert

NAS is calling upon readers to submit reflections on old books. Professor Mitchell Langbert discusses how Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics offers value for students that a modern text cannot provide.

How Beauteous Mankind Isn't: Reflections on Today's Brave New World

Ashley Thorne

Ashley Thorne sees in today’s world elements from Huxley’s dystopia: birth control as environmentalism, world citizenship, slogans, indifference to “old things,” and abiding adolescence. 

Thalaba the Destroyer and Other Forgotten Friends: An Invitation to Readers

Peter Wood

We invite NAS readers to submit reflections on older books.

Seasoned Debate: Should Education Have a Leftist Bias?

George Leef

Donald Lazere responds to George Leef's review of Why Education Should Have a Leftist Bias.

Top-Down or Bottom-Up? Winter AQ Issue Examines Campus Progressivism's Origins

NAS

The last issue in Academic Questions' 2013 volume considers the sources of progressive ideology on campus.

A Very Weak Argument For Discrimination

George Leef

Harvard Law professor Randall Kennedy's new book concluding in favor of continuing racial preferences fails to be persuasive.

Will the Internet Replace College?

John Maguire

John Maguire reviews two books that ponder whether the rise of "online" will mean the downfall of higher education as we now know it.

A Profession at Risk: Teaching Humans in the New Millennium

David Clemens

David Clemens reviews a new collection of essays and asks, "What is real education, and why does it need defending?"

Spring 2013 Academic Questions Issue is Out

Ashley Thorne

The first issue of NAS's quarterly journal's 2013 volume focuses on the Common Core, civics education, racial preferences, and important new books in higher education.

What if the Best College for You is UnCollege?

George Leef

Dale Stephens answers ten questions about his new book Hacking Your Education.

Both Wrong and Bad

Carl Cohen

In a review essay, Cohen says Russell Nieli's Wounds That Will Not Heal "contends that the products of race preference, or affirmative action, are bad—very, very bad."

The Schools of "Becoming Right"

Robert VerBruggen

VerBruggen reveals the identities of the "Eastern Elite" and "Western Flagship" referred to in the new book Becoming Right.

Greg Lukianoff's Terrific New Book

George Leef

George Leef reviews Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate.

The Wacky World of Victim Studies

Peter Wood

Bruce Bawer's new book, The Victims' Revolution is an indispensable guide to the "identity studies" side of contemporary scholarship and academic programs.

My Review of Bawer's The Victim's Revolution

George Leef

Bawer has written a terrific exposé of the pseudo-academic fad of "identity studies" courses and programs.

Exam Schools: Choice, Quality, and the Right Fit

Peter Cohee

Chester Finn and Jessica Hockett's new book on exam schools surveys selective high schools and their effectiveness.

Elite Colleges and the Coming Apart of America

George Leef

Charles Murray's new book argues that our elite colleges and universities are partially responsible for what he sees as America's unraveling. Is this true?

Duke Cheston Reviews Sex and God at Yale

George Leef

Reviewer Duke Cheston finds the new book Sex and God at Yale effective in exposing the degradation of Yale.

Nothing Comes From Nothing, Period

Carol Iannone

It sometimes happens that when writers stare into nihilism, they try to find something there.

The Trouble with Multiculturalism

Clifford D. May

A new book by Salim Mansur, born an Indian Muslim, argues that multiculturalism propagates the false notion that all cultures are equally good.

How the West Was Won

Steve Balch

Steve Balch reviews two new books on Western civilization, finding one world-weary and the other more constructive.

Stopping the Rot

Victor Stepien

Australia's leading intellectual journal published this review of the anthology The Politically Correct University, which includes chapters by NAS leaders Peter Wood and Steve Balch.

Who Teaches College Professors How to Teach?

Jason Fertig

I have a dirty little secret.  No one has ever taught me how to teach - and that's the single biggest reason I still love teaching today.

Higher Education’s Role in America’s “Coming Apart”

Richard Vedder

Don't discount higher education as a source of some of America's problems.

The Coming Assault on Beadledom

Glenn Ricketts

The Ivory Tower is submerged in academic administrators.

Nowhere But the West

Steve Balch

Steve Balch reviews The Uniqueness of Western Civilization by Ricardo Duchesne. This review appears in the winter 2011 issue of Academic Questions, volume 24, number 4.

Richard DeMillo’s Blog

George Leef

Mr. Leef highlights a blog of the author of Abelard to Apple.

The Best of the “Higher Ed is About to Change” Books?

George Leef

In today’s Pope Center Clarion Call, I review Richard DeMillo’s book Abelard to Apple. In the last few years, there have been quite a few books written on the theme of impending, revolutionary change in higher education and I think DeMillo’s may be the most persuasive. It’s also very well written and chock-full of fascinating history and details. Highly recommended.

