Gettysburg College - Indoctrinate or Teach Students to Think for Themselves?

by Vic Brown

If I learned anything during three decades working in the international chemical industry, it was that there are usually no obvious answers to tough questions. For example, if a company evaluated the shutdown of a chemical plant in the United States, to replace it with a similar one in India, there would be many arguments on both sides of the proposal. Arguments favoring the proposal might include easier access to global tariff-protected markets, lower manufacturing and distribution costs, and the like. Arguments on the other side would center on the need for a major capital expenditure, lost American jobs, environmental cleanup costs at the plant site, etc. These types of decisions were never easy, and we placed a premium on developing executives who could examine the arguments objectively, and make decisions that were in the best interests of as many stakeholders as possible, knowing that it would be impossible to satisfy all of them.

When I moved from industry to work on the faculty and staff at Ursinus College, a well-regarded liberal arts college, I tried my best to challenge my international business students with real case studies that demanded their best efforts to understand facts, to evaluate their impacts and to recommend strategies in complex situations. My role was not to guide them to a “right” answer, but to help them engage in a thought process that was rigorous and complete, regardless of their eventual conclusions. In doing so, I believed that I was helping to prepare them for life in a complex world in which individual and group advocacy are real forces to deal with.

In those semesters in which there was a presidential election, the class as a group exercise would attempt to analyze the candidates and the party platforms in terms of their impact on international business issues, and students ( they were almost all seniors) felt that they became more knowledgeable voters as a result.

With this as a backdrop, I was disheartened to read that at Gettysburg College, or in at least one professor’s course, indoctrination seems to be “trumping” (if I may) independent thinking among students. Professor Kathleen Iannello, who teaches a course in American government, has recently penned a commentary in The Philadelphia Inquirer in which she states that, despite all of her usual efforts to hide her own biases, she simply cannot be silent on Donald Trump. In her words, Trump is just too “harsh”, too “unhinged”, too “distasteful” to occupy the office of president. As Professor Iannello states in her closing sentence, “It is a disservice to students to attempt to provide balance when I know that balance is an offense to the truth”. Of course, this refers to truth as Professor Iannello happens to see it. 

Don’t get me wrong. I have serious problems with both of the candidates in this election, but that doesn’t change my view that college faculty serve a much more important role than just telling students what the professors think is right, no matter how tempting that may be. Much better to challenge the students to think effectively for themselves. After graduation, a professor’s opinion will matter very little to them. What will be important is their ability to successfully navigate their way through the minefields of a complex society. 

Charles Sykes’ New Book Looks Great

by George Leef

Hot off the presses (St. Martin’s) is Charles Sykes’ new book, Fail U. — The False Promise of Higher Education.

Sykes came to my attention some 20 years ago with two books that took a dim view of higher education back when the overwhelming consensus was that our higher education system was the envy of the world and just needed more money: Profscam and The Hollow Men. History has validated his earlier criticisms and I’m eager to dive into his new book.

Here’s what he writes about the higher ed bubble. “The education bubble bursts when puffery is confronted by reality. Increasingly, the economic model of higher education no longer works for many students, who realize belatedly that they have placed themselves in a financial stranglehold for unmarketable degrees.” Precisely.

The one point where I think I may take issue with Sykes is the talking point in the publisher’s release, stating “Too many drop out without ever getting a degree.” I’d argue that the problem isn’t students who drop out without getting a degree, but rather than not enough drop out when it should be apparent that the prospective benefits are considerably less than the inevitable costs.

Department of Education: Judge, Jury, and Enforcer

by Jane S. Shaw

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that the U.S. Department of Education forced the chairman of the board of Metropolitan Community College in Omaha to resign (not just step down as chairman, which he had already done). The Department threatened to cut off student aid to the college if he didn’t.

Why? Another agency of the government, the Department of Housing and Development had prohibited him from “participating in federal contracts for three years.” HUD had found “that he had failed to disclose a potential conflict of interest when he was a member of the Omaha Housing Authority’s board.” Conley claims that HUD’s action was in retaliation for his effort to obtain an audit of the Omaha Housing Authority. (The housing authority was audited, and the audit found that $2.5 million in federal funds had been misappropriated.)

