The Elementary School of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill athletic scandals are the gifts that keep on giving for anybody interested in cleaning up corruption in college sports. Mary Willingham, an academic advisor who has worked with many athletes over the years, recently produced a study showing that many of the school’s athletes in the revenue-producing sports of football and men’s basketball read at an elementary school level.
There has been a steady stream of evidence that this was the case. In one incident, a former UNC football player got caught plagiarizing—from a web site for 11-year-olds. Now, Willingham has pretty much made it certain with her empirical report.
CNN has followed suit with a more general study of 21 schools that corroborates her findings. The studies completely sweep away the grand façade built to maintain the lie that all of the players on the collegiate playing fields or courts are actual students. Many of them cannot possibly benefit from instruction above the elementary or junior high school levels without years of intensive remediation. Their proper status is as professional athletes.
Roy Williams, UNC-Chapel Hill’s championship-winning basketball coach, has mounted a passionate defense of his players’ academic prowess. Nobody is falling for it, however. The studies present very powerful arguments against him in the form of facts.
How the College Bubble Will Pop
That’s the title of an op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal by Rich Vedder and Christopher Denhart. The central argument of the piece is that we have oversold college to the point where very large percentages of those who go to college can find only rather low-skill jobs. As people realize that college has guaranteed high costs but no guarantee at all of that supposed “college-earnings premium,” they will increasingly turn to other options.
It’s impossible to say everything that supports your case in a short article. One important point they omit is that the phenomenon of college grads having to take low-skill “high school” jobs is not just a recent development. It has been building for at least 20 years. One of the first books I read on higher-ed policy when I got involved in it was Who’s Not Working and Why, a 1999 book by Frederic Pryor and David Schaffer. They discussed that problem, which they had observed in data going back to the 70s. They blamed it on the declining standards spreading across the higher-ed landscape: “The low functional literacy of many university graduates represents a serious indictment against the standards of the U.S. higher educational system.”
Bubbles pop once a significant number of people realize that the purported value of something they’re thinking of buying is really less than previous buyers had thought and not warranted by the current price. That is definitely happening in higher ed.
On the Ignorance of College Students
In this Forbes piece, professors Burt Folsom of Hillsdale College and Blaine McCormick of Baylor University discuss the depressing ignorance of many college students. They leave high school knowing little, and much of what they think they know is wrong.
The reason for this lamentable state of affairs has a lot to do with the books used in high school to teach about economics, business, and history. They have mostly been written by “progressives” with a view toward imbuing students with what Ludwig von Mises called the anti-capitalist mentality. The statist notions that students absorb in high school and college make them easy marks for crusading leftist politicians.
Think Twice Before Entering Law School
The Pope Center’s Jesse Saffron, a graduate of the University of Baltimore Law School, writes here about his journey into legal education, his experiences, and offers some cautionary words for those who are thinking about going to law school.
Ten years ago, most Americans thought that earning a J.D. (from any law school) was a good use of time and money, even if the student did not wind up with a job in the legal profession. That perception has changed a lot and many schools are downsizing. In truth, there is no reason to require prospective lawyers to endure three years of law school before they can be allowed to attempt the bar exam. The standard model of legal education, approved by the American Bar Association as a barrier to entry into their guild, wastes a lot of resources and ought to be jettisoned in favor of a free market in legal training.
Students (Not) at Work
Concord Review editor Will Fitzhugh comments on the more recent criticism of lower education that is finally putting emphasis on student effort instead of blaming supposedly incompetent teachers and belligerent teachers’ unions, factors that have been the focus of much conservative criticism of education. Fitzhugh remarks, “This may seem unacceptably heterodox to those in government and the private sector who have committed billions of dollars to focusing on the selection, training, supervision, and control of K–12 teachers, while giving no thought to whether K–12 students are actually doing the academic work which they are assigned.” Fitzhugh recommends assigning plenty of reading, not excerpts but full-length works of non-fiction, at the high-school level, as well as demanding lengthy writing assignments. This would constitute genuine preparation for college-level work. The Concord Review essays by high-school students average over 6000 words. Essays at the prestigious Choate School, alma mater of JFK, average about three pages.
