Dicta

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

Social Justice Comes to Harvard

George Seaver

In this long-form essay, independent researcher George Seaver expounds the many reasons for academic decline within Harvard University since the 1960s.

Do The Oppressed Really Know Best?

Spencer Case

What weight difference should be placed on "lived experience?"

How The Great Society Made a Mess of Higher Education

Spencer Kashmanian

"LBJ's federal interventions created a system in which students are the greatest losers."

Righteous Witness

John E. Staddon

John Staddon writes about Duke University and the new religion.

Professor's Racial Harassment of White Student was 'Personal'

Dion J. Pierre

A Native American professor at San Diego State University racially harassed a white student, the California State Department of Justice concluded last week.

Modern vs. Western Thought: Cultural Determinism

William H. Young

William Young explores the roots of cultural determinism in higher education and the arts.

BLM at the New School

Dion J. Pierre

Dion J. Pierre begins his exploration of race on the modern American campus.

The New Civics: Using 'Service Learning' to Teach Progressive Advocacy

David Randall

David Randall writes about the New Civics in Oklahoma.

The Character of Student Activism

Zachary R. Wood

Student activists would do well to consider the weaknesses that have hindered their moral crusade for social justice.

Fifth Avenue

Peter Wood

Peter Wood reflects on monuments to the American Dream and the politics of grievance on display on college campuses.

A Primer on the Abigail Fisher Case

Peter Wood

A quick summary of Fisher v. University of Texas.

Academic Social Science and America

William H. Young

William Young sums up his series on the impact of academic social science on American society, culture, and education.

Academic Social Science and Inequality

William H. Young

William Young examines the preoccupation of American social science with the redress of inequality and its impact on education. 

Academic Social Science and Social Justice

William H. Young

William Young examines the ascendancy of social justice among academic social scientists.

Social Injustices: Closing Corinthian, Coring College

Peter Wood

Elites claim their education reforms benefit the poor. But the closing of Corinthian Colleges and higher education's adjustment to Common Core do more harm than good.

"Teaching" Ferguson

Ashley Thorne

Faculty members and teachers use the grand jury's decision in the Ferguson case as an opportunity to advance the view that America is plagued by racism.

Academic Social Science - Rousseau Redux

William H. Young

William Young examines the enduring influence of Jean-Jacques Rousseu in academic social science.

Academic Social Science and our Capitalist Economy

William H. Young

William Young assesses the impact of contemporary social science on the economy.

Academic Social Science and Governance

William H. Young

William Young returns to evaluate the influence of the social sciences on public choice.

Campus Activism: The Fight for Imaginary Victories

Peter Wood

Campus activists fight against an imaginary villain of social injustice.

Prager U: What is Social Justice?

Jason Fertig

Jonah Goldberg calls the term 'social justice' a catchall phrase used to advance political agendas.

And We Shall Not All Be Dentists

Amy L. Wax

Amy L. Wax and Isaac N. Cohen review the book, Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality.

Articulating a Social Justice Agenda

Daniel Oliver

Arthur Brooks tries to add a new layer of varnish to efforts to define social justice. 

From Student Activist to Gotham’s Mayor

Peter Wood

The Metropolitan Studies major is now the Metropolitan-in-Chief. Peter Wood takes a look at how perspectives from academia have influenced Bill de Blasio.

Equal Opportunity and Social Justice

Tessa Carter

Equal opportunity for all?

Student Debt and Social Justice

Tessa Carter

Is student debt a matter of social justice?

American Exceptionalism

George Seaver

George Seaver discusses the competition of civil, religious and economic factions under a Constitution.

Social Justice and Copernicus

William H. Young

William Young explores the metaphysical dimensions of contemporary social justice theories.

Social Justice and the Economy

William H. Young

William Young explores the probable economic impact of redistributionist social justice policies.

Social Justice and Capitalism

William H. Young

William Young contrasts the fundamental principles of capitalism with the tenets of academic social justice.

