Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

Pro-Mason Party


What a basketball team can do for a school:

Cinderellas, listen up. On the eve of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, which starts this week, officials from George Mason University have released a report describing the effect of their miraculous Final Four run two years ago.

What George Mason officials found is promising news for the next team hoping to wear the glass slipper. In 2006, the Patriots knocked off three superpowers—Michigan State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the University of Connecticut—before finally falling in the national semifinals.

In the two years since, the university has seen a 22-percent jump in freshman applications and a 350-percent rise in admissions inquiries. While officials of the public institution in Northern Virginia cannot attribute the increases solely to that one magical season, they believe the tournament played a significant part.

“We were already on the rise,” said Robert E. Baker, an associate professor of sport management who studied the tournament’s effects. “This just pushed the fast-forward button.”



You now have no excuse for not seeing the anti-PC film Indoctrinate U.


Take Her Off the Women’s Studies Syllabus!


Author Doris Lessing in WSJ:

This was not at all what many thought “The Golden Notebook” to be about. The book’s exploration of a woman’s inner life, feelings of hostility and resentment, and unhappy experiences with men came off as inflammatory and “man-hating.” Critics initially savaged the book. Feminists, however, embraced it, much to Ms. Lessing’s annoyance. “I hated the 1960s feminists,” she says. “They were dogmatists, you see. In comes ideology, and out goes common sense. This is my experience of life.”

Ms. Lessing points to a current dogma: political correctness. “It’s a continuation of the old Communist Party. It is! The same words, the same attitudes . . . ‘the Communist Party has made a decision and this is the line.’” At first, she says, political correctness had a good beginning; she remembers saying that the language that we use is sexist, racist and so on. But then, “that became a dogma. Because we love a dogma, you know, we really do. We can never just let things develop easily from an idea, it seems to me there’s always a group of fanatics who grasp it and make it a dogma.”

Title IX and Historically Black Colleges


In America women outnumber men in college attendance, but in the black community the disproportion is particularly striking. As a new article in The Root notes, historically black colleges have “enrollment ratios approaching 65 percent female to 35 percent male.”

From that, the piece makes an interesting argument:

Adding sports teams would seem to be one common sense solution to draw more male student applications.

Unfortunately, schools that want to start a men’s team will run into a virtual roadblock in the federal law known as Title IX.

In 2002, Howard University cut men’s wrestling and baseball while adding women’s bowling in order to avoid possible Title IX problems. Notwithstanding, more than five years later, Howard is still not in compliance with the strict proportionality standard, and according to the most recent data would have to cut an additional 82 athletes from men’s program’s — that’s more than 40 percent of all the male athletes currently attending the university.

I’m not sure male athletes are the group you’d want to target to increase male enrollment overall, but this does show the perversions Title IX creates by assuming men and women to be equal in athletic interest.

Also, I found this striking, and it deserves more coverage:

In 2005 a model survey option was offered in the U.S. Department of Education’s clarification for Title IX compliance. Unfortunately, to date, the NCAA is actively discouraging universities from using surveys to measure the interest of their students.

Is the NCAA simply cowing to political correctness, or is there actually some incentive for it to take this ludicrous position? I think it’s stupid for the government to design a survey and use it to tell colleges how many male athletic programs they’re allowed to have, but any survey will reflect reality a lot more than the current “women like sports as much as men, honest!” approach does.

Stop the Presses! New Diversity Study!


There’s a story today in Inside Higher Ed about a new study of, yawn, campus diversity: I’m sure the diversiphiles will find much to like, but it really provides the most ammunition to those of us who believe that the desire for a politically correct racial and ethnic mix does not justify admissions discrimination on the basis of skin color and national origin.

In particular, the study’s author acknowledges that (A) there is a “surprising lack of evidence” that such diversity is a compelling interest (which is what’s needed, as a legal matter, to justify racial and ethnic discrimination), that (B) even this study provides only “soft” evidence of diversity benefits, and that (C) in any event, there’s plenty of diversity and its benefits at UC Berkeley – which, for over a decade, has not been using admission preferences and at which blacks and Hispanics (the groups for whom preferences are typically awarded) are underrepresented, to use the fashionable term.

