Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

The FBI and UCI Muslim Student Activists


Frank Mickadeit writes that the feds are conducting an intense surveillance operation to detect potential terrorists in Orange County and that part of their program involves studying activist Muslim student organizations at the University of California at Irvine. 

When asked whether citizens should be concerned about these groups, the FBI agent answered, “That is another tough question to answer.” She did tell Mickadeit that the FBI is aware of large numbers of Muslims at UCI.

Yale’s Smitten with a Smearer


Yale is said to be about to hire the oratorically gifted Middle East “historian” Juan (“We don’t give a rat’s *** what Ahmadinejad thinks about European history or what ******* speech the little **** gives”) Cole.

According to Joel Mowbray, Cole, when challenged about his various shortcomings, mindlessly “smears” instead of debating, and plays loose with facts. For example, in an antiwar column, he contended that the Middle East Media Research Institute is possibly receiving large funding from Israeli military intelligence. Unable to document his assertion, he had no choice but to admit his error.


And on what did Cole blame reports that laws mandating Jews and other religious minorities wear distinguishing badges were being discussed in Iran? “Black psy-ops operation,” he said, suggesting that these stories were fabricated to discredit Ahmadinejad. 

Time to distinguish scholarship from smears, Yale.


Re: Heresies To Consider


Tom Reeves has hit the nail squarely on the head. The notion that everyone needs to go to college is false and merely saddles us with higher costs, a watered down educational experience, and what Professor David Labaree calls “credential inflation.”

Here’s a good quotation from Labaree’s book How to Succeed in School Without Really Learning,

When students at all levels see education through the lens of social mobility, they quickly conclude that what matters most is not the knowledge they attain in school but the credentials they acquire there. Grades, credits, degrees — these become the objects to be pursued. The end result is to reify the formal markers of education and displace the substantive content….The payoff for a particular credential is the same no matter how it was acquired, so it is rational behavior to try to strike a good bargain, to work at gaining a diploma, like a car, at a substantial discount.

One Collapse Upon Another


More campuses are making entrance tests such as the SAT optional, and those that have done so are seeing an increase in student enrollment and diversity.

I tend to agree with the judgment of Bruce Harvey, as posted in the comments on Inside Higher Ed:

This is all about money. Declining enrollments are closing public schools in some locations around the U.S. The pool of eligible college students will continue to decline. The result is the specter of declining freshman class size. But there is as yet little change in the size of the higher education establishment. The small exclusive liberal arts colleges are the first warning of a coming decline or collapse of that establishment. It appears that the number of applications grows when the SAT/ACT filter is removed. More applicants mean more possibilities for discretionary admissions which means keeping up the enrollment which means continuing cash flow from tuition via DOE grants and loans which means keeping administrators and professors on the payroll . . . . [This is about] desperately needed cash flow . . . . I hope the GRE is NOT abandoned. I think you should expect a decline in GRE scores in a few years highly correlated to undergrad schools and student cohorts that did/did not utilize the SAT filter.

Because the funding of education remains “seat”-based as opposed to performance-based, we continue to see–like the folding of a stack of cards–the collapse of educational standards at all levels.

Targeting Israel and the West


The decision by the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education, one of Britain’s two professor unions, to call for a boycott against Israeli academics and universities unless they disavow its “apartheid policies”, has been rightfully denounced as an affront to the free exchange of ideas, comity among scholarly truth-seekers and, not least of all, common decency. But it is also a most ugly instance of that habit of collective stigmatization now second nature in academe. White Guilt may not seem a very threatening concept when applied to cosseted, non-lacrosse playing, middle Americans, but when–with effortless mutation–it is visited upon a nation of Jews, things turn ominously dark. A demonized majority may, as a whole, seem safe from immediate danger, but it can be sliced and diced to isolate fragments for exemplary treatment. This is an especially inviting maneuver when victims can be cut out on the basis of thinly disguised prejudice.

A yellow-badge mentality shines through the justification given by boycott proponent Mona Baker for targeting Israel in a world filled with brutal oppression. It is valid to focus on Israel, she argues, because “Zionist influence (that is Israeli influence) spreads far beyond its own immediate areas of dominion, and now widely influences many key domestic agendas in the West.” Yet it would be a mistake to attribute too much to the lingering influence of the Protocols. While it gathers what strength it can from historic antisemitism as an intellectual phenomenon, radical academe’s hostility toward Israel is more a miniature of its general assault on free institutions and bourgeois civilization. Each makes an inviting target, immoderately successful, but easily attacked–rhetorically at least–without much cost or risk.

