At a northeastern college the chair of a department also chaired a tenure and promotion committee that made a negative decision on an untenured associate professor. The associate professor under consideration had published many books and articles, and his publication record was better than the majority of tenured faculty at the institution. However, he had offended other of the senior faculty politically by outshining them. He was accused of lack of collegiality. The promotion committee rejected the tenure application, and that became news. Ultimately, the university's chancellor rescinded the committee's decision. Fast forward five years. Another professor, this time a full professor, offends the same departmental chair. The chair accuses the full professor of harrassing a female professor. The accusation of harassment is not referred to a personnel or EEO office, but is raised in a public, departmental meeting without investigation or hearing. The charges are discussed publicly. The departmental chair demands that a vote of censure be taken against the full professor. The full professor states that he was helping the untenured female professor and discussing a course with her, and that she does not claim that she was harassed. In other words, he was acting collegially. I deduce a simple conclusion for the politically incorrect: if you are collegial, you will be called a harasser. If you are a talented hard worker, you will be said to lack collegiality.
In today's Pope Center article, Jenna Robinson delves into the sad history of freshman summer reading programs. Unfortunately, the books that schools usually choose are either feel-good fluff or politically tendentious tracts. Her conclusion: "Universities have one chance to make a first impression on students; they should use that opportunity to choose books that are rigorous, that challenge students to think critically about new ideas, and that genuinely introduce them to university work and intellectual life." For the most part, universities blow that chance.
At the Chronicle, April Kelly-Woessner has an incisive piece on outcomes assessment at her university and in higher education at large. She argues that the nation is less concerned about measuring how much students have learned than with ascertaining whether universities are being efficient stewards of funds to educate. Her summary of the problems with outcomes assessment is compelling. Peter Wood's 2009 evaluation of the movement reached similar conclusions.
A blogger whom I assume to be a University of Delaware grad writes here about the latest manifestations of the school's diversity mania. It has recently established a new Center for the Study of Diversity (how much skepticism do you think there will be as to the benefits of it?) and that student course evaluations now include a question asking what lawyers would consider a leading question: were you prejudged by the professor based on your race, ethnicity or gender?
AOL provides vivid and heartrending coverage of this week's vicious government suppression of the protest of tens of thousands of courageous students. We can but applaud and echo the following sentiments of a leading Iranian opposition leader -- even though the students by far outshine him in bravery :
The most senior opposition supporter in the clerical leadership made a rare public show of backing for the students in comments over the weekend. Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former president who usually works behind the scenes, warned that “suppression is not the way to run a country.” “Most students are protesting the existing situation,” he said. “My heart breaks when I see that students are suppressed.”
Those who work in the private sector have long known (right?) that your privacy ends at the steps of the workplace. Plan accordingly. The issue of whether this principle applied to the public sector arose in the case of Ontario v. Quon. The answer: Your public college administrators can read your email, texts, and see who you have called. Melancton Smith has a good blog on the case over at Beacon. It amazes me how few people realize this basic fact. On a college campus, the IT personnel have to be busy sniffing out the bandwidth hogs who are torrenting illegal movies, spreading malware, etc. They are good at monitoring the system -- probably better than most employers. For more on the limits of campus privacy, see my two-part Big Brother and U, Part I: Is Your University Reading your Email?
As the academic job market worsens (was it ever good?), graduate students are angry, according to an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Don't expect a protest march in the streets burning Ph.D. gowns, but the blinkered view of some tenured faculty about the job market must drive a grad student nuts.
In today’s Pope Center piece, Ron Trowbridge (whose career covers jobs ranging from English prof to college VP to chief of staff for Chief Justice Burger) writes about the response that the higher education establishment in Texas has launched against ideas for making it more effective and efficient in teaching undergraduates. The reformers have been met with a full-scale counter-attack that includes a big PR firm.
From the student newspaper of the University of Massachusetts is an article by Thomas Moore (the student, not the Utopian) about the new policy for U Mass RAs: Don't call it the "holiday season"; call it the "winter season." I had a hard enough time as it is finding a card to send to extended family that actually read "Merry Christmas" on the front. Most said "Happy Holidays" or "Season's Greetings" or "Ho, Ho, Ho!" I thought things were bad enough. Now U Mass will try to erase even the concept of a holiday season in the name of political correctness. Moore encourages the RAs to disregard the policy in the name of liberty and free expression of their beliefs. Let's hope that if they do disregard it, the university does not try to discipline them.
Since the NAS report on summer reading, “Beach Books,” U.C. Berkeley has announced its own summer reading recommendations. The theme is “Education Matters” and, not surprisingly, multicultural “social justice” predominates. Happily, Benjamin Franklin and The Education of Henry Adams are included. There is also No Right to Remain Silent: The Tragedy at Virginia Tech by Lucinda Roy. As Chair of the English Department, Roy tutored Seung-Hui Cho in poetry after he was ejected from a course for terrifying classmates. Post-tutoring, Cho proceeded to murder 32 other human beings before killing himself. Roy argues that VaTech did not adequately address Cho’s disabilities and alleges multiple institutional failures. I would argue that VaTech also failed to help students and teachers protect themselves. My friend the Philosophy professor enjoys alarming his students by telling them “Professor Clemens says that a gun society is a polite society.” Well, yes. Gun shows are the most decorous events imaginable because you never know who’s packing. As Webster’s NRA Dictionary says, “democracy” is two wolves fighting over a lamb; “liberty” is an armed lamb. Call me perverse but I do enjoy that mine is the only car in the faculty lot with the decals “Wild Alaska,” “NRA Supports Our Troops,” and “Armed With Pride.” It's particularly amusing when I park next to the Volvo whose bumper sticker reads “The Goddess Is Alive and Magic Is Afoot.” Magic and the Goddess notwithstanding, I wish that more responsible teachers were armed. I have an in-law who teaches at Virginia Tech; he heard the gunfire. A local student brought an automatic weapon to acting class; one teacher’s office is regularly trespassed at night (hopefully only by amorous custodians). At one Cow Palace gun show, I bought MACE and a billy club for my division’s office staff. Diminutive Rosa is alone in the evening; more than once she has had to face deranged, medicated, or otherwise menacing students. Rosa is a tough cookie, straight outta Compton (wore a bullet-proof vest to high school), but even she gets rattled. Better if she had training, a concealed carry permit, and a Beretta. All campus personnel should at least handle guns so that they are not afraid of them. To the gentle and nonviolent, this no doubt sounds like macho posturing but I grew up shooting, BB gun to 30.06 and .303, Enfield to M-1 carbine, Ruger .22 to S&W .357 magnum. I always carry a Kershaw Blur, but I’d like to be better equipped to protect my students and colleagues. Our campus emergency plan tells us to freeze if there is an “active shooter.” Better it if it read, “keep moving, don’t be a target, shoot back.” Freeze? Our victim culture is ideal for the psychopaths who desire helpless victims.
We learn from this IHE piece that Harvard economist Subramanian Swamy was apparently pretty distressed by last summer's hotel bombing in Mumbai, India by Muslim extremists. Swamy gave full vent to his feelings in a lengthy op ed piece there, arguing that Muslim terrorists were his native land's most pressing security problem. Shortly thereafter, he was in big trouble at Harvard where a group of Muslim students took offense and demanded that the university terminate his employment immediately. That didn't happen, but his faculty colleagues did an end-around by removing Swamy from the two courses he was slated to teach in the summer session for 2012. So: he hasn't been sacked, but he can't teach at Harvard either. His views, as one administrator termed them, are "destructive." I'll certainly grant you that they're controversial, but also well within the limits of controversy that an academic institution ought to be able to tolerate. It's good to see that many commenters in the response thread agree.
See Inside Higher Ed:
Both sides in the case before the court argue that they are defending students from discrimination. "Often university officials don't like the religious groups and we see [colleges' anti-bias rules] as one more mechanism for keeping religious groups off campus," said Kim Colby, a lawyer for the Christian Legal Society, which wants the right to organize chapters at public law schools even if those law schools ban discrimination based on sexual orientation. The society excludes gay people -- and others who do not share its faith.
See also FIRE:
FIRE will be filing an amicus curiae ("friend of the court") brief with the Court in support of the Christian Legal Society's appeal, asking the Court to continue its longstanding protection of expressive association.
University administrators, moreover, seem to have a lot a trouble complying with the First Amendment. Let us pray that the Supreme Court will vindicate the foundational principles underlying our first freedom.
But just as the right to abortion, speech, or private education doesn’t yield a right to government funding of abortion, speech, or private education — and isn’t even violated by rules that expressly exclude abortion, certain subject matters of speech, or private education from generally available benefit programs — so the right to expressive association isn’t violated by rules that give benefits only to groups that organize themselves in a certain way. And while these conditions on funding would be unconstitutional if they discriminated based on the viewpoint of the groups’ speech, a ban on discrimination in selecting members or officers is a ban based on conduct, not on the viewpoint of the groups’ speech.
In the movie Up in the Air, George Clooney's character works for a company that sends him around the country to fire people. To save the company money on airfare, hotels, and rental cars, Clooney's female colleague, a young Cornell grad, suggests that they switch to firing people through videoconferencing on laptops. The method seems to work, but the viewer feels instinctively that this is even more demeaning than getting fired by a third party company. There's something so impersonal and distant about talking to a screen. Later in the movie, the girl (Cornell grad) gets dumped by her boyfriend via text message, and once again, we see the medium itself as adding to her humiliation. We've always had the sense that with any communication short of face-to-face conversation, there's something vital missing. That's been the abiding concern during the rise of online education. But an article in today's Inside Higher Ed declares that online education will lose none of the elements that make traditional education what it is:
As we look to the future of liberal education, we seem unlikely to change the fundamentals of what has made that model successful. We will enhance the curriculum with interactive smart classrooms, course and lecture capture, ubiquitous wireless connecting smaller and more capable digital devices, and other technologies not yet invented, but close faculty-student and student-student interaction will remain the core. What seems more likely to change – and to offer transformative possibilities – is the medium.
But isn't the medium the message? The author maintains, however, that "there is every reason to believe that whatever 'liberal education' is, 'it' can travel over a network." He offers some compelling reasons.
Now that our leaders have taught us that opposing nationalized health care is supporting slavery, I think it's pretty clear that high school students should be taught that denying global warming is supporting slavery. Come to think of it, opposing affirmative action and partial birth abortion is clearly supporting slavery. I might have difficulty persuading the Senate that rooting for the Yankees constitutes supporting slavery -- though that seems more pleasing to me than any of the other innuendos.