I have no idea whether the trustee, Fred Conley, is an honorable person or not. But does the Department of Education have the authority to stop a school’s federal aid on the basis of one board member having been cut off from another agency’s contracts for failing to disclose a potential conflict of interest?

Do we have a rule of law or a rule of regulators? 

Forever Indignant

by Carol Iannone

Philip Roth’s 2008 novel Indignation has been made into a film of the same name, just released. It is set at a Midwestern college in the 1950s and of course is meant to dramatize the stifling McCarthyite repression and crushing sexual reticence of that period, a view of the time so favored by our leftish intelligentsia but also unfortunately widely accepted by people who should know better. The protagonist is a young Jewish man who wins a scholarship to the college, where, wouldn’t you know it, weekly chapel is required. One wonders if the Temple elders who sponsored the scholarship couldn’t have found a school that did not require chapel attendance and thus spared the atheistic young man his self-righteous indignation. But then, I guess, we wouldn’t have our story, would we.

More interesting than this 1950s take is the fact that the novel and the film are clearly also reprising a period much later than the fifties. The idea of college deferments getting boys out of being sent to war, at that time Korea, is more typical of a later period and a later war. But also, the interrogation to which the young man is subjected by the college dean is clearly meant to remind those who can remember, or inform those who can’t, of the questioning to which Bill Clinton was put regarding his White House affair with Monica Lewinsky. (This also helps explain the sexual act that the female protagonist performs in the film, not likely to be practiced by a well-bred young college girl in those years.) At that time the president lied under oath and subsequently did his best to obstruct justice and tamper with witnesses. He was impeached but acquitted, with much of the country clamoring that “everybody does it” and “it was just about sex.” Few were able to take in that this type of questioning was not due to right-wing McCarthyism but to leftwing feminism and the rules of evidence allowed in instances of inappropriate sexual conduct in the workplace, whether voluntary or not, thanks to the Violence against Women Act, signed by Clinton, and signed again by him after his own ordeal was over.

Alumni Donations Shrink as Campus Political Correctness Grows

by Jennifer Kabbany

College students nowadays protest with signs, sit-ins and social media campaigns. Alumni, meanwhile, have a different weapon at their disposal – their pocketbooks.

As “College Students Protest, Alumni’s Fondness Fades and Checks Shrink,” reports The New York Times.

A backlash from alumni is an unexpected aftershock of the campus disruptions of the last academic year. Although fund-raisers are still gauging the extent of the effect on philanthropy, some colleges — particularly small, elite liberal arts institutions — have reported a decline in donations, accompanied by a laundry list of complaints.

Alumni from a range of generations say they are baffled by today’s college culture. Among their laments: Students are too wrapped up in racial and identity politics. They are allowed to take too many frivolous courses. They have repudiated the heroes and traditions of the past by judging them by today’s standards rather than in the context of their times. Fraternities are being unfairly maligned, and men are being demonized by sexual assault investigations. And university administrations have been too meek in addressing protesters whose messages have seemed to fly in the face of free speech.

Underscoring the drop in donations, universities have seen other impacts from protests. This year, Harvard Business School researchers found “scandals with a high level of media coverage significantly reduce applications. … A scandal covered in a long-form news article leads to a ten percent drop in applications the following year. This is roughly the same as the impact on applications of dropping ten spots in the U.S. News and World Report college rankings,” according to the survey

Over at the University of Missouri, for example, a decline in applications has been dubbed the “Melissa Click Effect.”

If these trends continues – and hopefully they do – it might force feckless administrators to rein in the absurdities so common on campuses today.

Even student activists might be realizing hyperbole hurts their causes. According to students at a free-speech conference this summer that followed a breakout year for campus activism, “protesters face the risk that they complain so often – and about such minor issues – that their peers tune out otherwise worthwhile causes.”

What Good Is a Faculty Senate?

by George Leef

Professors often complain about how obligatory but mostly pointless committee work drains away a lot of their time. One non-obligatory committee that also drains away time is the faculty senate.

So argues University of Southern Indiana business professor Jason Fertig in today’s Pope Center piece.

