TODAY’S UNIVERSITIES: IN DESPERATE NEED OF REPAIR
Repairing America’s Broken Universities: Daniel Pipes, Middle East Forum, Mar. 20, 2019 — When the FBI informs us that parents are ready to spend up to $6.5 million in bribes to get their children into prestige colleges, it seemingly implies that all is very, very well in the American university. But Warren Treadgold tells us that’s an illusion.
Why Postmoderns Train—Not Educate—Activists: Stephen Hicks, The James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, Mar. 20, 2019 — Postmodernism is a sprawling movement centered on the conviction that the modern world’s most distinctive achievements—among them the rise of science, technology, individualism, universal rights, democratic-republicanism, and liberal capitalism—should be treated with suspicion or outright contempt.
Can Higher Education Be Saved?: Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, Jan. 8, 2019 — America is schizophrenic about its major universities and, to a lesser extent, its undergraduate colleges.
BDS Prosecution Efforts at UCLA and UCI: Edwin Black, BESA, Feb. 2, 2019 — Organized disruptors – both students and non-students – who shut down a pro-Israel gathering at University of California Los Angeles in May 2018 might not be prosecuted, according to information from LA City Attorney Mike Feuer’s
On Topic Links:
Democrats Just Introduced Their Own Anti-BDS Resolution: Batya Ungar Sargon, The Forward, Mar. 21, 2019 — House Democrats have introduced a new bi-partisan resolution opposing the boycott of Israel, known as BDS, and reaffirming their support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Subversion in the Garb of Social Justice: Sumantra Maitra National Review, April 9, 2018 —
Lola Olufemi was bitter that she had been targeted. Led by Olufemi, an officer in the Cambridge University Students’ Union (CUSU), a group of activist students had started a petition to “decolonize” the university’s English curriculum, inspired by “support” from the Marxist, post-colonial academic Dr. Priyamvada Gopal.
Cambridge Rescinds Its Offer to Jordan Peterson: Kevin D. Williamson, National Review, Mar. 21, 2019 — Cambridge has rescinded the offer of a visiting professorship to Jordan Peterson.
Cornell, Harvard Drop GRE for English Ph.D.: Scott Jascitt, Inside Higher Ed, Mar. 18, 2019 — The English department at Cornell University on Friday announced that it would no longer require applicants to its Ph.D. program to submit Graduate Record Examination scores.
Higher Ed’s Bribery Scandal Is Decadent and Depraved. Here Are 8 Truly Tasteless Allegations: Jack Stripling, The Chronicle of Higher Education Mar. 13, 2019 — The U.S. Department of Justice on Tuesday revealed a sweeping bribery scheme that prosecutors say allowed wealthy parents to secure admission for their children into some of the nation’s most highly selective universities.
REPAIRING AMERICA’S BROKEN UNIVERSITIES
Middle East Forum, Mar. 20, 2019
When the FBI informs us, that parents are ready to spend up to $6.5 million in bribes to get their children into prestige colleges, it seemingly implies that all is very, very well in the American university. But Warren Treadgold tells us that’s an illusion.
He’s a distinguished professor of Byzantine history at St. Louis University who has also taught at Berkeley, FIU, Hillsdale, Stanford, and UCLA. Having entered college in 1967, he draws on long experience to both indict and offer a remedy of the most thoroughly left-wing major institution in America. His book, The University We Need (Encounter, 2018) presents its case with insight and a light touch.
Treadgold reports a deep rot: Faculty search committees routinely screen out the most capable candidates, fearing to be shown up by them; he even suggests that they would turn down Albert Einstein. Instead, they usually favor “only black, Hispanic, and female applicants who hold the sorts of views that the universities approve.” Not surprisingly, graduate students prepare obscure, jargon-laded theses, hoping to win the favor of lazy search committees with their “few fashionable publications.” Professors bribe students with high grades to win positive evaluations from them. Administrators (i.e., “professors uninterested in teaching and research”) have doubled in number over recent decades.
