Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

See-No-Bias Bloomberg


Recently I remarked on a report that greatly exaggerated the casualties in Iraq. Because it was issued weeks before the 2006 election, it was labeled a “political hit” by the Wall Street Journal.

According to the New York Sun, the report was written by professors at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, to which the mayor of New York has donated $200 million.


Mayor Bloomberg, it seems, could care less about getting to the truth about this shamefully partisan “scholarship” and, as a major donor funding what amounts to propaganda, washes his hands of any responsibility for it.


He says professors at the school “are just some of the great, honest academics, the most talented academics around. They will do their studies and you will have to talk to them.” In any case, he hedges, universities don’t ask their donors “to vet studies.” Claiming ignorance of what the professors wrote – despite readily available press accounts – he deems “it would be totally inappropriate for me to criticize.”

This kind of willful blindness in leaders and philanthropists is pernicious, particularly when a crucial foreign policy matter is at issue. The public deserves better.

Student Thrilled to Spy for Islamists


Of course one can’t judge whether the following account by Atlanta terrorism defendant Syed Haris Ahmed is true or not. But his recent testimony to counterterrorist agents could shed light on the mentality of youth who turn to radicalism and, in the process, abet terrorism. Ahmed said he felt

it would be “thrilling” to be a spy for “people over there” … Ahmed later admitted that the “people over there” were “brothers” overseas whose goal was to fight Muslim oppressors everywhere. Ahmed, then a 21-year-old Georgia Tech student, initially minimized his actions to the agents. “I was being childish,” he said. “I was dumb” … [he] stands indicted … of conspiring to provide material support to terrorists. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)


Columbia’s Imperial Reach


The abuse of eminent domain in New York State gives new meaning to the designation “Empire State.” As the New York Sun notes, “Virtual empires benefiting private interests — secured through government force — are springing up especially across New York City,” notably, at Columbia University, which “seeks land that rightfully belongs to its West Harlem neighbors so it can expand its campus.”

La Sapienza (or “Wisdom”) University Censors the Pope


More than 60 professors signed a letter to the campus’s leadership saying that Pope Benedict XVI’s forthcoming appearance would be an insult to scientists and the “secular” nature of the institution, and students commenced “anti-cleric week.”

The protest had to do primarily with the church’s position today on stem-cell research, evolution, and genetic engineering – regarding which “LSU” faculty do not tolerate opposing views.

After the Pope declined to appear, university students showed up at his audience, shouting “Freedom!” (New York Post, “Students rally ‘round pope,” January 17)

The Pope had intended to address the role of popes and universities, no doubt to include one of his main themes, as stated in The Wall Street Journal, “that European civilization derives from the rapprochement between Greek philosophy and religious belief.” It is a duty of a pope, he has written, to “’maintain high the sensibility for the truth, to always invite reason to put itself anew at the service of the search for the true, the good, for God.’” (Editorial, “Papal Inquisition,” January 17)


U.S. Catholic colleges should immediately offer the pope a forum in which to elaborate on this message.

A “Green” Teach-In


This IHE story discusses a planned “teach-in” on January 31 on campuses. The subject will be the environment and the organizers say they want to go beyond “preaching to the choir” and get far more students involved.

Naturally, this “teaching” will be one-sided. Don’t expect any doubts about our date with doom unless mankind drastically changes its ways.

I wonder what would happen if some students insisted on showing The Great Global Warming Swindle?

Would the “teach-in” professors refuse to allow their propagandizing to be disrupted by any dissent?


Diversity Versus Free Speech


This illuminating article about the attempt to create a regime of free speech at DePaul University should not be missed.

Here’s a taste:

Manley and Cho told us our Principles were fundamentally invalid because we lacked a diverse racial make-up in membership. Isn¹t it important to note the ideological diversity on this Task Force? ³No,² Manley said, and pointing to the back of his hand added, ³it is about this: skin color.² Cho then highlighted words and phrases in the Principles she considered to be ³hegemonic.² Hegemonic phrases allegedly exclude the marginalized and oppressed. Among the highlighted phrases were: ³free speech and expression,² ³exercise of reason,² ³competing arguments,² and ³immeasurably enriched by exposure to differing points of view.² According to Cho, free speech should provide ³an environment that encourages enfranchising the disenfranchised² and discontinues ³the practice of exclusion and marginalization.² According to Cho, ³hegemonic free speech² (her term) does the opposite. If this is the first time you¹ve ever encountered the phrase ³hegemonic free speech,² don¹t assume you¹re alone in that experience.

Read the whole thing to find out how far DePaul (and many other universities) have gone into the pit of quicksand that is the diversity agenda.