Proposition 209, the law prohibiting racial preferences at public universities in California, is under attack. Last week the California Association of Scholars (CAS), an affiliate of NAS, filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuit against Prop. 209 by an organization that, as NAS president Peter Wood said, "has deployed questionable tactics against civil rights initiatives in every state where they have been proposed." CAS, along with Ward Connerly and the American Civil Rights Foundation, will be represented by attorneys with the Pacific Legal Foundation. There is also a bill called AB2047, which would effectively overturn Prop. 209 and is now in the hands of the California Senate. CAS president John Ellis has sent a letter to the Senate chair, Gloria Romero, urging her and her colleagues to vote down this law. Links Press Release on CAS and BAMN lawsuit CAS Letter to State Senate Chronicle of Higher Ed Pacific Legal Foundation Press Release
Today's Wall Street Journal published George Leef's letter:
I got this email from the National Teach-In for Global Warming as part of an "Education for Sustainability" listserv to which I subscribe:
Dear Colleagues and Friends, The hacked e-mails from climate scientists have energized the denialist community: one of the most jaw-dropping comments came from “Superfreakonomics” co-author Steven Dubner who told Fox News that “scientists were “colluding” with Al Gore in “distorting evidence.” He insisted that “you can’t read these emails and feel that the IPCC’s or the major climate scientists’ findings and predictions about global warming are kosher.” Now you too can help “hide the decline”. No, not a (non-existent) decline in the global temperature data, but a decline in the voices of people who understand the science. As educators, many of us are stunned that a few private e-mails are somehow calling into question three decades of peer-reviewed research by thousands of the world’s top scientists. Nevertheless, because you and I are not speaking out, but the deniers are, it is happening, and we have the obligation to set the record straight. What can you do? 1. Help us organize statewide conference calls with your US Senate offices this spring. We need to get 500 people on the line each from Indiana, Tennessee, Ohio, Nevada and 46 other states—to have a real conversation with Senate staff about real issues. The Bard Center for Environmental Policy will do all the work setting up the calls, but we need your help getting the word out. To learn more, give me a call at 845-758-8067, or e-mail us at email@example.com. 2. Call your US Senate Office today (find the numbers here) and let them know that these e-mails have in no way undermined the scientific case of global warming, and that the planet is in fact heating up just as scientists have predicted. A great Peter Sinclair video explaining the issue is here. 3. Send in letter on the e-mails to the editor, or write an op-ed for your regional paper. Next Wednesday, December 16th, I will be calling into on The National Climate Seminar live from Copenhagen. While it is clear that “a grand deal” will not emerge in the next two weeks, I will be discussing whether a binding international agreement appears possible to emerge by next year’s meetings in Mexico, and what that might look like. Join us at 3 PM eastern—call in info is here. Finally: please support young people’s efforts in Copenhagen— take the daily student opinion poll POPCOP15: see the letter from Dickinson College letter below. And see the note as well about a cool Copenhagen curriculum, Citizen Climate, for high school students from the Will Steger Foundation. Thanks for the work you are doing. Professor Eban Goodstein Director, National Teach-In on Global Warming
Writing in the Wall Street Journal (June 18), Timothy Knowles, “a former teacher, principal and district leader” laments the difficulty of eliminating “low-performing teachers.” Granted, there are abundant reasons for tenure reform at the K-12 level. College, however, is a different matter. Marketing his new book, Cary Nelson, spear point of the AAUP, says
I’m a dyed-in-the-wool, devout believer that you only have academic freedom and free speech if you have job security. If you don’t have job security, you can’t speak out forcefully, and I think that means academic freedom will be diminished.
I rarely agree with Dr. Nelson, a fellow I find usually animated by left-wing, social constructivist, and Sixties sentiments, but in this case he is right. Mr. Knowles paints administrators as ex-teachers called to a higher mission. However, in college, many administrators have little or no classroom experience, and Mr. Knowles seems oblivious to just how political, punitive, and self-serving careerist administrators can be (just look at how many of the cases at FIRE originate from administrative excesses). Without tenure, my campus would have no discernible conservative voice at all. I would have been fired by at least three different college presidents for a variety of transgressions: organizing the faculty union, suing the college, publically criticizing multiculturalism, openly opposing “student learning outcomes.” Students can survive a poor teacher (how many great teachers are there?), but they can’t survive a university monoculture that is an ideological echo chamber. Tenure may sometimes protect incompetent knaves but, where it still exists, tenure also protects vital intellectual pluralism.
In this week's Pope Center Clarion Call, I write about an enlightening lawsuit involving a demoted dean's allegation that his school deliberately trashed its academic standards to help retain weak students. My argument is that colleges and universities have been doing this for decades, but have usually been subtle enough not to get caught (or sued, at least). The case also highlights the need to employ what economists call "Public Choice" theory -- i.e., the assumption that public officials will generally make decisions that are in their own interest rather than for "the public good"--when we think about the actions of college officials.
Steven Rhoads, NAS member and Political Science professor at the University of Virginia, writes [along with co-authors Laura Webber and Diana Van Fleet]at the Chronicle of Higher Education about the "hook-up" sexual culture now so widespread on many college campuses (and high schools as well, according to what one informed local counselor tells me). The subject has been examined here before, when we published Wendy Shalit's call for the recovery of some minimum standard of modesty in the dorms. Good luck with that, since I doubt that there is much on campus these days that hasn't been exposed, practiced, discussed or attempted. Most undergraduates, their sap rising, have long been accustomed to inhabiting the same buildings , the same floors, using the same common bathrooms and, more recently, the same dorm rooms. Beyond that, many undergraduate newspapers feature a regular "sex columnist," who usually doesn't devote a lot of space to modesty. Not much then, seems to stand in the way of the "hookup" culture, and, as Shalit discovered, the burden is on those uneasy with it to remove themselves by choice: there are few institutional props that even encourage, much less accomodate them. We're certainly not in Kansas anymore. Rhoads and his co-authors share Shalit's negative take on casual, random sexual encounters, but offer some intriguing empirical research results rather than simply subjective disapproval. On the basis of extensive survey questionaires, they find that young college women in particular, perhaps to their surprise, are increasingly unedified and troubled when they reflect on their "hookup" experiences. Not quite what they expected, it seems. It's worth reading, especially for the lively comments thread which follows.
Gary A. Olson of Idaho State University has a good article on "The Limits of Academic Freedom" at the Chronicle of Higher Ed. An excerpt:
One chair described a senior professor who missed a substantial number of her classes. When confronted with evidence of her absenteeism, she told her chair that as an academic she had the freedom to conduct her courses in any way she deemed appropriate. [...] The magical incantation—"I'm protected by academic freedom"—is thought to offer instant indemnity. [...] Some people confuse the constitutional concept of freedom of speech with the less grandiose notion of academic freedom, but they are two distinct concepts. Academic freedom is limited to the confines of academic discourse while free speech is a broad constitutional right central to our democratic system of government. [...] Academic freedom is a right we should all cherish because it ensures an environment of free inquiry. That is precisely why we must guard against attempts to make the concept so limitless, so capacious, that it loses its power to protect the academic enterprise. When academic freedom becomes all things to all people, then it becomes nothing at all.
The Chronicle has an article by Arthur Coleman and Scott Palmer (both lawyers who worked in the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights) entitled "No Time for Complacency on Racial Diversity." George Leef of the Pope Center sent off a letter in reply, arguing that we ought to be complacent about racial diversity, as well as diversity of all other kinds.
I wonder what’s going on with Google and Climategate? Specifically, I mean why doesn’t the premier mega-search resource’s suggestion function work when you enter “Climategate?” Enter “Global Warming,” for example and you’ll instantly get at least a dozon suggestions; same thing with “Climate Change.” But with “Climategate – even though it records many more hits than the other two – nada, nyet, nichts, nihil, nothin’. Is this a coincidence? Maybe. But maybe Google thinks it doesn’t need to be too helpful for those global warming deniers, either. You have to wonder.
You may have thought - or wished - that American colleges and universities had finally exhausted the outer reaches of "diversity" on their campuses. Really, there's simply GOT to be a finite limit to this thing, and we really will run out of special categories, special programs, special courses, special campus codes and relentless micromanagement by administrators, hiring committees and dormitory resident heads seeing that students and faculty members are sufficiently serious about "diversity." Well, if that's what you thought, brace yourself: according to this piece in today's Chronicle of Higher Education, a new, significantly expanded version of "diversity" is about to arrive on campus, with lots of new student classifications and obligations to accomodate them. And here's a surprise: this also means vastly greater possibilities for antidiscrimination litigation as well. Take students with various physical or learning disabilities, for example: they're accustomed to all kinds of accomodations, whether in the use of guide dogs or the constant availability of special education teachers during their K-12 years that aren't currently provided in most college programs. If all of they're accustomed to receiving these services at the secondary level, then why can't colleges and universities do likewise? There may be nothing wrong providing such accomodations, of course, but it's not immediately obvious how they're related to the idea of "diversity." This is in addition, of course, to the endlessly proliferating categories of ethnic racial and sexual categories which will have to be recognized and accomodated. If you've been troubled by the imperial march of "diversity" up to now, this is not going to make for very edifying reading. Simillar to The Blob, it expands endlessly. The comments thread, though, suggests that a number of readers have finally reached their limits and are willing to say so. Hopefully, they'll speak up at faculty meetings as well.
Inside Higher Ed ran a story on an AEI conference where the subject was the “completion agenda.” That is, do we really need to get lots more young people into and through college as Obama says we should? After the presentation of a paper by Arthur Hauptman that was skeptical, Lumina Foundation’s Dewayne Matthews commented that “there’s no real debate here that more people need college degrees.” Sorry, but there IS a great debate over that.
Our friends at the Institute for Humane Studies (IHS) asked us to let our members and readers know about the scholarships (up to $12K!) they award to graduate students through their Humane Studies Fellowship. The deadline to apply is December 31. Here is the announcement from the IHS website:
Humane Studies Fellowships are awarded by the Institute for Humane Studies (IHS) to students interested in exploring the principles, practices, and institutions necessary for a free society through their academic work. IHS began the program in 1983 as the Claude R. Lambe Fellowships and in 2009 awarded more than 165 fellowships ranging from $2,000 to $12,000. IHS considers applications from those who will be full-time graduate students, including law and journalism students, or undergraduate juniors or seniors during the 2010-11 academic year and who have a clearly demonstrated research interest in the intellectual and institutional foundations of a free society. Previous award winners have come from a range of fields such as economics, philosophy, law, political science, anthropology and literature. Their research focused on a variety of topics:
Select winners are invited to present and discuss their research at the annual Humane Studies Research Colloquium and to attend other colloquia throughout the year. Fellows also join a network of more than 10,000 IHS academics committed to the ideas of liberty and intellectual freedom.
- market-based approaches to environmental policy
- the legal development of privacy and property rights in 18th-century England
- the role of patient autonomy in bioethics
- impediments to economic growth in developing countries
- the relationship between U.S. presidential politics, fiscal policies, and economic performance
"The Humane Studies Fellowship award is a precious gift of time that will enable me to continue with my research projects at a more rapid and effective pace. It makes a great difference."
- Susan Hamilton, Harvard University, HSF WinnerIf you have any questions, please visit the frequently asked questions page and read about the application process. If you need assistance after reading the FAQs, please submit a question via our contact form.
Please pass the word on to any graduate students you know who may be interested in this.
In this week's Pope Center Clarion Call, Jay Schalin takes a look at the conventional wisdom that a sure-fire way for states or countries to boost their economies is by putting more resources into higher education. He concludes that the conventional wisdom is mostly wrong. Education, like everything else, is subject to diminishing returns and we're probably well past the point where additional benefits are less than additional costs.
Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah just paid a visit to President Obama, almost two years after the deadline by which the kingdom’s educational curriculum was to have been overhauled. This reform has not take place, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom wrote to the president last week. As the National Review reports, this meeting was aimed at getting the two nations to coordinate in confronting terrorism and should also have been used by the president to personally persuade King Abdullah to fulfill his promise of textbook reform. As NR notes,
Saudi textbooks teach, along with many other noxious lessons, that Jews and Christians are “enemies,” and they dogmatically instruct that various groups of “unbelievers” — apostates (which includes Muslim moderates who reject Saudi Wahhabi doctrine), polytheists (which includes Shiites), and Jews — should be killed. Under the Saudi Education Ministry’s method of rote learning, these teachings amount to indoctrination, starting in first grade and continuing through high school, where militant jihad on behalf of “truth” is taught as a sacred duty. These textbooks are used not only in Saudi Arabia but in Saudi-funded schools around the world.
It remains to be seen whether the president broached the matter to any avail with the Saudi king.
Inside Higher Ed interviewed NAS president Peter Wood on his thoughts on the AAUP's statement, released today, on academic freedom for professors who take sides in controversies. While NAS agrees with the AAUP on some parts of the statement, and on the importance of protecting academic freedom, we disagree on some fundamental levels. Wood said that the AAUP appears to be "trying to create a firewall around faculty" so that "no one other than faculty has a legitimate place at the table," when the conduct of a faculty member is being discussed.
An article in the Chronicle of Higher Ed (subscription required) highlights the Abbeville Institute, which is "an association of scholars in higher education devoted to a critical study of what is true and valuable in the Southern tradition." Here are some quotes from the article: Professor Donald W. Livingston (Institute's founder): "Academics who claim to find something valuable in the Southern tradition are sure to suffer abuse." "The university should be the place where the unthinkable can be thought and the unspeakable said as long as it is backed by civil conduct and argument. It is not that today" Heidi Beirich (Southern Poverty Law Center): "At the end of the day, they are just trying to revise the history of the South in favor of whites." Clyde N. Wilson (Charter Abbeville member): ""The academic tendency now, because of America's preoccupation with the race question the last half-century or so, is to put the whole Southern history into a dark little corner of American history." Check out the Abbeville website and see what you think.
Our friend Christina Sommers has frequently piqued the wrath of academic feminists by arguing that public education, far from favoring boys as legend has it, is loaded heavily against them and in favor of girls all through the K-12 years. See, for example, her book The War Against Boys, which makes that case very convincingly. In this article in today's American, the AEI magazine, Sommers illustrates how the "war" continues in the New York City school system's program for gifted students. Despite the fact that, statistically, there are approximately equivalent numbers of academically talented boys and girls, the selection process, especially the heavily verbal rather than quantitative orientation of the qualifying exams, is decidedly skewed in favor of girls. Not surprisingly, nearly three-fifths of the students selected for the special programs are girls. Of course, there's nothing wrong with providing talented girls with every opportunity to realize their potential. But equally talented boys are currently getting the very short end of the stick. It's simply one more example, Sommers concludes, of the fact that boys of every variety have been relegated to second-class status by feminist-dominated school systems. To my mind, the greatest irony lies in the fact that, despite the increasing dominance of academic, leadership and social awards by girls, many of them also graduate from high school with a strong sense of grievance and victimhood. Thus, the typically upscale suburbanite valedictorian on her way to an Ivy League school next Fall, with lots of scholarship support in hand, will often as not give an address explaining how things are so heavily stacked against women, and she fully expects to encounter massive discrimination in the years ahead. Her college experience, alas, isn't likely to dispel that outlook.
In The Weekly Standard, Joseph Epstein makes a nice distinction between those who see man’s essential self as defined by what he hides and those who see man’s essential self as defined by what he does. "More people who have been infected by contemporary college education are likely to fall into the Hide camp than people who have been brought up free of higher education . . . . If one believes that we are what we hide, responsibility drops away.”
The mania over "diversity" (that is, preferences for certain people whose ancestry puts them into an "underrepresented" category) has swept through most of American higher education. It's bad enough when, say, English departments fret that they aren't adequately "modeling diversity," but far more worrisome when medical schools do. In this Pope Center article today, I write about this disturbing phenomenon.
A blog on Inside Higher Ed that I pay attention to, Getting to Green, has an interesting discussion about advocacy intruding on higher education. Note that the Getting to Green blogger writes under a pseudonym and is "a sustainability administrator at a large private research university, an adjunct faculty member, and a farmer." Michael Legaspi at Creighton University commenting on Getting to Green:
Advocacy rears its head too often, in multicultural moralism, identity politics, and, as the CRU debacle shows, in too many kinds of environmental studies. When we are concerned only to convert students to the “right” view of things, rather than to lead them through complex engagement of the intellectual substance of important questions, we make it all too easy for them to get by in our classes by telling us what we want to hear. When they do so to our satisfaction, we may have scored a cheap political victory, but we have surely done so at the expense of our best and highest ideals.
Getting to Green responds:
Michael Legaspi is concerned that too much of American higher education consists of political advocacy. He's right to be, and I agree with him. In fact, I'd go further. I'd say that too much teaching consists of social and economic advocacy, as well. Too much of what goes on in social sciences and professional schools treats how things are as the best they could possibly be (in this, the best of all possible worlds). Advocacy may be an acceptable form of consciousness-raising, but it's far from the highest form of teaching. When I work with professors at Greenback, I really don't know how much sustainability-related advocacy they indulge in. My impression, and my sincere hope, is that it's not much. Advocacy is appropriate in the marketplace of ideas, but potentially troubling in the classroom. My objective is to get students to engage both with the material -- the facts -- and in some degree of substantive analysis. If a student seriously engages with the idea that natural resources (both sources and sinks) are finite, that the systems which interact to produce the planet's climate are many and complex, and that societies may have a responsibility to address problems of their own creation, then I'm satisfied. Not everyone has to agree with my conclusions about climate disruption, its causes, its likely costs for humanity if left unchecked, or the need to address it globally and immediately. What I comment on when I review student projects and papers is whether they demonstrate an understanding of the material, not whether that understanding matches my own.
I don't agree with G2G's entire post (especially the part about the mainstream media giving credence to Climategate - think Googlegate), but he's saying the right thing here. One of the main problems with the push to "infuse" sustainability into higher education is that it brings ideological advocacy into the classroom. If we are to have sustainability education in the university, the approach G2G is talking about sounds like the right one.
One of the most depressing articles I’ve ever read in my entire life describes the problem American students face when pondering a career in science. For years, the conventional wisdom was that our education system was failing to properly educate our children in STEM subjects (science, tech, engineering, and math). However, this article in Miller-McCune directly challenges this assumption. The authors contend that the real problem facing American students is a lack of careers in science. The case they make is compelling: Although the number of graduates receiving Ph.D.’s has increased, the number of job opportunities has not kept pace. This trend is particularly noticeable in academia, where young Ph.D.’s spend years as post-docs, with only a small chance of ever landing a permanent position as a professor. Indeed, the average age of a scientist who earns his first independent NIH grant– a huge milestone in the medical science field– has risen from a researcher’s late 20s/early 30s to the ripe old age of 42. One of the biggest causes indicated in this article is the flood of foreigners who are willing to take post-doc positions. It doesn’t take an economist to realize that a massive increase in labor supply will both eat up opportunities and drive down salaries. Post-doc positions, which were once viewed as prestigious, are now treated as temporary, cheap labor. With such a dismal prospect for career advancement and compensation, it’s no wonder that American students would rather get an MBA or MD… or to forgo higher education altogether.
The Financial Times has an article on how corporations, which formerly touted their commitment to the environment as a marketing ploy, now really believe in the eco-cause. More and more business schools have "infused" sustainability into the curriculum due to student and corporate demand:
A cynic might question how deeply companies believe in the value of social responsibility but Tom Lyon, director of the Erb Institute at University of Michigan who holds an endowed chair at the school from Dow Chemical, insists that companies that approach him are “sincere”. “I am sure there’s some degree of reputation and image building, but there is also a sincere effort to be connected with a university. These companies want to be up to speed on the latest thinking, to know what students are thinking and to understand how to get the next generation’s best and brightest to come work for them.”
A sustainability director at Yale said, “We know you can get filthy rich destroying the planet, but now we’re starting to think about how you can make lots of money saving the planet.”
Anyone who's followed Ashley Thorne's posts describing the recently discontinued La Raza/Chicano "studies" program in the Tucson public school sytem may well have experienced a sense of the surreal: how on earth did this balkanized, ideological bomb-throwing find its way into any classroom anywhere? Could anyone actually have been serious about a "curriculum" that could only engender ethnic chauvanism and antagonism toward non-hispanics, especially whites? Unfortunately, yes, since the Tucson program is simply an extension/imitation of what's been going on in academic precincts for quite some time now. Here you can easily find any number of undergraduate courses and "studies" programs devoted to fostering group identity, group chauvnism, group grievance, group entitlement, etc., etc. But as these two pieces (here and here) in the Chronicle of Higher Education illustrate, ethnic studies has apparently been catching some flak, even from within the academy, and the authors respectively write to mount a defense. Of course, they believe, lots of criticism predictably emanates from the incorrigible racism which perdures at all levels of American society, and which was recently made manifest in Arizona's new statute which effectively terminated the Tucson curriculum. But one of the authors interestingly argues that ethnic studies programs at the college level have been weakened by academic "liberals," who have used them as a means of celebrating "diversity' rather than generating political activism and group advocacy (as in "empowerment"). That, he concludes, is where ethnic studies needs to refocus, as the La Raza program was apparently doing so well. As the comments thread indicates, a number of academic observers with first-hand experience of similar programs also think that's exactly what's wrong with them.
Kudos to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights for raising an issue that the higher education establishment would rather keep buried. The commission's latest inquiry involves suspected gender discrimination on campuses, where women are approaching 60 percent of the applicant pool. As this report indicates, women are “more plentiful” in college admissions, no matter that feminist activists have been carping for years about supposed discrimination against females. The question arises whether, bowing to "reverse" gender bias, campuses are now limiting the number of women they admit so as to increase the ranks of less meritorious men. Jennifer Rubin at Commentary remarks aptly on this ironic turn of events:
First, where are the Justice Department and so-called feminist groups? They apparently don’t much care if women are now on the short end of gender preferences. It’s all about “diversity,” you see. And second, one realizes how misplaced has been the hue and cry about anti-female discrimination in education. Apparently there is no civil-rights or other organization upset that men now make up only 40 percent of the college-admissions pool. Are they being discriminated against? Are their educational needs being ignored? We don’t know, and no one seems interested in finding out why.