The "Unfair" Campaign is Invited to UW-Superior

George Leef

UW-Superior endorses a tendentious concept of fairness.

Social Justice and Fairness

William H. Young

William Young examines the notion of social justice and "fairness," as currently imparted by many American higher educational institutions.

Social Justice and Democratic Engagement

William H. Young

William Young examines the extent to which contemporary ideas of "social justice" have displaced traditional Western concepts in American higher education.

Social Justice and the Academy

William H. Young

William Young discusses the growth of "social justice" curricula in the American academy.

Social Justice and Human Nature

William H. Young

William Young explores contrasting views of human nature and their implications for public policy.

Censorship and Other Troubles at Counselors for Social Justice

Robert C. Hunsaker

Robert Hunsaker finds that social justice counseling means that a certain political orientation is required.

Class Warfare on the Left

William H. Young

William Young examines the embrace of class warfare by many academics and public policy advocates.

Reproaching the Rich

William H. Young

William Young examines public perceptions of wealth distribution in present-day America.

The Ubiquitous Term: Social Justice

Crystal Plum

What do universities actually mean by advocating social justice?

The "Existential" Crisis in Higher Education

Glenn Ricketts

The president of Syracuse analyzes the existentialism of higher education's current predicament.

Higher Education and the "Wealth Gap"

George Leef

Higher education has little to do with the wealth gap in the US.

Common Ground

R. H. Winnick

What’s an Obama Democrat doing on the board of the NAS?

Mandatory Social Justice at Smith College?

Glenn Ricketts

Smith College ponders an undergraduate "social justice" requirement.

The Vocabulary of Virtue

David Clemens

You can’t end racism by practicing racism, even when you pretend it is virtuous.

Obama's Higher-Ed Agenda

Peter Wood

Peter Wood surveys the Obama administration’s eight-part higher-education agenda.

Dollars for Diversity and Equity at U of Az

Glenn Ricketts

Those agitating for social justice get a financial boost at the University of Arizona

Social Justice Revival?

Glenn Ricketts

Whatever “social justice” is, it’s certainly not poor.

Call For Civic Learning

Glenn Ricketts

Mr. Ricketts advocates the study of civics, but his idea of such a course differs from how the a recent DoED report interprets the subject.

Collegiate Press Roundup

Glenn Ricketts

Student news beat regulars encourage support for the Occupy Wall Street protests, suggest some good speakers for spring commencement, assess the drinking culture on campus, and note the difficulty of defining "social justice."

Civic Education and Western Civilization

William H. Young

William Young discusses the role of civic education in the Western tradition, and the consequences of its disappearance from the curriculum.

Reciprocity and Western Civilization

William H. Young

William Young continues his series with this dicussion of reciprocity in the Western social tradition.

Marxist Justice and Western Civilization

William H. Young

William Young discusses the mainstreaming of Marxist ideas in the K-12 educational curriculum.

"The Investigation of Potential Opposition"

George Leef

In one of the best Chronicle Review pieces I have read in a long time, Professor John Swallow argues in favor of a simple (but often forgotten) principle: "A necessary part of making an argument is the investigation of potential opposition." (It's a subscribers only piece, sorry to say.) Bravo! Far too often, professors are happy to have students regurgitate the conclusions they like. As an example, today I came across a book entitled Organizing the Curriculum: Perspectives on Teaching the US Labor Movement. It's clear that the editors want educators to "teach the labor movement" in a way that makes students think well of unions, not by taking an academically detached look at the totality of costs and benefits. Colleges so often talk about how they teach "critical thinking" to their students, but rarely do students hear an admonition to investigate potential opposition to their ideas. That's where critical thinking really begins.

The Reverse Metamorphosis of Sustainability: Governance

William H. Young

William Young concludes his series on the goals of the sustainability movement, and considers its implications for the constitutional order.

Diversity Vigil at Princeton Theological Seminary

Ashley Thorne

Students and faculty gathered at the seminary to rehearse racial grievances and express outrage over flyers distributed on campus about the link between eugenics and African American abortions.

Nature-Deficit Disorder?

