Who Needs a Core Curriculum? Not Students
We weren’t quite prepared for the reaction to the Pope Center’s recent proposal to revamp general education at UNC–Chapel Hill.
Background: There is no core curriculum at Chapel Hill. As their generation has been doing since pre-school, high-self-esteem students “construct” their own educations, reflecting their “natural curiosity” and “desire to learn.” Students at Chapel Hill can select from 4700 courses, including such gems as “Cowboys, Samurai, and Rebels in Film and Fiction” or “The Gardens, Shrines, and Temples of Japan,” rather than, say, “American History up to 1865.”
A number of students were offended by the idea that their elders might know better than they what they ought to learn. A member of the Class of 2015 wrote: “I have chosen my own path, I have done well, and it’s my education. I am ready to do whatever it takes to protect my intellectual freedom.”
In today’s Clarion Call article, Jay Schalin and Jenna Robinson (authors of the original report) respond: “But if students already know what they need to learn, then what is the point of a college? They could just go to the library or sit in front of a computer screen all day.” They give nine other responses to critics as well.
University of Nebraska Bans ‘Offensive Speech’
“We pledge to remove derogatory terms from our vocabulary.” So declared the student government of the University of Nebraska.
Andrew Desiderio reports on this latest attempt to implement sensitivity speech codes in his feature story today at The College Fix.
It’s going to be tough for these sensitive students when they get out into the real world, isn’t it?
Amanda Again, Alas
It seems unbelievable that Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito are being retried for the murder they did not commit when they were students in Perugia, Italy, in 2007. The overturning of the original guilty verdict in 2011 righted the monstrous miscarriage of justice of the original guilty verdict of 2009, as much as it could be righted legally, anyway, but now the two are being subject to a retrial. Evidently, the parents of the murdered girl pushed for it, along with the prosecutors, and Italian law permits it. The parents want justice for their daughter, of course, but the injustice in this case is the fact that the real and only killer, Rudy Guede, is serving a sentence of a mere 16 years, for a vicious sexual assault in which he repeatedly stabbed poor Meredith with a knife about the neck so that she choked on her own blood and died with her eyes open, having fought mightily for her life. And while the killer serves 16 years, about a third of it already expired, the prosecution is demanding 30 years for Amanda and close to that for Raffaele. Simply unbelievable. So much went wrong with the investigation and prosecution and reporting of this crime, and so much of what went wrong can only be classified as irrational. The whole thing truly qualifies for that overused term, witch hunt, down to the imputation of sexual depravity to a pretty, innocent, and, at the time, badly confused young woman. We have to stand firm in the belief that justice will be done and that God is not mocked.
Propagandizing in a Mass Communications Course
We read in this Campus Reform piece about a professor in a course that’s supposed to be about mass communications who is fixated on the “institutional racism” of America.
Why that should ever come up in a communications course, much less repeatedly (as the complaining students say), is beyond me. But as we know, many professors think that their job is to act as “change agents.”
University Presidents’ Farewell Packages Hurt Students
Skyrocketing college tuition continues to put pressure on families struggling to make do in a sluggish economy. Recall the median family income is approximately $53,000 a year — less than the net price at some elite private colleges. So it is no surprise that the generous salaries of many college and university presidents have provoked some outrage.
But what about the money some presidents and top administrators make after stepping down? A recent story in the Boston Globe highlights the lavish farewell packages many university presidents walk away with. Take a look at the deal Jehuda Reinharz, former president of Brandeis University (my alma mater), got:
[Reinharz] received more than $600,000 in salary and benefits in 2011 . . . And that’s on top of the $800,000 Reinharz earned in his new job as president of the Mandel Foundation, a longtime Brandeis benefactor.
The American Council of Trustees and Alumni’s Anne Neal offered her take on how these outrageous compensation packages hurt students in a letter to the Globe. She writes:
At many institutions, administrative spending is rising faster than instructional spending, in part because top administrators are so highly compensated. These misplaced priorities have a very real effect on students . . . .[W]hen colleges reduce administrative costs, they can hold down tuition without sacrificing quality.
Trustees have the responsibility to identify and curtail administrative costs. The families facing skyrocketing tuition have to make tough decisions about their finances. There is no reason college trustees and top administrators should not be doing the same thing.