Education needs a manifesto for a new humanism; sadly, Martha Nussbaum’s new book is not that manifesto. I had high hopes for Not for Profit but Dr. Nussbaum’s argument quickly becomes a tangle of faulty logic and ideology and notably stale seventies feminism. Why is she still pumping the wells of female victimization (while referencing the female president of Harvard) and the plight of African American children who lack role models (while noting the African American President of the United States)? At one point, she praises Mr. Obama’s personal values as developed by the progressive education she endorses. Then she indicts him for not supporting such education for others, raising the question of just what sort of person her recommended liberal education actually produces. When Nussbaum pleads for progressive schools (wherein teachers sagely guide students to discover and construct knowledge themselves), I think of Geoffrey Pyke [pictured] and his Malting House School (John Dewey meets William Golding). Although Dr. Nussbaum embraces Socratic self-examination, ideology blinds her to her own biases. She is pedantic when attacking pedantry, and she abhors “the dead hand of authority” yet repeatedly invokes the authority of Nobel Prize credentials. She advocates critical thinking to combat “demeaning stereotypes,” then proceeds to stereotype men, women, whites, and Southerners. Masculinity comes off badly unless it is “maternal” which, she implies, is the true essence of human nature (making masculine behavior an aberration, less than human). In this book, women are saintly and victimized (unless they are named Margaret Thatcher). Nussbaum scorns the image of the self-reliant cowboy, then, on the next page, explains that every child must develop “less need to call on others.” Decrying education that involves mere inculcation of facts (more Seventies flotsam), she later admits to the necessity for “a lot of factual knowledge.” Worse, Dr. Nussbaum extols the individual but avoids any mention of the tribalizing effects of multiculturalism and its diminution of . . . the individual. Among several straw man arguments, she condemns “the facile equation of Islam with terrorism” without mentioning just who ever assumed that equivalence. The values she prizes are particularly Western, giving her desire to spread them globally a whiff of cultural imperialism. And Dr. Nussbaum recommends role-playing to develop sympathy for "the other." I met an eyewitness from one progressive school in Northern California that did just that: to develop sympathy for slaves on a ship, teachers locked students in a Quonset hut, chained to their desks surrounded by rotting fish. In fact, Dr. Nussbaum’s book is a call not for a new humanism but for an old political correctness. She even warns that because artworks are so effective at creating empathy, teachers must exercise “careful selectivity” so that students do not read “defective forms of `literature’” which evoke unsocial feelings and “uneven sympathies.” Yikes! Goodbye Salinger, Twain, Poe, O’Conner, Dostoyevsky, and Kafka. With friends like Dr. Nussbaum, liberal arts education doesn’t need enemies.
University social work programs rarely attract outside attention. They subsist deep down in the bowels of their host institutions, generating a decent cash flow but little in the way of intellectual excitement. They do, however, have one dubious distinction. Like no other academic program, they are politicized throughout their warp and woof. Sociology, anthropology, even education could, if fully liberated from tendentiousness, still survive as fields. It’s questionable whether this is true of social work. Launched in the spirit of progressivism, its doxology has by now absorbed almost every mental reflex of the left.
I'm happy to report that Google is now allowing its suggestion function to accomodate searches for Climategate. Recall that I posted last week in reference to the very strange absence of this search tool, on a subject which was generating more hits than all other "climate" inquiries combined. Give it a try, you'll find all kinds of interesting stuff. I'd suggest that you hurry, though: you never know when this curious malfunction might recur. Glenn Ricketts
That's what most people say, but the truth of the matter is that quite a few highly successful individuals never earned college degrees. Some of them have created great companies that ironically demand college degrees for jobs far less demanding than that of their non-college CEOs. In this week's Pope Center Clarion Call, Jenna Ashley Robinson writes about people who are very successful but who don't have any college credentials. Maybe a future piece should be about people who have college degrees but can hardly even keep a low-skill job.
Pajamas Media have published a series of posts on higher education in Texas, authored by “Publius Audax”, a pseudonym for a professor at an undisclosed state university. Readers of this blog might be interested in what Publius has to say. In “Needed Reforms for Public Higher Education in Texas (and Elsewhere)”, Publius advocates what he calls the “Entrepreneurial Professor” model.
The recent nationwide media exposure of the diversity facilitation training program of residence assistants at the University of Delaware demonstrates what a couple of professors -- in this case, professors Linda Gottfredson and Jan Blits, two NAS members who teach there -- and a relatively small group of activists can accomplish in revealing the extent to which political correctness and toxic racial ideology have infested some of today's campuses.
Should sustainability be a "defining feature" of higher education? I examine the sustaina-zeal at Penn State U in a recent NAS.org article. It sounds as if sustainabullies are ready to invade every aspect of the university. Some takeaways:
Jennifer Gratz, plaintiff in Gratz v. Bollinger in 2003, testified in court last week against AB 2047, a new bill that if passed, will overturn Proposition 209 and allow racial preferences in California university admissions. When asked, "If you had to bet your $5 on which kid was going to be more successful...one kid white, one kid of color, which kid do you think you should bet on?" she replied, "I wouldn't bet on either kid based on their race, I would look at the kid as a whole." Her interviewer pressed, "I regrettably come to the conclusion that race does still matter in terms of the ability of young people to succeed," to which Gratz answered, "I think the question should be: how do we get to the point, then, where it does not matter? And the government sticking its nose in the issue of race and determining based on someone's race who gets into a university, and picking and choosing winners and losers based on skin color, does not get us there." Watch the exchange in the 5-minute video below (via ACRI):
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.
In today's Pope Center piece, Professor Robert Weissberg argues that they're more likely to do the opposite. They tend to promote mediocrity and encourage at least some profs to pander to the students in order to get nice evaluations. In a course where most of the students are actually there because they want to learn, a professor could certainly benefit from their feedback. On the other hand, where the typical student is disengaged, ill-prepared, and enrolled in college principally to have fun, evaluations are a waste of time at best.
It seems that you had better be very very careful of what you say and to whom you say it at the College of William and Mary, where the administration has recently instituted a new "Bias Reporting Team," complete with its own web page. Among the features of this newest academic venture in promoting "tolerance," "diversity," and "respect" on campus is an Orwellian system of anonymous accusation and secret investigations, the maintenance of elaborate data bases, and an extensive administrative mechanism, in which the college president will be directly involved. Although "Bias" is very briefly and vaguely defined, there is an exhaustive elaboration of the ways in which it can be reported to the "Bias Team." Anyone uncertain as to whether an incident constitutes "bias" is strongly encouraged to inform the "team," which will then determine if it's the real thing. The "bias" web page doesn't seem to provide for instances of fraudulent, frivolous, or malicious allegations, and the rights of anyone accused aren't elaborated either. Although a small disclaimer declares, "William and Mary values freedom of expression and the open exchange of ideas," we aren't at all reassured.
George, thanks for sharing the Pope Center piece on student evaluations. I thought this paragraph was especially poignant:
Today’s student-survey approach may tell us how students viewed the course, but the data tell us nothing about actual learning. It is not that questionnaire designers disdain knowledge; they just cannot measure it, and thus they exclude a key element of teaching. Ironically, universities can now hire or retain teachers who impart nothing of value but have superb ratings.
Incidentally, NAS published an article by Peter Cohee on student evaluations last week. Cohee concluded:
A decade spent writing evaluations of public school teachers has brought me to this disillusion: evaluations as they are don't make teachers better, don't get rid of bad teachers, aren't needed by good teachers, and don't improve schools or student learning. They tend to induce cynicism and to engender ill will between the teacher and the evaluator. They are an almost complete waste of the enormous time, energy, and money spent on them.
He argued that several factors render evaluations useless:
Cohee offers some concrete suggestions for making evaluation meaningful and effective.
The Labor and Employment Relations Association, previously called the Industrial Relations Research Association, is a learned society devoted to industrial and labor relations. Traditionally, LERA has supported the National Labor Relations Act but it had not been overtly partisan. In fact, its most prominent member, John T. Dunlop, had served as Secretary of Labor under President Gerald Ford. When I finished my doctoral studies in 1991 I found the organization to be pro labor rather than neutral in orientation, and I had not participated in it since the January 2000 meeting. Since it is one of the only games in town, I decided to give it another chance in 2011. What I found is shocking. LERA is not merely ideologically biased, but overtly partisan and Democratic. Virtually every session I attended included an attack on the GOP. I submitted a blog to LERA's new website, called the Employment Policy Research Network (EPRN), questioning the group's partisan atmosphere. The LERA leadership, which oversees the website, not only refused to publish it but refused to respond to me in writing. I had to call the LERA office to obtain a verbal response. I posted the blog on my Website.
Anu Garg, founder of Wordsmith.org and the beloved A.Word.A.Day, graciously agreed to an interview with us for NAS.org. His passion for good words is infectious, and his creativity delightful. Enjoy! "Words are like air—they are all around us even though we can't see them, and they are just as essential." - Anu Garg
Princeton's Russ Nieli has an illuminating essay on Minding the Campus entitled "How Diversity Punishes Asians, Poor Whites and Lots of Others." It absolutely knocks the stuffing out of the contention we hear so often from college administrators that their reason for using certain preferences is that a more "diverse" student body will enhance learning and break down stereotypes. If they actually wanted to do that, they would look for students who really do bring different beliefs and perspectives and would drop the bias Nieli shows against students from military families, those who have been active in groups like 4H, and so on. They aren't looking for Justice Powell's phantom "educational benefits of diversity" but are merely looking to fill quotas. Nieli advocates that elite colleges get over their diversity mania and follow what he calls the Cal Tech model: focus on enrolling students who are the most academically talented and the most eager to learn.
The ResLife program at the University of Delaware has received a great deal of well-deserved ridicule and opprobrium in recent weeks, but virtually all of the attention has been directed at the details of the radical views on race it promulgated. Little or no attention has been given to placing these details within the larger context of the concept of "education" that inspired and drove the program. This is unfortunate, because understanding the wider context of the ResLife program at Delaware is as important as the details.
Teaching Introduction to Literature, I see a curious new phenomenon: more and more students complain, bitterly, about how dark the readings are. I’m not sure what this new critical term means; I employ a canonical set of works including Hawthorne, Melville, Conrad, Kafka, Sophocles, and newer works by Phillip Larkin, Tobias Wolff, and J.G. Ballard. If such authors do anything, they force us to face existential questions. Once, students went to college to experience just this sort of perennial questioning. Today, questioning is a nonstarter having been replaced by what Phillip Rieff called “the triumph of the therapeutic” and, as he predicted, by students preoccupied only with themselves and with attaining a “durable sense of well-being.” This ends any interest in reading about what Victor Davis Hanson calls “the tragic limitations of human existence and how to meet them and endure them with dignity.” When Larkin observes that
At death you break up: the bits that were you Start speeding away from each other for ever With no one to see
it does not sit well with the Facebook and Twitter crowd, many of whom are now convinced that advancements in regenerative medicine will indefinitely postpone their senescence. With death no longer inevitable, they find that a literature based on the tragedy of mortality is both archaic and irrelevant. In insulated, technological isolation, with electronic “friends” and avatars, Comedy Central and Family Guy, they are more concerned with distraction and are irritated that plot and character create inevitabilities and moral consequences. That’s just so...dark.
