Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

Re: Economic Outlook


I’m glad that Allison brought up the question of the employment outlook for college grads. It doesn’t look good for those who hope for “good” jobs. This year the overflow of college grads into “high school” jobs that don’t really call for any academic accomplishments will be greater than it usually is.

It’s most enlightening to go to the Bureau of Labor Statistics site, where you can find out about the educational credentials of people who are in a vast array of jobs. You’ll find there plenty of evidence that even in our “information economy,” a lot of graduates end up doing work that you could train most 10th graders to do. Just a small sample: 55 percent of the people working in employment recruiting and placement have BA degrees, as do 45 percent of insurance sales people, 58 percent of probation officers, 33 percent of dental hygienists, 54 percent of fashion designers, 38 percent of court reporters, 47 percent of fitness and aerobics instructors, 32 percent of massage therapists, and 42 percent of purchasing agents.

The politicians who are pushing for more “access” to higher ed are in effect saying, “Let’s spend more money to process more young people through college so they can compete with high school grads for work that requires only on-the-job training.”

Speaking Truth to Political Correctness


Today’s Wall Street Journal features a review by John Leo of History Lesson by Mary Lefkowitz. The book describes her criticism of false claims by “Afrocentric” writers and the trouble she encountered for having done so.

Leo concludes, “The academy has still not firmly answered the central question of ‘History Lesson’: What should the university do when a professor insists on teaching demonstrable untruths? No prattle about academic freedom, please.”


Philosophy and Chicks


A letter from reader Michael Filozov, an adjunct professor at Niagara Community College:

Candace, I read that link you posted from the NYT on philosophy majors. Interesting, but — respectfully, I must disagree. Philosophy is NOT good for getting chicks!!

Don’t ask me how I know. Let’s just say that trying to discuss Aristotle (“The male is by nature superior, the female inferior” — Politics, Book I) with girls in a college bar does NOT work. And we haven’t even mentioned Aristotle’s discussion of the “natural slave” yet.When I was an undergraduate at Geneseo some of the best parties I ever went to were in a long, narrow, low-ceilinged apartment (dubbed “the submarine”) populated with very ugly, male, philosophy majors. Very few women were present, but beer-fueled discussions of Cartesian epistemology and Marxian false consciousness were as good as any graduate seminar.

Now, as far as the quote you listed about philosophy being good for getting girls… it seems they dig the French stuff, like the Rousseauian-crying-in-the-wilderness, and of course Sartre, who was doing it with ‘ole Simone. But the “tortured soul” thing is more of a French affectation, and, as you well, know, the French have damn near made an entire culture out of pretentious affectation…

REAL philosophers, like Socrates (the very paradigm!)  Aristotle, Aquinas, Locke, Hobbes and Nietzsche (of course this is true of Nietzsche) were all bachelors, probably schizoids, and were certainly more worried about being exiled or executed than about women…

Quod erat demonstrandum…

BTW while not exactly a work of philosophy, Jefferson’s letter to Maria Cosway (“Dialogue Between My Head and My Heart”) can certainly pique the interest of women… (again… don’t ask me how I know) — if you’ve never read it, it’s a must.

Russert Calls WFB “Singular Force in American Life” at Notre Dame


SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Tim Russert, Washington bureau chief of NBC News and moderator of Meet the Press, described the late William F. Buckley Jr. as an “extraordinary, complicated, intelligent, singular force in American life” on Monday in a lecture at the University of Notre Dame honoring late New York Times reporter Walter W. “Red” Smith. Russert added “I think that when we find that, we should salute it.”

Russert shared personal anecdotes of Buckley during the audience’s question period following his address on American journalism in front of over 500 students and faculty members.

“It was extraordinary talking to him,” said Russert, recalling that he sat near Buckley at past social functions, including the annual Al Smith Dinner in New York.

At the dinner table, Buckley “was someone who did not engage in long conversation,” said Russert, before noting that the late National Review editor “was the quintessential observer” who could “come back and just say something that was so spot on.”

Russert also addressed what he sees as a common simplification of Buckley’s work and thought.

“I realized the suggestion that, well, he was a conservative writer,” intoned Russert, “he was far more than that.”

“He was someone who was a conservative and proud of it,” said Russert, “who understood the rhythms and changes in history — that there was a race worth running in 1964 with Barry Goldwater that would probably be unsuccessful but it would lay the groundwork for a successive conservative takeover of the Republican Party, and the White House, to wit Ronald Reagan — and he was right.”