“Jena Six” Doesn’t Add Up


Charlotte Allen writes a devastating piece on the “Jena Six” episode, in which the placing of nooses under a tree at a Louisiana high school was linked to the beating by six blacks of a white student.  It was subsequently charged by outraged civil rights activists that the punishment meted out to the white students who placed the nooses was negligible, while the black students were severely prosecuted.  It was also believed that the beating was somehow in retaliation for the insult represented by the nooses.  Allen handles all these details but more importantly shows how the whole tale as reported and sensationalized in the press was really a “narrative” pieced together by Alan Bean, a white Baptist minister who heads an organization called Friends of Justice.   “Nearly all the symbolic themes–hate crimes, Jim Crow justice, rogue prosecution, and the ghosts of the Old South that were supposed to be alive and well in Jena–that attached themselves to the Jena Six case as the months rolled by can be traced to the work” of this man, reports Allen.  Bean’s ”narrative” was of course fortified by the participation of racial provocateurs such as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, and was amplified by the full array of racial fictions that operate in our country today, and were so conspicuous in the persecution of the Duke lacrosse players.

One might add to the story that the judgements in the case of Donald Washington, the black United States Attorney for Central Louisiana, though infuriating to black and white liberals who wanted to relive the glory days of the civil rights movement, can now be seen as solid and plausibly based on the evidence — the nooses under the tree were believable as just a prank in bad taste and not a deliberate hate crime, there was no black protest of the nooses, there was no connection between the nooses and the beating of the white student by the six blacks.  But this clarity did not come soon enough to prevent the unbelievably arrogant and condescending and inappropriate lecture delivered by Congressman Keith Ellison to Washington when the latter appeared at a congressional committee hearing, aired on C-Span some time ago.

Keith denounced Washington for forgetting that Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement were not about Washington’s being able to have his good job and an SUV and stuff like that, and hectored him about how he had somehow betrayed the civil rights movement and his race.  That’s how a black man is treated who does his job like a professional and doesn’t serve the agenda as seen by his “betters.”  Shame.   

Dept. of Wow



American universities aren’t the only places where politically incorrect speakers are silenced nowadays. This week in Rome, of all places, Pope Benedict XVI found himself censored by scholars, of all people, at one of Europe’s most prestigious universities.

On Tuesday the pontiff canceled a speech scheduled for today at Sapienza University of Rome in the wake of a threat by students and 67 faculty members to disrupt his appearance. The scholars argued that it was inappropriate for a religious figure to speak at their university.

Up and Away


Despite the yeoman efforts of George Leef and Richard Vedder, demand for college keeps rising:

Applications to selective colleges and universities are reaching new heights this year, promising another season of high rejection rates and dashed hopes for many more students.

More on Stanley Fish


I question everything Stanley Fish says because he likes to be of the devil’s party, as Blake said of Milton, more or less.  We want the arts and humanities to be taught because we want to give the best that has been thought and said in our civilization and culture to our young people.  Their lives will be the richer for it and they will understand themselves as part of a great tradition and a great civilization, and also be poised to understand other cultures as well.  Many times I have spoken to people with little education who recalled fondly the play by Shakespeare, the verses by Milton, the rhythmic rhyming poem of Longfellow’s, or the quirky lines of Dickinson that they read in school.  Or the reproductions of great paintings they were shown, or the classic songs they sang in assembly.  It was clear that even the little bit that they had received was precious to them.  We should do all we can to teach the arts and humanities in both lower and higher education.  The arts and humanities have been discredited largely due to the kind of criticism to which they have been subject, in which Fish and his fellow postmodernists have made them appear meaningless.  

Intellectuals’ Hopes Deflated


The Edge asked scientists and other prominent intellectuals “What have you changed your mind about? Why?” – only to discover that when they do change their mind about lofty matters, their new outlook often is more lugubrious.

For example, Simon Baron-Cohen, an autism researcher at Cambridge University no longer views absolute equality among people as a leading concept. Classicist James O’Donnell lost faith in ancient Romans when he learned more about the foibles of emperors. (Wall Street Journal)

I won’t find myself among those who, perhaps feeling pangs of pity for these disillusioned intellectuals, respond, “so sorry for your loss.” Instead, these survey results strike me as showing that intellectuals are not exempted from having to grow up and face facts like everyone else.

‘God and Globalization’


…is a remarkable project from the Center of Theological Inquiry at Princeton. It is remarkable in its receptivity to the role free-market capitalism has played in raising millions of people out of poverty as well as to its pursuit of a “public philosophy …that would rise above prevailing orthodoxies and create a universal ethos.” (George Melloan, “Faith Without Borders,” The Wall Street Journal, January 11)

Update on the Fight Against Libel Tourism


Bruce Kesler reports on the recent “Rally for Freedom of Speech” to support a strengthened law in New York State, as in many other states, to protect writers from international libel tourism. For more background, you may access prior posts here. The intrepid Rachel Ehrenfeld is leading the charge, and the movement is gaining steam. (Democracy Project)

In Defense of Maj. Coughlin


Andrew G. Bostom is rallying support to save the career of Major Stephen Coughlin, a Pentagon analyst who has been fired for, as Bill Gertz writes in his “Inside the Ring” column (1/11/08), his politically incorrect but “hard-to-refute views on the relationship between Islamic law and Islamist jihad doctrine.”

