Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

GWU Studies How Western and Muslim Societies View Each Other


Europeans feel more threatened by the possibility of interaction with the Muslim world than Americans or Israelis, according to a new report on the state of Muslim and Western interaction.

This first “Islam and the West: Annual Report on the State of Dialogue,” conducted by the World Economic Forum in collaboration with Georgetown University, looks at how Muslim and Western societies perceive and relate to each other at the political, social, economic and cultural levels. (The Jerusalem Post)

Radical Thinking On the Sources of the ‘Challenged’ American Intellect (and the Infantilized Presidential Campaign)


… vital reading, from writer Vin Suprynowicz:

… American schooling was taken over, in the late 19th century, by statists enamored of the Prussian compulsion model, aiming to create a docile peasant class by crippling the American intellect — making reading seem real hard, for starters, by replacing the old system in which delighted kids learned to combine the sounds of the Roman letters, with a perverted “whole word” method better suited to decoding hieroglyphics.

In July 1991, John Taylor Gatto, New York’s Teacher of the Year, quit, saying he was tired of working for an institution that crippled the ability of children to learn. He explained:

“Government schooling is the most radical adventure in history … It kills the family by monopolizing the best times of childhood and by teaching disrespect for home and parents.

“Socrates foresaw if teaching became a formal profession, something like this would happen. Professional interest is served by making what is easy to do seem hard; by subordinating the laity to the priesthood. School is too vital a jobs-project, contract giver and protector of the social order to allow itself to be ‘re-formed.’ It has political allies to guard its marches, that’s why reforms come and go without changing much. …

“David learns to read at age four; Rachel, at age nine: In normal development, when both are 13, you can’t tell which one learned first — the five-year spread means nothing at all. But in school I label Rachel ‘learning disabled’ and slow David down a bit, too. For a paycheck, I adjust David to depend on me to tell him when to go and stop. He won’t outgrow that dependency. I identify Rachel as discount merchandise, ‘special education’ fodder. She’ll be locked in her place forever.

“In 30 years of teaching kids rich and poor I almost never met a learning disabled child; hardly ever met a gifted and talented one either. Like all school categories, these are sacred myths. …”

Citing the 1993 National Adult Literacy Survey, Gatto in his book “Underground History of American Education,” reports only 3.5 percent of Americans are literate enough today “to do traditional college study, a level 30 percent of all U.S. high school students reached in 1940, and which 30 percent of secondary students in other developed countries can reach today.”This month, that majority is choosing our presidential candidates based on who looks better on TV.

(Tip: Writer Jack Kemp)


Against Happiness: How Come?


Maureen Callahan explores the nation’s leading pop-psychology obsession, the happiness movement, noting that courses in happiness are taught at over 100 universities in the nation and that there are thousands of recent books on attaining happiness, including a bestseller, Stumbling on Happiness, by Harvard professor Daniel Gilbert. Proponents of happiness portray it as a “thing,” an “object to be owned,” and governments treat it like “currency,” says Callahan.

In defiance of this mania there now appears Against Happiness, an “unhappy” counter-argument by Eric G. Wilson, a professor at Wake Forest University. Wilson reasons

that the culture’s current obsession with eradicating sadness is not just misguided but destructive, that discontent helps dislodge and agitate greatness – be it in art, public policy or personal satisfaction. He indicts what he believes to be the narcissism of the movement: “If I reduce my teeming environment to a strategy for salvation or a plan for savings, then I perceive the landscape only through the windows of my own desire for perfect happiness, for total security and contentment. In other words, I see only what fits into the grids of my own mind, networks devoted solely to my personal comfort . . . I am attuned only to those parts that I can transform into material to boost my ego.” Wilson argues that happiness is not only most palpable and valuable when it alternates with sadness, but can’t truly exist without its opposite.

Take a break from what Wilson calls our pursuit of “manic bliss” and read this article.

Ties that Bind?


Bill and Hillary Clinton appear to be on very good terms with the Saudis:

Bill Clinton’s presidential library raised more than 10 percent of the cost of its $165 million facility from foreign sources, with the most generous overseas donation coming from Saudi Arabia…

The royal family of Saudi Arabia gave the Clinton facility in Little Rock about $10 million, roughly the same amount it gave toward the presidential library of George H.W. Bush.

The Saudis, of course, purvey Wahhabism, a fundamentalist form of Islam and are ever at work supplying educational materials about the Middle East to U.S. students. (Editorial, Family Security Matters)

Everyone Who Wants a Job Needs to Go to College


Well, no. Seems there are still many good jobs that don’t require that applicants have accumulated enough college credits for a degree. Check here.

As I’ve said a few times before, college is terribly oversold.


Lighting Some Candles


In the spirit of the saying that it’s better to light some candles than to curse the darkness, the Pope Center is sponsoring a contest to identify the best college courses in North Carolina. Jane Shaw discusses the contest, along with another Pope Center project to help pinpoint the most worthwhile general education courses students can take at Chapel Hill in this week’s Clarion Call.