Ashley Thorne

A winter course, "Sustainability and Social Justice," at the University of Chicago, will explore "biophilia" and "ecopedagogy."

Social Justice and Censorship

Glenn Ricketts

On the release of a new FIRE video, NAS recalls our victory for freedom of conscience with an accrediting body and its biased "dispositions" requirements.

University Speaker Series: Arab Feminism, Black Feminism, and "A Southern Queer Love Story"...No Commment

Ashley Thorne

A program on gender and diversity at the University of Richmond will explore "emancipatory ideas of social justice" this fall.

For Goodness Sake: Sustainability Ponders Ethics

Ashley Thorne

“Being sustainable has become more-or-less synonymous with being good,” two professors write. But even sustainability can be either virtuous or vulgar, depending on your motive.

Domestic Faction in a Republic, Part III

George Seaver

In the United States today - education, media, law, family policy, and national security - deconstruction clashes with classical liberalism.

UNC's "Economic and Social Justice" Minor

George Leef

In today's Pope Center Clarion Call, Jay Schalin writes about the "Economic and Social Justice" minor offered at UNC-Chapel Hill. Unfortunately, the minor is the brainchild of a far-left professor who wants to turn out students who are dedicated to increasing government domination of society and the elimination of what she thinks is "capitalism." Students do not need to take a course on the principles of economics in order to earn this minor; nor will they encounter the devastating counter-attack on the very concept of "social justice" by F. A. Hayek in his book The Mirage of Social Justice. In one of the courses the students may take (Philosophy 273), however, they at least get a taste of Robert Nozick's criticism of the mega-state. This minor is far more agitprop than 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.

Michelle Malkin on Zinn and 'Social Justice' Education

Ashley Thorne

This week in Frontpage Magazine Michelle Malkin has an article, "Hollywood and Howard Zinn's Marxist Education Project." Here's an excerpt:

Zinn’s objective is not to impart knowledge, but to instigate “change” and nurture a political “counterforce” (an echo of fellow radical academic and Hugo Chavez admirer Bill Ayers’ proclamation of education as the “motor-force of revolution”). Teachers are not supposed to teach facts in the school of Zinn. “There is no such thing as pure fact,” Zinn asserts. Educators are not supposed to emphasize individual academic achievement. They are supposed to “empower” student collectivism by emphasizing “the role of working people, women, people of color and organized social movements.” School officials are not facilitators of intellectual inquiry, but leaders of “social struggle.” Zinn and company have launched a nationwide education project in conjunction with the documentary. “A people’s history requires a people’s pedagogy to match,” Zinn preaches. The project is a collaboration between two “social justice” activist groups, Rethinking Schools and Teaching for Change. [...] No part of the school curriculum is immune from the social justice makeover crew. Zinn’s partners at Rethinking Schools have even issued teaching guides to “Rethinking Mathematics: Teaching Social Justice by the Numbers” — which rejects the traditional white male patriarchal methods of teaching computation and statistics in favor of p.c.-ified number-crunching [see NAS's articles on this, "Social Changelings" and "Mathematical Deceptions"]. [...] Our students will continue to come in dead last in international testing. But no worries. With Howard Zinn and Hollywood leftists in charge, empty-headed young global citizens will have heavier guilt, wider social consciences and more hatred for America than any other students in the world.