Russert, who worked on the staff of late Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan after finishing law school, fondly recalled Buckley’s sometimes intimidating intellect.

“One of the greatest nights of my life was to go to dinner with Pat Moynihan and Bill Buckley,” said Russert, smiling. “I said nothing,” he quickly added to the delight of the crowd of students and faculty.

Russert found the friendship between the late Buckley and Moynihan demonstrative of a void in modern politics.

“Here they were, one liberal, one conservative,” said Russert. “Two roaring intellectuals who had this deep and abiding and grudging respect for one another — often competitive — trying to show one another up with a better recall of a certain academic citation.”

“They really, truly were good friends,” said Russert. “They had a level of respect that was something to behold. I think men of that caliber, that quality, are so lacking in our public discourse.”

Here’s the video:

Rigorous Multicultural Courses Promised at Columbia


In the wake of a student hunger strike to protest the weakness of multicultural offerings in the campus’s core curriculum, the university is dedicating $50 million to the creation of major culture classes that can count toward core credit.

Its new director, a professor of Western civilization, Roosevelt Montas, says he “embodies diversity.” Auspiciously, he is also portrayed as one of the Core’s most fervent defenders.

“I don’t represent the tradition of dead white males that the Core is associated with,” Montas states. “I think it helps to undo or challenge the idea that this is a white curriculum.”

This is reassuring, as long as students are in fact steeped in the Western canon. Even greatly improved courses on non-Western cultures cannot make up for such a grounding.


Future of Feminism Follow-up


There is some small, somewhat snide amount of blogging at The Crimson on the Future and Legacy of Feminism conference, sponsored by Harvard professor Harvey Mansfield’s Program on Constitutional Government, which Kathryn mentioned below.

The best parts are a Women’s Studies academic who sputters that conference attendees are “Neanderthals” and complains of Mansfield: “He invited, instead of academic speakers, he invited a preponderance of journalists. These people are a bit superficial, they cater to an unprofessional public.” Heaven forbid. 

But then there is Mansfield, who in his closing remarks noted “I think we’ve shown Harvard that it is possible to have a conference where people disagree.” That really is a remarkable achievement.

The Economic Outlook for the Class of 2008


The Wall Street Journal paints a bleak picture of job opportunities for the class of 2008:

As the credit crunch roils financial markets and the U.S. economy sputters, new college graduates are plunging into the rockiest job market in recent years.

The bleaker picture is in stark contrast with last year, when colleges and employers reported robust hiring, and students in finance, accounting and other hot fields were choosing among numerous offers. Now, companies that just a few months ago were planning substantial increases in entry-level hiring have scaled back their plans as economic conditions have worsened. In turbulent areas such as financial services, some firms are slashing the number of fresh graduates they intend to employ, and students are curtailing expectations of finding their ideal position.

The article also has an up-to-date chart of average starting salary broken down by major (hint: tell your kids to be engineers).

CMC Professor to Resign as Holocaust Center Director


Over at the Claremont Independent, Elise Viebeck has an update on the professor/stolen art/Nazi controversy I posted about last month:

Claremont McKenna College history professor Jonathan Petropoulos will resign as director of the Center for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide and Human Rights effective summer 2008. Dean of Faculty Gregory Hess made the announcement to CMC professors at a meeting on April 8.

The announcement comes amid controversy surrounding an effort by Petropoulos to restitute a Nazi-looted painting to its rightful owner in which his associate, a Munich art dealer, has been investigated for blackmail. The painting was looted in 1938 from the childhood home of Gisela Bermann-Fischer, now a resident of Zurich, shortly after she and her family escaped the Nazi Anschluss.

More here.

Romantic Benefits for Philosophy Majors


There’s more to the intellectual and pragmatic pluses of pursuing the examined life, as students are increasingly doing.

Jenna Schaal-O’Connor, a 20-year-old sophomore, says “many male philosophy majors [are] interesting and sensitive.”
Flashback to the Sartean days: “That whole deep existential torment,” O’Connor observed perceptively. “It’s good for getting girlfriends.”

Text Messages


The political problem with America’s textbooks isn’t that they’re too conservative, or that a few of them have a couple of sentences that arguably slant rightward. The problem is that they’re too liberal. For more information, spend some time with the American Textbook Council.

Another Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week II Underway


IFAW II, as FrontPage indicates, aims at educating the public about the threat of radical Islam, and will take place this week at more than 100 campuses. Congresswoman Sue Myrick is one of the featured speakers.