Read the full letter here.
We Have Oversold Doctoral Degrees Too
I have been arguing for years that America has oversold higher education. In today’s Pope Center piece, Gary Jason of Cal State–Fullerton argues that one aspect of that is our “pointless proliferation of Ph.D.”
He contends that with better information on the career prospects for Ph.D. holders, the demand for that credential would start to decline. I suspect he’s correct. Look at what has happened to law-school applications in recent years as word has gotten around that just having a J.D. doesn’t ensure high-paying legal employment.
George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation
American history is certainly not a strong portion of our nation’s (especially college students’) knowledge base. With that in mind, while many are adding Thanksgiving night shopping to their plans — a topic for another rant — please also consider adding a reading from our first president:
New York, 3 October 1789
By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.
Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, and Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”
Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks, for his kind care and protection of the People of this country previous to their becoming a Nation, for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war, for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed, for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.
And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, to render our national government a blessing to all the People, by constantly being a government of wise, just and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord. To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and Us, and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.
Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.
Another Indictment of Low College Standards
Schools used to concentrate on reading and writing, but standards have slipped so badly that many college graduates now can’t communicate well enough to do jobs. Here is a CNBC piece on point, “Why Johnny Can’t Write, and Why Employers Are Mad.”
Americans living in, say 1963, would have been astounded to hear about college graduates who can’t do basic things that used to be mastered by kids in grade school. As my friend Steve Balch has put it, “We don’t so much have higher education, as merely longer education.”
Speech Codes Are Like Zombies
College speech codes keep getting struck down in court, but they come back to life. In this week’s Clarion Call, Greg Lukianoff and Robert Shibley of FIRE write about the battle they have to fight and refight against speech codes, and explain why college administrators continue to try placing restrictions on free speech.
Conservative Latino Student Called a ‘Traitor to His Race’
Leftist groups are smearing and threatening a conservative Latino student, after he attempted to organize a controversial event to bring attention to the issue of illegal immigration. Students at the University of Texas had planned to host a game called “Catch an Illegal Immigrant,” awarding $25 gift certificates for catching student-actors around campus wearing “illegal immigrant” signs. The event was ultimately canceled in response to widespread backlash on campus and in the media.
The student in question, Lorenzo Garcia, head of the UT chapter of the Young Conservatives of Texas, admitted that the event had been in poor taste. But he defended the intention behind the event: “I acknowledge that decision to include issuing $25 gift cards during the event was misguided and that the idea for the event was intentionally over-the-top in order to get attention for the subject,” he said. “It is a simple fact that illegal immigration is a concern in this country and that it is one we must face.”
The original event does strike me as callous and ill conceived. But it is far worse to hear of the threats Garcia is now receiving at the hands of the radical left. As reported on The College Fix yesterday morning, Garcia “has come under extreme fire,” and has received “death threats and accusations of being a ‘traitor to his race.’”
Down With Micro-Agressors Everywhere!
UCLA’s Graduate School of Education has sternly come out against micro-aggression, such as correcting grammar on student papers. One more bold stride for social justice! Read about it in this American Thinker piece by Thomas Lifson.
What Happens When a University Tries to Sell Unneeded Property?
North Carolina State is in that position. It owns a large tract of forest in eastern North Carolina, 120 miles from the campus in Raleigh. School officials want to sell the property and will apparently get to do so, but some students and professors are upset. Jesse Saffron explains the dispute in Monday’s Pope Center piece.
Fake Hate Crime Exposed at Vassar College
Another liberal college student has been caught perpetrating a series of fake hate crimes–this time at Vassar College.
It’s not like we haven’t seen this before.
Why do these phonies keep trying to pull the same stunt over and over? Not enough real hate out there to keep the sense of liberal grievance suitably primed, I suppose.
This time, it was a self-described transgendered student who was booted off campus in disgrace after being caught scrawling hate messages all over campus. The student was actually the leader of the school’s so-called “Bias Incident Report Team.”
More details here.
British Students Insist on Being Taught Junk Economics
Students at some universities in Britain recently staged a protest to insist that their economics professors stop teaching free-market theories, and a professor backed them with calls to just teach about Marx and Keynes — stuff that’s about “the real world.”