“The University We Need” cover.
Worse yet is the ideological groupthink: “The dominant opinion considers fighting racism, sexism, and other forms of oppression to be so vital that it supersedes everything else” – including serious scholarship and proper teaching of the young (resulting in “mediocre courses on unrelated subjects”). Leftist dogma – an insistence on judging the past by today’s standards, celebrating allegedly oppressed groups, replacing facts with “narratives,” and prostrating before “social justice” – reigns at nearly all institutions of higher learning.
All this matters, Treadgold argues, because what begins at the university spreads to the country as a whole; just look at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit or the radical Democrats in the House of Representatives. Indeed, “We need good universities in the same way that we need reliable electricity and safe drinking water.”
But where to find them? Attempts to fix existing institutions, as John Silber of Boston University learned the hard way, fail; no matter how dedicated and capable, a president cannot lastingly turn a university around. Instead, Treadgold envisions building a major new university from scratch.
This new university will feature real debate, not safe zones; temporary, not permanent administrators; excellence, not conformity; diversity of ideas, not of skin color; general education, not idiosyncratic courses (“Mummies, Zombies, and Vampires” anyone?); study tours abroad, not foreign campuses; strong departments, not interdisciplinary studies; and true scholarship, not postmodern claptrap.
Treadgold’s vision even includes the smallest specifics: “Narrow beds” at his planned campus “should help discourage overnight stays.” He proposes a location 25 miles outside of Washington, D.C., accessible to the corridors of power without being overwhelmed by them.
A narrow dormitory bed.
Of particular interest, he calls for a focus on topics that other universities avoid as too controversial, such as “climate engineering, the consequences of family breakdown, and the philosophical inconsistencies of collective guilt.” He predicts this newcomer will challenge the staid world of elite universities, upset the status quo, and create a new standard of quality. [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
WHY POSTMODERNS TRAIN—NOT EDUCATE—ACTIVISTS
The James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, Mar. 20, 2019
Postmodernism is a sprawling movement centered on the conviction that the modern world’s most distinctive achievements—among them the rise of science, technology, individualism, universal rights, democratic-republicanism, and liberal capitalism—should be treated with suspicion or outright contempt.
Most of us encountered old-fashioned indoctrinators in our education. Indoctrinators think this way: There is the One Truth. I am in possession of it. So important is it that students must believe it. Alternative ideas are a waste of time—and a temptation to unformed minds—and should be shunned. So as a teacher I will use my authority and my power to instill only the correct ideas.
Our modern ideal of liberal education fought a long battle against that view. Truth matters, yes, but it is often complex, and exposure to contending theories and their leading advocates is the best way for students to sort it out. Students also need to develop their own strength of mind to be able, independently and with confidence, to handle the new, complex issues they will encounter all their lives.
John Stuart Mill’s now-classic statement of the liberal-education ideal argued passionately that students must learn not only the best answers but also their contenders, and that a trained mind will know not only the reasons for the best answer but also the strongest criticisms of it. And not only that, they will know the best arguments for the contender positions and how to respond to them.
Institutionally, then, Mill argued that schools should hire teachers from diverse viewpoints—for only by exposure to the expert and passionate articulation of varied viewpoints will students get a first-rate education.
Liberal education won the debate and prevailed—but most of us are surprised by our generation’s resurgence of angry activism led by large numbers of students and recent graduates who are confrontational and completely uninterested in debate. (And who seem to disbelieve that there’s anything that needs debating.) They are the products of a new-fashioned indoctrination, one that results from the groundwork laid by two generations of postmodern ideology.
Philosophers Michel Foucault, Richard Rorty, Jacques Derrida, and others cast a suspicious eye upon “truth” and substituted group-relativized “narratives”—lamenting that those narratives are usually in brutal conflict with each other. We cannot escape our “ethnocentric predicament,” Rorty claimed: “We must, in practice, privilege our own group.” Others asserted that race or gender or class divides were more fundamental.