He has served for more than four years on his school’s faculty senate, and chaired it for one. In the article, he shares his thoughts about the experience. Mostly, they’re negative.

“Cynics claim that faculty senates are archaic, useless bodies,” he writes. “From experience, I can’t say that I disagree.”

What did USI’s faculty senate accomplish? Fertig thinks that its most notable “achievement” was getting a lot of media coverage for its resolution against an Indiana bill defining marriage as between one man and one woman. The problem is that the legislation had nothing to do with the university and indeed the university’s handbook specifically forbids using university property for political advocacy. Fertig pointed that out, but the majority on the senate was not to be deterred from making a statement.

One potentially significant issue that was raised was strengthening the school’s core curriculum. Fertig thinks there was much to do in that regard, but the end result was nothing but a Potemkin Village kind of renaming of the categories of required courses. No substantive change, but that’s what you should expect from a bureaucratic process dominated by people who mostly love to hear themselves talk.

“Perhaps faculty senates are best kept as ceremonial relics of times-gone-by,” Fertig concludes.

When Black Is Not Enough

by John S. Rosenberg

Even before the rash of protests in the wake of the recent racial violence across the nation the volume of demands for more of what students and faculty call “diversity” — more black faculty and students — has been rising dramatically. After the unpleasantness last fall at the University of Missouri, Inside Higher Ed reported, students “called on administrators to increase the share of black faculty members to 10 percent by 2017-18.”

Another typical example comes from the Black Liberation Collective: “1) WE DEMAND at the minimum, Black students and Black faculty to be reflected by [sic] the national percentage of Black folk in the state and the country.” 

Indeed, the influential web site fivethirtyeight.com examined in detail the demands from students at 51 colleges presented on a site called (what else?) The Demands and found that the most common demand was to “increase the diversity of professors,” listed at 38 of the 51 schools. Next, at 35 schools, was to “require diversity training.”

Inasmuch as the demand for black professors threatens to far outrun the supply, there are obvious logistic problems with meeting these student commands. But there is another, under-appreciated problem that will pose a difficult challenge to administrators, hiring committees, diversity trainers, and even black candidates vying to be new “diversity” hires: Who, exactly, is black?

Simply being black is quite obviously not sufficient to satisfy the increasingly shrill “diversity” demands. In its July 11 survey of campus responses to the recent week of racial violence, Inside Higher Ed discusses a petition circulated by Vanderbilt students to suspend Carol Swain, a controversial (because she is both black and conservative) professor of law and political science. (I have discussed her work several times, including here, here, and here.) 

Swain’s current offense: calling the Black Lives Matter movement a “very destructive force” in an interview with CNN. 

The petition calling for Prof. Swain’s dismissal also demands the creation of a mandatory “diversity training program for all Vanderbilt faculty — including Professor Carol Swain — to increase their cultural awareness, foster inclusion of various identity groups, prevent discrimination in the classroom, and to protect the University against inadvertent civil rights violations.”

It would be interesting to see what the curriculum of Vanderbilt’s  mandatory diversity training program would include on how to instruct a black woman professor to be more “inclusive” and “culturally aware,” as well as who would presume to teach her. And it would also be interesting to see how the student “diversity” demanders at any of the 38 colleges listed on The Demand site would react if Prof. Swain were to be considered for a position at any of them.

Pointless Griping from The Education Trust

by George Leef

The Education Trust has just released a new study that amounts to griping that the wealthiest colleges and universities don’t do enough to make it affordable for students from poor families to attend. It has the sorts of people who are tasked with defending the high-endowment schools in a tizzy, arguing that it isn’t fair, overlooks stuff, and so on.

Sadly, what those people can’t or won’t say is that the premise that students from poor families really need to attend these very expensive schools is wrong. Graduating from a high-cost and supposedly elite college is neither necessary nor sufficient for those students (or any others for that matter) to get a good education and have a prosperous life. A good student from a rather impecunious family in North Carolina, for instance, doesn’t have to go to Duke, but will do fine (perhaps even better) by going to one of the UNC institutions or a reasonably priced private college.

Too bad that the Ed Trust folks have fallen for the Chivas Regal effect — the notion that the more you spend on tuition, the better the education you get. That just ain’t so.

