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.
College English Already in Trouble, But Common Core Will Make Things Worse
Mary Grabar has been teaching English for years, and has some scars to show for her willingness say politically incorrect things. English departments are mostly under the control of professors who are imbued with all the academic fads concerning race, class, gender, and so on. Things are bad now, but certain to get worse once Common Core takes hold, she argues in this Pope Center piece. Common Core will lead to further erosion of the ability of students to read and write about books, thus accelerating the death spiral of college English.
Dinesh D’Souza vs. Bill Ayers
In his first public appearance since being indicted on alleged violations of campaign-finance law, Dinesh D’Souza went head-to-head with Obama pal and former Weather Underground terrorist, Bill Ayers.
At one point during the debate, a Vietnam Veteran rose to demand that Ayers explain how he could be against the Second Amendment and still be for violent resistance.
Sandor Farkas, a student at Dartmouth College, reports the details in an exclusive report for The College Fix.
Click here for the full story.
How Not to Promote the Humanities
Once again, the gulf between the higher-education establishment and reformers is painfully visible. But in this case, the critics are defending higher education, while the establishment can’t seem to find the right words.
The Heart of the Matter is a report from the august American Academy of Arts and Sciences written by a commission composed of luminaries such as the presidents of Duke, New York University, and Amherst College (to name a few). Issued last June, it was supposed to defend the humanities and social sciences. (I recently read the report in preparation for a public discussion about it at North Carolina State University on March 7.)
The social sciences can do all right by themselves, but the humanities are indeed in trouble. Reading this paper, you would assume that it is because the humanities don’t get as much money as science and technology are getting. As I wrote this week, the paper is intellectually lightweight and utilitarian in content, and since it was a plea for money, it was written in language that these scholars considered appropriate for politicians and bureaucrats. Read it for yourself and I think you’ll agree. Peter Wood of the National Association of Scholars called it a “wretched defense” of the humanities. Gilbert Sewall, writing on NRO, said it “falls flat.”
So, who defends the humanities? The best defense I have seen is Heather Mac Donald’s stunning article in the Wall Street Journal (it is no longer available to non-subscribers). She actually has respect for the humanities, which she calls a dialogue with the past. That dialogue became “a defining feature of Western civilization, prompting the evolution of such radical ideas as constitutional government and giving birth to arts and architecture of polyphonic complexity.” Sadly, there’s no bracing language like that in the American Academy’s report.
Pat Robertson Joins the MOOC Revolution
Pat Robertson’s Regent University has just launched a new free online educational platform — a Christian alternative to open-source academic sites such as the Harvard-backed EdX and its rival Coursera.
Calling it “A Christian MOOC,” dean of arts and sciences Gerson Moreno-Riaño says LUXVERA will provide “an accessible and extremely affordable education with excellent academic content.”
More details here.
College Offers Full-Credit Course on Beyoncé
Did you miss Beyoncé’s strip-tease performance at the Grammy’s on Sunday? Don’t worry! To catch up on all the latest Beyoncé news and gossip, all you have to do is drop by Rutgers University.
Rutgers now offers a full credit course called “Politicizing Beyoncé.” The class pairs Beyoncé’s music videos and lyrics with “readings from the Black feminist canon.”
This class, presumably, aims to teach you how to shake your money maker all the way to socio-political liberation. Just a guess. . .
Meanwhile, out of the top 30 liberal arts colleges in the U.S. — not a single one requires students to take a course in U.S. history.
Question: How do you feel about academia’s educational priorities?