Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

What Good Does It Do To Teach Entrepreneurship?


Today’s Wall Street Journal has an interesting article by Carl Schramm, “Teaching Entrepreneurship Gets an Incomplete.” Schramm notes that while entrepreneurship courses have been proliferating on our college campuses, we don’t have much evidence that they work — that is, help students actually do the tough work of starting a business.

I’m in the skeptical camp. Perhaps a few students who go through such courses get the motivation and tools to become entrepreneurs, but my guess is that for most students, learning about entrepreneurship is as far as they go. It’s like a music course about great pianists — very intriguing, but by itself that won’t get anyone to actually learn how to play the piano.

Now, learning about entrepreneurship could be valuable in its own right. Far better that students should study about the process of going from an idea to building a firm to take advantage of that idea than studying much of the politicized stuff on offer.

It’s worth thinking about our history here. America used to be bursting with entrepreneurs. (My grandfather was one of them.) New businesses sprouted up all over the country. Today, there aren’t nearly as many entrepreneurs and that’s largely because local, state, and the federal government have put up so many obstacles to business startups. If we want more entrepreneurship, we’ll get much further by dismantling those obstacles than by luring some students into college courses about entrepreneurship.

Spoiled Children at Rutgers


Town and gown skirmishes in 13th century England between townies and university students and dons at Cambridge and Oxford engendered student protest and lawlessness. But such warfare receded  as the issues resolved themselves over the centuries. Until the 1960s, that is, when baby boomers swelled campus populations and the Soviets were dedicated to “active measures,” tasking the KGB to infiltrate and influence the West, with emphasis on  the “main adversary,” the U.S.A.
Targets included newspapers and broadcast networks, film studios, labor unions, left-leaning political parties—and colleges. Professors with communist backgrounds or predilections worked with students from “red diaper” backgrounds to undermine American values.  The plan, as told in detail  by David Horowitz in his book Radical Son, included dropping the term Communist as a  erm of recruitment (this was in light of the so-called Khrushchev Letter of 1956 denouncing Stalin and publicizing the horrors of his reign). They coined the term the New Left and set to work organizing students against Western values.
Otherwise quiet campuses served as sites for massive protests against the U.S. involvement in Vietnam, a Soviet client state. Led by New Left outside organizers, spoiled suburban college students grew their hair, smoked pot, and recited anti-American slogans out of the Comintern handbook. It wasn’t the 60’s Generation, it was the Duped Generation slavishly led by the nose by left-wing agitators.

The residue of “student power” still exists, although it has had nothing truthful or useful to say or contribute, only anti-American platitudes.
So it runs on at the mouth about issues it knows little about or to advance the cause of America’s adversaries. Recent examples were the “demonstrations” at Rutgers to remove Condoleezza Rice as commencement speaker because she served President  George W. Bush, the so-called war criminal who invaded Iraq.

This penchant to manufacture ex post facto war tribunals is a residue from the heady protests of the Cold War. The facts, moral or material, are ignored in the drive to stain U.S. leaders who do not toe the old Kremlin line, even with the USSR defunct and Communism discredited. It’s the zeitgeist that matters. And colleges endure these immature and nonsensical irruptions as if “students” really do possess wisdom worth heeding.
They never have, and certainly do not today. Yet administrators allow the children to play their little self-important games, even when it harms the school and insults prominent people—like Condoleezza Rice.


The Bubble Is Popping


Rich Vedder presents some strong evidence about the popping (or at least, deflating) of the college bubble in this essay.

After you’ve read the essay, read the comment posted, some of which I copy here:

The bubble popped at my mid-sized public university in Illinois several years ago. In spring 2007, FTE campus enrollment was 9800. This spring, it’s below 7800. A major part of the problem is cost. In 2002, the cost to attend here (tuition, fees, room, board) was $9900. This year, it’s $21,000. The administration has been honest about one thing: We kept raising tuition at ridiculous rates because many students had the cost covered by government grants and state funding. Now, funding is being reduced, and students are having to pay more of the cost out of their own pockets. Guess what? More and more people can’t afford it! The impact is obvious – retiring faculty are not being replaced, three major dorms have closed since 2007, some dining halls have closed or have reduced service and hours, area rental properties that used to be filled are now sitting vacant, and there’s a widespread sense of despair among the faculty and staff.