The theme of this year’s drive, Declaration Against Genocide, urges student and Muslim organizations to condemn terrorist groups, and “repudiate the saying of the prophet Mohammed that redemption will only come when Muslims fight Jews and kill them, when the rocks and trees cry out Oh Muslim there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him.”

How can you get more counter-cultural than asking students, as IFAW II does, to espouse hoary concepts such as:

  • The right of all people to live in freedom and dignity
  • The freedom of the individual conscience: to change religions or have no religion at all
  • The equal dignity of women and men
  • The right of all people to live free from violence, intimidation, and coercion

Sadly, a hundred Muslim Student Associations, when asked, failed to sign the Declaration.

FrontPage tells why they have not done so and what befell last year’s supporters of IFAW. The details are frightening.

May the movement fructify.

Re: College-Textbook Plot


I caught that post and story as well, and actually used the textbook in high school. To be fair, they do seem to have found some pretty slanted statements, most importantly this one (which was fixed in a subsequent edition but is still in many schools):

The book shows a picture of kids praying in front of a Virginia high school and states, “The Supreme Court will not let this happen inside a public school.” . . . The textbook goes on to state that the court has ruled as “unconstitutional every effort to have any form of prayer in public schools, even if it is nonsectarian, voluntary or limited to reading a passage of the Bible.”

It’s a dangerous and common misconception that prayer-in-school court rulings apply to all prayer in school. In fact, they only apply to prayer that is funded or advanced by the school or its officials, or public prayer during official events (which the court takes to be school-endorsed, even when it’s delivered by students). Students are free to pray on their own without disrupting others. A textbook that encourages this error, whether out of political agenda or simple incompetence, deserves a second look.

Also this:

The authors wrote that the Supreme Court decision [declaring sodomy a constitutional right] had a “benefit” and a “cost.” The benefit, it said, was to strike down a rarely enforced law that could probably not be passed today, while the cost was to “create the possibility that the court, and not Congress or state legislatures, might decide whether same-sex marriages were legal.”

Why in the world would a textbook declare a controversial decision to have “benefits” and “costs,” rather than “effects”? Presuming the AP paraphrased it fairly, this is poor writing and sloppy editing.

For what it’s worth, as I recall, my fellow AP Government students got 4s and 5s on the exam, so the book can’t be all that bad. And I really doubt the same level of media attention would find its way to a similar example of liberal bias.

A Star Goes Out?


From Young America’s Foundation:

Herndon, VA – Liberal administrators at the University of St. Thomas, a Catholic university and private college in Minnesota, censored the appearance of prominent pro-life and black speaker Star Parker. On April 21, 2008, Star—the best-selling author of numerous books—was slated to speak on campus about the devastating impact abortion has on minority communities. UST Vice President of Student Affairs Jane Canney nixed the idea entirely, citing “concerns” that the lecture was being underwritten by Young America’s Foundation.

Full press release here.

Our Textbook Plot is Discovered!


An emailer writes in:

This item from yesterday’s CHE afternoon update: A textbook by “two well-known conservatives” is found to have “bias” because it makes mild and perfectly reasonable remarks about global warming and school prayer.  And one of those “conservatives,” DiIulio?  He’s a lifelong Democrat, though he did happen to work briefly in the current administration.

The other guy is James Q. Wilson — you know, the JQW of right-wing-hackery fame.

Add It Up


Charlotte Allen asks: Why do textbooks cost so much?

Affirmative Action and Abu Ghraib


We have long documented the disastrous effects affirmative action has had on higher education, but the deleterious extremes to which making a god of diversity can lead us go far beyond academia.  Heather Mac Donald writes in an NRO article:

Gender imperatives undoubtedly played a role in this debacle of leadership [at Abu Ghraib], ensuring that Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski was left in charge long after her inability to maintain order had become glaringly apparent. As the Abu Ghraib independent-review panel, led by former defense secretary James Schlesinger, delicately put it in its August 2004 report: Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez’s “attempt to mentor Karpinski, though well-intentioned, was insufficient in a combat zone in the midst of a serous and growing insurgency.”

But Ricardo Sanchez might have figured that the quickest way to jeopardize your standing in the U.S. Army is to question a woman’s leadership ability. Better to allow gross mistreatment of prisoners and blackening of America’s name than to go that route. And now we are scarred with the Abu Ghraib episode and the ammunition it has given to America-haters and the support it lends, however erroneously, to those who want to outlaw all types of stress-interrogation as torture, as Mac Donald details.