Sentenced

Peter Wood

Peter Wood weighs Stanley Fish’s new book on how to teach college rhetoric.

Academe's House Divided

Daniel B. Klein

Daniel B. Klein reviews The Still Divided Academy, the final work of NAS and AQ editorial advisory board member Stanley Rothman, which was completed after his death by April Kelly-Woessner and Matthew Woessner. This review appears in the fall 2011 issue of Academic Questions, volume 24, number 3.

Jefferson-Hemings Revisited

Peter Wood

Peter Wood reviews a new scholarly re-examination of the Thomas Jefferson-Sally Hemings controversy.

Attack of the Administrator Zombies!

George Leef

Professor Robert Weissberg reviews The Fall of the Faculty, adding agonizing details to the author’s tale of woe. Both find that our rampant administrative bloat not only wastes great amounts of money, but also has a deleterious impact on what is taught and how.

Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: OF COURSE HE DID IT!

Glenn Ricketts

Peter Wood reviews a new scholarly compendium on the relationship beteen Thomas Jefferson and his slave, Sally Hemings. It's a controversial topic, of course, but I'm beginning to wonder if there's anything you can discuss at CHE that doesn't induce terminal apoplexy in many respondents. If you liked the shrieking that Peter's recent post on Climate Thuggery generated, check out the discussion thread here. According to one poster, even mentioning that the authors of the book have doubts about Jefferson's guilt is equivalent to Holocaust denial, banning Darwin, anti-semitism and global warming denial (can't get away from that one, can we?). Wow.

Do College Administrators Misappropriate "Diversity"?

Peter Wood

A Johns Hopkins professor lays the entire blame for the rise of political correctness on power-driven campus administrators. But haven't faculty members played their part?

What Happens to the Old Universities?

Peter Wood

Peter Wood reviews the new book, The Innovative University: Changing the DNA of Higher Education from the Inside Out.

Admissions Insanity

John C. Chalberg

Historian John C. Chalberg reviews Andrew Ferguson's Crazy U, and concludes that the title has some merit.

Majoring in Images

Peter Wood

Peter Wood reviews a popular recent novel. He finds some very funny cultural satire as well as themes that resonate in the contemporary academic landscape.

Untenuring Tenure

Peter Wood

Peter Wood weighs Naomi Schaefer Riley’s arguments for abolishing tenure in her book The Faculty Lounges.

The Distracted Generation

Jason Fertig

A new book on the internet's effects on the brain opens a window into this generation's world. Instead of learning to fight distraction, we are teaching ourselves to always be distracted.

Telling It Like It Is

George Leef

Professor Christina Hoff Sommers has written a wonderful review of Andrew Ferguson’s new book Crazy U. 

"Accepted Student Day"

George Leef

In an excellent Wall Street Journal piece, Andrew Ferguson, author of Crazy U: One Dad's Crash Course in Getting His Kid Into College writes about his visit to one of the schools where his son was accepted. It's a warts-and-all portrait of college life, heavy on the amenities and light on the academics. What little attention was given to academics is troubling: "The professor boasted of his history course, which had transformed merely curious students into 'social activists.' Under his guidance the young scholars read books by Sally Belfrage, author of the Cold War memoir 'UnAmerican Activities' and the socialist historian Howard Zinn, author of 'A People's History of the United States,' and they emerged 'ready to change the world.' So we have that to look forward to. "The professor's speech was just a hint of what was to come: Later my son told me that he had three choices for a mandatory writing class: 'History of the 1960s,' 'TV's Mad men,' and 'Intro to Queer Theory.'" I hope young Mr. Ferguson already knows how to write.

The Distance Yet to Go

Steve Balch

A new book on ideology in academe leaves some questions unanswered. How do the perspectives of students in the humanities compare with those of a more general student body? Doesn't the high percentage of liberal freshmen tell us something about K-12 education? And what about the "received wisdom effect"?

What Can We Do About Adrift Students?

Jason Fertig

So college students aren't learning much. Let's do something to change that, Jason Fertig urges.

Higher Ed Reform Calls for More than "Perestroika"

George Leef

In this week’s Pope Center Clarion Call, I review Professor Robert Zemsky’s book Making Reform Work

Rich Vedder on Academically Adrift

George Leef

Rich Vedder has an essay today on Minding the Campus in which he discusses the “sniping” at that most inconvenient book (inconvenient for the higher education establishment, anyway) Academically Adrift. His argument is that the book’s main thesis is correct: 

Academic Impactorators

Peter Wood

Peter Wood finds a more meaningful direction for colleges in the book “Academically Adrift” than in the U.N. program Academic Impact.