Most good teachers had a model. Robert Pinsky had Francis Ferguson; Mark Edmundson had Frank Lears. I was lucky; I had two. My Freshman Comp. teacher was Dr. Idelle Sullens, a Stanford-trained medievalist specializing in 14th century literature. But I was mystified to learn that she had also been a naval officer in World War II and Korea. And rumor had it that she was something called a “Daughter of Bilitis.” But what really fractured my high school brain was seeing Dr. Sullens pull up in her brand new `64 Mustang. That I understood, and it elevated her beyond cool. My disturbing discovery was that one could seem professorial but also be startlingly complicated. Two years later, it was the Lincolnesque Beat Generation scholar Tom Parkinson. One drowsy afternoon in Berkeley’s Wheeler Auditorium, Parkinson recited Ezra Pound’s “The River Merchant’s Wife: A Letter”with tears streaming down his partially-paralyzed cheeks (he had been shot in the face by a student). I was embarrassed but also feared that this moment was profound in a way I might never understand. How could he so reveal himself? It took years to learn that throughout one’s life, good literature deepens and grows, accumulating, preserving, and incorporating intense personal associations. Now there are poems I can’t read aloud without leaking tears. Both are gone now, but the spirits of Sullens and Parkinson still gently remind me to be unexpected, singular, complicated, and exposed so that my students will see that one day they can do the same.
An article in the Guardian this weekend tells about a Berkeley physics professor, Richard Muller, who has assembled a team of scientists for an initiative he calls the Berkeley Earth project. His goal is to do research on climate change by essentially starting over and creating new models from scratch. He intends to use different methods than the ones that have already been used to produce findings currently hailed as evidence for global warming. Muller acknowledges that as of now, there is still no consensus on the state of warming, and that the skeptics have made legitimate criticisms of the methods used in research so far. He seeks to produce results untainted by political influence and, according to the Guardian, is strictly interested in scientific accuracy. "Science has its weaknesses and it doesn't have a stranglehold on the truth, but it has a way of approaching technical issues that is a closer approximation of truth than any other method we have," he said.
Our posting of 11 December (below), "Psychotherapeutic Interventions, Transformative Learning, and the Dorms of U Delaware," was the second in a series that will attempt to assess whether and to what extent U Delaware's ResLife diversity training program might be typical of programs at other universities.
Herewith a link to the most recent posting by the excellent legal journalist Stuart Taylor. In a book co-authored with K.C. Johnson, Taylor had chronicled in detail the enormous travesty of justice at Duke when a black stripper falsely accused white male lacrosse players of rape -- the denial of due process to the laxers was reminiscent of Jim Crow days, but with racial roles reversed. [I discuss the case and the book in an Academic Questions article entitled "Durham's Disgrace" - subscription required]. Taylor's recent posting details the continuing rise to glory of the Duke academics who had tried to "lynch" the laxers. It makes for riveting and depressing reading. Duke alums, if you haven't yet suspended your donations, now's the time.
Of interest to law professors, lawyers, and curious individuals, NAS has recently published three articles about law schools: “Conferring Privilege: DOJ, Law Schools, and the New Politics of Race” examines the Association of American Law Schools’ efforts to prevent racial colorblindness. “’They So Despise Her Politics’ - Do Conservative Faculty Candidates Get a Fair Shake?” presents documents in the lawsuit of an unsuccessful faculty candidate for a position at the University of Iowa College of Law who believes she was denied the appointment because of her politics. "Potemkin Admissions: Law Professors Propose to Hide LSAT Data" exposes a movement to persuade law schools to withhold LSAT scores from U.S. News and World Report. The idea is to make it harder for the public to see how much the pursuit of racial preferences drags down the quality of admissions. "They So Despise Her Politics" has received attention from the Daily Iowan, Instapundit, TaxProf Blog, and One Minute Lawyer.
In this eye-popping Minding the Campus essay, KC Johnson writes about a recent federally-funded conference that’s as clear a case of wasteful special interest group spending as you’ll ever find. I doubt that there is any constitutional justification for the National Science Foundation at all, but certainly not for it to spend tax dollars on a conference devoted to how minority political science professors can get tenure.
I was recently asked to respond to that question for The Chronicle Review, prompted by a recent study finding that many college students who drop out say that the reason they did so was too much pressure to work to earn money. Roger Clegg and I were the Grinches in the piece. There was a tight word limit on comments and there are some points I think worth adding. First, how do we really know why a student drops out? It is easy and I would think tempting for a student who just couldn't or wouldn't handle the academic work to save face by stating that financial pressure was the reason for leaving school. Second, instituting class-based affirmative action wouldn't do anything for poor people (or more accurately, poor people who have children who can get into college) as a group. The tendency of leftists to look at the world in terms of groups (and also to judge policies by their intentions) gets in the way of understanding the true impact of affirmative action. Suppose that all the selective schools decided that they wanted a quota of, say, 10 percent SES (socio-economic status) admits. That would be a small percentage of the total number of students from lower income households who go to college, and those given this preference would undoubtedly be the best of those students -- kids who probably could handle the workload at the non-selective colleges where they'd otherwise enroll. At the same time as a few students are admitted on SES grounds, equal numbers of non-poor students will have to enroll at a less selective institution. Going to a more selective school might be of a slight benefit to those few who are chosen to fill SES quotas (or it might actually prove harmful on "mismatch" and cost grounds), but it doesn't make the mass of poorer people one bit better off.
David Brooks of the New York Times writes a fine column on the power of books in the age of the internet. His observations are prompted by a study which finds that low income elementary school students who receive books prior to summer break become better readers than peers who do not. Working with colleagues, Dr. Richard Allington of the University of Tennessee carried out the study, which will be published in Reading Psychology later in the year. This kind of book distribution program can be seen as a low-cost alternative to summer school, which brings up a couple interesting questions. Would it be a realistic and adequate substitute for summer school? If so, will it be adopted or will challenges arise to prevent or limit its implementation? Tomorrow is the last day of summer school for the local school district, in which I volunteer. I'd like to think the students have learned and grown in ways that they wouldn't have if they weren't there. However, there's no substitute for young students reading on their own and working with their parents at home. Ceteris paribus, students and society would seem to be better off not with summer school but with this alternative. In terms of politics, it will be interesting to see the unions and the rest of the public education bureacracy react to this. If expanded, the program could presumably be a small but important step towards today's holy grail in education policymaking - closure of the achievement gap. However, ditching summer school means school districts have a lower demand for labor. When was the last time a teachers union embraced anything of the sort?
In this week's Pope Center Clarion Call Wendy McElroy takes a look at this progression on college campuses. First, Women's Studies programs emerged, followed by a sympathetic offshoot, "Men's Studies." Now there's a movement to create Male Studies. What is it all about? Advancing scholarship into new fields of knowledge? Or is this simply the balkanization of the curriculum, creating niche courses to keep a few professors happy?
Previous postings in this series have examined the ideological and pedagogical pathologies of Res Life programs at U Delaware and U Mass-Amherst. More programs at other institutions will be uncovered and discussed in future postings. Before we proceed any further with that, however, it is a good idea to step back briefly and place these programs in perspective. These rogue programs need to be seen within the larger context of Residential Life programs at residential colleges generally.
In today's Wall Street Journal, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan contributes a piece entitled "Banks Don't Belong in the Student Loan Business." What he opposes is federally subsidized bank loans and I'm with him on that. Subsidizing student loans is no better policy than subsidizing home loans. Where we part company is in his approval of direct government loans, which he wants to increase so that more students can "realize the dream of getting a college education." As I have frequently pointed out, a college degree is what many students want. Relatively few dream of education. Low-cost loans entice large numbers of young people who gain little if anything in the way of lasting knowledge and skills into college, where they pile of debts they'll have a hard time repaying once they get into the labor force and get a job that most high school kids could do. Besides that, nothing in the Constitution authorizes the federal government to lend money for this or any other purpose.
The careful image campaign that the higher ed establishment has conducted for decades seems to be wearing off, if this Washington Examiner piece is any indication. The writer observes that lots of American students now get their high-cost college degrees, but can't even do basic math. Many of them can (and will!) hector you about "sustainability," their concerns about social justice, institutional racism and so on -- but they can't work out the simplest of numerical problems. A large number of jobs now "require" college degrees, but that requirement rarely has anything to do with actual knowledge. It's a screening device to keep out supposedly less prepared and trainable high school graduates, but it's becoming clear that many college graduates are no better.
Naomi Schaefer Riley writes in USA Today about the ongoing unionization of public higher education. The sprawling labor force of an ever-expanding academy has become a fertile recruiting ground for the labor movement. The results could be unfortunate for scholarship, schools and the public. Riley and others have cited the recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report indicating that public sector union ranks continue to swell and now exceed the total number of private union members (7.6 vs. 7.1 million). While overall union membership rate dropped from 12.3% to 11.9% in 2010 according to BLS, the writer notes that faculty and graduate student membership in collective bargaining units has increased 17% over the last five years. Educators, administrators and policy actors should resist public university system collective bargainning, as Gov. Scott Walker is doing in Wisconsin. In the long run, higher-ed unionization threatens not only state budgets but the ability of public universities to compete deftly with private counterparts.
Our recent posting, "Residence Life and the Decline of Campus Community, Part 1," aimed to place Res Life programs within the wider context of the contemporary American college and university, and in particular to highlight the central role Res Life programs have been given in the creation of "campus community."
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"?
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.
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.
Peter Wood has an interesting couple of articles on the Chronicle's Innovations blog this week. He compares Lily Bart, a fictional character in the 1905 novel The House of Mirth with Lady Gaga and talks about how higher education is responsible for giving "trash culture a veneer of respectability" and how it "encourages students to open themselves to many of their worst impulses" (Lily Bart vs. Lady Gaga).
By now, most of the world has heard of "Climategate"-- the e-mail scandal surrounding the Hadley Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia in the UK. (If you are unfamiliar with the story, you can catch up with this Wikipedia article.) In short, hackers broke into the university's e-mail system and posted on the internet private communications between climate researchers, and the e-mails are far from flattering. Besides gloating over the death of a climate change skeptic, the e-mails show concerted efforts by the researchers to manipulate temperature data, to block public access to their data, and (perhaps most disturbingly) to exclude skeptical or critical researchers from the peer review process. While it may be too early to describe this behavior as "scientific fraud," it is certainly appropriate to label it "unethical." The New York Times's John Tierney wrote an excellent piece about this scandal and its implications for climate change advocates. Tierney points out that the climate researchers involved became "so focused on winning the public-relations war that they exaggerate[d] their certitude -- and ultimately undermine[d] their own cause." What this situation also reveals is that scientists who become public policy advocates can lose the most important characteristic they have: objectivity. Scientists must accept data for what it is, not what they wish it to be. Scientists must deal with contradictory data, not ignore it. And most importantly, scientists must be transparent with their research and the conclusions they draw, not secretive. However, these ethical principles become far more difficult to uphold when scientists become activists. To be sure, "Climategate" does not disprove global climate change, but it absolutely raises the suspicions of a general public who is often leery of science to begin with. Furthermore, scandals such as this damage not only the researchers involved but the entire scientific endeavor itself. Scientists who become public policy advocates must walk a fine line. Unfortunately, the researchers at East Anglia crossed that line.