That is the first step: Truth is out, and racial/gender/class/ethnic-group conflict prevails. But then, what is the purpose of education?
Foucault was explicit about the implications of the death of truth. Shortly after leaving the Communist Party, he tells us, he followed the lead of his semi-mentor Jean-Paul Sartre: “Sartre renounced all philosophical speculation properly speaking and invested his own philosophical activity in behavior that was political.”
That is the second step: We should politicize education.
But what kind of politics? For the first-generation postmoderns, orthodox Marxism was no longer tenable. Something new was needed—something, as deconstructionist Derrida put it, “in the spirit of Marxism”—but without its clunky baggage. Keep Marxism’s themes of exploitation and oppression and its relentless antagonism toward current civilization—but abandon its faith in science, its claim that economics is fundamental, and its belief that the inevitable march of history would bring the revolution. Only subversive Action Now! would effect the transformation.
The next-generation postmodernists got busy. They had learned from Foucault, Rorty, and Derrida that they should abandon truth for narratives, individuals for groups, and politicize the classroom with some sort of quasi-Marxism. And then Herbert Marcuse and Jean-François Lyotard taught them to work within the system rather than positioning themselves as revolutionaries imposing from the outside. Join the system’s leading institutions and, from inside positions of power, rework its ethos… [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
CAN HIGHER EDUCATION BE SAVED?
Victor Davis Hanson
National Review, Jan. 8, 2019
America is schizophrenic about its major universities and, to a lesser extent, its undergraduate colleges. On the one hand, higher education’s professional schools in medicine and business, as well as graduate and undergraduate programs in math, science, and engineering, are the world’s best. America dominates the lists of the top universities compiled in global surveys conducted from the United Kingdom to Japan.
On the other hand, the liberal arts and social sciences have long ago mostly lost their reputations. Go online to Amazon or to the local Barnes and Noble bookstore, and the books on literature, art, and history are often not the products of university professors and presses.
Few believe any more that current liberal-arts programs have prepared graduates to write persuasively and elegantly, to read critically and to think inductively while drawing on a wide body of literary, linguistic, historical, artistic, and philosophical knowledge. In fairness, that is no longer the aim of higher education. When students at tony colleges present petitions objecting to free speech or the right of guests to give lectures, they are usually full of grammatical errors and often incoherent.
Colleges, with some major exceptions (Hillsdale most pre-eminently), simply do not ensure the teaching of such skills any more. Of course, there remain wonderful classes, courageous deans who buck trends, and hardworking faculty who teach splendidly and have received modest compensation and little credit for their yeoman work. But they are a minority and a shrinking one at that.
By and large, the bachelor’s degree, even in a liberal-arts major, no longer certifies that a graduate will be able to read, reason, compute, or draw on a body of knowledge far more effectively than those without an undergraduate degree. The decline of the university has been an ongoing tragedy since the 1960s, but the erosion has accelerated because of ideological bias and its twin, incompetence. Here are five major recent and additional catalysts.
Students owe about $1.5 trillion in student loans, much of it at interest rates higher than those of contemporary mortgages. At least a half-trillion dollars cannot and won’t be paid back. It is hard to know whether unsustainable college mortgages are a reflection or a cause of university decline, or both.
But the crushing student debt plays a variety of pernicious roles in wider society. Students postpone marriage and child-rearing, a trend that is negatively affecting U.S. demography. Home ownership is put off, in favor of living at home in prolonged adolescence, ending the old idea of becoming an adult in one’s early twenties. Most of today’s pejoratives, such as “snowflake” or “social justice warrior,” originate from the reality that on-again-off-again college debt has arrested the development of adult men and women and consumed their twenties.
