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.
The Conundrums of Grading College Students
If you have ever taught a college course, you know the problems associated with grading: the excuses, the pleading, the close calls, the prospects of causing yourself trouble, etc.
In today’s Pope Center piece, Professor Mike Shaughnessy reflects on those problems and laments that college administrations tend to make them worse instead of helping to minimize them.
Now It’s Higher Ed That’s “Too Big to Fail”
We’re used to hearing the pathetic,status-quo protecting argument that some industry is “too big to fail” and thus must receive infusions of government money to prevent “failure.”
Recently, UCLA chancellor Gene Block trotted that one out for public higher education, trying to scare people with a vision of ruin if states don’t start pumping more money into higher ed. I think it’s a silly argument and say so in my latest SeeThru.edu post.
What’s Going On at University of Maryland -- Baltimore County?
University of Maryland – Baltimore County (UMBC) appears to be one of the most successful but largely unknown schools in the US. Last week, UMBC’s president, Freeman Hrabowski, spoke at North Carolina State and in today’s Pope Center piece, Jesse Saffron, who attended his talk, writes about it. UMBC students seem to thrive in the environment of high expectations and no-excuses that Hrabowski has engendered. UMBC is another of those institutions that isn’t prestigious, but offers a stronger education than students would get at many schools that are regarded as being prestigious.
Students Film ‘Feminist Porn’ in Columbia Univ. Library
Feminists at Columbia University have filmed a “feminist porno” film inside the university library. The 3-minute film includes topless women kissing, smearing eggs on each other, smacking each other with riding crops.
Coco Young, a student who was formerly a model, told the New York Observer their intent in the pornographic nature of the video is to “repulse” viewers, not arouse them.
“Men get hooked because they want to see naked girls, but then we do gross things and are not attractive at all,” Young said.
Julianne Stanford reports the full story today at The College Fix.
How could so-called “feminism” get any more ridiculous than this?
Prager U: The Least Free Place in America
“Teachers and students must always remain free to inquire, otherwise our civilization will stagnate and die.”
— U.S. Supreme Court, Sweezy v. New Hampshire (1957)
In the newest Prager University course, Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), discusses why many colleges have become a place “where alternative thinking goes to die.”
UNC Scandal Starts to Resemble Watergate
The famous question during the Watergate hearings was “What did the president know and when did he know it?” In this new SeeThru.edu post, Jay Schalin puts the same question to the UNC administration with regard to its handling of the boiling scandal over student athletes.
Just as the cover-up proved to be much worse than the crime in Watergate, so too with UNC. Rather than coming clean, the administration tried to discredit the researcher, Mary Willingham, who brought to light the severe academic deficiencies of many of the athletes. That has backfired. What next?
UNC Athletic Scandal Update
There are some new developments in the UNC athletic/academic scandal. For one, the administration realized it had put itself out on a limb by attacking critics too harshly (particularly when those critics are likely to be proven correct), and has made some rather tepid admissions of wrong-doing. Also, more people in the know — a reading specialist and a former dean — have come out of the woodwork to back up an academic advisor’s claims that the school is admitting athletes who read at an elementary school level (or worse). More here.