Watch out for it -- already a fixture in leading schools of art education --before it becomes the norm in K-12 classes throughout the land, thus vastly politicizing the arts by making anti-capitalist, race/gender/class-obsessed (ne0-Marxist) "art activists" of our young. So warns art critic Michelle Marder Kamhi, with the worthy view in mind of galvanizing parents against proposed provisions in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, whose Congressional reauthorization is pending. These provisions would, in line with Paulo Freire's dictum that all education is political, mandate social-justice art. "Art"? Such as the pro-illegal immigration creation "Brinco," or "jump" in Spanish, which would teach students to construct sneakers (jammed with compass, map, etc.) for people attempting illegaly to cross our borders. Americans to the barricades, in the defense of true art education!
University of Wisconsin professor Donald Downs (author of the excellent book Restoring Free Speech and Liberty on Campus) has an essay on Minding the Campus in which he discusses the battle taking place in Madison. Do college professors ever use their courses to propagandize on political issues? That's just a right-wing myth, say many defenders of the higher education establishment. Read the essay and you'll learn that quite a few of Downs' UW colleagues could not resist the temptation.
James Delingpole, in the Telegraph, recently noted:
Climategate just got much, much bigger. And all thanks to the Russians who, with perfect timing, dropped this bombshell just as the world’s leaders are gathering in Copenhagen to discuss ways of carbon-taxing us all back to the dark ages.
The Moscow-based Institute of Economic Analysis (IEA) reported that the Hadley Center for Climate Change had probably tampered with Russian-climate data:
The IEA believes that Russian meteorological-station data did not substantiate the anthropogenic global-warming theory ... Over 40% of Russian territory was not included in global-temperature calculations for some other reasons, rather than the lack of meteorological stations and observations.
Read why Joseph D'Aleo, a former professor of climatology, calls this "paint-by-numbers science."
I'm pleased to introduce Jason Fertig as a new contributor at NAS.org. Dr. Fertig is an NAS member and assistant professor of management at the University of Southern Indiana. Dr. Fertig brings a depth of perception and lively anecdotes from his own experience in the classroom to speak to some of the most real issues in higher education today. He has written three articles for NAS so far:
More Millennials Need to Work at McDonalds advises recent college graduates: get a job, anywhere. Real Sustainability: Saving Our Sense of Culture asks, "Are we failing to hand down our cultural legacy to the next generation?" Dangers of Credentialing the College Degree: A Real-Life Example is a case study that illustrates the popular idea that students are entitled to get a passing grade - even if they don't earn one.
I especially recommend the third article, which received attention from blogs such as Phi Beta Cons and Joanne Jacobs. Also check out his essay at the Pope Center on the gap year, The Gift of Academic Maturity. Fertig spoke about the gap year this morning on Wisconsin Public Radio. You can look forward to more NAS articles by Dr. Fertig in the weeks ahead.
The Chronicle of Higher Education jobs list includes this gem: “The Department of English at UCLA invites applications for the position of Assistant Professor in Residence, in the area of 19th-century American literature . . . .” “Candidates should demonstrate engagement with the changing dynamics of the field, which is now characterized by disparate approaches and new configurations of interests, including (but not limited to) transatlantic studies, hemispheric studies, print culture and material textuality studies, gender and sexuality studies, visual culture studies, comparative race and ethnicity studies, geographical studies, disability studies, and other innovative frameworks.” Literature? The mind boggles. Disability studies should have a field day with Captain Ahab.
If you haven't already done so, check out this piece by Ross Douthat in the New York Times. Following up on Russell Nieli's compelling reasearch, which we referenced here last week, Douthat - himself a Harvard graduate - takes note of the deep and ever widening cultural divide between elite academic institutions and the values of rural, religiously observant working-class whites, who are notably absent from Ivy League campuses. Don't think though, that this means anyone sees a need to seek them out for the sake of increasing "diversity" at Yale or Princeton. No, the academics at these cloistered, self-referencing institutions are likely to see only "crypto-klansmen and budding Timothy McVeighs" among the farmers, Eagle Scouts or aspiring R.O.T.C. candidates who currently have the toughest row to hoe if they apply to most top schools. If these applicants think that the deck is stacked against them, that's because it is: the "perfessers" really don't like folks like them.
Many who argue for a return to a more traditional, rigorous curriculum are also critical of online education. In this blog, I make the case that online education can help scholars reach nontraditional audiences, a cliche to be sure, but one that rings true with my personal experience after 15 years of delivering "distance learning" in addition to my "brick-and-mortar" courses. First, it is no accident that online courses aren't full of the trendy postmodern nonsense that dominates campus offerings. Nonsense flourishes where it is not transparent to the larger world. Online education operates by making itself transparent and open to that larger community. Second, many institutions face stiff financial challenges. While I work at a state university, the online education division is entirely self-financed: not a single taxpayer dime, all revenue comes from tuition of students who sign up for courses. It is no accident that this division is the most entrepreneurial of all our divisions, and most no-nonsense with its offerings (Foucault 101 wouldn't "sell" to our students in the military, single parents working during the day, high school teachers expanding their content knowledge, etc.). Online education can be done badly. There is a possible "race to the bottom" in terms of quality but, as the work of the NAS amply demonstrates, this is also a problem on campus. If anything, the market reality provides a test of what people--not tenured radicals--want from a college education. As an advocate for online education at my university, I submitted the following presentation to my college of liberal arts. For those unsure about online education, I also recommend an excellent 20-minute video presentation that I have posted online (with the permission of the professor).
The Regents of the University of California just voted to embrace a pilot program testing the efficacy of an online undergraduate degree. Until now, like most research universities, UC has been leery of the online environment because of the thorny problems it poses: questionable security, dubious academic integrity, loss of “voices around the table,” substantial and perpetual costs. Conversely, online education does seem inevitable given our technological dependence, a Beltway “college-for-all” mindset, corporate customer service business models, and ruthless competition. "It's the future," gushed Regent Bonnie Reiss. Despite teaching online for years and running an online program, I remain ambivalent about the marriage of technology and education. Showing INXS’s “Devil Inside” to spice up “Young Goodman Brown” used to be stimulating; now it’s just disruptive. Why jerk students back to the terrain they already inhabit, filled with insistent, continuous, cognitive shifts whose interruptions prevent learning? Handling electronic information, Nicholas Carr says,
We become mere signal processing units, quickly shepherding disjointed bits of information into and then out of short-term memory.
As one online student just posted, “During the time it took me to read for this assignment, I received 1 phone call, 6 emails, 4 text messages and 1 Skype message.” At the Young Rhetoricians’ Conference in June, the most instructive point about online education was made by Porsche, a young African-American college student, who said, “I don’t want to study organic chemistry on my computer. My computer is where I go to have fun.” The UC Regents would do well to heed her words because Porsche really is the future.
I don't know if the allegations in this piece are true, but if they are, it's a stunning example of the viciousness of the left toward those who challenge their favored politicians. A professor who ran against an incumbent Democrat in Oregon last year states that OSU is taking retribution against his children, who have excellent academic records. This calls for a serious investigation.
Caroline Mojonnier, a student at Syracuse University, was moved by the NAS report to pursue some investigative journalism. She attended a session of SWK 326, "Persons in Social Contexts," a course in Syracuse University's School of Social Work, and spoke to the instructor afterwards. Her account in the student paper, The Daily Orange, - along with desipient comments by umbrage-taking classmates - can be read here.
Is there a strong bias against conservatives in higher education? Researchers have produced numerous studies to examine this question. They have sought to measure bias quantitatively through various surveys. Usually they conclude that there is little evidence of bias, and that people who say there is are merely crying wolf. In a new in-depth essay at NAS.org, NAS Chairman Steve Balch argues that the burden of proof should rest with those who deny bias: they must prove that it does not exist rather than demanding proof that it does. Dr. Balch's timely essay comes the week after NAS published "They So Despise Her Politics - Do Conservative Faculty Members Get a Fair Shake?. That article describes the case of Teresa Wagner, who believes she was denied a teaching position because of her conservative politics. There we published documents from Wagner's lawsuit against the University of Iowa College of Law. What do you think? How can we know for sure whether conservatives face systemic discrimination in the Ivory Tower?
Today both Peter Wood and Jason Fertig observed that Paul Krugman, whom Peter calls one of the "stalwarts of the left," has gone on record to doubt the value of the college degree as the best path to prosperity for the majority of Americans. Krugman began his recent op-ed:
It is a truth universally acknowledged that education is the key to economic success. Everyone knows that the jobs of the future will require ever higher levels of skill. That’s why, in an appearance Friday with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, President Obama declared that “If we want more good news on the jobs front then we’ve got to make more investments in education.”But what everyone knows is wrong.
Krugman goes on to argue that more education does not necessarily lead to a stronger national economy, an argument that NAS and our friends at the Pope Center and the Center for College Affordability and Productivity have been making for some time. Peter and Jason note that when someone as prominently on the left as Krugman acknowledges that the value of the college degree is weaker than it's cracked up to be, we must be nearing some broader consensus about higher education's worth.
NAS has opened communication with student newspapers at the universities studied in the report The Scandal of Social Work Education. NAS urges student journalists to use their unique vantage point to investigate further and report the truth about the state of social work schools at their universities. Those who publish articles covering this story may contact NAS and we will set up a link to the piece.
FIRE president Greg Lukianoff has an article in the Huffington Post about Yale' s qualms over a t-shirt with an F. Scott Fitzgerald quote: "I think of all Harvard men as sissies." Lukianoff wrote:
Unfortunately--and is it any surprise these days?--a couple of Yale administrators decided that the word "sissies" was too offensive because some people interpreted it as a slur against gay men. This was news to the Yale freshmen who, like me, see "sissies" as being funny primarily because it is such a ridiculous, silly, old-fashioned put down, somewhere between "cad" and "toots" as far as insults go. Besides, in context, Fitzgerald actually wrote, "I think of all Harvard men as sissies, like I used to be." Does anyone really think Fitzgerald was coming out as a success story of the ex-gay movement, or was he simply calling Harvard men, well, a bunch of sissies (modern translation: wusses, wimps, etc.)? The administrators were gearing up to ban the T-shirt, but the students backed down and changed the design.
In this week's Pope Center Clarion Call, Professor Donald Downs (author of Restoring Free Speech and Liberty on Campus) discusses the lawsuit UNC-Wilmington professor Mike Adams has brought against the school, in which he argues that its refusal to promote him was grounded in hostility to his writings and thus an infringement upon his First Amendment rights. Downs doesn't think the case is clearly black or white, but worries that the district court's ruling in favor of UNCW (the case is now on appeal to the Fourth Circuit) represents a further erosion of First Amendment protection for speech by public employees. I don't think this is an easy case either. We have here a collision between the First Amendment (or at least "First Amendment values" of uninhibited speech in the public realm) and another consideration that has, unfortunately, been given short shrift for most of the last century -- freedom of contract. I'm strongly inclined to say that employers and employees, public and private, should be free to enter into whatever contracts as they mutually agree. Professor Adams thought he deserved a promotion (a modification of his contract with the university), but the UNCW administration didn't agree. Should that decision be overridden in the courts because Adams' writings bothered the administrators? Does the First Amendment mean that public employees can never suffer any adverse consequences because of things they've said or written? Suppose we turn this case around so that the professor who wants the promotion is a rabid, hard-left socialist whose posts on, say, The Daily Kos, cause heartburn among the school's administrators. Would it be a blow to free speech if they told him that he won't get a promotion because his outside writings are such an embarrassment? Or would it be a sensible and harmless exercise in freedom of contract?
