Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

NCATE’s “Fly-By-Night” Dispositions Testing


Mitchell Langbert states that NCATE never had any realistic, validated competency measures to use in the dispositional assessment of prospective teachers and thus its advocacy of such evaluation in the past has been “nonsense.” Langbert contrasts such “spurious” claims with how dispositional assessment is carried out in business schools.

More on NCATE and “Social Justice”


As I noted earlier, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education announced to an Education Department committee that it would drop references to “social justice” in its glossary of desirable attributes in prospective teachers.


This matters not, however, because the council said it would not interfere in education schools which include social justice in the curriculum. Thus Anne is correct when she said in an interview with Inside Higher Ed that “[r]emoving social justice doesn’t eliminate the issue of imposing disposition on teacher candidates.”


But the booby prize in this important debate surely goes to George A. Pruitt, a committee member who commented, “I’m struggling to find how this is a radical agenda…I’m saddened by the notion that our children need to be protected from ‘social justice.’”


And I’m saddened that the clueless Mr. Pruitt sits on a committee with the power to eradicate indoctrination in socialism–the meaning of “social justice” in “progressive education” circles–from our teacher-preparation schools. 


Taking Notice of Job Notices


Last month Mark commented on Erin O’Connor’s critique of faculty job applications geared to candidates with “a particular phenotype, a particular set of preferences, and a particular set of non-scholarly commitments.” David followed up by noting that the assumptions underlying such job postings can perhaps be challenged in court.


Relatedly, Roger Clegg, president of the Center for Equal Opportunity, observed in The Chronicle of Higher Education that such advertisements frequently single out minority and female candidates as particularly welcome.


Clegg reminds colleges that it is generally illegal under Title VII “to print or publish…any notice…relating to employment…indicating any preference…based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” He specifies how this and numerous other corrupt university hiring practices are illegal.


Clegg also says that “legal challenges concerning faculty hiring…the next big front in the battle against racial preferences…are mounting.” (See “Faculty Hiring Preferences and the Law,” May 19.)

It is unfortunate that we must increasingly invoke the law, as opposed to academic leaders’ sense of responsibility, to spur higher-education reform. But so it is.

The Dubious Value of Value Neutrality


Nature abhors a vacuum whether physical or moral. The equation of the modern university with “science”, which for most of the twentieth century constituted the prevailing intellectual reflex, created a moral vacuum embodied in the phrase “value neutrality.” Since no institution can long survive without some moral grounding, the abandonment of traditional liberal and religious commitments led not to “neutrality,” but to the ascendency of radically illiberal ideals. My reflections on this process and possible lines of remedy appear in “The Dubious Value of Value Neutrality,” in this week’s Chronicle Review..

America’s Hgher Education “Advantage”


Here is another of the repetitious studies lamenting that the U.S. is “losing its advantage” in higher education, meaning that some other nations are spending more money and graduating a larger percentage of students. These things always suggest that something bad will happen economically unless we regain the top spot. The trouble with that argument is that economic success doesn’t really hinge on the amount of formal education that citizens have.


Allah, yes; God, no?


The Thomas More Law Center is asking the Supreme Court to review a Ninth Circuit decision allowing the Excelsior School in Byron, California, to continue teaching a three-week course in Islam, in which students take Muslim names, participate in Muslim rituals like fasting, use phrases like Allahu Akbar (God is great), imagine themselves Muslim soldiers or pilgrims, and play jihad games, among other activities.    

The court said that these activities do not constitute teaching religion, but only teaching about religion. This is the same court that forbade the recital of the Pledge of Allegiance because of the phrase “under God.” Let’s hope the Supreme Court takes the case. 

Tenure’s Real Consequence


The otherwise poignant Inside Higher Education story about Professor Yves Magloe, dismissed from Pasadena City College as a result of misunderstandings arising from his bipolar condition, contains a tangential but revealing comment. Another Pasadena faculty member, Hugo Schwyzer, reflecting on his role as one of Magloe’s defenders, notes apropos tenure, that it allowed him “to be an advocate without risk.”

Most academics and observers of academe view tenure in its putative role of allowing professors to speak freely about issues of general controversy. Tenure does, of course, sometimes facilitate such freedom. But as a device promoting wide-ranging intellectual discourse it has clearly been a failure. Debate in almost every other intellectual marketplace–including the mass media for all its tilt and spin–is far more open and diverse despite tenure’s absence. Either the protections of tenure are overwhelmed by other stultifying factors, or it actually promotes stasis, conformity, and group-think.

In any event, tenure’s chief outcome is just what Professor Schwyzer lets slip. It allows professors to take on their administrations with far less risk than would be faced by any other type of staff. Put another way, its principal effect is on institutional governance not scholarly debate. It creates a system where administrators can be fired but faculty, for all intents and purposes, cannot, where administrations are transient, but faculty is forever. Those deploring the protections tenure gives to outrageous cranks like Ward Churchill, might do better to refocus their gaze on its more collective impact. Any sensible reform of tenure must start with a consideration of its consequences for the university as a constitutional system and the balance of power that exists within it. 

Commencement Day


From a wrap-up in NYT:

Dr. Resnik was one of many commencement speakers who spoke out against what they consider a growing belligerence in American foreign policy. Others condemned war, racism and poverty.


Judith Resnik, speaking at Bryn Mawr College, made the weirdest claim:

I do not think that either the world or my own country has been torture-free since the Renaissance.

There wasn’t torture during the Renaissance

Book Report


The new Publisher’s Weekly previews The Price of Admission: How America’s Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges, by Daniel Golden:

A heavy-hitting, name-naming exposé by Wall Street Journal deputy bureau chief Golden concludes that Ivy League admissions offices do not practice meritocracy. Instead, top-drawer schools reward donor-happy alums and the “legacy establishment,” which Golden defines as “elites mastering the art of perpetuating themselves.” Moreover, the “preference of privilege” enables wealthy candidates to nose out more deserving working- and middle-class students, especially new immigrants and Asian-Americans. Golden backs his assertions with examples comparing the academic records of entering students: e.g., Al Gore’s son was admitted to Harvard despite his shabby record, although a better prepared Asian-American was rejected at all Ivy Leagues because he was “unhooked” (in admission parlance, not well connected or moneyed). Asian-Americans, notes Golden, are the “new Jews,” for whom a higher bar is set. Golden tracks shameful admissions policies at Duke, where the enrollment of privileged but underqualified applicants has helped elevate the school’s endowment ranking from 25th in 1980 to 16th in 2005; Brown is skewered for courting the offspring of entertainment industry notables. Golden suggests reasonable, workable tactics for resurrecting the antilegacy campaign in Congress (led by Senator Kennedy) and devotes a laudatory chapter to the equitable admissions practices at Caltech, Berea College (Kentucky) and Cooper Union (New York City). (Sept.)

The Fix Is In


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

RE: More on “NCATE Eats Crow”


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.

More on “NCATE Eats Crow”


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?


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


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.  

Literature at Risk


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


Here is a piece in 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


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


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


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.


At Boston University, discover the wonder of grade deflation.


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