Much of the debt is due to federally guaranteed loans that were sold to students, and looked on by them, as a virtual loan—more as a grant not necessarily to be paid back. And universities saw the loan guarantee as a green light to jack up their costs higher than the annual rate of inflation. Thanks to such huge cash influxes into campuses, students got Club Med rec centers and well-appointed apartments, while administrators hired a costly legion of diversity and inclusion officers, whose chief duties were to monitor faculty thought, indoctrinate students, and protect their superiors from charges of intersectional racism, sexism, homophobia, nativism, and xenophobia. Perhaps the last hired diversity czar can turn out the lights at another insolvent private liberal-arts college.
Staggering student debt came at a time when major research universities no longer measured their endowments and income in the millions, but in some cases the many billions. In other words, some institutions did very well, even as most students did not.
Any alumni donations that are not strictly targeted should be seen as a waste of philanthropy; they function like toxic drugs to an end-stage addict. And the most frightening idea for most elite academic socialists is that the government might tax endowments over $5 billion or adopt some sort of professional-sports nostrum in which the richest campus franchises must share with the poorest.
II. The Therapeutic Curriculum
Most college courses in literature and history — despite their sometimes anachronistic and traditional titles — focus on “diversity.” That is, they present a play or novel, or a past historical period or event, in terms of how it adversely portrayed or affected the poor, women, and minorities. The larger agenda is ideological: to instruct how the superior present can craft remedies to ensure that incorrect thinking and the biases throughout history and literature do not contaminate contemporary life and society.
What is often forgotten is that political correctness comes at a price of not learning a language, or reading the plays of Shakespeare, or mastering the basic outlines of the Civil War or World War II — given that for youth learning is so often a zero-sum game with only limited hours in the day for study and reading… [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
BDS PROSECUTION EFFORTS AT UCLA AND UCI
BESA, Feb. 2, 2019
Organized disruptors – both students and non-students – who shut down a pro-Israel gathering at University of California Los Angeles in May 2018 might not be prosecuted, according to information from LA City Attorney Mike Feuer’s office. Instead, they will be called to a confidential but mandatory proceeding called a “City Attorney Hearing,” an alternative to prosecution that can be described as a “warning” not to repeat the conduct. One legal expert compared it to a “deferred prosecution,” but stressed that a full trial could still result.
Victims generally do not appear at such a hearing, the City Attorney’s office explained, and generally no criminal record attaches to the accused. Still, the prosecutor retains the right to issue charges later if he feels the illegal conduct has recurred or may recur.
Los Angeles conducts hundreds of such closed-door hearings each year to dispose of minor misdemeanors arising from, for example, neighbor disputes, domestic disharmony, or curfew violations.
South of Los Angeles, in Orange County, newly installed prosecutor Todd Spitzer is still undecided about prosecuting rambunctious disruptors of a pro-Israel event at University of California Irvine that also took place last May, according to official university sources. Spitzer’s office has asked for additional police investigation to develop more facts.
With or without actual prosecution, the two incidents and the Jewish community’s response have potentially changed the landscape for belligerent disruption of pro-Israel events on California campuses, which last year were arguably among the most pernicious in the nation. Those involved in the two California events – the affected students and the Jewish communal groups who rose up to invoke prosecutions – expressed a range of reactions on whether justice has been either minimally obtained or seriously delayed.
StandWithUs and Brandeis Center for Human Rights pivotally intervened to jump-start the criminal referral process on both UC campuses. Roz Rothstein, StandWithUs CEO, commented, “It shows good progress that the [Los Angeles] authorities are holding the disruptors accountable for attempting to remove the freedom of speech from those they disagree with.” Alyza Lewin, president of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, added, “We are gratified by this development. At long last, the universities are holding responsible the perpetrators of these egregious event disruptions. We trust this will deter similar behavior in the future and demonstrate that universities must take such criminal conduct seriously.” … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
CIJR Wishes All Our Friends and Supporters: Shabbat Shalom!