Our campuses specialize in raising elites whose weapon of choice is moral aggression, climbing in status on the bent backs of those they can shame. Lacking the warrior ethos, they seek easy marks. Western Civilization, both wealthy and tolerant, is their immense target of choice. But Israel, a most conspicuous and successful outlier, gets lavish treatment as well. Needless to say, the danger is far greater and pressing for a small country poised on the knife’s edge, but the issue of survival is shared.     


Getting In


From Inside Higher Ed:

Do you want your daughter to get into Harvard? Get yourself to an art museum. But if your daughter doesn’t want to go, don’t worry about it. That’s because there is a correlation between parents who visit art museums having their children end up at highly competitive colleges. There’s no correlation between visiting art museums and ending up at a top college yourself.

Heresies To Consider


Retired history professor Thomas C. Reeves is thinking “heretical thoughts” about higher education. Notably, he asks, is the “crush for diplomas necessarily a good thing? Is it always a prudent investment for the individual and for society…?

“Unabomber”-Incubating Prof?


The Texas Academy of Science recently presented a prestigious award to Eric Pianka, a professor at the University of Texas. At the award ceremony, Pianka characterized human beings as a “scourge” on the Earth, called for a police state to mandate sterilization of all Americans, and expressed hope that the lethal Ebola virus would mutate into a form that might kill 90 percent of the human race.

Writing in Environment News (in an article reprinted by the Heartland Institute (, James Taylor observes that Pianka’s remarks “eerily” recalled the Unabomber manifesto, in which Ted Kasczinski called for an end to technology and the death of people who affect the Earth’s environment.

And how did Pianka’s audience of university students, scientists, and professors react to this diatribe? Astoundingly, according to this report, he received a nearly unanimous standing ovation.

Taylor quotes one member of the audience as follows: “Must now we worry that a Pianka-worshipping former student might someday become a professional biologist or physician with access to the most deadly strains of viruses and bacteria? … I still can’t get out of my mind the pleasant spring day in Texas when a few hundred scientists of the Texas Academy of Science gave a standing ovation for a speaker who they heard advocate for the slow and torturous death of over five billion human beings.”

Can the strain of anti-humanism in the academy get any more bizarre?

A Shout-Out to Our Brothers


At least two efforts currently being undertaken by fellow Phi Beta Cons bloggers deserve attention.

First, our colleague David French headed off to Army basic training on Sunday. (As you may have read in The Chronicle, David felt called to join the Reserves and use his Harvard legal training to support our country in the JAG Corps.) He will be away from his wonderful wife Nancy and their two children (who, might I add, will be the flower girl and ring bearer in my wedding!) for several weeks. Those readers who are in the business of praying would do well to say a few for the French family.

And, getting back to higher ed policy, our blog-mate Joe Malchow is currently taking the insiders up at Dartmouth to task for ham-handedly canceling an election as part of what he calls “a concerted effort [that] has been concocted to interdict future petition trustees.” (For background on the alumni trustee battles, see Duncan Currie’s excellent piece in “that other magazine.”) Joe’s posts over at Dartblog (see here and here) are both must-reads. Do not miss them.

Re: Scandal of the Day


That story really underscores a trend in American ”higher” education at nonselective schools: take anybody.

Several years ago, the vice provost for undergraduate studies at Temple was frank enough to admit that academics at his school “went slack” in the mid-90s, “when Temple decided to open its doors to all and sundry in order to pay its bills.”

At many institutions, the financial imperative so dominates that they will admit woefully unprepared students (many of whom are not, contrary to the NY Times story, “eager”) and then go to considerable lengths to keep them enrolled to the flow of revenue continues. The poor students think that they are getting the piece of paper that will give them admittance to the good life, but often they end up in exactly the kind of job that other high schoolers get.

Too Catholic for Catholic School


A student speaker gets booed during commencement at the University of St. Thomas for doing the unthinkable–defending Catholic teaching at a Catholic school. Colleen Carroll Campbell has the story here .

Re: British Professors Seek to Cut Ties to Israeli Scholars


This is the third time since 2002 that British academics have gone on record to censure and isolate Israeli academics.” Phyllis Chesler has it covered here .

British Professors Seek to Cut Ties to Israeli Scholars


InsideHigherEd reports

By a vote of 106-71, one of Britain’s two faculty unions on Monday adopted a policy under which its members are urged to avoid contact with Israeli universities or professors unless they demonstrate their opposition to various policies of the Israeli government with regard to Palestinians.

