Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

Why the Butterfly Will Prevail against the Nihilist Academy


Peter Wood, executive director of the National Association of Scholars, recently spoke with his usual eloquence about how to gather the various reform initiatives in higher education under one pair of butterfly wings. In sum:

A reform movement has to be moved by one big idea that can contain the stresses and fractures among its participants. The big idea we have to offer is that higher education can be as good as we want it to be.  Higher education belongs to us, the people who believe education in a meaningful sense is possible, not to those who, commandeered by chaos, consent to a university that is a mere whirl of empty forms.  The university by its nature is ours, not theirs.  But restoring it will bring a certain chaos of its own.  Out of that little flap of a butterfly’s wings we will heave hurricanes.


Why Go to College?


That is the question taken up in this week’s Pope Center Clarion Call piece.


Graduation Rates and Affirmative Action: Nothing to See Here


Awhile back I blogged about a report from the group Education Sector — it was about the racial disparities in graduation rates, but didn’t bother mentioning the words “affirmative action.”

The group’s co-director doesn’t change that in a new piece:

If they really wanted to graduate more low-income and minority students, colleges would treat them more like big-time athletes. . . . while students are eligible to play sports, colleges and universities know exactly how to help these students succeed.

Keep reading this post . . .

On Olin


Candace: That’s a nice tribute to the John M. Olin Foundation today in today’s WSJ. At the risk of immodesty, allow me to recommend my book, A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America.

Meantime, a nitpick: Although it’s true that the Cornell experience in 1969 shaped Olin’s views on higher education (he was an alumnus and a trustee), the foundation itself was started in 1953 and it received its first big infusion of cash after Olin’s death in 1982.

Hard-Leftist Profs Back Arabic School


Former Weather Underground, SDS, and Communist Party extremists defame critics of the Khalil Gibran International (Arabic-themed) Academy in New York City. According to one of those critics, the group Stop the Madrassa, these parties back ex-KGIA principal Debbie Almontaser (of “intifada”-means-oppression fame) and the failing multicultural school experiment. Many of them are academics, and they join supporters that include cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Among these academics, who have now made their views known to Mayor Michael Bloomberg in a letter, is William Ayers, a ’60s militant who helped lead the Weather Underground, which bombed the NYPD headquarters and planned attacks on the Capitol and the Pentagon.

Stop the Madrassa says that “once again, radical Islamist groups and their enablers are attempting to silence American citizens through boycotts, name-calling, threats of lawsuits, defamatory accusations and other forms of intimidation.”

Having villians like Ayers engage in calling KGIA critics “a small group of fear-mongering bigots” is likely to hasten the demise of KGIA and stiffen opposition to its existence. As for Stop the Madrassa, it vows it “will not be silenced” and will “stand in solidarity with others who have been defamed or targeted for exposing the dangers of Islamo-fascism and jihadism.”


More Billions for Raising College Costs


Why does the cost of higher education keep ballooning?

“Because,” writes Thomas Sowell, “with the government ready to step in and help whenever tuition is ‘unaffordable,’ why not charge more than the traffic will bear and bring in Uncle Sam to make up the difference?”

And government is at it again. The Bush administration, which should know better, is now asking Congress to empower it to purchase billions of dollars in federal student loans to ensure that the U.S’s credit crunch does not hinder borrowing for higher education.

Olin’s Farewell Gift to Veritas


The John M. Olin Foundation’s last large donation will be a $1 million “matching gift” to the Manhattan Institute’s Veritas Fund, which funds campus programs that foster intellectual diversity.

The editors of the Wall Street Journal note that industrialist John Olin put almost $150 million into the foundation in 1969, upon learning that armed students had taken over the administration building at his alma mater, Cornell University.

The Olin grants have laid the foundation for much of the best of the higher-education-reform movement of the past four decades. This free society owes John Olin gratitude for his righteous ire and wise philanthropy.

Thomas Sowell Suggests Human Capital Contracts


In an excellent column, Thomas Sowell argues that we would greatly improve our allocation of resources if, instead of subsidizing college for most students, we took the government out of the picture and instead relied on human capital contracts, whereby students would contract for the funds needed for their education in exchange for a commitment to pay a certain percentage of their future earnings to the investors.