Gentlemen Know Best


If Joe Biden wants to do something about sexual assault on campus, why doesn’t he encourage young men to behave like gentlemen? A gentleman would not force himself on a woman and would certainly not take advantage of a woman who lacks full possession of her faculties of judgment.

Much of the “assault” on today’s campuses arises from predatory behavior on the part of males when confronted with drugged or inebriated females. Biden seems like an old-fashioned type of guy, recalling that on the mean streets he came from, if a man struck a woman, “you had the job to kick the living crap out of him.” A much better old-fashioned directive would be to help young men develop good character.

Biden might recall such movies as “The Philadelphia Story” in which James Stewart vociferously denies having taken advantage of a tipsy Katherine Hepburn because, as he says, there are RULES about that kind of thing. And “gentleman” here does not mean some dandified aristocrat pinching snuff. On the contrary, the Stewart character is a rather ornery, resentful, hard-scrabble, low-level journalist. But observing those rules was something men at all levels once held to as a matter of honor and was a mark of genuine equality among them. As opposed to the phony “equality” that arises when traditional rules are scotched, when young men and women are thrown together and prompted to have sex, and when progressives are presented with the opportunity to fashion draconian mandates to control other people’s lives and give meaning to their own.

From The “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up” Department


Unbeknownst to the general public, freshman composition has become the point of attack by all those who would like to tear down the superstructure of our civilization.  In the 1990s we had the attack by the maternalists on the thesis statement for its “phallologocentrism” (i.e., logic).  They argued that the five-paragraph essay replicated the thinking of the patriarchy, so should be replaced. 

Patriarchal monogamous heterosexual marriage is being challenged by single-sexed, but now polyamorous relationships. One newly minted Ph.D. is on her way to spreading this thinking as a professor as she celebrates the successful defense of her dissertation on “The Rhetoric and Composition of Polyamory,” or the love of everything, including all of nature.  For those of us not up on the latest in composition studies, she builds on previous scholarship:

As a quick review, I offer this definition by ecosexualities scholar Serena Anderlini-D’Onofrio: “Polyamory is a state of being, an awareness, and/or a lifestyle that involves mutually acknowledged, simultaneous relationships of a romantic and/or sexual nature between more than two persons. . . . Polyamorous people erode the myth that being part of a closed dyad is the only authentic form of love” (2004, p. 165)

I didn’t know that one could be an “ecosexualities scholar.”

This all fits into the race-class-gender attack on Western civilization in this way:

While the language of polyamory is a language of equality,  monormativity is that of hierarchy where relationships become a strategic game, where the goal is to become the “best” or “only” or “most” in a partner’s eyes, to the exclusion of all others.

Researchers in rhetoric and composition can analyze these new words that the polyamorous are creating, asking how this rhetoric is changing the cultural paradigm for relating.

Now I’d like to discuss the glue that holds my whole project together: “relationship literacy.” Relationship literacy refers to the reflexive, critical fluency with which learners can understand, analyze, discuss, and reflect upon their own as well as others’ relationship styles, choices, practices, values, and ethics. People who have made a commitment to acquire relationship literacy understand more clearly than most how relationships, particularly romantic or intimate relationships, are constrained or supported by cultural norms.



College Completion and Math Ability


The better students are at math, the more likely it is that they’ll be able to complete a college degree.

GMU economics professor Bryan Caplan shows the evidence for that conclusion in this post.

Black Studies Prof. Threatens to Send Conservative Students Home ‘In a Body Bag’


There’s your everyday run-of-the-mill liberal bias on campus.

Then there’s this:

SANTA BARBARA – Alice Gilbert can vividly recall her first day of class last fall in a black studies course called “The Obama Phenomenon” offered by Professor Otis Madison at UC Santa Barbara.

That’s because before his introductory lecture was over, the scholar “warned Ted Cruz-supporting ‘teabaggers’ to get the hell out of his classroom before he sent them home to their mother in a body bag”…

Austin Yack reports all the details today in his feature story at The College Fix.

The Dept. of Ed. Names Names: ‘Transparency’ or Political Pressure?


Hey, I like pillorying colleges and universities for screwing up as much as the next guy. But there’s a wrong way and a right way to do it. 