In this Freeman article last week, SUNY professor Sandy Ikeda gives that idea a sound thrashing.
Does the Accreditation System Do Any Good?
Accreditation, a soporific subject long ignored, has been getting quite a lot of attention lately. Jay Schalin writes about the barrage of criticism that the accrediting system has taken, even from quarters that are generally friendly to the higher-ed establishment, in a Pope Center piece last week.
Accreditation has turned into one of those “the emperor is wearing no clothes” cases: it has a completely undeserved reputation for ensuring quality in the schools that get the stamp of approval when in fact it does no such thing. It is a very inefficient way of keeping students from wasting federal college subsidies on diploma mills, but it gives the accreditors a great deal of leverage over colleges, leverage that is often abused in pursuit of leftist fads.
It is time to decouple institutional eligibility for federal funds from accreditation. If accreditation has any useful role to play, let it make that case to institutions free to say “no thanks.”
Janet Napolitano Gets Going at University of California
The new president of the University of California system, Janet Napolitano, has hit the ground running — with diversity! Peter Wood gives us the unhappy details here.
Here is his conclusion:
It would be a rich irony if our former deporter-in-chief managed to reinvent herself as California’s Ms. Diversity. Napolitano, however, is seemingly unhindered by old commitments. When it comes to basic principles, she has a versatility that would strike Niccolo Machiavelli dumb with admiration.
More Support for Banning Racial Preferences
I’m not sure whether the authors of this new study intended that support or not, but it does indeed bolster two of the main points made by critics of racial preferences: First, that they have a significant impact on who gets admitted; and, second, that universities will not stop using them unless they are required to do so in no uncertain terms by a law or a court ruling. Thus, the amicus brief filed with the Supreme Court recently by Pacific Legal Foundation in Fisher v. University of Texas cited studies by the Center for Equal Opportunity to show that the amount of weight given to race had not been diminished by the Grutter and Gratz decisions in 2003 — that, in fact, there was evidence of more discrimination now than ever, and that the amount of discrimination was dramatic.
Can the College Board Be Objective?
I wish I knew the answer to the question in the title. The College Board has been around so long, and it has been the source of the exams that, years ago, provided a way for smart but low-income students to prove their worth that it has a pretty good image. Yet, like other organizations in the higher-education field, it has its interests to protect. And George Leef argues that it is outdoing itself in its latest study, Education Pays: The Benefits of Higher Education for Individuals and Society. His article “College Board Hearts College Bubble” notes some points left out of the report.
One reason for the supposed “earnings premium” is that “credential inflation has spread over the employment landscape just like kudzu over a field.” Not only is the college diploma less valuable than it used to be (and many rosy statistics inevitably reflect the past) but credential inflation has squeezed high-school graduates out of jobs they could otherwise have had. George writes: “The main reason why college appears to confer a big earnings premium is not that graduates are so productive, but rather that fewer and fewer good career paths remain open to people who don’t have college credentials.”
George discusses plenty of other points left out of the report.
One of the most irritating parts of the paper is that it doesn’t cite any of the critics of “college for all,” so someone reading the report can’t easily read the sources that the College Board report dismisses as “anecdotal.” And, finally, the report throws in what I consider red herrings — college students exercise more, smoke less, and are less often on public assistance, etc. As George says, for the most part those are correlations not causation. And, “Tellingly, the authors overlook the possibility that college might cause some students to adopt bad behaviors they might otherwise not have, such as heavy drinking and use of drugs.”
Getting Unprepared Students Through College
Eileen Toplansky, who teaches at two colleges in New Jersey, has a revealing article on the American Thinker entitled “Dysfunctional Literacy.”
It is worth reading for the light it sheds on the tactics that many colleges employ to maximize the number of weak and disengaged students who complete their degrees. After all, they “have a lot riding on improved retention.” Certainly — they need the money whether or not the students learn much.
Toplansky writes, “The vocabulary base of many of my students ranges between the fifth and seventh grade reading level. The dictionary is a foreign object. Yet, incessantly, instructors are told to engage in peer-review; that is, students grade and evaluate other students’ work.” Why not? That probably makes the students feel good about themselves, while relieving the instructors of some onerous work.