Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

College Degrees and Real Wages


Regarding the study mentioned below, I think it’s important to point out two things about “real wages.” One, there’s some real debate about whether they measure what they’re claimed to, especially considering people seem to be consuming more with their lower “real wages.” Also:

Wages are only part of total compensation — and increasing proportions of that total compensation is taken in the form of fringe benefits. Total compensation has been going up while average real wages have been going down.

Even the decline of real wages has to be taken with a grain of salt. Real wages are calculated by taking the money wages and adjusting for changes in the consumer price index . . . an inaccurate consumer price index is part of the reason for the appearance of declining real wages.

Two, it’s misleading to point out that college-degree wages are declining without mentioning that lower-educated Americans have been seeing the same phenomenon for 30+ years.

In fact, using data between 1973 and 2005, an Economic Policy Institute analysis found: High-school dropouts, and to a lesser degree high-school graduates who didn’t go to college, made less in 2005 than they had in 1973. “Some college” folks saw their wages decline until 1995, but by 2005 they were making more than they had in 1973. The “college” and “advanced degree” groups saw their wages rise nonstop between 1979 and 2005. If graduates’ real wages are going down, it’s a recent phenomenon.

As of 2005, college graduates made about two-and-a-half times what high-school dropouts did. Advanced-degree holders made more than twice what high-school graduates who didn’t attend college did. Some of this isn’t due to the education itself; if you shut down all the colleges, no doubt the high-IQ students who’d have attended them would still make more than their competitors in the marketplace. And when an increasing number of graduates end up taking jobs that don’t even require the degrees, there’s a waste of resources. But I do think there’s a lot of truth to the argument that education is the best way to get ahead, at least for those with the ability to see it through.

Advice to Students Aspiring to National Security Careers


From Prof. Jeffrey Breinholt:

[Students] should not assume their ideas have ever been considered by American counterterrorism officials, and . . . not be surprised when they find they are onto something unique and cutting-edge. After all, the Pentagon found that the expertise of one of the Doobie Brothers warranted awarding him a consulting contract . . . [And] Stephen Landman is a second year law student at the Catholic University of America . . . [his] research paper on bank liability for transferring money to terrorists . . . was so good that I encouraged him to let me publish it on the website of the International Assessment and Strategy Center.


How Many Workers Really Need College Degrees?


A new study shows that, contrary to the common wisdom, bachelor’s degrees don’t necessarily add value in the workplace. Notably:

• Fewer than 40 percent of the nation’s largest and fastest-growing job classifications require four-year diplomas.

• Fewer than 30 percent of all jobs demand them – a figure that has barely budged in the last two decades.

• Real wages for bachelor’s-degree holders are falling.

Evidence of this reality is popping up even the education sector. For example, Indian River County School District hired an audio-visual coordinator just out of high school for $15,000 more than a beginning teacher with a master’s degree.

Shoring Up Academic Freedom


Robert M. O’Neil examines actions that might be taken to safeguard academic freedom. Among his more judicious recommendations:

  • Accrediting associations should focus more sharply and critically on violations of academic freedom.
  • Administrators should be more willing to impose sanctions, including dismissal, on faculty members who abuse the special privileges and responsibilities of the professoriate.
  • Renewed faculty commitment to professional ethics and responsibility could help increase public acceptance of the concept of academic freedom.
  • The academic left should be more willing to come together with colleagues on the academic right who share academic-freedom concerns.

Indoctrination at BCC


Mike Rosen lambastes the president of Bergen Community College, R. Jeremiah Ryan, for requiring students and staff to sign a politically correct “Code of Responsibility” — or be subjected to in-campus judicial hearings and possible discipline.

Rosen deconstructs Ryan’s coercive “model of collegiality,” adding, “You’d think the model was the ‘re-education camps’ into which ‘reactionary’ South Vietnamese were herded by the victorious North after the war.”

Hat tip: writer Jack Kemp.


The United [Current Term for ‘Black’] College Fund


Shifting norms of political correctness have long been a source of worry for whites. Black? African-American? Person of color?

But a black-education group feels the effects too:

MORE than 35 years after its debut, the slogan for the United Negro College Fund, “A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Waste,” remains one of the most recognized in American advertising history.

The years, however, have not been as kind to the organization’s name, which has gradually become a source of alienation to the very people the group aims to serve. And while the fund is not prepared to drop the word “Negro” from its name, it plans to try to shift attention away from it.

A branding effort being introduced Thursday will seek to play down the full name and instead highlight the nonprofit’s initials, U.N.C.F. An updated logo will seek to communicate the changing direction of the group while putting renewed emphasis on the well-known slogan.

“Forty-plus years ago, when I started at Morehouse, I thought of myself as a Negro,” said Michael L. Lomax, U.N.C.F.’s president and chief executive, referring to the historically black college. “By the time I graduated in 1968, I was black. And then in the last 15 to 20 years I’ve become an African-American.”