Columbia AWOL from Conference on Its ’30s Nazi Ties


None of the university’s administrators deigned to participate in the recent event, organized by the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies.

University of Oklahoma professor Stephen H. Norwood described how then-Columbia president Nicholas Murray Butler welcomed Nazi Germany’s ambassador, Hans Luther, to the campus in December 1933, sought amicable relations with Nazi-controlled German universities in the mid-’30s, and punished some Columbia students and faculty members who criticized his position towards the Nazis.

“It’s sad and ironic,” commented a conference organizer, “that Columbia was willing to send its representatives to a celebration at a Nazi-controlled university in 1936, but was not willing to send a representative to a meeting of historians who were discussing Columbia’s relations with Nazi Germany.”

Brady Campaign to Demonstrate at Virginia Tech Anniversary


The Roanoke Times reports:

Gun control advocates planning to protest April 16 on Virginia Tech’s Drillfield said today that they hope to reach a compromise with the university that will allow them to protest without interfering with remembrance events.

Peter Hamm, spokesman for the Brady Campaign to Stop Gun Violence, said the group has been working with Tech students on the protest. It would involve a 32-person “lie in” at noon April 16, the one-year anniversary of shootings on the campus that resulted in the deaths of 32 people plus the shooter.

The Brady Campaign sent out a media advisory last Thursday announcing the event, planned in conjunction with the gun control group Hamm said the gun-control groups had not discussed the event with the university, but he was initially discouraged by what he saw as a hard-line stance by the university against issuing a permit. He said this morning that the event would go ahead as scheduled — permit or no permit. But by this afternoon, he was optimistic that Tech students involved in the protest would be able to reach a compromise with the administration. He said the goal of the protesters was never to interfere with memorial events.

Permit or no permit? Seriously?

By all means, a tragedy like this should prompt discussion about relevant policies — I’ve taken part in this discussion myself. But memorial services for innocent victims are no place for political actvism of any kind.

Hat tip: David Hardy’s Of Arms and the Law

Affirmative Action But One Goal of ‘Transformative Education’ Brainwashing


The N.A.S.’s Tom Wood has produced yet another masterful segment, “The Marriage of Affirmative Action and Transformative Education,” in his series about indoctrination in residence life, “How Many Delawares?” Wood’s research indicates that the U.D. “ResLife” scandal (which I update at Pajamas Media) exemplifies a much wider and insidious phenomenon. The totalitarian-style indoctrination and coercion of students at that campus is part of a national, progressivist, socially destructive “movement” intended, via behavior-modification techniques, to make “politically and culturally radical positions seem normal to campus life and uncontroversial.”

As summarized in the “Editor’s Introduction” to Wood’s latest essay:

The ideological force-feeding of undergraduate students that characterized the University of Delaware’s residential life program had numerous components: radical environmentalism, an attempt to stigmatize traditional moral sentiments, foregrounding questions of sexual orientation, efforts to promote deep distrust of American society, promotion of identity politics, and an aggressive focus on racial grievance. As we looked at other colleges and universities, we found this combination of themes to be widespread, but organized in a variety of ways. Residence halls aren’t the only venue. Many campuses have a contingent of administrators whose job seems to be to turn late adolescent social anxieties into radical alienation from American society … .

Outright Indoctrination at the University of Delaware


PBCer Candace de Russy takes a look at an “under-review” program, over at Pajamas Media:

Program materials for this ideological reeducation, which have been removed from the U.D. website, included race/gender/class/sexual orientation “trainer” Shakti Butler’s definition of a racist as “all white people living in the United States” and her edict that “people of color cannot be racists.” An intrusive rating instrument, “Discovery Wheel,” was used to prompt students to admit to their putative racism, and they were instructed that the U.S. is as “an oppressive society” whose “structures of oppression” it is their “duty” to eliminate.

“The treatment” was also mandatory and punitive. Students were required to attend training sessions, group floor meetings, and one-on-one meetings with their Resident Advisers (RAs), who, having been coached in interrogating vulnerable freshmen, plied them with invasive questions. Thereafter students were rated on a scale of “best” to “worst,” according to how they complied with the prescribed campus orthodoxy. For example, students were grilled about when they first discovered their sexual identity. One resistant student who replied, “That is none of your damn business,” was written up as having one of the “wors[t] one-on-one” sessions, and identified by name and room number.

We’ll be keeping tabs on the review. 


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