Thank Goodness For Financial Experts

by John S. Rosenberg

According to an article on Inside Higher Ed this morning: “High levels of student debt are contributing to negative wealth — when a household’s debt is greater than its total assets — and inequality, according to an analysis of household finance data by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.”

Let me see if I’ve got this right. The analysts at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York have determined that increased “inequality” results from students taking on more debt than they have assets.

Well, no wonder Democrats want to hand out “free college” to everyone! If that prevents debt, it reduces inequality! But why stop there? Just as a country that gets paid to release hostages will, if it is a rational economic actor, seize more hostages, why shouldn’t we all run up our credit card debt? Think of all the “inequality” that could be reduced if all the things we borrow to buy were provided free!

 

How to Conduct Fraud and Avoid Punishment

by Jane S. Shaw

Signs are building that the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is going to get away with 18 years of allowing one of its academic departments to conduct academic fraud.

From 1993 to 2011, courses in the African and Afro-American Studies Department of UNC-Chapel Hill allowed weak students, about half of whom were athletes, to boost their grades by taking what an investigator called a “shadow curriculum.” These were courses that held no classes, had no professor, and required only an easily-graded paper.

The latest news is that UNC-Chapel Hill has replied to the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s notice of allegations by saying that the NCAA has no jurisdiction over academic matters, since the classes were offered to all students. (The Raleigh News & Observer offers an excellent discussion of the school’s response, which includes what seems to be throwing one professor under the bus.)

The UNC response concedes there were “serious institutional issues” as a result of the no-show classes but they should be dealt with by the school’s accreditor, not the NCAA.

And the school’s accreditor, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) has already released UNC-Chapel Hill from a year-long period of probation, which hardly anyone paid attention to, anyway. SACS was persuaded that the university has procedures in place to stop that particular kind of fraud.

So if UNC-Chapel Hill can convince the NCAA that it lacks jurisdiction over academic matters – and thus it can’t punish the school — everything will go back to normal and the school will have escaped any punishment at all.

And What About Free Community College?

by George Leef

We have had a series of posts here relating to the idea of “free” college. I’ll add one more. Last Friday, Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel and Tennessee governor Bill Haslam had an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Let’s Agree on Free Community College.”

Emanuel is, of course, a very prominent Democrat and Haslam is a Republican, so they apparently think that there will be overwhelming support for the idea of making community college “free” — no cost to students, that is. (Both authors either don’t know or forget that all resources have opportunity costs.)

But I don’t agree that this is a good idea, for several reasons. I’ll just state my main objection here. Making community college “free” deepens the government’s involvement in one of the many areas where it has no business at all: education and training. Market actors have strong incentives to provide the most efficient modes of postsecondary education and training and if students have to pay for what they want, they will look for and find whatever suits them best in a competitive field. Turning community college into an extension of high school will politicize it, dumb it down, and damage the non-free market alternatives now available to students.

Emanuel and Haslam say that their idea will “increase educational attainment,” but America’s problem is not that we don’t have enough “attainment” of degrees. Our problem is that, due to government involvement, it takes our young people longer to learn what they need to learn, and at much higher cost.

Why Progressives Want College to be Free

by David Clemens

Progressive politicians from Barack Obama to Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton want college to be free. Is their desire just trolling for more Democrat voters (not only a five-year party, but a free one)? Or is it part and parcel of progressive utopianism? Maybe so, in which case I suppose out of fairness, everyone should graduate summa cum laude.

But what will students learn in free college? I would argue that the real reason progressives want free college is because it fulfills a long-held leftist dream of universal indoctrination. Since the left seized control of American higher education, more and more courses, majors, and disciplines have adopted “best practices,” mandatory “values” (such as the abstraction “diversity”), and what literary critic Frederick Crews called aprioristic teaching where the truth is already revealed, final and immutable (such as anthropogenic climate change and “white privilege”). The search for truth is over.

What does this mean in practice? Consider the email I received last week from the University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC). Anonymized, it reads, in part:

Hello,

I’m [redacted] for College Nine and College Ten at UCSC, and we are in need of instructors for our Fall 2016 Core Course.