In this week's Pope Center Clarion Call, we feature two sharply differing views on the hotly debated topic of faculty unionization. Arguing in favor is the AAUP's Cary Nelson. Arguing against is Professor Charles Baird, who fought against mandatory unionization in the Cal State system. Comments encouraged!
Back in March, I received a leaked copy of a plan for one of the colleges at Virginia Tech. It was a new set of guidelines for faculty promotion and tenure that would require every candidate to compile an annual record of “demonstrated” diversity accomplishments. Other Virginia Tech documents spelled out in detail what would pass muster as a diversity accomplishment. The new rules were intended to apply to the classroom, research, publication, faculty involvement with student activities, and everything else that faculty members might do. I raised a fuss through the National Association of Scholars website, and other organizations, including FIRE and ACTA joined in. Eventually, the Virginia Tech board and the president backed down. But after the furor subsided the president and other officials made clear that their commitment to a comprehensive diversity regime at this state university was unchanged. Now comes a new document, a “Strategic Diversity Plan,” for Virginia Tech’s College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. I got this one by internal leak as well, but it has subsequently been posted publicly. Should anyone much care what is happening at this large and pretty ordinary university in southern Virginia? I suppose the taxpayers of Virginia should have some interest. But the matter does seem to deserve a some broader attention if for one reason: it is about as well-documented a case as we are ever likely to see of a university in the grip of a race preference ideology attempting to enforce that ideology over everyone and everything in its reach. Nothing is too large (creation of whole new departments), or too small (flyers to be inserted in packets for job applicants) to escape the diversiphiles at Virginia Tech—and they propose to fund their whole enterprise not with line items in the budget, but with a fixed percentage of the whole budget! Ashley Thorne and I have pored over the “Strategic Diversity Plan” and “fisked” it, i.e. added a critical commentary inside the original text: http://www.nas.org/polArticles.cfm?Doc_Id=1133. Last week we summarized the developments leading up to this new plan: http://www.nas.org/polArticles.cfm?Doc_Id=1131. It’s hard to say whether this sort of effort on our part has any practical benefit. Virginia Tech and a great many other colleges and universities are scudding along with their racial preference regimes (and other forms of diversity that likewise debase the academic mission) without serious public opposition. But I do like the idea that we have paid attention and not just let this stuff settle in as though it made good sense and wise policy.
Tom Blumer observes that our leftist universities and their ilk possess and abuse their power to destroy careers and control people's lives. The communists, he says, constructed checkpoints, whereas our leftist leaders use "chokepoints":
Those who occupy positions in university systems, government bureaucracies, as well as certain union and professional organizations, often with the active assistance of the courts, serve as the system’s “Chokepoint Charlies.” You can’t get through or move on unless you jump through their hoops, comply with their demands, or behave according to their established norms.
Here is Blumer's take on campus chokepoints:
In university systems, the most obvious chokepoint is tenure. If you achieve it, you have a position for life; if you don’t, your career is essentially over. Not surprisingly, leftist-dominated universities have used denial of tenure as a principal means of culling promising conservative professors, or even usually reliable liberals who utter occasional center-right thoughts, from their faculties’ ranks. Other university chokepoints are in the classroom. For the most part, it’s still true that if you’re bright enough, apply yourself, keep your head down, and avoid making too many waves, you’ll get through. But if you happen to incur the wrath of an intolerant radical prof by expressing a dissenting view, no matter how well-supported, you may find yourself with a failing grade, a lengthy redress or appeals process with less than assured results, and perhaps the inability, at least at that university, to go on to the next step in your desired major. Perhaps the most dangerous chokepoint at universities is in research. If your line of inquiry leads to conclusions that are contrary to established beliefs — say, just for the heck of it, if you find evidence that the earth really hasn’t been warming, or even if it is warming that it’s not significantly influenced by human activity — there’s more than a slight chance that your “peer reviewers” won’t be impressed and that your next funding request may not be granted. Just like that, you’re on the outside looking in.
The American Association of University Professors released its Report on 11 September 2007. In that document, the AAUP provides cover for teachers who introduce extraneous, often politically tendentious material into their classes. To rationalize such behavior, the AAUP argues that truth is whatever the members of an academic discipline say it is. In our response, the NAS executive director and president take issue with that and other AAUP contentions.
The Foundation for Individual Rights has announced that the University of Minnesota, in response to a letter from FIRE, promised that "[n]o University policy or practice ever will mandate any particular beliefs, or screen out people with 'wrong beliefs' from the University." The FIRE letter was prompted by a proposal for the university's school of education, to be voted on in January, that would require all ed students to study “white privilege, hegemonic masculinity, heteronormativity, and internalized oppression.” NAS wrote about it here. FIRE is cautiously optimistic about the university's response. While warning that "The next version of the college's plans must reflect this promise," it has declared a victory for freedom of conscience. The letter from General Counsel Mark B. Rotenberg, however, gives cause for continuing concern. Rotenberg asserts that the university holds the right, under academic freedom, to "engage in creative thinking, dialogue, and advocacy with respect to a broad range of ideas for improving P-12 education." He added, "Academic freedom means little if our teaching faculty is inhibited from discussing and proposing curriculum innovations simply because others find them 'illiberal' or 'unjust.'" Rotenberg is right to praise the exchange of different and competing viewpoints. But U Minnesota needs to be more thoughtful about its proposals. Even illiberal brainstorming can take root when it results in public documents ready for approval. Take Virginia Tech, for example. Its College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences recently came out with a "Strategic Diversity Plan" that aimed to put in systems for logrolling; provide incentives (some monetary) for faculty and staff to take part in diversity activities and for departments to make faculty hires; implement College-wide diversity course requirements; and enact racial preferences in spite of a Virginia Tech ban on affirmative action. It is not clear what bureaucratic hurtles remain for the Diversity Plan's approval or when it is likely to be granted (although the general CLAHS Strategic Plan has already endorsed the Diversity Plan), but it is clear that such a plan, if approved, will leave Virginia Tech's intellectual integrity in ruins. So no, proposing illiberal or unjust "curriculum innovations" is not as benign as Rotenberg would like it to sound. But for now, we join with FIRE in encouragement over the University of Minnesota's promises not to mandate particular points of view.
In this Chronicle post, Richard Kahlenberg responds to some criticism (which he labels as "right" and "left") of his signature issue, namely promoting socio-economic diversity as another criterion in college admissions. I don't think his responses are convincing. Moreover, he overlooks two assumptions his case rests on. I know that at least the latter of the two has been attacked because I have done so. First, Kahlenberg leaps to the conclusion that just because a student comes from a relatively poor family and succeeds in school well enough to qualify for college admission, that student is a "striver" who has "overcome obstacles." I don't think that follows. Being relatively poor in the U.S. does not mean deprivation of anything essential. And with the lowering of academic standards, graduating from high school with "good" grades is pretty easy these days. Some kids from poorer homes no doubt have had to deal with serious problems and disruptions around them, but we shouldn't assume that low-income status implies that. Besides, there are non-poor students who have managed to deal with difficulties. Second, what is the reason for thinking that it's a "reward" to go to an elite college or university? If, for example, a student from a relatively poor family in eastern North Carolina could get into East Carolina on his merits, is it much better for him to instead go to Duke? The assumption seems to be that schools with higher US News rankings are "better" schools, but what justifies that assumption? Courses are not necessarily taught better at Duke; they may be taught less well. Will the student have a brighter, more lucrative career with a Duke pedigree than ECU? Possibly, but it's by no means certain. The reverse is possible, especially if the student is near the bottom of the more intellectually competitive student body at Duke. Finally, the more prestigious degree might help the student land his first job, but in the long run people are rewarded on their productivity, not their credentials. I'm with Roger Clegg (see his comment) in thinking that the less colleges give preferences to applicants because of characteristics such as family ancestry and circumstances and the more they evaluate them on academic interest and aptitude, the better.
"The Social and Political Views of American Professors," a working paper released recently at a Harvard symposium by Neil Gross and Solon Simmons, is being vigorously spun by its authors as a new, sophisticated take on the intellectual alignments of American academe, undercutting exaggerated claims by conservatives of liberal/left hegemony. But if defenders of the academic status-quo expect Gross and Simmons's discoveries to rescue them, they're in for a crushing disappointment.
“The list of academically and morally corrupt practices that ensue from our inability to adhere to our own standards is rather long. One of our worst offenses is that we admit, and re-admit students absolutely unqualified and absolutely incapable of achieving a college degree. Many go into debt or cause their families to go into debt into [sic] order to attempt a college degree. This is an absolutely corrupt practice and it may be criminal. If we have done this to even one student, then we are guilty of a low form of corruption."
I could be wrong, but in the wake of all the mudwrestling that's followed the NAACP's recent branding of Tea Partiers as racists, I think that the ideological fulcrum of the "diversity" debate has significantly shifted ground. For once, the response by public figures has been direct and emphatic, instead of the usual backpedaling after some vague, apologetic mumbling about the need to "include" all groups, the value of a diverse work force or the wish to avoid offending anyone, etc., etc., etc. The public rejection of the NAACP's allegations, moreover, has been bi-partisan, including prominent Republicans such as Sarah Palin and no less than Vice President Biden and President Obama on the Democratic side of the aisle. Hopefully, this means that absurd or silly allegations of racism will no longer compel politicans and bureaucrats to jump through the hoop as they've done so frequently in the past. Especially encouraging, though, is this piece by Virgina Democrat James Webb in today's Wall Street Journal. Webb argues that although "diversity" policies had their origins in the laudable and necessary efforts to redress the unique injustices suffered by black Americans, they have long since become obsessed with skin color or ethnic background, often with unconcealed hostility toward whites. Thus, newly arrived immigrants often benefit from these policies, even though their own experiences don't remotely resemble those of blacks. It doesn't stop there either, since in many academic institutions, "diversity" and "inclusiveness" now extend to ever -expanding categories of sexuality, life experiences or those with physical disabilities. A particularly hard sell for me has always been affirmative action for "women" within the diversity rubric, as though the largely white, middle-class feminist movement could claim grievances comparable to those suffered historically by blacks. Yet many academic job postings routinely specify that "women and ethnic or racial minorities are especially encouraged to apply." That doesn't compute. Anyway, Webb says it's now time to end racial preferences, stop discriminating against whites, and simply treat everyone equally under the law. Amen.
The United States Commission on Civil Rights has just issued a major report, The Benefits of Racial and Ethnic Diversity in Elementary and Secondary Education. (Available in PDF here.) The Commission reached a startling conclusion: "there is little evidence that racial and ethnic diversity in elementary and secondary schools results in significant improvement in academic performance."
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.