Coughlin put forth his arguments in his thesis, To Our Great Detriment: Ignoring What Extremists Say About Jihad, which was accepted recently by the National Defense Intelligence College, and made available online (here). Bostom summarizes Coughlin’s work here.

Diana West warns that the firing of Coughlin “brings the military’s woefully belated education on jihad to a halt” and makes it all too “clear that the Pentagon is more concerned with political correctness than protecting the nation.”

As Bostom says, there is some hope that the Pentagon will come to its senses and ensure that Coughlin retains his job. Indeed, Fred Lucas of Cybercast News Service reports today that Rep. Sue Myrick (R-N.C.), co-chair of the bi-partisan House Anti-Terrorism Caucus is seeking to find out why Coughlin was fired.  

Regulating Speech on Campus


It’s not easy to do without running afoul of the First Amendment. Recently, Winston-Salem State University announced a new “free speech zone” policy and immediately took so much criticism that the policy is now being reviewed. In the Pope Center’s Clarion Call this week, Jay Schalin writes about the controversy.

In 2005, FIRE did a study of the degree to which the UNC schools infringe upon the First Amendment rights of students, faculty members, or others who want to speak on public property. The study concluded that most of the campuses had at least one policy that either clearly or arguably would not withstand judicial scrutiny.

Molly Broad to Head Up American Council on Education


Molly C. Broad, former president of the University of North Carolina system has been chosen to head up ACE, IHE reports.

My view of Molly Broad is that she’s good at cheerleading for higher ed — that is, squeezing as much money out of taxpayers as possible for it — but not much interested in changes that would make it a better societal value. In 2000, she pushed hard for a large bond package in North Carolina that initially was loaded with some really dubious things more in the nature of political moola than educational necessities. Most of them were eventually taken out under pressure in the General Assembly.

Broad put together a high-powered coalition to push for the bond proposal and she pulled out all the stops, even though there was no organized opposition. (I was among the few people who publicly expressed any doubt as to the need for the large expansion of the UNC system.) Here is an anecdote from the campaign.

In October, the famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma was scheduled to play a recital in Chapel Hill. I bought two tickets and took my older son, then 10. At 8:00, when we were expecting to see Yo-Yo Ma, instead Molly Broad and some other UNC bigwig walked out on stage. They spent 15 minutes or so giving a perky talk about how crucial it was that the bond package be passed. The audience, which included a lot of kids, wanted music, not a campaign talk. Very tacky.

‘Diversity’ Diverting from History


Robert Holland describes the further erosion of the discipline in Texas, where

academics have prepared a set of college readiness standards for the high-school curriculum that emphasize “diverse human perspectives and experiences” while omitting pivotal events and heroic movers and shakers…

The academics who drafted the standards up for adoption by the state’s Higher Education Coordinating Board on Jan. 24 boasted that their approach was consistent with that of other states and national organizations. About that much they are right. Multiculturalism is weakening the study of U.S. history in many school systems. (Washington Times)

The Cole-CAIR Pas de Deux


Juan Cole, a University of Michigan history professor, is scheduled to speak at a CAIR-Florida fundraising event in March. Cinnamon Stillwell calls Cole and CAIR (The Council on American Islamic Relations) “two peas in a pod. Both act as apologists (and in the case of CAIR, incubators) for radical Islam and consistently paint the United States and Israel as the bad guys in the struggle therewith.” (Campus Watch)

More on the Genealogy of Islamism


Here is a Chronicle blog by Evan Goldstein on James Gelvin’s comparison of the al-Qaeda threat to anarchism:

… an influential line of argument [has] emerged that interpret[s] the jihadists as the latest incarnation of the sort of totalitarian menace that previously appeared on the world stage in the guise of German and Italian fascism. Such an analysis was perhaps advanced most cogently by Paul Berman in his 2003 book Terror and Liberalism …

there is another current of thought articulated in a recent address by James L. Gelvin, a historian at the University of California at Los Angeles, in which he compares al Qaeda-type jihadism to anarchism. (Conversely, Gelvin dismisses “Islamo fascism” as “polemic masquerading as analysis.”) According to Gelvin, jihadism and anarchism claim to be defensive in nature, they both target the structures of power they perceive as being responsible for their subjugation, and they both define themselves as ideal “counter-communities.”

Walter Laqueur agrees with Gelvin that the controversial term “Islamo fascism” has little analytical value, but he does not find too much worth in Gelvin’s anarchist comparison either. “Anarchists were not ‘nihilists,’” Keep reading this post . . .

Pope May ‘Prune’ Lapsing Campuses


The movement to reform secularizing Catholic campuses may get help from Pope Benedict XVI when he addresses college presidents at the Catholic University of America this spring. Patrick J. Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, reports that the Vatican may be preparing to:

require public identification of theologians who receive the mandatum

insist on the distinction between genuine theology and “religious studies” courses

repeat its call for periodic self-assessment of Catholic identity according to measurable “benchmarks”

and reassert the authority of the bishops over matters of Catholic identity and doctrine, thus encouraging the bishops to “prune” wayward colleges when necessary by declaring them no longer Catholic. (


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