The Core Course serves as an introduction to each college’s theme while preparing first-year students for college writing. College Nine focuses on International and Global Perspectives topics such as migration, immigration, educational access and equity, international relations, and consumerism and its effects around the world. College Ten focuses on Social Justice and Community through topics including police brutality and Black Lives Matter, gender and transgender issues, climate change and policy, and educational access and inequity.

Your work in Monterey Peninsula College might make you a great for [sic] the core course instructor positions.

One can readily conclude that UCSC knows nothing about my work. Founded in the 1960s, UCSC (historically known as “Uncle Charlie’s Summer Camp”) was intended to imitate the British system of separate colleges under the aegis of one university. In this case, it was Oxbridge-with-pot-and-surfboards. The university eschewed grades for years in favor of narrative evaluations, the mascot is the Banana Slug, and Black Pantherette Angela Davis is a prominent retired faculty member. And clearly, the two colleges’ Core Courses embrace a host of predetermined political and ideological conclusions, not questions. These are supposed to be writing classes?

The left-wing activist approach is not an isolated phenomenon—it is structural. A former student of mine at U.C. Berkeley wrote to me that:

my friend was in an LGBT class and someone presented and said that they wanted to only take questions from people of color, not white people.  In the same class, my white male friend was vilified for asking questions that the teacher said came from `white privilege.’ Also, one of my classmates did two years at Santa Cruz, and they would have the class vote on how they would handle discussions.  They voted that they would take five comments: three from people of color and two from women.

And this Banana Slug alumnus said:

Professors got tired of [being asked challenging questions] pretty quickly. Students would come to me in secret …., and one said ’if you’ve been to one class at UCSC, you’ve been to them all, because it’s all about race, class, and gender, oh, and sexuality.’ I knew students who had read the same Toni Morrison texts 4 and 5 times for various classes, but had never even heard of Rudyard Kipling. So, much of the faculty I encountered 1) suits facts to theories (Feminist, Marxist, Queerist, etc.) rather than theories to facts 2) actively works to chill dissent and differing points of view 3) will use class time to entertain leftist political aims.   

The indoctrination curriculum is in place; next they make it free and fill the seats.

 

Will Students Value What They Receive for Free?

by Vic Brown

It’s getting harder and harder to keep up with all of Hillary Clinton’s plans to throw tax money at college students.

“Founders and early employees” of entrepreneurial startups are promised a three year delay in repayment of student loans, and as much as a $17,500 forgiveness after five years. Funny, I thought the motivation of these young people was to develop a better mousetrap and cash in on millions of dollars from IPO’s or outright sale of their technology to other companies. I’m not sure a few thousand dollars is of much interest to them, relatively speaking.

Maybe Hillary actually thought about this, so she broadened the offering and announced her well-reported proposal to offer “free tuition” to students whose families make less than $85,000. But even relatively well-heeled families making up to $125,000 will qualify for this perk just five years from now.

As Jane Shaw covered in her post a couple of weeks ago, studies have shown that 60% of the increase in federal funding of student loans gets gobbled up by the colleges themselves, in the form of higher tuition or reduced aid packages, so this also seems like a fairly certain way to waste money without solving the problem of escalating tuition.

As valid as all of this debate is, though, I think it might be missing another important fact. Does anybody really value something that comes free?

A person will take great pains caring for an auto that he spent years saving to afford. But would that person exhibit the same level of care for a company-owned vehicle? Doubtful.

Several years ago,  Philadelphia Airport management installed beautiful new carpeting in their concourses — but had to place trash cans throughout the concourses to catch rain water leaking through the roof. Would a homeowner pay to install new carpet before fixing a leaking roof? Of course not, but since it was other’s people’s money in this case, things were done exactly backward.

It’s much the same situation for college students. Based on my thirteen years of experience teaching at a well-regarded liberal arts college, I consistently found that the most conscientious students, the ones who really worked hard to actually learn, were the ones who were largely paying their own way through school. Many of them worked jobs on campus, and a few even held down full-time employment while attending classes. None of them took longer than four years to graduate, and they always lit up the classroom with their curiosity, energy, and ability to assimilate information.