Several years ago, Miguel Palacios wrote a paper on this subject for Cato. I contacted him recently (he’s currently working on his Ph.D.) to ask him if his idea has gotten any traction and he said that it has both in Germany and Colombia. Later this year, he’s going to write about that for the Pope Center.

The best feature of such contracts is that it puts college to the test of the market. Unserious students who want to study unserious things would find it very difficult to find anyone willing to back their college experience.

Ayers Appearance Prompts Diploma-Shredding


In February, a former leader of the left-wing terrorist group Weather Underground, whose ties to Senator Obama have recently been getting attention, gave a lecture on education to teachers-in-training at the State University of New York at New Paltz. William Ayers, a professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a founding member of the group that bombed the U.S. Capitol and the Pentagon in the 1970s, refused to answer questions about his relationship with the Weather Underground or Obama. 

A SUNY-New Paltz alumnus, John Stengel, writes me of his revulsion that the campus graced Ayers with an invitation to speak: 

Thank you for your efforts against SUNY radicals during your tenure on the SUNY Board of Trustees. I belatedly learned about SUNY-New Paltz’s warm welcome to William Ayers and plan to send my 1975 B.A, torn up, to Steven Poskanzer, the president of the campus. I’ll accompany it with a letter urging him to follow up on the promises to me last fall at Alumni Weekend to reform the college. I’ll also copy my legislators.     

Stengel’s protest is well-founded. More alums should follow suit when campuses sink so low as to honor such scoundrels.

Australian U. On Its Knees for Saudi ‘Noughts’?


Australia’s Griffith University is reported to have “practically begged the Saudi Arabian embassy to bankroll its Islamic campus for $1.3 million, even telling the ambassador it could keep secret elements of the controversial deal,” namely, the chance to refashion Griffith’s Islamic Research Unit at the price of a few “extra noughts” on Saudi checks.

Of course the university says that the fulsome “noughts” would come with “no strings” attached. But how many “noughts” does it take to compromise the university’s research and create support for the militant Islamic ideology propagated by the Saudis?

The response by James Cook University’s Mervyn Bendle, a senior lecturer in the history of terrorism, applies to all universities bending over backwards for Saudi funding:

Australian universities using such funds threaten not only the traditional values of academic freedom and scholarship but also threaten our moderate Muslim communities.

Only an Academic Could Believe Something So Foolish


The University of Georgia has invited Justice Clarence Thomas to give the commencement address this year, but some of the faculty members are all hot and bothered about it. It isn’t just the usual Thomas Derangement Syndrome, causing professors and students on the far left to get frantic over an appearance by a jurist they’ve been trained to regard as an ignorant “race traitor.” That’s probably the subtext, but the specific claim is that by inviting Thomas, the university is “sending a message” that “matters of sexual harassment and gender equity are trivial.” Inside Higher Ed has the story.

This is astoundingly foolish. The university has invited Justice Thomas because he’s a native Georgian who has done a lot to assist the university’s law school. The officials responsible for bringing Thomas to the campus undoubtedly weren’t snickering about how they were “sending a message” to the women’s studies department.

Just another excuse to parade around in the “I’m hurt and offended and you’d better take notice” robes that many professors so love.

Columbia in 1968


The 40th anniversary of the student revolt at Columbia University is quietly passing. A friend who held a staff position at the time told me that when it finally came time for the students occupying Low Library to be read a letter demanding they leave, President Grayson Kirk had to ask the director of resident life and dining services to read it because he couldn’t find a professor willing to do it. Fear, probably, although my friend used a stronger word.

Georgetown ‘Blesses the Beasts’


Mal Kline notes the advance of animal defense at the law school:

Truly, ‘bless the beasts’ has taken on a whole new meaning in Catholic higher education. On April 8, the Environmental Law Society and the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund at Georgetown Law sponsored “a lunch to discuss the Experiential Animal Law Class at Georgetown—Fall ’08.”

Priorities, priorities.

Higher Education in NR Print


I’d just like to note that the May 5 print magazine (“Hot Air Rising”) contains Michael Novak’s “Remembering 1968.” Novak was a college professor at the time, and in the essay he documents how higher-education institutions contributed (and responded) to student radicalism.

Sowell on Subsidizing Tuition


Thomas Sowell has a column about the economics of college. His point boils down to this:

How many people would go to college if they had to pay the real cost of all the resources taken from other parts of the economy? Probably a lot fewer people.