On this last point, I’d hazard a guess that the interracial dialogue is better at a school where everyone knows that everyone else got in according to the same standards. I remain unconvinced, by the way, that the kind of bull-session interactions the study focuses on are so valuable and predictable – and that what is learned is so otherwise unobtainable – as to justify anything as ugly as racial discrimination.


Should Juvenile Offenders Get Free Tuition?


Over on The Corner, David Freddoso discusses a Maryland bill, focusing on the incentive question – the well-behaved pay more, so why behave?

Another problem is that this is, plain and simple, a stupid way to help the juvenile-delinquent population (in Maryland, each year there are “450 kids who are in group homes, youth centers, and residential treatment homes”). It feeds on the ridiculous notion that postsecondary education is the best thing for everyone.

There’s a negative correlation between IQ and criminality, meaning that most of these young offenders aren’t college material. Something like 30 percent of juvenile delinquents have outright learning disabilities. Others have attention, psychological, or (obviously) behavior problems that likewise rule out college. In addition, the bill applies only to “committed” juveniles, a group whose few university-capable members probably haven’t been able to keep up on their secondary-school work. I can’t find high-school graduation rates for this population, but I’d guess they’re nothing to get optimistic about.

We all love stories of redemption, the American Dream, etc., but it’s delusional to use these ideals as a factual basis for public policy. Of course, it’s worth helping whatever bright and hard-working kids get into bad trouble, but they make up a very small proportion of the problem, and they’re most able to help themselves – they can probably write very touching scholarship-application essays.

For the vast majority it would be better to focus on employment, substance abuse, basic good behavior, and sometimes high school education.

Mine that Vein: Analytic, Predictive Failure in Academe


Despite years of signs of an internecine showdown in Palestine, writes Johathan Schanzer, only a handful of U.S. professors of Middle Eastern studies honestly examined the PLO-terrorist Hamas conflict that led to the latter’s taking of control – in a region fraught with the potential for a horrific regional conflict with worldwide consequences.

Schanzer’s assessment stands out as a model for exposing this and other kinds of cavernous gaps in academics’ oversight of life-and-death topics.

Spring Break, Autumn Brier


Four Mexican cities – Cancun, Acapulco, Baja, and Puerto Vallarta – are on’s list of Top Ten Spring Break Hot Spots for 2008. But students weighing a trip to these locales are getting some contrary counsel. An anti-illegal immigration coalition is urging American college students to cancel plans to vacation in Mexico. AUHTM – Americans United to Halt Tourism in Mexico – is attempting to pressure the Mexican government to reign in illegal immigration. It has called for a broad boycott of U.S. citizens visiting Mexico “whether for a night of partying, a day stop on an ocean cruise, a weekend of off-roading, a week of studying archeological ruins, or two weeks at a luxury resort.”

One of AUHTM’s promoters, Prof. Stuart Hurlbert, a biologist at San Diego State University, wrote, “Imagine 10,000 fewer students going to Mexico during the break than had been planning on doing so.” Students who are not moved by AUHTM’s agenda face other dissuasion. In February, John Browning, the chief of police in San Diego, wrote a letter to students at San Diego State University, warning them not to go to Mexico for spring break this year. His warning was not about illegal immigration or boycotting Mexico, but avoiding Mexican cities where increased violence has taken place.

Chief Browning’s strictures and AUHTM’s coaxing must overcome students’ strong attraction for southern Mexico, which presents an opportunity to see the remains of a civilization more ruined than their own, and to experience life where the alcohol is cheap and the drinking age 18.

Soft-Peddling Sharia at Harvard


Andrew Bostom minces no words in reminding us that the Islamic system of law, Shariah, is incompatible with universal rights and in labeling Harvard the “hub” of Sharia in the U.S., as illustrated by a pro-Shariah lecture recently given on the campus followed by a professor’s pro-Shariah response.