We value most what we work hard to acquire. If it has no cost, it has no value. Let the free market set higher education value and costs, like it does for cars, computers, and toaster ovens. We have better things for the politicians to do with our own hard-earned tax dollars. 

All Lives Don’t Matter at University of Houston

by John S. Rosenberg

The Washington Post reports (as does the Chronicle of Higher Education this morning) that Rohini Sethi, vice president of student government at the University of Houston, was removed from her position after she posted “Forget #BlackLivesMatter; more like #AllLivesMatter” on Facebook on the evening of July 7, after the Dallas shooting of five police officers.

After minority student organizations ”denounced the post as hateful and inflammatory — unbecoming of a student leader elected to represent the entire student body and who receives a stipend from student fees” — she deleted the post, apologized, agreed to accept “sensitivity training,” but last Wednesday was nevertheless removed from her position.

So far as is known, Ms. Sethi has not been sent to a re-education camp. But there would appear to be little need, since re-education is alive and well at the University of Houston.

ADDENDUM

Inside Higher Ed notes this morning that ”the University of Houston issued a statement saying that it took no action against Sethi.”

Fisk University Offends the Art World

by Jane S. Shaw

Even more arrogant than many university administrators may be philanthropic administrators such as those who run art museums.

Fisk University has been struggling financially, and a few years ago tried to sell its multi-million-dollar collection of paintings donated by the famed artist Georgia O’Keefe. She had stipulated that they remain at the school, so they  could not legally sell them.

The issue was settled by a joint ownership arrangement with an Arkansas museum, Crystal Bridges.

The effort to sell the paintings not only raised questions of donor intent but also aroused the ire of museum administrators. They argued that it was unseemly for schools to obtain money by selling art.

Now we learn that two other paintings were quietly sold at the same time. Those paintings didn’t have the kind of stipulations that the others had. But even so, the museum world is shocked, shocked!

Especially upset was Lyndel King, who heads the Task Force for the Protection of University Collections. The New York Times wrote on July 26:

Though the task force does not have legal authority over universities, its members, who represent several museum associations, can censure those who sell art to pay operating expenses, putting pressure on them not to treat art as an A.T.M. That practice “alienates donors and undermines the purpose of having a museum on campus,” Ms. King said.

King also said, “It’s very much against the ethics of our profession.”

Now, exactly what is unethical about selling art? I think it is the fear that the art might escape a museum and end up in the hands of a loving owner. At least one of the two paintings did — but the owners have loaned it to the Portland (Maine) Museum of Art for an exhibition.

Prof Stirs Up Hornets’ Nest With Alinskyite Tactics

by George Leef

One of my favorite bloggers is Mark Perry, who teaches economics and finance at University of Michigan-Flint. Perry recently borrowed a page from Saul Alinsky’s book by insisting that the other side (in this case, Michigan State) live up to its own rules. Read all about it on Perry’s Carpe Diem blog.

The dispute centers on the women-only lounge at MSU, a clear violation of not only federal law but also, Perry notes, the university’s own rules. Naturally, all hell broke loose when Perry argued that the lounge was indefensible. The voices always raised in favor of “inclusivity” and “diversity” suddenly turned very hostile.

You’re Hired but We Hate You

by Carol Iannone

In his response to letters in the current Commentary on his extraordinary article, “The New Dark Ages on Campus,” which appeared in the April Commentary, KC Johnson makes an acerbic observation. First he points out:

A Duke task force produced a 69-page report claiming to examine the diversity-obsessed university’s “role as a contributor” to “hate and bias”; the group’s recommendations included addressing the “imagery of Black and Latinx staff ‘serving’ students in roles such as dining halls, housekeeping, grounds, bus drivers.”

Leave aside the faulty syntax. Johnson’s observation: “Only in the academy could a university employing significant numbers of black and Hispanic workers be seen as an affront to ‘diversity.’”

True, but is this not in keeping with a great many progressive indictments of aspects of our traditional culture, to make benign and even benevolent positions seem outrages to justice? How about keeping women out of combat being seen as a form of discrimination? For that matter, how did supporting women to raise their own children in their own homes become an example of life-denying deprivation and oppression? Such is the twisted logic of progressive thinking, and it is one of the ways progressives alienate us from our own culture and from ourselves in order to make us more pliable to their strictures and their demands. 