. . . the provision has . . . infuriated many academics in Britain and elsewhere because it effectively sets up a political litmus test for Israeli academics (if they take certain stands, they are OK to deal with), and the idea of subjecting academics to political tests offends standards of academic freedom in Britain, the United States and elsewhere.

Scandal of the Day


Your daily dose of outrage: Two percent of college students haven’t completed high school. And a lot of them receive government aid. Now, I’m not a big one for certification or licensing of any kind, but something tells me that the vast majority of these students haven’t gotten their high-school diplomas because they don’t deserve them:

It is a kind of Alice-in-Wonderland idea. If you do not finish high school, head straight for college.

But many colleges — public and private, two-year and four-year — will accept students who have not graduated from high school or earned equivalency degrees.

And in an era of stubbornly elevated high school dropout rates, the chance to enter college through the back door is attracting growing interest among students without high school diplomas.

That growth is fueling a debate over whether the students should be in college at all and whether state financial aid should pay their way. In New York, the issue flared in a budget battle this spring. …

The existence of such students — eager, yet at high risk for failure — exposes a split in education policy. On one hand, believers in the standards movement frown on social promotion and emphasize measurable performance in high school.

At the same time, because a college degree is widely considered essential to later success, some educators say even students who could not complete high school should be allowed to attend college.

Read the whole depressing story here.

Bolivarian U.


Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez has created a university to educate millions of pliant state worker bees cut out of the same ideological cloth.

“Unfortunately, the government is using education as a political tool,” commented opposition leader Julio Borges. “The Bolivarian University is just another vehicle, a bridge, to politicize the population.”

Sound familiar? This nation’s campuses are of course filled with entire programs openly propagating similarly collectivist social activism. So thank you, American academe, for setting such an example for developing nations such as Venezuela.

Grade Deflation


David S. Kahn, the head of a private tutoring company, on why SAT scores are dropping:

The average American receives a pretty mediocre education. The average SAT score drifted down from 1000 in the 1960s to 880 in 1993. Education activists attributed this plummet to cultural factors, a change in the testing pool and other matters. The blame was placed everywhere but on schools. That the quality of education in America declined from the 1960s to the 1990s was hardly noted in debates over the SAT.

And then the test was “recentered.” Thanks to the change in the SAT scale and the change in the kinds of questions that were asked on the test, scores went up and people were able to ignore the fact that most students are not well-educated. Indeed, parents compared their children’s scores with their own and concluded that their children were brilliant. Now ETS has made it a little harder to get away with not knowing your three R’s.

People complain that the SAT is biased and that the bias explains why students don’t do well. That’s true–it is biased. It’s biased against people who aren’t well-educated. The test isn’t causing people to have bad educations, it’s merely reflecting the reality. And if you don’t like your reflection, that doesn’t mean that you should smash the mirror.

Warding Off


The distinguished academic Ward Churchill has responded to the vile charges raised against him:

Rather than assessing my work in terms of the methods and procedures of my discipline, the committee – which included no one with expertise in American Indian Studies – chose to determine for itself the “historical truth” about disputed matters. Unable to condemn my substantive conclusions, it engaged in a detailed post hoc critique of my citations. …

I have published some two dozen books, 70 book chapters and scores of articles containing a combined total of approximately 12,000 footnotes. I doubt that any even marginally prolific scholar’s publications could withstand the type of scrutiny to which mine has been subjected.

His entire response may be read here.

Re: Churchillian


Thanks to David and John for their very kind posts on Anne’s op-ed. Some of the comments over there on Inside Higher Ed are, well, real head-scratchers. (One guy demands to know how we came up with our sample. It’s explained very clearly in the report.) Erin O’Connor should have a response up on ACTA’s blog this weekend, and I’m sure it’ll be worth a look.

While so many people have apparently been busy not reading ACTA’s report and then deciding to publicly comment on it anyway, I’ve been parsing the University of Colorado’s report on Churchill’s academic misconduct. Let me tell you, it is a real doozy. Check out some of the words the authors use to describe some of the assertions made in Churchill’s work:

    • “literally incorrect” (p.16)
    • “both literally false and unsupportable” (p.19)
    • “gross historical inaccuracies” (p.22)
    • having “has virtually all of the details of that history wrong” (p.22)
    • “[g]etting the general point correct but virtually all of the historical details wrong” (p.22)
    • “certainly not the careful professional work one would expect of an ethnic studies scholar writing on important historical events in Indian studies” (p.22)
    • designed to “create the appearance of independent support for his claims, while simultaneously discouraging or, at least, making far more difficult, any effort by other researchers to check his claims by failing to pinpoint the precise location of his claimed support in an otherwise lengthy work” p.23
    • part of a “pattern of other misconduct” (p.23)
    • a “deliberate research stratagem to create the appearance of independent verifiable support for claims that could not be supported” p.23
    • a “consistent research stratagem to cloak extreme, unsupportable, propaganda-like claims of fact that support Professor Churchill’s legal and political claims with the aura of authentic scholarly research” (p.23)
    • “his seeming quotation…is not a quotation at all” (p.29)
    • he “knowingly evaded that truth” (p.31)
    • “patently incorrect statements” (p.31)
    • “seriously and deliberately misrepresented” (p.31)
    • “bewildering” (p.36)
    • he “does not connect the dots” (p.36)
    • he “fabricated his account” (p.38)
    • “no evidence—not even circumstantial evidence—supports his claim” (p.38)
    • using something that is “not even a scholarly source” (p.64)
    • “no evidence to support Professor Churchill’s claim” (p.65)
    • “another example of Professor Churchill’s practice of referring to essays that he claims to have written himself as if they were independent authorities” (p.66)
    • he “has misrepresented several of the published works that he cites” (p. 68)
    • “fabricated” (p.69)
    • “statements…become more extreme over time, moving further from the sources he cites, without supplying any additional references” (p.73)
    • “misconduct was not accidental, but deliberate” (p.87)
    • “recurrent refusal to take responsibility for errors” (p.95)
    • “pattern of failure to understand the difference between scholarship and polemic” (p.95)
    • “unacceptable scholarly techniques” (p.97)
    • “production of shoddy and irresponsible work” (p.97)

The Committee also writes, “Were Professor Churchill a scientist, rather than a researcher engaged in social science research in ethnic studies, the equivalent would be (1) the misstatement of some underlying data…and (2) the total fabrication of other data to support his hypothesis” (p.24). Yet only one member dared to recommend his firing for such grave offenses.

So let’s get the academic establishment’s logic straight here: if you make stuff up (including rash accusations of wrongdoing on the part of the U.S. Army), write articles in others’ names and then quote them as support for your claims, deliberately avoid the facts of the situation, and get caught, which is what Churchill did, you’re a victim and you deserve to keep your job. Even though the whole point of your occupation is the search for, um, truth.

But if you point out obvious problems in the academy and propose reasonable solutions entirely consistent with academic freedom, which is what ACTA’s report does, you get slammed as an enemy of all that is right and good.

Anybody else see a problem here?

Grim Irony


Joseph Bottum, editor of First Things, writes that he is weary of reading conservatives who write about how bad things are. What has especially inspired his reflection was a submission on the excesses of a Women’s Studies Department at a major American university. Bottum believes that the cause of his weariness is “that I’ve increasingly stopped caring what happens on mainstream American campuses.”
  He declares further that ”the culture wars are over, ended by terminal boringness,” and that ”for the most part, the complaint about how bad things are has no purchase left—and ought, I think, to have no purchase left. No one is left to persuade, one way or the other, and the way things are now is pretty much what we’re going to be stuck with for a long time to come.”

In sum, he says,  ”The great conservative complaint of the last fifty years has, I think, finally run its course. Time to move on.”
 I can sympathize with Mr. Bottum, and he makes a good point that conservatives need to be more active in offering positive solutions, but his reflection will strike many who have been battling the academic horrors for decades as grimly ironic. For a long time we heard that the radical, destructive academic theories of recent decades were fads that would soon pass, and would have little purchase outside the academy, so there was no need to worry about them. Now that they’ve more than proven their staying power, and have accomplished the remaking of the academy and the destruction of large parts of our society as well, people are finding themselves bored by them, even as they resign themselves to their continued ascendancy!
  Nevertheless, these awful developments do have to be fought. It is a long twilight struggle and you can no more give up on it than you could have given up in the fight that pitted the free world vs. communism, or than you could ever give up in the fight of truth against lies.  

Will the Immigration Bill Protect Us from Terrorists?


Before the immigration bill was adopted in the Senate, Kris Kobach, a professor of law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, warned that it would “handcuff” local and state police in the War on Terror. The bill, he wrote, “would limit local police to making arrests only for criminal violations of immigration law, not civil violations”–a dangerous provision given that “[all] of the 9/11 hijackers immigration violations were civil, not criminal. So police officers would have no power to arrest such terrorists.” 9/11 hijacker Ziad Jarrah, for example, violated civil law by not changing to a student visa when he entered flight school. What other such “hidden surprises” (Kobach’s phrase) lurk in this bill? The matter needs to be thoroughly explored. We need assurance that the enforcement of this new immigration bill does not endanger our national security.


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