Popper on Plato, Social Justice and Political Correctness

Mitchell Langbert

I have been reading Karl Popper's Open Society and Its Enemies, Volume I and am awestruck with Popper's scholarship and its relevance to currently percolating issues such as social justice education, political correctness and climate change research.  Popper shows that Plato is at the root of totalitarianism.  Plato re-defined justice to mean the individual's existence for the good of the state; conceived of a ruling elite given politically correct indoctrination; and advocated total social control of day-to-day life.  Popper argues that Plato bases all of this on his tribalist and naturalist morality, that is, his belief that morals are rooted in nature.   Much like today's environmentalists, Plato favored a return to primitive olden times before the innovation that had occurred in Athens. Plato defined justice just as social justice educators do, namely, that the just is what is socially good.  The guardians, the ruling elite, were to receive a social justice-based education.   Plato intensely disliked Athenian democracy and the steps that Pericles and others  had made to define justice as equality before the law.  Rather, public morality would be defined by the politically correct guardian class. Morality,  moderation and justice would mean adherence to one's place and obedience to authority. Like Plato, today's environmentalists believe that the primitive is best and that human innovation is evil.  Much as the cap and trade bill attempts to assert nationally centralized authority over day-day-life, overseen by a Platonic "administrator" or philosopher king, so  Plato believed that the greatest virtues were to be obedient or to lead others.

What to Do About Centers for Social Justice

Peter Wood

Last week an NAS member, a professor at the University of Southern Indiana we'll call Professor Smith, brought to our attention a new “Center for Social Justice” at the university. He asked for advice on how to mitigate the adverse effects of such a center. I replied: Dear Professor Smith, Thank you for your inquiry last week about the recently created “Center for Social Justice” at  the University of Southern Indiana.  I agree that it sounds like another instance of political advocacy masquerading as academic inquiry. Centers such as this are in vogue.  After getting your email Ashley Thorne and I started doing some checking and included some comments on these centers in an article we posted to the NAS website last week, “Stories We’re Watching.”  In that article we noted some of the other colleges and universities that have similar centers. Your deeper question is what can you do about this?  Certainly there is no silver bullet.  But these centers are very dependent on a handful of conditions that can be challenged.  The conditions they depend on include:

  1. Camouflage for off campus.  They typically like to grandstand to their supporters about their radical credentials, but they typically go to great trouble to present themselves to alumni and people outside the university as just another academic enterprise engaged in wholesome scholarly work and teaching.  They try to phrase their advocacy in terms that make it blend into the campus surroundings—perhaps a little edgier than Shakespeare or engineering, but basically the same sort of “educational stuff.”  This is deeply and thoroughly dishonest.  Advocacy and education are not the same thing, which leads to the next point.
  2. Blurring the definition of academic work.  If you make out that volunteering for a politician’s campaign or helping out at the local ACORN office is an “educational” experience worthy of academic credit, you can make almost anything “academic.”  The trick here is the elasticity of the word “educational.”  Surely it is “educational” in some sense of the word to organize street protests or for that matter to throw a brick through a storefront window.  But is that the sense of “educational” that should prevail in a university?  Among the community of the learned?  Among students seeking to gain understanding of their society, science, culture, and heritage?  Is it educational in the sense of helping students distinguish truth from falsehood or good reasoning from fallacy?
  3. Opportunism.  These centers like to hitchhike on popular causes.  If students are upset about something, they try to fan the flames and then come forward as the natural leaders.  Much of this is quite cynical.  The key participants don’t care about the issue per se.  They care about the opportunity to make their work more salient on campus.  When they do this, there are always students who catch on that they have been used.
  4. Appropriating successful campaigns from other universities.  Denouncing bottled water, or asserting that Coca Cola harms third world nations, or setting up “bias reporting” sites—there is always a trend, and the Centers for Social Justice are extremely alert to these straws in the wind.  Their members attend conferences and stay in close communications with their counterparts.  This gives them easy access to pre-made propaganda and spares them the trouble of actually having to think about things.
  5. Institutional influence seeking. Center officials are often among the busiest and most connected people on campus.  They volunteer for committees and nominate their own to every possible opening.  Chances are pretty good that the Center at USI is the result of this kind of log-rolling, but it is now in a position to do even more of it.  Watch out for the Center asking for “representation” on campus committees, and watch out as well for claims that it speaks for certain “constituencies” that have been “excluded.”  Those are all claims worth challenging.  Typically they are sheer assertion.  The “communities” in question have never heard of them and may themselves be imaginary.
  6. Resource hoarding. These centers usually demand hefty budgets and nervous administrators grant them more than their fair share. The truth is that their fair share may be zero, since they do nothing to advance the academic mission and may do quite a bit to hinder it.

