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Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

The Fix Is In



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Over at FIRE, William Creeley notes that Dartmouth may have some company in trying to fix elections.

RE: More on “NCATE Eats Crow”



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ACTA’s comments on NCATE are here and here. Bottom line, this ain’t over.

Removing one word from NCATE’s policies does not fix the many illiberal policies that schools have already put in place because of the old guidelines, and the now-removed “social justice” language wasn’t even the issue at Washington State. The issue was with “diversity,” which is still in NCATE’s guidelines. The war on ed-school indoctrination continues.

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More on “NCATE Eats Crow”



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In response to my posting, NCATE Eats Crow, George asks astutely, “[B]ut will the crow be digested”? And of course it is all too true that educratic organizations such as NCATE, in whose interest it is not to roil the waters, are eminently capable of stating one thing and implementing quite the opposite.

But whether NCATE can be trusted to keep its promise and actually end its advocacy of politically correct, “dipositional” litmus tests for evaluating prospective teachers may be something of a canard. The organization has presided in many other ways, and systematically, over the degradation of our public schools. It’s hard to see that this overall decline could be reversed, as long as NCATE remains the gatekeeper–even if it did drop its scandalous endorsement of “dispositions” indoctrination.

Which leads one to conclude: The U.S. Department of Education should not be re-authorizing NCATE as an accrediting body. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings should refuse to sign such a reauthorization.

Ayn Rand College?



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A school devoted to Rand’s “objectivist” philosophy could open in Maine and North Carolina. It would be called Founders College, and the guys behind it currently teach at Duke.

But They All Do It



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John invites us to contemplate “the wonder of grade deflation” at Boston University, whose administrators have pressured professors to conform to a curve.

But what’s striking about Samuel Freedman’s coverage of BU’s maverick policy is its “glass half-empty,” as opposed to “glass half-full,” tone; that is, what comes across is less praise of BU for its maverick courage than a frank acknowledgment of the cynicism with which most prominent campuses have allowed grade inflation to run wild. Writes Freedman:

 [This] story of Boston University…becomes the story of the difficulty…in being the only honest guy in town…[S]tudents [because they are getting lower grades relative to just about everyone else]…have good cause to wish that the university cooked the books the way others do (emphases mine).

Let us hope for more such candid exposure of this and other entrenched corrupt processes on the nation’s campuses. For higher education is, as described in a report on grade inflation by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (cited by Freedman), “a system that fears candor.”

If only fear can halt the devaluing of our campuses, then fear it must be.  

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Literature at Risk



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The percentages of young people who are readers of literature have greatly declined in the past twenty years, according to the recent NEA report, Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America, available here in both pdf and html formats. The study compared the percentages of “literary readers”–those who read even a minimal bit of literature on their own, not for work or school–in 1982 and 2002.

In the 18-24 age range, the share of literary readers fell from 59.8 percent in 1982  to 42.8 percent in 2002. In the 24-34 age group, the percentage went from 62.1 to  47.7 percent. In the 35-44 age group, it went from 59.7 to 46.6 percent. In general, younger people went from constituting the largest group of literary readers to the smallest. Do you think recent ”progressive” educational theories and pedagogies might have had something to do with this? 

A New Bias Analysis



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Here is a piece in Frontpagemag.com by the authors of a forthcoming study on bias in the classroom. The evidence the authors gathered confirmed the presence of a decided leftward tilt on campus, but they advise caution regarding the bias actually indoctrinating the students in one direction. For one thing, most of the students tend to the left as well, and so they have no problem with the ideology of the professors. As for the conservative students, the authors found little evidence that they were victimized by the professors for their beliefs. Instead, they found another outcome, almost as distressing. They write:

Our findings indicate that the larger the student-instructor partisan divide, the less interest the student reports in the subject matter as a result of taking the course.  For those charged with introducing students to politics and government, this is an especially important finding. Political scientists have long argued that public disinterest has large and direct consequences for society. Whereas students often forget the facts and figures presented in their collegiate political science courses, a basic interest in government is something that can inspire life-long learning and civic participation. Professors should be concerned if overt expressions of their political views cause students to tune out or attempt to discredit course material, as our findings suggest.