What Good Can a Visiting Conservative Prof Do?

by George Leef

More than a decade ago, a few plutocratic leftists launched a project to make Colorado a “blue” state — i.e., turn it into a reliable state for Democrats and their big government agenda. It worked to a considerable extent. But pushing back slightly, some Colorado free market supporters have managed to secure a visiting professorship for a scholar who advocates limited government, property rights, and free enterprise. The third of these professors, Brian Domitrovic, writes about his experience in today’s Pope Center article.

Domitrovic, whose permanent faculty post is at Sam Houston State, has written a number of sharp books, including Econoclasts in 2012, a book about economists who challenged the reigning Keynesian beliefs to get the U.S. off the road to serfdom (for a while, anyway).

The University of Colorado is very much dominated by leftists, but Domitrovic was pleasantly received by the faculty. More importantly, when he discussed free market concepts himself or brought in guest speakers, the message that big government is a problem played well in the “laid-back” atmosphere of the Rocky Mountains. “In the fight for the soul of Boulder,” he writes, “laid-back is winning and that provides an opening for conservatives.”

You might have expected Art Laffer to get a hostile reception in a leftist college town, but just the opposite happened. “Progressives and conservatives alike were one-upping each other in affirmation of the talk,” Domitrovic writes. Perhaps it isn’t so hard to un-do years of leftist thought-control.

The big question: Is this a good idea? Domitrovic thinks it is, and it’s hard to disagree with his assessment. A professor who presents free market arguments well can indeed make a difference. I’d wager that right now more than a few young (and some not-so-young) Coloradans who the “blue” crowd thought they had as lifetime supporters are wavering or even “lost.”

This Colorado experiment seems to work well. Let a thousand Boulders bloom.

 

How a Leftist Wants to “Get it Right” on Campus Sexual Assault

by George Leef

On Minding the Campus, KC Johnson has another one of his sharp pieces about the blatant unfairness of the procedures being foisted on colleges to handle allegations of sexual assault.

In this one, he reflects on a Chronicle article about a recent gathering to deal with the problem of sexual assault. In it, author Sarah Brown declared that she was determined “to get this right,” but both the article and the event were blatantly one-sided. Johnson wonders, “Why would a federally-funded organization, amidst a conference that wanted to ‘get this right’ hear only from those involved on one side of the process?”

No one bothered to invite anyone from FIRE or any other group interested in civil liberties. Evidently, the proponents of draconian federal rules on this are about as interested in debate as are the climate change zealots who constantly declare that the issue is “settled.”

Johnson also reveals that federal money has gone into a firm that does “training” for college officials, training that instructs them to “start by believing” the accuser and avoid reporting any inconsistencies in her story.

All of that reveals the same mindset as in the Duke lacrosse case, which Johnson covered with such determination for years on this blog.

Someone Else Who Sees the Dumbing Down Problem

by George Leef

Every so often, I spy a letter to the editor from a writer who really nails the truth. Today is one of those days. Reading the Wall Street Journal, I came across this letter from a man in Kansas who understands that the more the government pushes formal education, the more it dumbs it down. Here is the letter:

Your editorial “Free College, Dude” (July 11) omits one important consideration: Today’s college degree indicates the holder’s commercial competence as about equal to that of one with a high-school diploma many years ago. I taught at a college in the ’50s and then again 40 years later, and the downward slide in the typical student’s learning capability was alarming. So when we see that most jobs today go to folks with a college degree, it means the employer is, probably knowingly, hiring someone with the ability—and performance prospects—of yesterday’s high-school grad. We once concluded that everyone deserved a free high-school-level education, so now shouldn’t that mean a free college degree? Of course we could strive to improve our educational system to reacquire yesterday’s standards. But that may require the same 40 years it took to lose them.

Harry R. Clements

Wichita, Kan.


As I have said over and over, policies to increase our “educational attainment” just mean that it takes longer for students to learn what they need to. Many, sadly, never learn much of anything.