In the supposed name of “transparency,” the Department of Education has released the names of 55 colleges and professional schools that are “under investigation for possible violations of federal law over the handling of sexual violence and harassment complaints.” 

Unfortunately, that’s where the transparency ends. If you want to know more about what those 55 schools are accused of doing, you are simply out of luck. The Department of Education is not releasing any more information about what’s going on at those schools—not even redacted versions that would protect the identity of complainants and the accused while also giving the public a sense of what has allegedly gone wrong at these schools.

As Brooklyn College Professor KC Johnson asks in Minding the Campus

How far will the administration go in the name of transparency? The AP headline, for instance, is “55 US schools face federal sex assault probes.” All that means, of course, is that members of a loosely-coordinated group of activists have filed complaints with OCR. But to an average reader, the headline seems jarring–”sexual assaults,” a commonly understood term, apparently uninvestigated, on 55 campuses. But how many of these 55 colleges actually define “sexual assault” in the way virtually every state’s criminal code does? Or do some or all of these 55 schools define “sexual assault” to include things like a single, drunken grope at a party, or even (such as Yale) as “economic abuse”?

Unless you can get the colleges to tell you what they’re being accused of (unlikely, since they live in fear of the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights), this is all the Department is ever going to tell you:

The Department will not disclose any case-specific facts or details about the institutions under investigation. The list includes investigations opened because of complaints received by OCR and those initiated by OCR as compliance reviews. When an investigation concludes, the Department will disclose, upon request, whether OCR has entered into a resolution agreement to address compliance concerns at a particular campus or found insufficient evidence of a Title IX violation there.

So you get to hear about the accusation, and that’s it until there is a “resolution agreement,” which could be years down the road. One could be forgiven for wondering if this supposed nod towards “transparency” is actually just a way to put political pressure on the universities named to settle with OCR.

Condoleezza Rice Won’t Speak at Rutgers


NRO broke the news this morning that Condoleezza Rice has withdrawn as a commencement speaker at Rutgers University. Before this news, Rutgers’ decision to keep her as a speaker in spite of opposition was cheering. But, as the NRO dispatch indicates, Robert Barchi, the president of Rutgers, didn’t sound so much in favor of free speech this past week as he did earlier when the protest first occurred. It appears that Rice got the hint and graciously bowed out.

A “Gaffe” Worth Thinking About


Every now and then, a politician will slip up and say something that’s true or based in reality. And like clockwork, pundits and demagogues clamorously enter the fray, demanding apologies while assuring their  followers that the politician’s “gaffe” is both spurious and disgraceful, and that two multiplied by two does not equal four. 

A similar set of events unfolded recently after South Carolina’s Republican comptroller, Richard Eckstrom, commented on the Palmetto State’s sole public historically black university, South Carolina State University. 

SC State is struggling financially. Its regional accrediting body placed it on warning because of governance and debt issues. The situation became so dire that school officials made a $13.6 million loan request to Governor Nikki Haley and the state’s Budget and Control Board to help pay off bills accruing since last October.

During a recent meeting regarding the loan request (the board ended up granting SC State $6 million; the remaining $7.6 million will have to come from legislative appropriations), some board members suggested that the school could bring in additional funds by more vigorously collecting student debt. Eckstrom, the state’s chief accountant, disagreed, saying that SC State caters to a “student body that doesn’t have the ability to bail the university out. These are not kids coming from wealthy parents. These are kids that are going there because they can’t get into these other schools.” 

The SC State supporters in attendance groaned with disapproval. But Eckstrom’s statement, though perhaps rough around the edges, wasn’t incorrect. It’s no secret that students attending non-elite HBCUs tend to come from low-income households and lack the academic preparation possessed by students at other universities. At any rate, Eckstrom’s most controversial comment came later in the meeting: 

I’m committed to the university because it’s a university, not because it’s a historically black university. I think the sooner this state gets away from the concept of talking about historically black universities is a step forward for this state…We no longer talk about historically white universities. I think we need to deal with the issues of funding needs at South Carolina State because it’s an institution of higher learning.

The state’s legislative black caucus called on Eckstrom to apologize. One Democratic legislator called the comments “uninformed, ignorant, and embarrassing.” Even U.S. Representative Jim Clyburn, who graduated from SC State, weighed in. Clyburn said that, during his youth, the university was the only one in South Carolina that accepted blacks. 

