Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

PSU Censors Anti-Terrorism Exhibit


The Collegian reports that a Penn State student

BU Students and Profs Rally for Immigrants



Regressive Pedagogy


During the informal conversation following a meeting of Republicans on the Upper West Side of Manhattan last week (yes, there are a few Republicans on the UWS, outnumbered by something like 12 to 1 by Democrats), a black man said that most blacks he knows who are old enough to remember think education for black kids was better under segregation. I have no doubt that the main reason for this educational decline is actually attributable to the rise of “progressive” pedagogies, many of which we have discussed on this list. “Whole language,” “balanced literacy,” or whatever they call them, these new teaching methods do not teach reading and other basic skills in a systematic, step-by-step way, and so they leave behind the kids who most need that kind of systematic instruction. And, of course, those left behind include many, many black children from homes where reading is not a regular activity. Diana Lam, Diane Snowball, Lucy Calkin, take a bow.

Grad students strike at NYU


A hot topic at NYU has been the strike of grad students when the university decided not to engage in collective bargaining any longer, as the NLRB ruled it did not have to.

As this article explains, the incoming president of the American Association of University Professors, Cary Nelson, feels so strongly about this that he got himself arrested during a rally to support the oppressed workers.

He also wants to galvanize a boycott of NYU, getting like-minded professors to, for example, refuse to serve on NYU tenure review committees. That’s really going to hurt.

Nelson is perfectly free to boycott all he wishes, and to encourage others to do the same. But NYU — and all other employers in the US — ought to have the equal freedom to decline to deal with labor unions. It’s only due to a legal quirk that NYU is not legally compelled to engage in “good faith” bargaining with the grad students’ union, but that’s the correct resolution since mandatory bargaining isn’t really bargaining at all.

If you read the comments, you’ll see that this issue really touches off fireworks with academics.

Quality is Job


Lots of people who traditionlly have considered careers as professors aren’t doing so today, according to a new book, The American Faculty, by Jack Schuster and Martin Finkelstein: “Declines have occurred in the percentage of Rhodes Scholars, Luce Scholars, Watson Fellows, Phi Beta Kappa members, and entering college students over all who aspire to a career in teaching.” Even so: “Surveys of graduate programs and hiring committees indicate a very high quality of applicant (and plenty of them, in some cases a clearly overflowing pool).” I haven’t studied these paradoxical findings in detail, but are “surveys of graduate programs and hiring committees” the best source of objective information? Or would the people responding to these surveys have an incentive to say they’re doing just fine? A news summary on the book is available here.


On the Lam



“Outspoken” Double Take


I had a warm feeling for a moment when I read in The Chronicle of Higher Education that The American Association of University Professors wants to protect the sort of folks who sometimes get invited to college campuses to speak

Indoctrination Ins & Outs


Yesterday, Stephen mentioned the important news that Princeton

Money Talks


John: Likely another reason the AAUP has been loathe to defend controversial speakers is because many of those who pay organizational dues do not wish the often scandalously biased campus activities to come to light.

Saluting First Lieutenant French!


I have the greatest admiration for David French, whose wise counsel I sought on various issues relating to campus freedom while he was president of FIRE. He was recently sworn in as an officer in the U.S. Army Reserve and, as he indicated to me and others affiliated with FIRE, he hopes to serve in Iraq alongside our brave fighting men and women.

God be with you and them, David.

Time for CEOs To Take On Teacher Education


It is heartening to find corporate leaders increasingly speaking out about the dangerous deterioration of American education. Robert J. Stevens, chairman, president and CEO of Lockheed Martin, recently addressed one consequence of this problem,

“Tale of Two Terrorists”


Whereas the U. S. State Department gave a visa to a former spokesman for the Taliban, it refused to grant a work visa to a professor from abroad whom Notre Dame wanted to hire. That professor is Tariq Ramadan, whose grandfather had a hand in founding Hamas. Does this mean that Tariq Ramadan can now get into the United States on a student visa? Read more.

More on Student Fees


First, let me thank the good folks at NRO for the opportunity to participate in this forum. It is great to see a publication that represents the intellectual core of the conservative movement dedicate a blog to the ongoing cultural and political crisis in our universities.

It is remarkable the extent to which many of the topics discussed in PBC raise core constitutional issues (as a bit of background, I am an attorney and the former president of FIRE. I am now a Senior Legal Counsel at the Alliance Defense Fund and the Director of ADF’s new Center for Academic Freedom). University actions are often not just biased but actually unlawful.

Take student fees. Under the law, the only way that the student-fee system is legal is if the student fees are dispensed in a viewpoint-neutral fashion. In other words, every student group has a right to apply for and receive student fees without regard to the viewpoint of the group. So religious groups, political groups, and cultural groups should be on equal footing and receive roughly equivalent funding as their ideological counterparts. College Democrats should not be funded more than College Republicans, liberal religious groups not more than conservative groups, etc.

Yet the fact is universities use mandatory student fees to funnel vast amounts of money to explicitly leftist causes while underfunding (or de-funding entirely) conservative speech. Much, if not most, of leftist student activism is handsomely funded through the student fee. The problem is particularly acute during election season. For example, Michael Moore’s famous “Slacker Uprising Tour” in 2004 received vast amounts of student-fee funding, sometimes more than $40,000 per appearance without, corresponding amounts being made available to conservative groups. In the realm of religious speech, despite explicit Supreme Court authority to the contrary, Georgia Tech refuses to fund religious groups (ADF has sued the university to overturn this policy. And word now comes that the University of Wisconsin-Madison is engaging in religious discrimination in its student-fee system.

There are really only two options: multiple lawsuits in multiple jurisdictions to deter university misconduct, or legislative abolition of the student fee itself. Let students pay dues to join the organizations they like . . . it will save students money (at some schools the student fee can reach $500 per semester), and it will end a socialist system of forced speech.

More on Manliness


From my inbox:

I could not agree more with your characterization of Christina Hoff Sommers’ review of Mansfield’s Manliness. I have her review on my desk and don’t seem to be able to throw it away.

You superbly characterizes the review and the book as “elegant”.

I am a real fan of the “elegant ” Mansfield. I saw his C-Span “discussion” with feminist Naomi Wolfe, who did everything she could to keep from kicking him under the table. During Wolfe

The “Code” as Path to Truth?


As John Miller notes, the Archbishop of Canterbury has criticized

Go Directly to Jail, Do Not Pass Go


Candace: Maybe one reason the AAUP has been so slow to defend controversial speakers is because its leaders have been spending so much time getting arrested.

Spinning Grade Bias


Academics have been slow to acknowledge that conservative students may be graded down for their beliefs but they are assiduously trying to put a spin on the reasons for the injustice.

Exit Carmen, Enter Andres


The resignation of Carmen Fari

The AAUP: Better Late Than Never


The American Association of University Professors has at last issued a policy statement that defends the right of campus groups to host controversial speakers to their colleges. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that this statement arrives a year and a half after a national presidential campaign which was filled with campus-speaker disputes and cancellations.

In contrast, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education condemned such abuses of free expression from the outset.

The AAUP needs leaders who really care about constitutional rights on campuses–and who would take a leaf from FIRE.

Why can’t college grads write?


As an English professor writes here, it’s because many of them won’t listen to criticism. Their K-12 years have led them to believe that they’re very good writers when in fact they’re awful, but because they previously gotten high grades for their poor work, they want high grades in college.


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