In today's Pope Center piece, my colleague Jay Schalin writes about the flap over the fact that some colleges have accepted funds from BB&T Foundation with the proviso that the money be used to support courses in which students will learn about Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism and in particular her defense of laissez-faire capitalism. The argument raised against this is that colleges are supposed to allow the faculty to decide upon curricular matters. Naturally, some professors who are adamantly hostile to the case for laissez-faire (although I doubt that many have ever read Rand's Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal or have heard a thorough explication of the damaging consequences of government interference in the spontaneous order of the free market) say that schools should shun BB&T money. Jay gets a whiff of double standard here, since professors on the left don't much complain about the importation of material into the curriculum they find congenial. Rather than a defense of princple, their stance seems to be an instance of selective indignation. Econ 101 is often taught as a dull, mechanistic and to many students baffling exercise in graphs and abstruse theories having little apparent relationship with life. Adding a BB&T catalyzed course that allows students to see how Rand and other advocates of laissez-faire (Ludwig von Mises, e.g.) looked at economic questions would be a beneficial offering. Colleges should be open to the marketplace of ideas. Like the marketplace of goods and services, sound ideas tend to win out and unsound ideas tend to be rejected. (I say "tend" because it doesn't happen automatically. After all, we still have cigarettes in stores and professors who preach socialism.) John Allison of BB&T is trying to get colleges to open their curricula to another idea (or set of ideas). No harm in that.
Video of David Horowitz's presentation at Brooklyn College is here. Horowitz writes an extensive article about his talk at Brooklyn College on Frontpagemag, which appeared Friday. I attempted to serve as a moderator but was only moderately successful. The Brooklyn College Palestinian club's protests were aggressive.
Crosspost from www.NAS.org Two weeks ago I published an article about a Marxist journal that has seized authority in the education world. The Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies (JCEPS) is published by the UK-based Institute for Education Policy Studies (IEPS), “an independent Radical Left/Socialist/Marxist institute for developing policy analysis and development of education policy.” It takes its cues from Che Guevara and Paulo Freire. Articles from JCEPS are required reading in some ed schools, and the editorial advisory board has representatives from universities in eighteen countries. In posting the NAS article on JCEPS, I thought that simply calling the journal what it is would be enough to discredit it. I wrote:
While it is appropriate to study the now discredited but historically important ideas of Marxism in political science, philosophy, and economics courses, education schools have no need for radical ideology. Ed schools should be preparing teachers to train the minds of the next generation, not to arm them with socialist politics. To do so cheats both future teachers and their future students out of the sound, unbiased education they deserve.
I assumed that most people would agree that Marxist politics have no place in the classroom, and that the JCEPS folks would be reluctant to own their radical left agenda. I was wrong. Since the article appeared on the NAS website, apologists for the journal have been coming out of the woodwork. We seem to have secured the attention of some of the last remaining Marxists on earth. One commenter, who seems not to be a native speaker of English, wrote:
Definitely, education should be explicitly involved in struggles for equity and justice, especially at the current situation. Therefore, it’s very meaningful to arouse teachers and students’ critical consciousness, as Professor Peter McLaren does. School and society shouldn’t be separated. No matter it is in John Dewey’s mind “school is society”, or in other scholar’s essay “society is school”, schools have close relationship with society. George Counts once insisted that it was a great ideal that people should mainly focus on educating the children and care little about others, however, he thought that schools and teachers had to think about the injustice since the then unequal society greatly influenced teachers and students in 1930s. As for the current situation which is much worse than in 1930s in many aspects, the “ivory tower” ideal had gone and would never come back, colleges and universities are more and more involved in the society economically and politically, students have to fight for the equality, and teachers are forced to fight for their right they deserved. There are inequity and injustice in society, so it’s teachers’ responsibility to arouse their students consciousness to seek for the equity and justice. Those behind it are the ones who give up their responsibilities or the ones who own privilege, because they dare not to change the society or don’t want to give up their privilege. [emphasis mine]
Another person, ironically self-nicknamed “Cassiodorus” after the devout Christian who kept alive the flame of liberal learning after the fall of Rome, added:
Marxism isn't discredited anywhere, education isn't unbiased, and "radical" refers to the notion of examining the roots ("radical," from the Latin radix, or root) of everyday practice, something which should be done more often in schools. The rest of this is a rather amateurish collection of soundbites on a number of subjects, the least understood of which is critical pedagogy. [emphasis mine]
This is a delightful bit of self-delusion. Marxism isn’t discredited anywhere? Marxism is discredited just about everywhere, but if “Cassiodorus” needs a for instance, I can testify firsthand that Marxism is discredited in Novokuznetsk and other parts of Russia where I have stayed. From his nom de plume, I would think Cassiodorus is implicitly acknowledging this reality. His “Rome” would appear to be the Soviet State and the nations it held captive. He is keeping the holy flame of Marxism alive in an age dominated by the barbarian idea of human freedom. “Ferlaz” also chimed in:
In Argentina we are creating a new educational movement based on the critical pedagogies, especially the works of Paulo Freire, Peter McLaren. This article only serves to confirm that we are on the correct path of struggle. This educational movement is not intended to build ideological blocs but returning to education because their political neutrality is also a way of doing politics. This article ends endorsing own knowledge of the dominant classes, their ideologies and worldviews deny the possibility of conflict as natural and accepting the hegemonic discourse. From Argentina, from the popular schools for youth and adults in factories recovered by their workers shouted: Che lives!, As in Peter McLaren's page.
The grammar here is too shaky to figure out exactly what is making “ferlaz” so excited. Che, the murderous thug of the Cuban revolution, is fortunately long dead. He enjoys only the kind of immortality conferred by T-shirts and dorm-room posters. It does seem to me of absorbing interest that the great folly of Marxism—having burned through the twentieth century as a fire that killed more than 90 million people, enslaved countless others, and brought more misery and oppression into the world than any other political doctrine in human history—still has its proud defenders. And they are in schools of education.
Back when Bravo provided high culture, I was entranced by a South Bank Show episode on a Caribbean poet named Derek Walcott. When I saw Walcott would read at Stanford, I raced to hear him in person, only to be appalled by the meager audience which clapped and immediately dispersed. Alone with him, I nervously asked how his book Omeros was coming. Surprised someone knew of it, he said there were publication delays but it would be out soon. Shortly after, he received the Nobel Prize for Literature. A few years later, friends and fortune combined to bring Derek for a reading. That afternoon, he said he had always wanted to see a redwood tree, so we hopped into my Ford Focus and headed for Palo Colorado Canyon, but stopped just south of Carmel so he could survey the light, the surf, and the hills along the coast. Walcott also paints, and looking through his framing hands, he slowly rotated and said, “Everywhere you look is a painting.” Derek’s sold-out reading was magical, including Tiepolo’s Hound, “A Letter from Brooklyn” and his Odyssey section on the Cyclops, a metaphor for all totalitarian dictators who have no depth of vision. Next day, Derek became impatient as his companion Sigrid embraced everyone, kissing, hugging, saying goodbye. He turned to me and said, “Let’s show them how men say goodbye.” He looked me straight in the eye, firmly squeezed my hand, and said, “Goodbye.” I felt like a child in his presence, this aging yet vital man, numinous, strong despite infirmities and occasional vertigo. His masculinity was overwhelming. Now his latest, and perhaps last, book has arrived, White Egrets. His lines move like waves and trade winds, elegiac, abundant with his island, the sea, sunlight, fields, lost friends, memory, art, and the enchantments of erotic women. You can own this treasure here.
Yesterday's Wall Street Journal included a letter from a writer who thought that he could counter a recent op-ed by Charles Koch, arguing that the federal government does too much, costs too much, and menaces our future prosperity, with a 1995 comment by the late historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. Schlesinger, venting after the Democrats lost control of Congress, saw big government as a line of defense for the common people against rapacious "corporate interests." He did not see that those corporate interests only have power due to their alliances with politicians. Here is the letter I just sent to the WSJ in response:
Writer George Kovac evidently believes that the late historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. penned a brilliant “critique” of the government-downsizing movement (letters, March 14). Writing after the Democrats lost control of Congress in the 1994 elections, Schlesinger opined that it was an “assault on the national government” that would merely transfer power to “the great corporate interests.”
It is inane to offer Schlesinger’s 1995 comment as a rejoinder to the arguments made by Charles Koch in his March 1 op-ed.
First, the serious case for downsizing the federal government is no more an “attack” on the government than were liberal arguments against governmental policies made by people like Schlesinger back in the 50s and 60s when they argued that the government should stop waging unnecessary wars, stop enforcing racial segregation, stop trying to stifle dissent and so on. To maintain as Mr. Koch does, that the federal government is doing things it should not do and thereby imposing undue burdens on our prosperity while undermining our freedom, is a rational criticism. Brushing it off as “an attack on the government” is exactly the kind of rhetoric that liberals like Schlesinger used to decry when conservatives used it.
Second, Schlesinger poses a false dilemma in suggesting that we must choose between big government domination and domination by “great corporate interests.” Corporations cannot compel people to buy their products, to subsidize their losses, to support whatever agendas they may have. Politicians, on the other hand, can and do subject us to coercion with innumerable taxes, mandates and prohibitions. Often, they enter into alliances with businesses, unions, and other interests to give those interests favors and privileges they would not otherwise have. It is exactly that sort of crony capitalism that is the main target of Koch and others who wish to restore the government to its proper constitutional limits.
Schlesinger may have been a good historian, but his understanding of the effects of expansive government was badly flawed.
Hans Bader, a lawyer with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, writes that the Delaware Indoctrination Syndrome has a k-12 counterpart. A common thread is the presence of what Elizabeth Lasch-Quinn in her 2001 book dubbed "race experts." In Delaware, it was Shakti Butler. As Mr. Bader points out, another expert, Glenn Singleton, is making a career of promoting similar themes in K-12 public schools. See Mr. Bader's postings at www.openmarket.org, e.g., November 16, 20, and 27, and December 3.
For 30 years, I have used Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now in conjunction with Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness to illustrate allusion, ambiguity, irony, anxiety of influence, medium imperatives, and narrative architectonics. Oddly, the last few times I showed the film, many students were left speechless by the intensity of the experience. I was puzzled at first but then realized that their distress might stem from something that Apocalypse Now lacks: CGI. Today’s students are accustomed to computer-generated images and special effects, but CGI and full-motion capture/performance produce weightless pictorials with no substance. Avatar and 300 are forgettable eye candy, impalpable as a mirage. But in Apocalypse Now, when the script called for Col. Kilgore to order an airstrike and blow up a jungle with napalm, director Coppola blew up a jungle with napalm. Coppola also blew up a physical Do Long Bridge and expended many hundredweight of black powder, phosphorous, and fuse on a physical village of Vin Drin Dop. When a carabao is slaughtered, a real, luckless carabao was slaughtered. This gravity of actuality is shocking to today’s students for whom simulation, simulacra, and virtuality are the “natural” landscape. Film critic John Podhoretz decries CGI because
the extreme artificiality of the form creates distance between the viewer and the work. The secret about the movies is the way they trick you into believing you are seeing something realistic when you are actually watching something entirely artificial. The key is the recognizable human face and the interaction of the human body with recognizable real-world objects. Remove those from the picture and you are in the entirely stylized realm of kabuki theater.
Cyberpunk legend William Gibson contends that soon most people will live in a “blended-reality state.” The “entirely stylized” apparitions of CGI convince me that my students already live there with profound emotional and educational consequences.