Prager U: Does God Exist? 4 New Arguments
Many colleges in the United States were founded as places to train clergy. Fast forward a few hundred years and religious studies courses are often relegated to one of many options that satisfy a general education requirement.
The folks at Prager University see religion as a serious subject that should not be optional. Hence, in the newest course, they’ve re-released and redesigned an earlier course from the late baseball-player-turned-theologian Frank Pastore. The course contains a powerful message - something cannot come from nothing.
Sense and Nonsense
A lot of nonsense is frequently expressed about the relationship between taxpayer “investment” in universities and economic growth. The trouble is, it’s sometimes difficult to know which is nonsense and which is sensible.
Thus, the latest federal “investment” in a North Carolina public university (sorry, I just can’t call it investment with a straight face) is being praised but also scrutinized. Jesse Saffron of the Pope Center is scrutinizing it.
In January President Obama went to Raleigh to announce that NC State would get $70 million from the Department of Energy to set up an advanced manufacturing institute—one of 45 around the country that the president wants Congress to authorize. This is the biggest federal grant the land-grant university has ever received. Another $70 million will come from private industry and the North Carolina government.
Senator Kay Hagan lauded the project because it would create jobs. But investments are supposed to create products and services, and this one is dubious. It’s supposed to improve a new kind of semiconductor that will make products such as electric cars cheaper. That reminds me of a public-private partnership in the 1990s that was supposed to create a hybrid.
But then Toyota came out with one, apparently without help from government. There may be lessons here.
Black Student Group Accuses UCLA of Racism
A group of students calling themselves “The Black Bruins” has released a flurry of accusations against UCLA, claiming that the school is riddled with racism and lacks diversity.
At least one student there isn’t buying it. UCLA student Josh Hedtke has written an article decimating the group’s claims. Hedtke takes a look at the enrollment statistics and finds, surprisingly, that white students, not blacks, are the most “underrepresented” racial group at the school:
In 2012 in California, the total percentage of the black population was 6.6 percent, and the total percentage of the white population was 73.7 percent. In contrast, the percentage of white students at UCLA is 27.8 percent and the percentage of black students at UCLA is 3.8 percent.
In effect, white students are actually severely “underrepresented” compared to black students: the white percentage at UCLA is only 37.7 percent of the total percentage of white residents in the state, whereas the black percentage at UCLA is 57.6 percent of the total statewide percentage of black residents – a 20 point difference!
Just do the math.
Hedtke argues that we should reject the notion that institutions must always reflect the precise racial makeup of the general population. “In reality,” he writes, “different groups of people are simply represented unequally in different endeavors. It’s what happens in a diverse society where people are free to pursue their own goals.”
Click here to read the full story.
Prager U: Feminism 2.0
Is feminism pro-woman, or just anti-male? In the newest Prager University video, lifelong feminist and former National Organization for Women member, Tammy Bruce, weighs in.
I’ve posted Prager U videos for awhile, but for new Phi Beta Con readers, perhaps an introduction is in order. Best-selling author, columnist, and nationally syndicated radio host Dennis Prager created Prager University to counter the indoctrination, drivel, and apathy that pervades today’s college campuses.
With 5-minute, professionally produced videos from experts in economics, history, political science, and religion, PragerU offers big ideas on big topics, 5 minutes at a time. There’s no homework, no exams, and no grades. Just knowledge and clarity. Share this video with friends, family and co-workers – especially ones who disagree with you.
Internet Post on ‘How to Rape’ a Female Student Rocks Dartmouth College
Sandor Farkas of Dartmouth College reports on a scandal that has shocked students and administrators at Dartmouth College:
In an online post full of graphic sexual language, an anonymous individual with a Dartmouth email address “named the student and went into detail on how to strong-arm her into having sex through the use of alcohol and coercion.”
Read the full story at The College Fix.
Higher Ed Reform Comes to Congress
The past few of weeks have brought exciting news from Washington for higher ed reformers. Senators from both parties have introduced bills that take vital steps toward improving higher ed in America.
Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) have introduced a bill that would greatly increase the transparency we demand from colleges and universities. And Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) has introduced the Higher Education Reform and Opportunity (HERO) Act, which would implement vital reforms to our college accreditation system.
Over at ACTA’s blog we describe and evaluate these proposals, and praise these forward-thinking lawmakers for their efforts. It’s long past time Congress got on board with higher ed reform. Higher education won’t get better just by pouring money into it. But now we have some very substantive, very promising new bills.
But What about Good Taste?
Okay, Robert Shibley of FIRE argues that a statue is like a speech. Thus, those Wellesley feminists (as it turns out, I must be one of them) who don’t want the sleepwalking man in his underwear on campus are against free speech.
I agree with Robert most of the time. And, certainly, the petition’s claims that the statue is the source of “undue stress” are silly, but can’t we talk about good taste?
Wellesley has a beautiful and serene campus. I think the women on Wellesley have a right to keep their campus beautiful. There’s plenty of room for exhibitionist art, ideological debate, and modern trendiness inside the ivy-covered walls. And for men.
Re: Read It and Weep
I’m torn on this one. I wish students’ reading lists consisted of deeper material, but I can’t entirely refute using Covey – especially because I wrote about using that book in my leadership courses.
When my senior students read 7 Habits, many approach me with some form of “this is the first book they have read in a while.” I don’t know how they got that far either; I have to take the small wins where I can. It’s sad to admit that getting college seniors to read a book is a major accomplishment.
Students just don’t read today. Some do, but not enough to refute the generalization. To this current crop, why read when there is Google and Siri.
Rise Up, UNC Alumni
The University of North Carolina has been much in the news lately, and not for reasons Tar Heels should feel good about. In today’s Pope Center Clarion Call, Arch Allen, a distinguished alum who earned both his bachelor’s and law degrees at Chapel Hill, calls upon his fellow alums to get active over the report we issued last year showing how weak the general education requirements have become. He is particularly bothered by the fact that the head of the alumni association is content to have it simply be a lapdog for the university administration.
And The Winner Is ........
The University of Maryland! In the annual Collegiate Turf Bowl, that is. The Washington Post has the details.
These students will probably land decent jobs, I would suppose. Working on the turf at, oh, Cypress Point sounds pretty appealing.
On the other hand, could they have learned about good grass and weeds without a four-year degree? Has a college degree become mandatory for young people who want to work on golf courses or other manicured lawns?
Read It and Weep
There’s nothing wrong with motivational writer Stephen Covey or his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. But should a course based on his book replace a course in history or English?
The chancellor of Alamo Colleges—five community colleges near San Antonio, Texas—has spent $700,000 (not his own money, naturally)—developing such a course as part of the core curriculum. Specifically, says Inside Higher Ed, Bruce Leslie, the chancellor, considers it “a measured response to calls from local and national business leaders to ensure that students graduate with ‘soft skills’ – leadership, knowing how to shake a hand, how to manage time effectively – and from his own personal experience.”
Faculty, administrators, and even the president of one of the five colleges, Northwest Vista College, are rightly fighting this further decimation of the humanities.
But it’s really just an illustration of the confusion these days about what college is all about. With students pressured to attend college yet unprepared for academic work, watered-down self-help is what they want and, now it seems, what they will get.
Senator Rubio Advances Reform Ideas About Higher Ed
Most politicians are happy to go into the cheerleading mode whenever the subject is education. Just say how crucial education is for Americans, that we must have more “access” and forget about all unpleasant trade-offs. One politician who is not just a cheerleader is Florida’s Senator Marco Rubio. With Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden, he has authored a bill that would provide more information to prospective college students, the “Right to Know Before You Go Act.” That proposal and some other ideas are included in a talk Senator Rubio gave today in Miami.