Bostom is rightly fed up with the pernicious distortion of facts regarding Islam on campuses, which he piquantly denounces:

I have lost all patience with such fraudulent “presentations,” and their utterly ridiculous academic patina—they are pernicious. Mr [Khaled Abou] El Fadl [the speaker], and his equally deficient Harvard host Roy Mottahedeh [the tenured professor who allied himself with the speaker's views] want nothing less than for our liberal democracy to willfully impose upon itself the Ur-Fascistic totalitarianism of Sharia. Only the most empty-headed buffoons, their minds melted away by ceaselessly and uncritically imbibing the cultural relativism that prevails in our “academy,” and “public discourse,” would even begin to entertain El Fadl’s premise. And yet there he was, at Harvard, no less, espousing such hideous ideas along with the dangerously ludicrous Mr. Mottahedeh, who endorsed them.

Can the Pope Catholicize Catholic Universities?


During his U.S. visit next month, Pope Benedict XVI will likely urge the presidents of Catholic campuses to assert and strengthen their institutions’ Catholic identity by reviving the teaching of Catholic theology and ethics. Some parties are predicting that the Pope’s exhortation will be to little avail, since the Vatican only directly controls Catholic University.

I queried Patrick Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, on this matter. He has responded in some depth, placing the issue in historical and hierarchical perspective:

Keep reading this post . . .

Replay of Anti-Jewish 1930s Saga


Recent anti-Israel actions by the student union of the London School of Economics and the Oxford Union debating society conjure up one word by Amnon Rubenstein: Munich.

Re: Finn’s Memoir


Andrew J. Coulson of the Cato Institute writes, in response to my post on Checker Finn’s recent memoir, that the disappointing results of school choice programs cannot be blamed on the failure of the market-based approach to education in general because “U.S. charter schools and voucher programs deviate from free markets in crucial ways, and so tell us very little about the merits of real market reform.”

Well, of course! And necessarily so. A government-mandated and -funded right to public education for every child up to age 16 – regardless of ability, disability, behavior, background, knowledge of English, previous education history, year after year, decade after decade, some 50 million children at at time – could never be completely open to a fully free market. The only way that could happen would be to get rid of mandated and taxpayer-supported public education altogether. And still the results would not be pretty, because the market cannot ensure quality.

Survival-of-the-fittest type competition without standards will not necessarily produce good results. I recently got cable television, and while there is some good on it, a lot of it is unbelievably bad and appallingly degraded and perverse. I have to say that what is on PBS may be left-oriented, but is generally of better quality and not routinely corrosive.

The good private schools did not come about through competition, but through people who had a vision of true education and upheld it against all the forces of degradation. I simply don’t have the faith in unfettered markets that Mr. Coulson has. Without some force upholding standards, free markets will go to the lowest common denominator. (We already have charter schools dedicated to Aztec identity and social justice and such.)

Mr. Coulson attributes my remarks to a disappointed neoconservative outlook. Well, I was trying to point to what I think has been the mistake of neoconservatism in recent years – putting procedure over substance, both in spreading democracy without regard to cultural foundations (and by the by also promoting a concept of America as completely without cultural formation and consisting only of universal ideas applicable to all humanity everywhere right now), and in promoting choice in education without advancing substantive curricula and pedagogy.

Re: Anti-Recruitment Zealotry


In the interest of mid-week levity, even The Daily Show has satirized an idiotic Code Pink protest against a Marine recruiting station in Berkeley, California.

Anti-Recruitment Zealotry on Campuses


The recent bombing of the Times Square military recruitment center is of a piece with similar acts of violence and vandalism that have taken place on various campuses, including Seattle Central Community College, City College in New York, Bronx Community College, UC Santa Cruz, and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The goons perpetrating these deeds are endangering innocent lives and our national security.

Michelle Malkin renders a great service by tracking the anti-recruitment movement and dressing down campus administrators and others for their often flaccid response to the anti-war zealotry.