Clyburn is right; there was certainly a time when many blacks were shut out of higher education and when HBCUs provided the only path to a college education. But that time has long passed. Today, more than 90 percent of black students attend non-HBCUs - a sign that such students are being accepted in large numbers by “predominantly white” institutions.

Freedom of association, not state-sanctioned racial isolation, should be the name of the game. If a private college wants to serve one segment of the population, that’s fine. But it’s high time that we rethink the legitimacy of publicly supported HBCUs. Increasingly, such institutions seem both anachronistic and unnecessary. 

Colleges Often Waste Student “Health Fees”


The Pope Center’s Jenna Ashley Robinson writes about the ways in which colleges often waste the “health fees” that students have to pay in this essay.

Those fees collect into significant piles of money. Activists are always drawn to such piles and often successfully scheme to make off with some of the money for their pet projects, like “social justice” advocacy. It would be much better to allow students to buy whatever health-related good and services they want or need and not have to pay for stuff they don’t want.

The Latest in Texas


Kevin J. Williamson brings us up to date on Texas legislators’ efforts to impeach a regent who was investigating University of Texas favoritism. His article, “Lone Star Lunacy,” is on the main NRO site.

Why Does Schuette Matter?


For those of us who don’t follow closely the political and judicial battles over affirmative action, the import of the latest Supreme Court decision, in Schuette vs. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action By Any Means Necessary, may be unclear. The decision upheld Michigan’s ban on racial preferences in public university admissions as well as government employment and contracting.

In an article today, Roger Clegg, president of the Center for Equal Opportunity, places the case in the context of Americans’ changing views about race and racial identity. He writes:

Racial preferences have never been popular among most Americans, and in fact they are becoming less and less popular.  

One reason is the simple passage of time. Many people felt viscerally that some sort of affirmative action made sense 50 or 60 years ago, when Jim Crow had been the law until quite recently and the beneficiaries of preferences would be individuals who had actually been the victims of ugly and overt discrimination. Now, however, university admissions preferences go to kids who were born in 1996 and who live in a country with an African-American president.  

Schuette is one more sign of the recognition that racial preferences are out of date.

Real Accountability Means Accountability for Everyone


It isn’t every day that the Washington Post comes out against a policy of the Obama administration, but in a recent editorial, it did just that.

The Department of Education has proposed new rules that would tighten “gainful employment” regulations on for-profit colleges, cutting off financial aid to programs whose graduates have an unacceptably high ratio of student debt relative to their incomes. Insofar as such a rule brings more accountability to higher ed by focusing on student outcomes, it is coming from the right place. But as the Post notes, these new regulations will be very selectively applied.

Administration officials deny they are singling out for-profit institutions, arguing that the measures tying student debt and loan default to financial aid would apply to all career-training programs. Blurred in that claim is that degree programs in the for-profit sector would have to meet the stringent new standards but degree programs offered by public and private nonprofit institutions would not.

This double standard makes little sense. While for-profits certainly have their failings, there is no reason that non-profit institutions should be unfairly shielded from accountability. Given that for-profit, career-oriented programs often serve low-income individuals who desperately need skills and credentials, this targeting of for-profits seems even more wrongheaded.

The key to real accountability is across-the-board transparency. Every type of college ought to make key measures of success, audited by a third-party, publicly available in order to receive federal funds. Selective enforcement won’t do.

The Decline of College Debate Is Symbolic


Recently, a college debate team won the national cross exam championship and how it managed to do so is shocking. The team ignored the stated resolution and other rules of debate. I used to judge debate (high school and college) and in those days it was sufficient for the negative team merely to point out that the affirmative’s case was irrelevant to the resolution to win. That was one of the rules of debate, meant to keep a “level playing field” for both teams. Alas, the rule of law in debate is deteriorating just as the rule of law generally is.

In this piece, Peter Schiff discusses the that debate round and draws out some wider implications.

Not the Rape Your Mother Feared


The latest 20 pages of federal regulations telling universities how they must address the problem of assault vividly illustrate how off-base college education has become. These new rules follow a successful effort by the Obama administration to relax the standard of guilt in sexual assault cases—making it easier to charge young men with rape, ruining their educational careers and damaging their future, often because of actions that reflect heavy drinking and stupid decisions by both parties.