One would think the fact that an organization that started in the “Negro” era is still around would cast a positive light on it, but I guess not.

Teach-In or Preach-In?


Last week was the nationwide “teach-in” about hobgoblins of environmentalism. The Pope Center’s Jenna Robinson attended some of it at Duke and writes about her experience here.

HEA Groans into Motion


The Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, stalled in Congress for many years, appears to be at last about to move. An extract from today’s Congress Daily PM:

The House today moved toward overwhelming bipartisan pproval of a five-year reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, which is designed to hold colleges more accountable for tuition hikes, streamline and bolster student loan programs, and crack down on sweetheart deals between lenders and schools. The way was cleared for debate and final passage of the bill when lawmakers voted 214-190 along party lines to approve a rule locking consideration of a slew of Republican amendments.

Those amendments would cut off aid to schools that ban military recruiters and would bar student aid to illegal immigrants. An amendment also would establish a “students’ bill of rights” to guarantee free speech on campuses.

The ‘Multiculturalism-to-Math Ratio’


City Journal has put together some data on education schools:

To determine just how unbalanced teacher preparation is at ed schools, we counted the number of course titles and descriptions that contained the words “multiculturalism,” “diversity,” “inclusion,” and variants thereof, and then compared those with the number that used variants of the word “math.” We then computed a “multiculturalism-to-math ratio”—a rough indicator of the relative importance of social goals to academic skills in ed schools.

Some schools slanted in favor of math, but most taught more about multiculturalism.

This is a useful undertaking, but it leaves some possibilities open. For one, teachers might learn how to instruct on math in classes that aren’t exclusive to math — classes without “math” in the title. In addition, some of the “diversity” classes might not be totally devoted to left-wing social goals; in a lot of areas, teachers have to deal with situations they’ve never seen before, and it’s not unreasonable for an education school to prepare them for it.

Bush and the Pending Higher Education Act


President Bush “strongly opposes” certain provisions connected to the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act under consideration by lawmakers. The White House argues, reports Kelly Field, that “the bill’s accreditation restrictions would ‘hamper the department’s ability to protect the integrity of the large federal investment in postsecondary education and to help students and parents make informed decisions about college.’” It also argues against a plan to provide more Pell Grant money to campuses that hold down costs, on grounds that student aid should not be contingent on college prices.

“While college affordability is a worthy goal,” states the president, “the administration opposes tuition price controls or any attempt to require the justification of pricing to the U.S. government instead of consumers, who are best able to decide such issues.’”

Teaching the Conflicts


The accountability movement has a way of uncovering things — and the absence of things. In the past year, major scandals having to do with student loans and study-abroad programs have rocked the higher-ed world. Both centered on conflicts of interest. And both uncovered higher ed’s failure to anticipate the inevitable — that when it comes to running the massive, complex institutions that are colleges and universities, conflicts of interest are going to arise as a matter of course. While it was shocking to learn that lenders and study-abroad providers were striking ethically compromised deals with schools, more disturbing still was the realization that many colleges and universities have failed to articulate clear policies and procedures on conflicts of interest.

That was the subject of a session at the recent annual meeting of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU). Beginning with a show of hands — most of the private college and university presidents in the room could confirm that their institutions have conflict-of-interest policies centered on individuals — the session leaders discovered that most also could not confirm that their schools had framed such policies for institutions themselves. The session leaders went on to urge the creation of such policies, and to block out how institutions might go about it.

Their suggestions were practical and on point. They included writing policies that are clear about how people should report their own and others’ potential conflicts of interest; ensuring that policies give precise, “real-world” examples of such conflicts; soliciting faculty input about how to frame conflict-of-interest policies; and, once the policies are written, publicizing them at all levels of the institution so that everyone is aware of them.

Keep reading this post . . .

Faust’s New Book: A Bore or a Blessing?


A pretty good indication of whether an academic’s book is worth reading, if its subject sounds sort of flaky, is to check who the publisher is.

So say you have a book called This Republic of Suffering, which advertises itself as a history of the Civil War told through the lens of death and dying and whose back-cover description ends on this note: “Were he alive today, This Republic of Suffering would compel Walt Whitman to abandon his certainty that the ‘real war will never get in the books.’”

Now this could be a really, really bad read, brim-full with jargon and dense prose, the type of thing for which the academy is justifiably ridiculed. Turn, please, to the inside cover. Does it say University of Indiana Press? Or, Knopf?

Drew Faust, the president of Harvard, had This Republic of Suffering published by the latter. Today, it received a fairly gushing review at the hands of the Washington Post, though like all things Drew Faust, probably including her publishing contract, that has more to do with her present office. In the words of Louis XIV (or at least Mel Brooks’ rendition of him): “It’s good to be the king.”