The Same Tired Arguments on Racial Preferences

George Leef

In today's Pope Center Clarion Call, John Rosenberg reviews a recent book that purports to show how terrible it was for California to have adopted Proposition 209, thereby dropping racial preferences. Alas, it's just the same, tired, often-refuted claims, stated over and over. 

The Father of Global Warming Skepticism: An Interview with S Fred Singer

Ashley Thorne

The atmospheric physicist and leading scientific skeptic of anthropocentric global warming speaks out about his role in the climate change debate.

Reforming Our Universities

Peter Wood

A review of David Horowitz's new book Reforming Our Universities: The Campaign for an Academic Bill of Rights.

Murray Sperber on Craig Brandon's The Five Year Party

George Leef

Professor Murray Sperber writes about Craig Brandon's The Five Year Party

Palin-tology

Peter Wood

A new book by a senior professor, surprisingly, attempts to treat Sarah Palin fairly.

On Finding Obama Where No One Thought to Look

Peter Wood

A new book highlights the complacency of researchers who failed to follow a paper trail, writes Peter Wood.

Tea Party Derangement Syndrome

Peter Wood

Intellectual snobbery in academe produces minds closed to debate.

Crossing the Rapids: Young Conservatives on College Life

Peter Wood

A review of the new anthology Proud to Be Right.

A Not-So-Bold Plan

Jason Fertig

A new book by Mark Taylor, Crisis on Campus: A Bold Plan for Reforming Our Colleges and Universities, recycles some familiar ideas.

Ravitch Repentant

Peter Cohee

Peter Cohee reviews Diane Ravitch's book, a partial volte-face, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education.

How Colleges Have Given Up on Educating Your Child...No Comment

Ashley Thorne

A new book is a useful "roadmap for parents on how to steer clear of the worst of [college campuses]."

From Trappist Monks to Abercrombie & Fitch: Silence and Noise in America

Peter Wood

NAS president Peter Wood gives a book on noise a hearing.

Ben Wildavsky's Book on the Globalization of Higher Ed

George Leef

 That's the subject of my Clarion Call today. I like some aspects of the book. Best of all is Wildavsky's argument that we should abandon educational mercantilism -- the notion that nations have to compete to be tops in educational "investment," university prestige, and similar distractions. Because knowledge is not constrained by national boundaries, we should stop worrying about musty old "us versus them" ideas. Also, Wildavsky doesn't go for the tendency to bash for-profit higher ed, showing that it fills some important niches. What I didn't care for so much was the author's enthusiasm for the trend toward globalized universities, with lots of American universities setting up campuses in places such as Abu Dhabi. I see that as mostly glitz and conspicuous consumption rather than true educational advance.

Sustainability at Universities a "Feel-Good" Term...No Comment

Ashley Thorne

Sustainability can be "a plastic phrase that all adhere to with varying invested meanings."

Is Our Children Learning?

Peter Wood

A review of Diane Ravitch's new book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education.

Book Review: Voting Rights - And Wrongs, The Quest for Racially Fair Elections

Ed Cutting

A review of a new book about the Voting Rights Act by NAS Board of Advisors member Abigail Thernstrom.

WSJ Review of Jackson Toby's Book

George Leef

The Wall Street Journal ran a review of Professor Jackson Toby's book The Lowering of Higher Education in its December 23 edition. The reviewer, Ben Wildavsky, unfortunately buys into the standard line that college studies are highly beneficial and the country needs to encourage more students to enroll and graduate. Wildavsky asserts that keeping ill-prepared students out of college is "one trade-off we should not make" because "the indisputable benefits of college should be spread more widely, not less." Nonsense. The supposed benefits of attending and (maybe, eventually) graduating from college are highly questionable. Toby shows that many students enter college with feeble intellectual background and learning tools, then coast through without learning much of lasting benefit. (As I argued here, it's doubtful that students have any human capital gain from their college experience.) Moreover, there isn't necessarily any financial benefit from going to college, even graduating. Unfortunately, Toby didn't mention the mountain of evidence that college graduates often end up working in "high school jobs" that don't pay very well no matter what your educational credentials. (That's a point I have been making for years, for example, here.) Perhaps if he had, Wildavsky's belief that going to college confers indisputable benefits would have been shaken. In any case, it's hard to see how you could read Toby's book, which makes a strong case that many students graduate from college with an education in name only, and yet maintain that it's so beneficial that we must not cut back.

Are We Stuck with the Politically Correct University?

George Leef

In this week's Pope Center Clarion Call, I review the new AEI book The Politically Correct University. I recommend the book highly. It provides an excellent analysis of the problem of ideological imbalance and politicization that besets our higher education system and the closing chapters explore the prospects for change.

Squeezing the Grapefruit

Ashley Thorne

NAS president Peter Wood’s book review of Stylized: A Slightly Obsessive History of Strunk & White's The Elements of Style, is linked on Arts and Letters Daily.