A Flexner Report for Colleges
President Obama wants the government to rate colleges on such metrics as graduation rates, job placement, access for lower-income students, etc. One of the dissenters is Vinton Thompson, president of Metropolitan College of New York, who compares the plan to the early-20th-century Flexner report on medical schools. That closed down a lot of medical schools that didn’t meet Abraham Flexner’s standards, leading to shortages of doctors for many decades and, in particular, reducing the number of schools that served blacks, women, and the working class. George Leef discusses Vinton Thompson’s views and those of some others who also look askance at the president’s plan.
How Innovation Is Saving Southern New Hampshire University
Slate’s Gabriel Kahn has a fascinating piece on the rise of little Southern New Hampshire University as a leading innovator in higher education.
Like many small, less prestigious private schools, SNHU was facing declining enrollment and declining funds. But under the leadership of President Paul LeBlanc, the university reimagined itself. By embracing innovations like online education and competency-based degrees, SNHU has managed to hold costs down for students and still keep the school afloat.
It’s not all sunshine and roses at SNHU. As it is across the country, grade inflation is still a problem, and some have questions the university’s shift in priorities. But at a time when small schools are sinking under the weight of a collapsing status quo, many could learn from the example of this small New England university.
Why Do I Have to Listen to This Mozart?
Heather Mac Donald has a wonderful piece in last Friday’s Wall Street Journal, on the wrecking of the humanities. Her focus is on UCLA, but this is a national problem. My title alludes to a comment by a Columbia student who thought herself put upon because a required course included music by Mozart and other dead white male composers. Too bad her mind has been so poisoned that she can’t enjoy music without first thinking about the characteristics of the individuals who wrote it.
And Then There Were None, I Mean IX (Title IX, That Is)
Whether radical or moderate, whether fading or flourishing, feminism does seem to govern our lives. The latest is this sad story of Temple University and other colleges eliminating men’s sports teams, some of them longstanding traditions at their schools, in order to comply with Title IX. If there is a more reasonable side to feminism, why doesn’t it show its face in lobbying and other kinds of activist efforts to prevent this kind of needless destructiveness, which, so far from enhancing human potential, bespeaks a hateful, vengeful, envious, and leveling state of mind?
Camille Paglia makes a valuable corrective to feminism in insisting that women are living in a world created by men. In this particular context, however, she mainly emphasizes the physical prowess of men in shaping a material environment that is practical, livable, and conducive to further achievement, especially for those very high-powered females who are today denigrating masculinity. This is a true and most welcome repudiation of the gender-as-construct fallacy, but is only part of the story, and makes the relationship between men and women sound a little like Lady Chatterley and the gamekeeper writ large. As Paglia knows, and has written elsewhere, the vision, intelligence, and creativity of men is what is behind the physical infrastructure and without those we simply wouldn’t have a culture or a civilization at all.
Praxis—An Alternative to Overpriced College Credentials
In this SeeThruEdu post, Isaac Morehouse writes about Praxis — his alternative to the vastly overpriced (and increasingly unimpressive) college credentials that have become so important to Americans over the last 40 years.
If you go back more than 40 years, you find that few occupations were closed to people who did not have college degrees to their names. What changed? In short, I think it was a combination of these factors: the erosion of high-school standards (which used to bring about at least respectable basic competence in young people but began to slide in the ’70s), the subsidization of college, which led to more and more people earning degrees and thus casting doubt on the capabilities of those who did not, and the Supreme Court’s decision in Griggs v. Duke Power (1971), which turned testing of job applicants into a legal hazard for employers and thus encouraging them to look at a safe alternative means of identifying individuals who might have the right characteristics.
Ten Years of Proposals for Higher-Ed Reform
The Pope Center recently turned ten (late last year, anyway) and in this week’s Clarion Call, Jane Shaw recounts our major works that have aimed at bringing change to a very change-resistant system.
