Conferring

Peter Wood

From Friday through Sunday, we temporarily relocated the National Association of Scholarship from Princeton to Washington, D.C. Our national meeting on The Changing Landscape of Higher Education drew about 225 participants. It was high voltage. It was explosive. It was fun!

The conference began with U.S. Civil Rights Commissioner Abigail Thernstrom’s assessment of how students will force changes in the racism-is-everywhere worldview of campus officials.   A star was born when Diane Auer Jones spoke. She was the assistant secretary of the Department of Education who resigned last year in a dispute over academic standards. At our conference she made a vivid case for opening up choices for high school grads who don’t want to go to college and devoting more national resources to community colleges. Victor Davis Hanson gave the keynote address in which he weaved themes from Thucydides and Cicero together with experience running a small family farm to illuminate contemporary higher education.   Then came my showdown with AAUP president Cary Nelson, as we debated “The Meaning of Academic Freedom.”   Cary made fun of my teddy bear.

Other highlights include Yorktown University President Richard Bishirjian and Inside Higher Education editor Scott Jaschik surveying the technological challenges to the traditional college classroom; Jessica Gavora leading a session on the Expansion of Title IX (“From Locker Rooms to Laboratories”) and hair-raising accounts of what happened last year in the dorms at the University of Delaware from FIRE’s Adam Kissel and UD professor Jan Blits. John K. Wilson, from the Institute for College Freedom gamely raised a defense for Delaware’s newest version of this program. 

There’s more, and we have all of it on video.   We’ll start posting segments in the next few days. (Or so we hope. The hotel supplied old-fashioned VHS equipment. We need to transfer the tapes to digital media.) 

Washington, of course, was (and is) all geared up for the Presidential Inauguration. If you wanted a souvenir, you could get Obama Metro fare cards, Obama LED rope lights, Obama life-size cutouts, ObamaGear, Obama meets Spiderman comic books (issue # 583 of The Amazing Spider-Man), as well as the usual flags, pens, mugs, and t-shirts. (“Hey, Ashley, what are we going to do with all those left-over copies of Rocket Science? You, know, our full-color bound collection of the best-of from the website?”   “Don’t worry Peter. I’ve re-branded them as the special Obama Inaugural souvenir edition. They are flying out the door at $20 apiece.”)

We were in town for a different reason, but we had our reasons to celebrate. We gave awards to Carol Iannone, Bruce Cole, Victor Davis Hanson, and Ward Connerly.   Steve Balch received warm congratulations from trustees and members from across the continent for founding the NAS and expertly charting its way through 22 years. Many attendants remarked that this conference was richer, more provocative, and more intellectually exciting than any other academic conference they had ever attended. Some said more, but modesty forbids…


 

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