Moreover, when paying their own money, there would probably not be nearly as many people parting with hard cash to study feel-good subjects with rap sessions instead of serious study.

In the absence of government intervention, though, rises the issue of subsidies from parents — this creates a glaringly obvious disparity based on wealth, with equally qualified rich and poor kids facing very different opportunities to pay for college. It seems unlikely that public policy makers will ever ignore this fact, whether or not they should.

One of the more interesting ideas I’ve seen is this one:

Harvard would simply collect (for the sake of argument) 1% of the student’s income for the thirty years after graduation.

This would force schools to focus on the most useful majors (or charge a higher percentage for lesser-earning degrees), force all students to bear the costs of their education, eliminate the need for government involvement, and level the playing field.

Clarence Thomas Invite


The University of Georgia has invited Clarence Thomas to deliver its commencement speech. Faculty members are mobilizing:

Some faculty members said they were outraged that the university would ask Thomas to speak when UGA has been facing criticism that administrators have been slow to address sexual harassment complaints filed against faculty members.

“What a slap in the face this is to everyone who has been working to bring to light the realities of sexual harassment, and to establish appropriate methods and offices for addressing this significant problem on our campus,” Chris Cuomo, director of UGA’s Institute for Women’s Studies, told The Red & Black student newspaper.

An Academic Bradley Goes to ...


Milwaukee, WI The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation announced today that one of four 2008 Bradley Prizes will be awarded to Alan Charles Kors.  Dr. Kors is a professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania and Chairman Emeritus of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).

Professor Kors will be presented the award during a ceremony to be held at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, June 4.  Each award carries a stipend of $250,000.

“The Bradley Foundation selected Alan Charles Kors not only for his original scholarship in European intellectual history, but also for his defense of free speech as well,” said Michael W. Grebe, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Bradley Foundation. “In these times, free-thinking students have had no greater champion than Dr. Kors.”

Dr. Kors was an early activist against “political correctness” on college campuses.  His efforts in this area led to the publication of his book The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on American Campuses in 1998.  Understanding that illiberal academic policies and practices threaten higher education, he co-founded the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), serving as its president and later chairman through 2005.


The selection was based on nominations solicited from more than 100 prominent individuals and chosen by a Selection Committee, which included: Pierre S. du Pont, Michael W. Grebe (Bradley Prizes Committee Chair), Charles Krauthammer, Heather Mac Donald, Thomas L. Rhodes, Dianne J. Sehler, Shelby Steele, David V. Uihlein, Jr. and George F. Will.

“Through the Bradley Prizes, we recognize individuals like Dr. Kors who have made outstanding contributions and we hope to encourage others to strive for excellence in their respective fields,” said Mr. Grebe.



Myrick Targets Radical Islam, Including on Campuses


Rep. Sue Myrick is telling the U.S., loud and clear, to “wake up” and stop permitting radical elements of Islam to infiltrate America’s basic institutions, including higher education.

The Charlotte Republican recently released a list of ten items, which includes a call to cancel scholarship student visa program with Saudi Arabia until they reform their textbooks, which she says proselytize hatred and violence against non-Muslims.

This call may be eclipsed by her bold demand this week for President Jimmy Carter’s passport to be revoked because he met with Hamas, a Palestinian group that the U.S. government states supports terrorism. But Myrick deserves praise for her plan, including her rare stand against militant Islamic propaganda in U.S. classrooms.

Weep, at UK Student’s Testimony


Lockstep dictating of what can be taught about jihadism in Britain is going from bad to very much worse. Note particularly, in Melanie Phillips’s broader treatment of the issue, the following student’s assessment:

We have also been told to read only books which they approve (unofficially in one of the seminars), something I found ominous. Passing this module is key to my obtaining a degree, and I will shortly find myself in the unpleasant situation [in an exam] of having to write what I know they want to read, rather than what I actually think … moreover I am certain that should I use any sources which they regard as unacceptable (although they have included a token number of these on their reading list), my work will almost certainly be marked more critically than that of someone who simply agrees with their beliefs.

It’s debatable which academic establishment in the West is most beyond the pale when it comes to a healthy sense of survival. But the UK, depressingly, is in line for first place.


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