Facebook Controversy at the University of Georgia
Last month, a series of offensive Facebook posts directed at two University of Georgia student groups sparked a campus controversy. Before the controversy subsided weeks later, it led to two protests and a student-government resolution condemning UGA’s culture as unwelcoming — even unsafe — for minorities.
, a newly created Facebook account posting under the name of a university student (who has disavowed responsibility) left posts on the pages of two student groups. “Why can’t you dumb dirty n*****s stop stinking up the place? Let UGA be RIGHT for good WHITE Christian students,” read a post left on the Black Affairs Council page. Another post on the LGBT Resource Center’s page read “Burn in hell f*****s.”
Subsequent posts followed, all generated by an anonymous antagonist who stole the identities of real UGA students. As an official investigation is ongoing, all claims about the antagonist and his motives are speculative. If we are to speculate, however, three explanations stand out as plausible.
The posts were created to intimidate and belittle minority students. This is the obvious explanation, and it has dominated media coverage of the incident. The fake Facebook account in question, which was littered with Confederate, Nazi and fringe-right symbolism, lends credence to this explanation. Additionally, hateful acts have occurred at UGA in recent years.
Keep reading this post . . .
Students Who Don’t Do Anything
GMU economics professor Bryan Caplan explains in this post that, in his upper-division courses, routinely about 10 percent of the students enrolled do nothing. They do no work, but don’t drop the class either, which would at least get a modest refund into the hands of their parents. Caplan wonders why that is the case.
I think the answer is pretty much the same as why politicians spend so recklessly: it’s not their money.
The Job Nobody Wants To Do
I’m referring to that onerous job of trying to teach college students how to write. I recently posted an article looking at that problem from 30,000 feet, and, in this Pope Center piece, Brooklyn College professor Mitchell Langbert takes a ground-level look at his own institution.
Just the Facts
One of the biggest problems with finding out what’s really going on in higher education is the lack of access to meaningful data about student performance from K–12 through college and into the workforce. Making the available data transparent is sort of a minefield, with great potential for either gain or harm. On one hand, the more data the better, since it will enable much valuable analysis and policy change. On the other hand, there are privacy problems that have to be addressed, such as exposure of personal records from data breaches and the potential for political use of records (as we have recently seen with the IRS).
The federal government has doled out grants to 47 states to look into the issues. Jenna Ashley Robinson takes a look at North Carolina’s attempt at making student data available to the widest audience possible without infringing on student privacy.
No Decision for Rodents v. Dinosaurs in 2013
2013 was a year for which much was anticipated in higher-education reform. Would the “bubble” finally burst or go away? Would the Fisher v. Texas (about affirmative action in admissions) and O’Bannon v. NCAA (about student-athletes’ property rights to use of their images) lawsuits finally be settled and force reforms? Would the newly Republican state governments in many states bring in sweeping changes?
At year’s end, we still don’t know the outcomes of many of these questions; there was quite a bit fizzle amidst the anticipated sizzle. However, a lot of small trends and events emerged or continued that could lead to bigger changes in the future. The Pope Center staff picked some of their favorites for the year in the latest Clarion Call.
What Online Courses Are Actually Like
The higher education topic that probably receives more words than any other these days is online courses. Sometimes they are described glowingly; sometimes as a sheer waste of time. Jay Schalin of the Pope Center has a fair amount of personal experience with online courses and he shares his thoughts on the highs and lows in today’s Pope Center piece.
Asian Students Flocking into American Universities
In today’s Pope Center piece, Zack Fleming, a grad student in engineering at North Carolina State, writes about a trend he has observed first hand — more and more students from Asia pursuing their degrees in universities here. Why? Zack suggests several reasons.
An irony here is that while it’s easy for good Asian students to get into graduate programs in American universities, many Americans of Asian descent who have superb academic records find it hard to get into top universities as undergraduates because they aren’t regarded as “diverse.”