You can challenge any of these things.  A successful challenge must always be based on the facts.  So the first thing I suggest is that you and anyone else you can find who is interested just begin to assemble a well-organized file of what the Center for Social Justice publishes, says, and does.  This doesn’t require any skullduggery—and in fact shouldn’t.  the publicly available stuff will be more than adequate.  That’s because the Center itself will assume until it learns otherwise that it can do and say whatever it wants.  Think of ACORN before Breitbart.

Stories We're Watching

Peter Wood

Climate conspiracy, teeth-bared teachers’ ed, California tuition turmoil, a punchy professor—it’s been a busy fortnight in higher ed.

Is There Ever Any "Critical Thinking" About Social Justice?

George Leef

In this article, Ashley Thorne discusses the continuing vitality of the "social justice" crusade on many American campuses. I'd be willing to bet my last dollar that in these "social justice" programs, students are never led to question whether the term actually has any meaning. Are students ever called upon to read, for example, any part of Hayek's fabulous book The Mirage of Social Justice in which he argues that the term is not only meaningless, but leads to dangerous policy ideas? I doubt it. Rather, "social justice" is treated as an unquestionable if vague ideal.

Social Justice Revisited

Ashley Thorne

NAS highlights the social justice movement in higher education.

The Paradox of Constitutional and Post-1965 Civil Rights

George Seaver

The Jeffersonian ideal clashes with the new concept of civil rights based on the diversity doctrine, "All groups are inherently different."

Hey Guys!

Ashley Thorne

The University of Arizona surveys: do professors and others on campus use "GLBT-inclusive language"?

Canada Gets It Right

Ashley Thorne

Queen's College terminated its Intergroup Dialogue program when it was found to invite conversation-policing.

Bias Isn't Bias If It's Ours

Peter Wood

For instance, according to Barbara Applebaum, it's appropriate to teach for social justice "under conditions of systemic injustice."

Social Work Ed: Still Scandalous, But State Licensing Boards Not Scandalized

Glenn Ricketts

State licencing boards failed to respond to the imminent concerns NAS has raised about social work school accreditation.

A Prodigal Field

Peter Wood

NAS visits UMass Amherst one last time for 2008.

Social Changelings

Ashley Thorne

Little PC men are coming after the hard sciences.

Observations at Manchester

Ashley Thorne

What does NAS have to say about a private Christian college? NAS takes a tour through Manchester.

"Hurray! We Got Noticed!" ACPA's Response to NAS Residence Life Statement

Peter Wood

The American College Personnel Association responded to NAS's statement Rebuilding Campus Community: The Wrong Imperative by reaffirming its 1994 document, the Student Learning Imperative and "savoring the moment."

Socialism for Sophomores

Peter Wood

The University of Massachusetts at Amherst has outdone itself in offering a descent into radical ideology pure and simple. Its Social Thought & Political Economy program reveals to us how easy it is to add a socialist mentality to a multiculturalist religion.

A Degree in Agitprop

Peter Wood

Prompted by one of our Argus volunteers, NAS looks into a degree program in social justice education at U Mass Amherst. There we find one of those fantasy studies we thought existed only in such realms as Miskatonic or Hogwarts.

The Communitarian ResLife Movement

Tom Wood

What exactly is the ideology underlying res life programs today? Sustainability? Communitariansim? Social Justice? Oh my.

9. The Marriage of Affirmative Action and Transformative Education

Tom Wood

This investigative report marks a turning point for How Many Delawares? Now that we better understand the beast we are tracking, we hope to provide an even better account in future installments of our series.

It's Official: The NCATE Board has ratified its decision to drop "social justice."

The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) is the largest accreditor of schools of education. Several years ago it added to its standards for accreditation a demand that ed schools evaluate the “disposition” of students to be teachers. Part of what NCATE said was appropriate for the “disposition” of future teachers was a commitment to “social justice.” We at NAS saw that as a transparent invitation for ed schools to impose political litmus tests on their students.