Anyways, I’m curious to read it; by all accounts, it is more accessible than her previous work, Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War, which according to Publishers Weekly:

[M]akes a major contribution to both Civil War historiography and women’s studies in this outstanding analysis of the impact of secession, invasion and conquest on Southern white women. Antebellum images based on helplessness and dependence were challenged as women assumed an increasing range of social and economic responsibilities. Their successes were, however, at best mixed, involving high levels of improvisation.

If This Republic of Suffering is an escape from the sweet nothings of gender history (“images of helplessness and dependence were challenged”?), then it is, prima facie, an accomplishment for Faust, the importance of whose academic career has thus far been delimited by and for gender, in the South, in the 1860s. If it aspires further, to be a book that ordinary people can pick up and read and get something from, even if their original motivation more concerned her status rather than the book’s, then perhaps Drew Faust is coming into her stride.

The Word is Getting Around


The word that higher education has been oversold, that is.

The most recent evidence is this article from a Florida paper, observing that it’s easy to find people who are among the “educated poor” — college degrees but low-paying jobs — and also, many blue-collar types have steady, well-paid work.

Play Action Fake


Here’s the story of a high-school football player who held a big NCAA-commitment extravaganza to announce where he plans to play college ball — and now it turns out that he apparently wasn’t recruited by any of the schools he discussed, including the one he supposedly chose. Weird, weird, weird.

More on Brandeis Hardball


Here is the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s letter to the Brandeis University trustees over the way in which the administration has handled the case of Prof. Donald Hindley. FIRE President Greg Lukianoff has a long summary of the case and the tradition of university actions in which it sits:

Does something seem oddly familiar about the case of Donald Hindley at Brandeis? As Torch readers well know, Donald Hindley is a professor who has served Brandeis for over 46 years and was found guilty of “racial harassment,” apparently for criticizing and explaining use of the word “[w**b***]” to deride Mexicans and other immigrants. I say “apparently” because, as Eugene Volokh so effectively has pointed out, Brandeis has not even been clear with Hindley what words got him in trouble. Still, all signs point to the use of the word “[w**b***],” which a single student apparently found so offensive that he or she filed a complaint, regardless of the context in which the term was used.

If the case seems to ring a bell, it should. Such tales of PC run wild have been with us in fiction for decades. The Hindley case reminds me of Philip Roth’s The Human Stain, in which a professor’s career is turned upside down after he refers to two students who did not show up for class as “spooks.” The professor, of course, meant “ghosts,” but when the two missing students turn out to be black, the incident ignites a firestorm of identity and personal politics. (The professor, it turns out, is actually a light-skinned black man himself who has hidden his race all of his life, adding a nice Rothian touch.)

Read the whole thing.



Watch a 14-minute video on the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and how it fights speech codes on campus. It’s produced by Evan Maloney, the guy behind Indoctrinate U.

Review of Kronman’s ‘Education’s End’


Professor Anthony Kronman’s recent book Education’s End is a worthy effort in the cause of restoring some sense of purpose in the college curriculum, but I think he weakens it by overstating his case.

My full review here.

San Francisco Chronicle: Anti-War Berkeley Goes Too Far


From an editorial:

What is the Berkeley City Council doing by endorsing statements denouncing these recruiters as “uninvited and unwelcome intruders” and reserving curb space for the convenience of weekly protesters?

Berkeley’s leaders have taken the worthy notion of political protest and shoved it over the cliff. While playing up arguments of free speech and organized protest, the council has loaded the deck with insulting language that denigrates the military and embarrasses the anti-war cause.

Finally, some sense.

A Kingly Proposal


If you read all the way to the penultimate paragraph in this article from today’s Inside Higher Ed, you’ll find a description of an excellent amendment that Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) is planning to propose for the Higher Education Act this week. The idea is to require federally funded colleges and universities to report (a) whether they award racial and ethnic admission preferences and, if so, (b) how they meet the limits placed on them by the Supreme Court’s decisions in the University of Michigan cases. Great idea: It’s hard enough to defend such discrimination, and it is completely indefensible that such discrimination take place secretly and illegally in federally funded programs.

Flypaper for Racial Prefies


BAMN’s erstwhile allies have decided the lawsuit against the state of Michigan is by no means necessary.

After Michigan voters passed the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative in November 2006, ending racial preferences, defenders of the old regime rushed to court with a series of lawsuits they hoped would block the law from taking effect. They were in for a surprise. The Washington-based Center for Individual Rights (CIR) decided to use the occasion to force the state’s universities to divulge eleven years of data on how racial preferences really work.

Now the NAACP and the ACLU are in a hurry to end the suit they helped to bring. But they face an obstacle. Their former ally, a radical advocacy group with the telling name, “By Any Mean Necessary” — BAMN — wants the suit to continue. During the run-up to the 2006 ballot measure, BAMN earned a murky reputation. It brought in thuggish teenagers to disrupt public meetings, threatened initiative supporters with violence, and played the Michigan court system like a pile of scratch tickets.

Keep reading this post . . .


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