Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

The Campus as Selling Machine


Stephen Budiansky recently wrote zanily about “how colleges prostitute themselves to improve their U.S. News & World Report rankings and keep up a healthy supply of tuition-paying students, while wrapping their craven commercialism in high-minded-sounding academic blather.”

There is more to say about the increasingly frenzied marketing mania on campuses. Slippery (not to mention costly) advertising often papers over academic mediocrity and failure, which is hidden from the public because colleges refuse to measure and report on student learning–and which “evaluators” such as U.S. News gloss over in their rankings. The public must better learn to see through this glitzy and deceptive advertising. Rankings that compare the true academic strength of campuses are badly needed.

Another Pro-Life Display Destroyed


Just a couple weeks after Professor Sally Jacobsen encouraged her students to “to express their freedom-of-speech rights“ by destroying a pro-life display at Northern Kentucky University, another pro-life exhibit has been demolished, this time at Western Washington University.
Yesterday, a lone WWU student, David Janus Zhang, jumped over a three-foot aluminum fence protecting the exhibit and destroyed pictures that showed aborted fetuses next to victims of genocide, according to The Bellingham Herald. Zhang incurred $2,700 worth of damages and was later arrested by police and booked on charges of malicious mischief and disorderly conduct. To view pictures of Zhang destroying the exhibit, click here. (WARNING: graphic images of abortion are visible).


SAT Scores


are down . This teacher recommends the ACT.

Where Academic Bias Really Is


As the intellectual-diversity movement unfolds in state legislatures and in the media, a pattern of resistance has developed, and it’s a potent one. It came up in questions posed during the hearings in Pennsylvania, and it was echoed in news stories (see here and here). In those cases, the focus swerved from the actual locus of the bias. Bias was postulated in the wrong places, and when they didn’t find it there, legislators and skeptical journalists declared the whole issue a false problem.


Here is where went gone wrong. The inquiry was set up to focus on specific events and actions. Have professors punished conservative students at grading time? Have partisan incidents spread through classrooms? Are there intimidated professors and harassed students lurking underground? In these cases, the attention fell on individual teachers and episodes. It was the personal contact that counted.


For an inquiry into bias in an institution the size and complexity of the university, this is a dead end. Academia is a subculture, an insider’s universe. People join it by undergoing a slow and selective process, over many years learning to give lectures, conduct research, and handle students. At each stage, they’re judged by people who have already passed through the system. This makes for a social component in the training. What happens is what happens in any closed group over time. A set of mores, protocols, attitudes, and norms develops. In its better forms, it goes by the name of professionalism. But how easily do those attitudes and norms slide into cliquish, parochial, or ideological behavior, especially when professionals talk only to themselves. Bias, then, operates more systematically, less overtly than in a rant against George Bush in the classroom, less individualistically than in one person’s exercise of power. It becomes proper to the whole discipline.


Here’s an example. Among the general goals listed in the College of Education at Penn State is this: “Enhance the commitment of faculty, staff, and students to the centrality of diversity, social justice, and democratic citizenship.” This is an ideological demand.  “Social justice” is a loaded political term, and its range of meanings includes government policies to redistribute wealth and resources down the income ladder. It may, and should, be part of the curriculum, a practice to be studied. But to insert social justice into a mission statement is to make it an entrance requirement. If you subscribe to it, you may join.


When prospective students who don’t share the social-justice outlook encounter such statements, they don’t file complaints. They walk away. When professors in the program assume the rightness of social justice, they don’t think they’re acting partisan. They’re merely abiding by the standards of their field. What is a political position is made to look like a professional one. The habit has become so ingrained in academic behavior that liberal bias proceeds in professional-looking ways–in the books selected for a syllabus, in the topics considered relevant and cutting-edge in a field, in the themes chosen for conferences. Nobody needs to say, “We don’t want any conservative or libertarian views around here!” The system already takes care of it.


Here is where attention should go. Which programs and departments make an ideological belief definitive of responsible academic conduct? Professors who blatantly push an ideological agenda are far outnumbered by those who don’t, and individual cases of discrimination may be cast as exceptions. But the norms that preside over the humanities, schools of education, and many social-science departments are there for the exposure–if one wishes to take the time and trouble to chart them. 

Plato, Call Your Office


After observing hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens marching with impunity through our cities this past month, demanding equality with American citizens, I could not help but recall the prescience of Plato’s critique of democracy (and how it inexorably leads to tyranny) in Book VIII of the Republic: 

“Resident aliens and even foreigners make themselves equal to citizens, and vice versa.” (563 a) 

Unfortunately, our current crop of academics is too busy promoting la Reconquista through the establishment of  “Chicano/a Studies” and “Latino/a Studies” departments to spend much time teaching a DWEM (dead white European male) like Plato. Plato’s comment on illegal aliens in a democracy  is not the only gem in Book VIII — consider his view on education in a democracy: 

“The teacher is terrified of his pupils and wheedles them; they hold both him and their tutors in contempt. Children ape adults in everything and argue and fight with them…” (563 b) 

On feminism? 