British Taxpayers Fund Hate Education and Violence in the Middle East


In “Funding Hate Education,” an analysis of the effectiveness of Britain’s overseas aid, the Tax Payers Alliance reports on the effects of British aid spending in the Palestinian territories. The study finds “disturbing evidence” that “millions of pounds of British tax revenue” have been poured into hate education and promoting violence in the Middle East. “Some of the money is even being used to fund school textbooks that teach children in Palestine to worship violence and hate all non-Muslims.” (The Jerusalem Post)

Crackdown on Marxist Students in Iran


The Iranian government long tolerated leftist students because of their anti-imperialist ranting against the United States.

But no longer. The government is worried about the spread of the Marxist student movement, wherein the regime is viewed (in the words of one student) as “capitalist” and President Ahmadinejad as “a true fascist.” (The New York Times)

Brooks on the Intolerant Left


Face up to your “moral vanity,” Arthur Brooks tells hate-mongering progressives, for “political intolerance in America — ugly and unfortunate on either side of the political aisle — is to be found more on the left than it is on the right.” As ever, Brooks, a professor at Syracuse University, backs up his bracingly politically incorrect aperçus with data. (“Liberal Hatemongers”, The Wall Street Journal, January 17)

‘Pipe Bomb’ Roommate Mum on Case


Columbia University has distanced itself from an associate professor, Michael Clatts, after the AIDS researcher was questioned by the NYPD and the FBI about what the New York Post calls “a bomb factory” his roommate allegedly assembled in their apartment. The university says Clatts neither teaches nor receives pay at its Mailman School of Public Health.

Clatt, a medical anthropologist employed by the National Development and Research Institutes, is studying social aspects behind the spread of AIDS. He has been researching HIV risk among young drug injectors in Vietnam, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s website. His recent research also includes a study into wild gay sex parties, according to

Clatts, according to the New York Sun, has refused to cooperate with police, who say they do not suspect Clatts with being involved in the arsenal of bombs and guns.

Stephen Coughlin’s Thesis


I’ve been reading Stephen Coughlin’s master’s thesis, “‘To Our Great Detriment’: Ignoring What Extremists Say about Jihad,” submitted to the National Defense Intelligence College, and I can see why it got him into trouble.  He frankly declares that this administration has been wrong on the relation of Islam to jihadism and terrorism.   While members of the administration sternly warn of the dire threats we face and how we must know our enemy, they themselves are lost in illusions about that enemy.  The enemy is not Islamo-Fascism, but the jihadist elements of Islam itself.  Coughlin points out that on the basis of very little, Bush, Rice, and other Administration people blithely declare Islam a religion of peace that has been hijacked by a few violent extremists for their own agenda, an agenda which they insist has nothing to do with Islam.  They ignore all the evidence from Islamic sources that support violence in the name of spreading or defending the faith and bypass the professed and frequently stated aims of the jihadists. 

Coughlin’s thesis suggests that there are not two schools of thought on Islamic terror, those who think it is simply a criminal problem and those who think it is a war we will be fighting for a long time,  but three.  First, there is the view that largely comes from the liberal-left, that thinks there really is no Islamic threat, that it’s really America and its actions that have called forth violence from Muslims, that if there is violence, it is from a tiny few and can be managed by the world community like an international criminal problem.  Then there is the conservative-right view, that there is indeed a terrible threat, a virtual World War Four, and the threat is from Islamo-Fascism, not from Islam itself, but from the aberrations of radicals who are creating some distorted blending of Islamic beliefs with 20th century fascist concepts.  This is only a recent development, according to this view, not centuries old, and therefore we can be very hopeful about stomping it out.  About ten percent of the world’s Muslims do believe in Islamo-Fascist jihad, and that is a serious number, but ninety percent of Muslims don’t believe in it and want what we all want, material security and prosperity.  In fact, the underlying causes of terrorism arise from the material deprivation and lack of freedom and opportunity in the Muslim world.  There is thus no conflict between Islam and liberal democracy and modernity in general, and certainly no clash of civilizations.  The Islamic world will not be able to resist the march of liberal democracy and the irresistible call of freedom.  This view is largely that of President Bush.

The third view says that there is indeed a problem with Islam itself, that even if only a minority of Muslims will ever take up jihad, most Muslims know that that is mandated by their religion and they do support it in belief and sometimes financially.  The term Islamo-Fascism is really a euphemism for those who wish to deny or ignore the violence inherent in Islam. This view sees that jihad has been a feature of Islam from its beginnings and that martyrdom is honored and rewarded in Islam.  This view also finds that Islam may well be in conflict with liberal democracy.  Muslims are told that they are meant to Islamicize the countries they live in, through “peaceful” means if they can, and violent means when necessary, and we already see signs of this in Europe and America.  

So, to return more strictly to Coughlin’s thesis, he says that we are hampered in dealing with the enemy and in producing good intelligence for our strategic plans because instead of listening to what the enemy is saying, we impose our own hopeful, optimistic kind of view on the Islamic world, that everyone is really like us at heart and that we will see this in the end. 

How Many Delawares?