This is the opposite of education. Students become estranged from the subject matter in the course. Given the poor state of civic and historical knowledge among young Americans, we should press for more studies on the actual learning outcomes of students in higher ed. This can work both ways, both in the alienation of conservative students from the materials essential to informed citizenship, and in the complacency of liberal students who aren’t exposed to materials that might broaden their horizons.

Islamism in Canada? “Research” It



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Instead of frantic calls for vigilance after this weekend’s revelations that a horrific terrorist attack had been foiled in “multiculturally correct” Canada, there was…denial: denial of extremism and potential terrorism festering from within and tied to religion.

Most notoriously, an official Canadian spokesman, in pronouncing the 17 members of the apprehended terrorist cell to be from “a variety of backgrounds,” passed over the fact that every one of them was Muslim.

Less notorious was the exhortation by the Canadian Islamic Congress, a Muslim group with clout, to “fund legitimate academic research” to aid in discovering “why and how imported extremist ideologies are finding their way to some vulnerable Canadian Muslim youth.”   

However, as Canadian author Adam Daifallah writes in The New York Sun

The vast majority of the suspects were Canadian citizens. They were educated in Canadian public schools. It appears many were young Muslims who fell under the influence of superiors who indoctrinated them into the extremist Wahhabi ideology at a Toronto Islamic center. 

Daifallah aptly concludes: 

Canada must…find out what’s going on in these mosques. We know hatred is being preached. But those who are doing so must be identified, as must those who are funding them. They must be stopped. 

It is suicidal not to face up to the indoctrination of young Muslims in mosques–and on some campuses–both in Canada and the U.S. Deflecting from this imperative by papering over the role of Islamic extremists, and by denying they are in our midst, simply enables the terrorists. 

The Internet Disperses Faculty Prowess



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In “Are Elite Universities Losing Their Competitive Edge?,” three scholars show that the Internet–by permitting professors to work readily with their counterparts across the nation instead of within a campus–is spreading academic talent across multiple institutions.

The “Chick-Lit” Controversy



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Some feminist professors are in a tizzy because female students on campuses are interested in a genre called “chick lit,” which concerns itself with romance, women’s appearance, and the allure of family. The feminists view this interest as “a betrayal . . . [of their] life’s work” and seem perplexed that younger readers are not transfixed by feminist literature–such as Sandra Cisnero’s captivating verse about breaking beer bottles over the heads of barflies. However, observers of the conflict between chick lit and feminist screeds conclude that in the end students prefer classic women’s fiction (such as the work of Jane Austen and the Brontes, which predates modern feminism) to both. There must be something about those classics…     

ABCs at B.U.



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At Boston University, discover the wonder of grade deflation.

Barbie as “Teacher Aid”



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It turns out that “The Unbearable Whiteness of Barbie” (a course which made the Young America’s Foundation’s annual “dirty dozen” list of the strangest cases of leftist activism replacing traditional scholarship) is all about Marx, conflicts between social groups, “hegemony,” “body studies,” and more Marx. No reason, of course, that dolls should not be used in the formation of “useful idiots” on campuses.

Re: NCATE Eats Crow



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It’s good news, but will the crow be digested?

Back in the early 90s, several of the regional accreditation associations adopted standards that explicitly called for schools to go all out to maximize “diversity.” Eventually, and under pressure, those standards were dropped, but that doesn’t stop accreditation visiting teams from suggesting that the school should do more to promote greater “inclusivity.” So I have heard from several professors.

Just because NCATE has formally abandoned its “social justice” crusade doesn’t mean that it won’t rear its head again. This bears watching.

NCATE Eats Crow



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It is grand news to learn that the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) has dropped its advocacy of social-justice dispositional assessment, i.e., politically correct litmus tests for evaluating prospective teachers. As Professor Mitchell Langbert of Brooklyn College recently testified before the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (which was reviewing petitions to extend recognition of various accreditation associations), “dispositions are too easily used as pretexts for politically motivated retaliation to be used in assessing students….” “NCATE has overseen the decline of American education,” added Langbert, who also rightly recommended that its accreditation status be revoked altogether.

Dear Old Dartmouth



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Boy, I love this place. Just yesterday I completed my Japanese History final exam while sitting on an old wood bench at the edge of a sprawling lawn which gave the word verdant its very existence. It was seventy degrees and the soft wind carried the note of not a single internal combustion engine. Birds and chipmunks, only. (Yes, chipmunks.) And I mused over MITI as a caterpillar mused over me.