Something Good About an Ivy League President


James Wright, president of Dartmouth College and a former Marine, has helped set up counseling services at military hospitals for wounded veterans, as reported in the Christian Science Monitor. The services are meant to facilitate entry into college for the vets, particularly when they are unable to return to their former work.
Wright was “simultaneously troubled and inspired” by the sacrifices of our men during the Battle of Fallujah in November 2004. He began to visit military hospitals, where the soldiers would ask him for advice. This prompted him to work with the American Council on Education to raise money. Now services are operative at several military hospitals and have helped over 100 former servicemen to go to college or take courses.

Getting the Goods on Teachers Unions


The Center for Union Facts has launched a hard hitting, long needed campaign against the unions’ destructive role in education. See the center’s dynamite website,, which features, inter alia, a contest to root out the nation’s ten worst union-protected teachers.

But is Low Spending a Problem?


Writing in the Rocky Mountain News, outgoing University of Colorado president Hank Brown observes that higher ed in Colorado has had to make do with less and less state support. “In the early 1970s,” he writes, “higher education was 27 percent of the state budget; today, it is down to near 12 percent and falling.” Then he asks, “What is the answer?”

First, we should ask if there is a problem. Is there the slightest bit of evidence that students in Colorado public universities are learning less than they used to? Less than students in other states where governmental funding is more generous? I’m not aware of any.

It seems apparent that state universities in Colorado have managed to adapt to an atmosphere less rich in government funds, much as people who live high in the Andes adapt to an atmosphere less rich in oxygen.

What Colorado has going for it is the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, which restrains the propensity of politicians to ladle money around capriciously. I suggest that people in other states ought to be demanding similar legislation. In fact, TABOR has been proposed in other states, but defeated by the big spending lobbies.

Why Do Grad Students Often Teach the Most Important Courses?


This week’s Pope Center Clarion Call is by Mark Bauerlein, who laments that in the crucial area of freshman composition, the courses are often taught by grad students rather than by veteran professors.

Sadly, this situation is not limited just to composition. At research universities, students often find that whatever the academic field, introductory courses are frequently taught not by the most knowledgeable and experienced faculty members, but by the least. This is a wasteful, foolish situation that stems from the fact, as Thomas Sowell puts it, that American education is producer-dominated rather than consumer-dominated.

Re: Cheap Degrees


I completely agree, and I said basically the same thing of another of Contreras’s ideas.

In fact, on this article, I’ll go farther: The current degree system already does what he wants it to. When you fill out an application or make a resume, you don’t just say “I have a bachelor’s degree.” You say, “I have a bachelor’s degree from X in field Y,” and if asked, you can even provide your GPA. With those three data points, five minutes on Google will tell an employer what your educational credentials are worth.

Of course, additional, individual testing helps too, when it’s legal.

Are Cheap Degrees a Problem for Government?


In an essay in the current Chronicle Review, Alan Contreras argues that government should step in to deal with what he perceives to be the problem that educational credentials are all called “degrees,” but certainly don’t all represent the same degree of learning. He says, “let us label them accurately so that consumers, educators, and employers will know exactly what they are.”

I can’t agree that this calls for governent action, or is even much of a problem.

If skill and knowledge really matters to an employer, it can and assuredly will make sure that it looks past the credential to assess the individual’s actual capabilities. If skill and knowledge acquired in formal education don’t really matter – and there are plenty of mundane jobs where the college-degree requirement is simply a screening device – then it might actually be a good thing that competent people can readily and inexpensively acquire the paper credentials to get a shot at job opportunities they’d otherwise be unable to pursue.

Furthermore, I don’t think there is any way of saying “what exactly they are.” There can be a world of difference in the skills and knowledge of two graduates of the same school. One student bears down hard to master difficult academic fields and another coasts through on a raft of easy courses, learning little or nothing. The only way of telling those degree apart is to carefully evaluate the people behind them. I submit that for the most part, decision-makers are pretty good at doing so.


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