“Mob liberty culminates in a city like this…  Oh — and I almost forgot: there’s also complete freedom and equal rights in the relations between the sexes.” (563 b) And animal rights? “… you’d never believe the freedom that even animals subject to man enjoy in a democracy. Dogs behave like the proverbial masters…”*  (563 c) 

Has Alfred North Whitehead’s observation that “philosophy is a series of footnotes on Plato” ever been more trenchant?

*Translations are Raymond Larson’s.


What’s A Little Hush Money?


How many other such

Distorted History


In a publication of the Fordham Foundation, Where Did Social Studies Go Wrong? (2003), the authors report on a review of world-history textbooks used in the state of Wisconsin. Even though the subject is world history, the reviewers found that in the sections on World War II, substantial attention was devoted to the internment of Japanese-Americans in the U.S. during the war, while little space was given to Japanese atrocities, such as Japanese treatment of POWs or the rape and murder of hundreds of thousands of civilians by the Japanese army in Nanking in 1937.

Cowardly Presidents


Below John indicates that John Leo has handed out his annual golden, Oscar-like, no-spine

Wisconsin Punts On Student Fees


Yesterday, after threatening that he would cut the religious elements out of the University of Wisconsin’s Roman Catholic Foundation’s budget, University of Wisconsin (Madison) Chancellor John Wiley agreed to fund the foundation’s student fee request.  However, he then indicated that next year, the university would engage in viewpoint discrimination by scrutinizing whether student fees would fund religious activities.  In other words, the university has punted the constitutional questions down the field.

Despite on-point Supreme Court authority, the university’s counsel continues to insist that spending student fees on religious student groups violates the Establishment Clause.  I particularly enjoyed these comments from university attorney Nancy Lynch (as quoted in the student newspaper):

According to Lynch, however, none of the Supreme Court cases

Killing Whitey, en Espa


Joseph Farah, in “War Has Been Declared,” quotes Jose Angel Gutierrez, political science professor at the University of Texas at Arlngton who was caught on videotape (no date given) saying:  “We have an aging white America. They are dying. They are [going] in their pants with fear! I love it! We have got to eliminate the gringo, and what I mean by that is if the worst comes to the worst, we have got to kill him!” 

Re Feminist Vandal


Candace’s post enforces my belief that feminism is by nature extreme, that there really is no moderate feminism, and that the belief that there is a moderate version has given feminism a much longer life than it might have had otherwise.  There are women who think of themselves as feminists and  moderates, but the sweep of the movement has been toward radicalizing our society, attacking men, denigrating women’s traditional roles, and registerng any disparities in male/female outcomes as the result of continuing “sexism,” even while pretending that it’s all about ”choice.”    



John Leo identifies America’s most spineless educators.

Feminist Vandal


As I noted earlier, Professor Sally Jacobsen and her graduate students at Northern Kentucky University demolished a pro-life exhibit on campus. Commendably, the university

Pandering to Chinese Students’ “Pain”


University officials at MIT removed from a course website a picture of Chinese prisoners being lined up by Japanese soldiers to be beheaded–when some Chinese students objected to it. The image had been intended as an example of how the Japanese employed propaganda for political purposes during the Sino-Japanese War.

Academic merit, and not students

Petition to Oppose Dr. Rice at Boston College


Two theologians organized a petition opposing Boston College’s decision to award Dr. Condi Rice an honorary degree, according to the Boston Globe.

For some analysis, CAMPUS Magazine.

At Least She’s Consistent


Readers of a front-page story in the Washington Post today may be confused, so let me help straighten them out. The article is about how a principal at a top magnet school in the Northern Virginia DC suburbs has apologized for anti-Asian remarks at a parent-teacher-student association meeting. But the article also says that the principal was a champion of increased

The Donor-Intent Problem


Back in 1998, Martin Morse Wooster wrote a fine book entitled The Great Philanthropists and the Problem of Donor Intent. Here he focuses on the problem of donor intent in higher education with an excellent essay on the Robertson family’s dispute with Princeton over the university’s determination to spend the money however it pleases rather than as the donor instructed.

Affirmative Action and Immigration


Thomas Sowell, in a column titled “Hidden Costs,” draws attention to something not often discussed: that immigrants from minority groups are entitled to preferential treatment in jobs, government contracts, and college admissions. “The moment they set foot on American soil, they are entitled to receive benefits created originally with the rationale that these benefits were to compensate for the injustices minorities had suffered in this country.”

Toilet Wars


At the risk of leading this blog down an indecorous path, I offer this article–via Drudge–about efforts at the University of Colorado, Boulder campus, to increase the number of gender-neutral bathrooms on campus. Student Bryce Ableson is

Geography Bee Flop


An astonishing number of young Americans (aged 18-24) are geographically illiterate, according to a new study. Among its findings:


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