Thomas Wood does some excruciatingly heavy lifting here as a part of NAS’s “How Many Delawares?” project. In particular, he examines some nasty stuff at UMass-Amherst.

A ‘Blasphemer’ Takes On Islamic Blasphemy Laws (and Current Campaign Palaver)


For all too efficaciously communicating, in Andrew Bostom’s words, “the dire, self-destructive synergy between Western cultural relativism, and resurgent global jihadism,” Diana West has been branded “Blasphemer.”  

But how long can we afford to ignore her “blasphemist” utterances?

The fact is, to discuss blasphemy laws in Afghanistan and Iraq (Kurdistan, even) is to discuss Islam — specifically, its laws and doctrines. And we, as a politically correct people, don’t know how to do that. Instead, we act as though they don’t exist. And not just blasphemy laws. Jihad doctrine; Shariah (Islamic law); designs for a global caliphate through jihad (terrorism) and the spread of Shariah (Islamization): We pretend they are not factors in the free world’s experience with Islam. We certainly don’t discuss their implications for the freeness of the world. Look at what passes for “debate” among our presidential candidates: Republicans argue over who supported “the surge” first; Democrats argue over who will withdraw troops first.

Alas, perhaps not long.

Multiculturalism Devours All Its Young


From David Brooks:

All the habits of verbal thuggery [associated with identity politics] that have long been used against critics of affirmative action, like Ward Connerly and Thomas Sowell, and critics of the radical feminism, like Christina Hoff Sommers, are now being turned inward by the Democratic front-runners.  



Here from Adam Kirsch is an eloquent review of Professor Denis Donoghue’s book, On Eloquence, which eloquently disdains rhetoric – designed “’to move people to done thing rather than another’” – from eloquence, whose “classic pleasures” include aesthetic bliss and power, invention, copiousness, facility, and much more.


This work sounds like must-reading for, in Kirsch’s words, the “generations of students and professors [who] have been trained to read suspiciously, as though literature were an instrument of domination instead of an escape from it.”

Fishy Pipe-Bombs Motive?


Police are investigating whether Ivaylo Ivanov, who assembled an arsenal of pipe bombs and weapons in an apartment owned by his room-mate, a Columbia AIDS researcher, was planning to bomb synagogues around New York City. This latest turn in the investigation follows the discovery that the man was responsible last fall for painting some 23 swastikas in Brooklyn Heights that set off a round of anti-Semitic hate crimes around the city.

Ivanov claims that he had been building the bombs to use while fishing, because blowing up explosives in the water can stun fish and make it easier to catch them. How comforting to hear, as the editors of the New York Sun note, that “the police are not taking that story at face value.”

First Daughter


Wouldn’t it be funny if she turned out to have a degree from the University of Michigan? (College sports fans will get the joke.) From NYT:

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — It started with a phone call from a newspaper reporter in October seeking to verify the academic credentials of Gov. Joe Manchin III’s daughter Heather Bresch. But in less than three months, the inquiry has mushroomed into a controversy that risks casting a shadow of cronyism over this state’s flagship university.

Officials at the college, West Virginia University, have been accused of rewriting records last fall to document that Ms. Bresch had earned an executive master of business administration degree in 1998. An investigation by The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette concluded that she had completed only 22 of the required 48 credit hours.

Hat tip: Pollowitz. 

Slowly But Surely


Establishing mechanisms of accountability can take some doing–and the machinery can grind slowly. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t grind surely.

Last August, New York attorney general Andrew Cuomo launched an investigation of how higher education’s study abroad programs are conducted. Initial findings suggested that too often, colleges and
universities structure their programs in self-serving ways that shortchange students–backroom deals with independent study abroad contractors have become commonplace, and along the way study abroad
administrators have begun putting financial kickbacks and perks such as free trips ahead of students’ educational and economic prerogatives. The bottom line: the cost of studying abroad is often inflated, and the red tape involved can be excessive and compromising for students whose study abroad options are limited by their schools’ exclusive arrangements with study abroad providers.

Following hard on the heels of the student loan scandal the broke last winter, Cuomo’s investigation may have brought more disappointing news about how colleges and universities have been conducting themselves, but it was also an encouraging sign that such conduct is no longer going to go unnoticed and unchallenged.

Still more encouraging: Today, the New York Times and Inside Higher Ed are reporting that Cuomo has issued a new batch of subpoenas–and that this time fifteen schools, among them Harvard, Brown, Columbia, and Cornell, are in his sights. The investigation continues, widening and deepening its reach, moving from an initial look at study abroad providers to individual schools. And that is telling indeed.

Freedom of Speech Under Attack


In the United States, you’re only apt to face the Inquisition for saying “insensitive” things on a college campus. In Canada, it can happen anywhere, as this story.

Students Get CIA Leader’s Perspective on Interrogation


The CIA’s harsh questioning of terrorism suspects was legal and saved lives, the U.S. national intelligence director said last week. “It has saved lives. And so from my point of view, we’ve accomplished the mission within the bounds of U.S. law,” the director, Michael McConnell, told students at St. Mary’s College in Maryland. (Yahoo)


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