Yes, there are rapes on campuses, but a very large percentage of them are “date rape” (or, rather “acquaintance rape,” since few people on campus go out on dates anymore).

The universities may not be handling sexual assault cases with finesse. But the real problem with this regulatory and litigious approach to acquaintance rape is what it does to the parties involved.

Harry Lewis was dean of Harvard College when two assault cases led to the dismissal of two male students. After that, more sexual assault cases turned up (seven in one school year, compared to thirteen over the previous ten years).

In his book Excellence Without a Soul, he reports that in typical cases, “the only witnesses were the principals and more often than not, both had been drinking and had only vague or partial recollections of the events. In the process of adjudicating the complaints, much of the arguing concerned not whether sex had taken place but how drunk the woman had been when it happened. “

In Lewis’s view, young people are being taught to accuse and litigate instead of to grow up. “In the 1970s, a movement began that was intended to empower and protect women and to bolster their independence,” he writes; “ now, it teaches them that in matters sexual, they cannot control what happens to them.”

But tell that to feminist groups, university women’s centers, and the federal government. They wouldn’t know what he is talking about. It’s all about victims—and, apparently, only women can be victims.

Pew’s Misleading Research -- Not Going to College Isn’t a Penalty


Lots of studies claiming that higher ed is a great investment merely imply that people who don’t go to college are missing out on a big boost in earnings, but a Pew study released in February actually says that those who don’t go are inflicting a penalty on themselves. I think that’s a completely mistaken conclusion and gives young people, especially those of marginal academic ability and interest, a terrible piece of advice. In my latest Forbes article, I explain that college credentials only appear to be increasing in value due to ever-increasing credential inflation.

Mission Creep or a Welcome Trend?


Community colleges in 22 states have been authorized to confer bachelor’s degrees. In Florida, for example, community colleges have granted more than 30,000 four-year degrees in just five years. This growing national trend has its critics. Such opponents – usually from four-year public universities - say that it represents mission creep on the part of community colleges seeking greater prestige. They argue that it creates unnecessary competition for universities and that quality concerns still need to be addressed. Related legislation in Colorado and Michigan reflects the sway of the four-year university systems: community colleges are allowed to offer degrees, but only in specific, pre-approved fields like culinary arts and dental hygiene. 

Proponents, however, argue that community colleges’ expanded mission helps students enter high-demand fields without the burden of four-year university tuition rates. They claim that it’s a common sense way to save taxpayer dollars. In today’s Pope Center feature, Harry Painter discusses a recent legislative request made by four North Carolina community college presidents. The presidents want the N.C. General Assembly to explore the possibility of allowing community colleges to grant “applied baccalaureate degrees” – degrees tied to the specific needs of regional employers – in fields such as paralegal studies, fire science, and digital media. 

Cases from other states indicate that if North Carolina eventually allows community college competition to take place, it will be limited and confined so as to not upset some of the state’s higher education-related special interests; the four college presidents’ narrowly tailored proposal certainly reflects that understanding. 

Blue Jeans, Bowdoin, and the Totalitarian Impulse


No independent thinking allowed in the groves of academe.  Read all about it in Peter Wood’s essay here.

Christian College that Canceled Charles Murray Digs in Heels


Azusa Pacific University came under intense scrutiny these week after it canceled a scheduled talk by Charles Murray of the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

Dominic Lynch of Loyola University of Chicago reached out to APU for his feature story this morning at The College Fix, hoping the university would offer further explanation for its decision to put the kibosh on the notorious Bell Curve Curmudgeon, Murray.

No dice.

APU officials are sticking to their original ridiculous story about how it is so very, very late in the semester, and therefore not possible to go forward with this talk (despite the fact that it was planned months in advance.)

“I can add that his visit fell the very last week of our semester when students are busy preparing for finals and graduation,” said university spokesperson Rachel White.

They are just so darn busy at Azusa.

White’s statement was very similar to the explanation offered up by the president of APU earlier this week, “Given the lateness of the semester and the full record of Dr. Murray’s scholarship, I realized we needed more time to prepare for a visit and postponed Wednesday’s conversation.”

They’ve got no time, understand?

Has nothing to do with Murray’s politics. Absolutely nothing.


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