 

All of which makes it the more infuriating when I consider what is going on in Dartmouth governance. I noted a week ago that the folks currently at the head of the Dartmouth Association of Alumni had cancelled unilaterally (well, <em>postponed</em>, they say, until the middle of 2007) the scheduled annual elections for the leadership of the Association. Other words: They cancelled elections for their own offices, extending their own terms to 150% of that for which they were elected. Unconstitutional, violatory of existing rules, uncouth, wrong. All of these words have been accurately used to describe this blatant abuse of power, and will be in the future.

 

But why is this important? In a press release distributed yesterday by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, the Washington non-profit whose keen work has been cited numerous times on this page, it was observed that the cancellation of this election could have implications related to the proposed new constitution up for consideration at Dartmouth. The constitution controls trustee elections, and the executives of the Association of Alumni control the ratification vote on the constitution.

 

The constitution, as you may have heard, stunts future petition candidates by subjecting them to different rules. In the last three elections at Dartmouth, three petition candidates have run, and three have won. These are reform-minded trustees, unlikely to have been nominated by the powers-that-be. So they did the ground work of collecting petitions and get themselves on the ballot and then–here’s what was new–actually announced platforms. National Review contributor Peter Robinson ran successfully advocating for free speech, athletics, and a commitment to undergraduate education.

 

Instead of taking the message duly delivered by these three wins, Dartmouth is changing the rules. And doggone it, they’ll cancel an election if that’s what it takes.

 

ACTA last Friday sent a letter pointing out the impropriety–to put it perhaps too lightly–of unilaterally cancelling pre-planned elections for one’s own office. At the close, ACTA president Anne Neal asks “in the interest of fundamental fairness” that the Association principals” publicly rescind” the letter cancelling the elections. I cannot agree more. And if this proposed constitution is going to pass, let it pass on its merits, not through dirty tricks.

“Cornel West is the man.”



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Lights, Diversity, Action!



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FIRE reports:

In a direct attack on academic freedom, the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) is “investigating” a professor for assigning a peer-reviewed journal article that some students felt was “racist.”

I can only imagine how frustrating it must be for a serious scholar to have to put up with such banality. Amusing, though, is the contact that FIRE provides for the person in charge of the school’s “Diversity Action Team” at the bottom of the press release. Sounds like an exciting job…

The Cuts Run Deep



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AP:


CHICAGO – Nearly 1 in 5 students at two Ivy League schools say they have purposely injured themselves by cutting, burning or other methods, a disturbing phenomenon that psychologists say they are hearing about more often.

For some young people, self-abuse is an extreme coping mechanism that seems to help relieve stress; for others it’s a way to make deep emotional wounds more visible.

The results of the survey at Cornell and Princeton are similar to other estimates on this frightening behavior. Counselors say it’s happening at colleges, high schools and middle schools across the country.

What an Idea!



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The Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, and recently completed for this year with the awarding of $50,.000 in scholarships to the winners, is a truly wonderful idea. Really a stroke of genius. It takes the desire to perform that has been cultivated in many of today’s high-school students and uses that to get them interested in good poetry and eager to explore the background of individual poets. Further, it gets young people to memorize poetry and recite it aloud, increasing their capacity for creative appreciation of language. It’s done through the high schools, so it involves the educational establishment and probably benefits even the students who choose not to compete. And the very existence of the long list of possible choices of poems to recite is a plus in itself, and will help familiarize students with our poetic heritage. Do ideas get any better than this?    

Jobs that “Require” a College Degree



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Over and over again we hear that getting a college degree is crucial because there are very few good jobs left that don’t “require” one. People usually jump to the conclusion that this means that most job fields are becoming so mentally demanding that someone with only a high-school education just doesn’t have the brainpower to do the work.

 

Not really.

 

Consider this article from The Detroit News on dissatisfaction among employers in Michigan with the ability of high-school graduates. A bank officer is quoted as saying that it’s a problem for him that loan officers don’t have to be college graduates because they often make grammatical and spelling errors in letters to clients. Perhaps his bank will eventually set a college degree as a requirement for applicants, but that wouldn’t be due to any great skill that one must have in order to process loan applications. All they are looking for is a basic command of English.

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