In my view, the most interesting idea here is the senator’s view of alternatives to the current accreditation system, which does little or nothing to ensure educational quality, but does act as a barrier to entry against innovative means for young people to learn skills and show their competence. The part I find especially intriguing is a federal pilot program to help break the bad habit that the business community has gotten into of insisting on standard college credentials for most job applicants. I am, of course, no friend of federal hiring, but the feds could possibly do some good by helping to establish alternative kinds of credentialing, which the business community might then follow.
“An Update on the Mess at Bowdoin”
That’s the all-too-accurate title of this piece by KC Johnson at Minding the Campus. KC summarizes the proceedings at an event last week, held by the Maine Heritage Policy Center and National Association of Scholars, that builds on NAS’s comprehensive study of political correctness at Bowdoin College; last week the focus was on what Bowdoin proudly calls its efforts to ensure that students there are taught to be proper “global citizens.” Speakers included Peter Wood, John Fonte, Michael Poliakoff, Susan Shell, and Herb London.
Somnambulant Man on Campus
On the NRO site be sure to see Alec Torres’ discussion of the furor over Wellesley College’s statue of a sleepwalking man (in shorts, photo included). Over 700 students have petitioned to get rid of it and according to one commenter, the women have been putting some clothes on him.
I’m a Wellesley alumna and the petition is one of the first sensible acts I’ve seen at Wellesley in a long time. (The other is the creation of the Freedom Project.)
Another Absurd Academic Obsession: Microaggression
Should professors refrain from saying anything that a student (especially from an “underrepresented minority” group, but why not everyone?) might find offensive? That is the concept of “microaggression” and some people are taking it seriously. For example, a group of UCLA grad students recently protested against a professor who had the unmitigated gall to correct poor grammar in their dissertation proposals. In today’s Pope Center piece, Troy Camplin examines this idea and concludes that if it’s valid, then we should stop teaching English.
Of course, deliberate rudeness is to be condemned, but if we tell professors that they should refrain from any criticism, no matter how beneficial it could be to a student, on the speculative grounds that it might cause hurt feelings, we’d lose a lot of useful interaction between teacher and student.
We might also ask if it isn’t a form of aggression to attack well-meaning instructors who want to help students improve, merely because they haven’t found a form of words that couldn’t possibly offend anyone.
Couldn’t Help But Laugh
Inside Higher Ed had a story last week that, while amusing, reflects the growing national uncertainty over what college is all about. Speaking at a General Electric plant in Wisconsin, President Obama said, “But I promise you, folks can make a lot more, potentially, with skilled manufacturing or the trades than they might with an art history degree.” He quickly noticed a gaffe-in-coming, and said, “Now, nothing wrong with an art history degree—I love art history.”
He thus joined three Republican politicians who have (to their embarrassment) suggested that some disciplines (e.g., anthropology) are flaky. Inside Higher Ed lists their statements, along with the president’s. Obama got a reprimand from the Association of American Colleges and Universities, but that was minimal compared to the uproar over North Carolina governor Pat McCrory’s put-down of gender studies.
My view, in a nutshell: The devaluation of the college diploma is serious enough that it does make sense to consider one’s major carefully, but the essential requirement is to learn how to think, write, and assess—whatever one’s major.
Why College Meal Plans Are like Obamacare
College meal plans are notoriously bad–much like Obamacare.
Josh Kaib of American University explains what the two have in common in a wonderful feature story today at The College Fix:
It goes a little something like this: Students are faced with limited choices, high prices, and business monopolies on campuses. The quality is low, the cost is high, and lines are far too long.
Click here for the full story.
Rich Vedder on the “Sustainability” Craze
Colleges are prone to fads because there is seldom any cost in indulging in them. In this new SeeThru post, Rich Vedder looks at the “sustainability” craze.
Here’s a great line: “I think the sustainability frenzy reveals more about collegiate moral unctuousness, disdain for long-taught verities that have evolved over centuries, political bias, and economic stupidity than it does about advancing the public good.”
Prager U: Lower Taxes, Higher Revenue
In the newest Prager University course, UCLA Professor of Economics Tim Groseclose explains the Laffer Curve – a representation of the non-linear relationship between tax rates and revenue collected at those rates.