Fight Over Racial Preferences at IHE

George Leef

Today's Inside Higher Ed has a piece on a new book lauding "affirmative action" (that is to say, selective racial preferences). My good friend Roger Clegg of the Center for Equal Opportunity, a strong opponent of preferences posted a comment and all hell has since broken loose. My thoughts: I haven't yet read the new book, but what I wish the people who keep demanding racial preferences at elite schools would explain is what is so darned important about going to one of those "elite" schools. The courses aren't taught any better just because the faculty is loaded with "academic stars." If anything, it goes the other way. Students at schools where the professors actually handle most of the teaching are likely to get more out of a course than at schools where the profs are mainly preoccupied with their publications. I don't think the mania for admissions preferences is really about the students. Rather, it's about the academic administrators. It makes them feel good about themselves to believe that their little social engineering efforts matter a lot. When mean people like Roger Clegg say that they should drop racial preferences, that's like telling them to stop playing make believe and grow up.

Wood Builds Up The American Beaver

Peter Wood

NAS president Peter Wood has a bit in The American Conservative's special books issue (subscription required), under The Best Books You Haven't Read. There he extols the "small, easily overlooked classic" The American Beaver and His Works.

Responding to Weissberg

Peter Wood

NAS president Peter Wood has published a response to Robert Weissberg's "Rescuing the University." His response may be found at Minding the Campus.

Academy's "Fascism" An Orwellian Misnomer

Mitchell Langbert

A couple of months ago Carlin Romano of the University of Pennsylvania wrote an excellent review of Stephen H. Norwood's Third Reich in the Ivory Tower: Complicity and Conflict on American Campuses in the Chronicle of Higher Education.  At the time, I noticed that the word fascism is repeatedly used in the review to refer to Hitler's ideology.  It was rather Mussolini who was the proponent of fascism. Hitler advocated national socialism. In his book Democracy and Populism: Fear and Hatred John Lukacs points out that the ideologies of Hitler and Stalin were eerily close. Hitler advocated "national socialism" while Stalin advocated "socialism in one country".  The old saying that the extremes meet is inaccurate. The two were the same all along. But to cloak the obvious unity of national socialism and socialism in one country (an ideology intimately linked to Progressivism, which is why conservatives like James Burnham in his Managerial Revolution, socialists like Gunnar Myrdal, and New Deal Democrats like Joe Kennedy admired Hitler), the media used the term fascism to inaccurately denote Hitler's national socialism. In fact, it would have been more accurate to call Mussolini's fascism national socialism.  The continued use of fascism to refer to Nazism suggests that the ideology that piqued the interest in protecting Stalin, a killer of equivalent proportions to Hitler, is alive and well in universities.

New Book on the Soviet Bomb-Maker Who Became a Moral Anchor

Ashley Thorne

Jay Bergman, president of the NAS Connecticut affiliate and professor of history at Central Connecticut State University, has published a new book, Meeting the Demands of Reason: The Life and Thought of Andrei Sakharov. The 411-page, 22 ounce book about the nuclear physicist who helped create the Soviet hydrogen bomb but then became the “moral anchor of a dissident movement” represents the culmination of eleven years of careful research and writing. Click here to read reviews of this "superb intellectual history." Click here to purchase Meeting the Demands of Reason.

Selling Merit Down the River

Russell K. Nieli

NAS presents a major review essay on the third "River" book supporting racial preferences.

Who Owns Science?

Peter Wood

A critique of "Hail to the Intellectual President."

Closed Eyes

Glenn Ricketts

This article, a review of the book Closed Minds? Politics and Ideology in American Universities, appeared in the spring 2009 issue of Academic Questions (volume 22, number 2).

Hookup Ink

Wendy Shalit

This preview article, which appeared in the "Liberal Education and the Family" issue of Academic Questions (volume 22, number 1), is a review of three books on the campus hookup culture.

Unworldly Diversity

Russell K. Nieli

A review of the book, The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies. This article appeared in the "Liberal Education and the Family" issue of Academic Questions (volume 22, number 1).

Closed Minds

Glenn Ricketts

A recently published book seeks to debunk the belief that professors politically indoctrinate their students.

Night Makes Right: Stanley Fish's Candelabra of Truth

Peter Wood

In his new book, Save the World on Your Own Time, Stanley Fish writes, "If you

Dizzy Diversity

Ashley Thorne

Today NAS completes its serializing of Getting Under the Skin of "Diversity" by Larry Purdy. Purdy, one of the lawyers who represented Jennifer Gratz and Barbara Grutter in the U.S. Supreme Court cases Gratz v. Bollinger and Grutter v. Bollinger, takes us inside an upside down house of racial preferences.