Category Archive 'Colleges and Universities'
03 Sep 2019

Student Debt

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That clever old curmudgeon Victor Davis Hanson argues that colleges have been burying young people in student loan debt in return, too often, for worthless degrees in left-wing nonsense.

[T]he modern university has wrought has now outweighed its once positive role.

Let us count the ways higher education had done its part to nearly harm the United States. A new generation owes $1.5 trillion in student debt—a sum that an increasing majority of debtors either cannot pay back or simply will not.

One’s 20s are now redefined as the lost decade, as marriage, child-rearing, and home buying are put off, to the extent they still occur, into one’s 30s.

Bitterness abounds when graduates gradually learn that their liberal anti-capitalist professors and administrators were part of a profit-rigged system by which peasant students became financial cannon fodder. For all the hipster left-wing campus atmospherics, the university operated more or less as a Madoff/Ponzi scheme: for each new admitted class of students, the fed backed another round of usurious loans that could never be paid back by those of little means, and the university upped its prices.

The result was reduced teaching, a bonanza of release time, administrative bloat, Club Med dorms, gyms, and student unions, and epidemics of highly paid but non-teaching careerist advisors, and counselors.

The university was now in loco parentis, a sort of granny that babysat men and women of arrested development and encouraged the idea that they were helpless. The more students were considered “adults” in matters of loud and boisterous protests, obscene speech, binge drinking, common drug use, and hook-up sex, the more they wished to be treated as Victorian children. Suddenly kids were shocked that the inebriated acted dangerously and boorishly, upset that the targets of their attack did not like them, and furious that sexual congress without commitment and love was often manipulative and embedded within male callousness and deceit.

Adolescent-adults were oblivious to changing public attitudes that no longer put up with “college antics” but saw the university and its students and employees as pampered, hypocritical, intolerant, and often obnoxious. Shrill campus protests seemed like Antifa boot camps without the masks and clubs. …

Indebted students, many with largely worthless degrees, and few employment opportunities sufficient to repay their loans, have become a loyal progressive constituency. How odd that an entire generation, in psychologically and financially suspended animation, is seen as useful by the very politicos who created this labyrinth of exploitation in the first place.

RTWT

29 Aug 2019

New Book on the Crisis at the Universities by Former Dean of Yale Law School

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Power-line’s Steve Hayward has an important new book recommendation.

This week’s mail brought me Anthony Kronman’s new book, The Assault on American Excellence, which begins with a chronicle of the follies of Yale University, where Kronman teaches and once served as dean of Yale Law. … I got to meet Prof. Kronman at a terrific colloquium about Max Weber last year at UCLA, where he told me some about his new book, which arose out of his rising disgust with identity politics and what it is doing to higher education. In one sentence, it is bringing “higher education” quite low.

Kronman is significant because, like Columbia’s Mark Lilla, he considers himself to be a liberal/progressive in his general political views. As such, he represents perhaps a last gasp of an older liberalism what was generally liberal. And sure enough, like Mark Lilla, Kronman has drawn some early attacks for the book, such as this disgraceful review in the Washington Post by Wesleyan University president Michael Roth, who I thought might be part of the resistance to the nihilism of identity politics, but turns out instead now to be a fraud.

I suspect Kronman is going to get a frosty reception in the Yale faculty lounges and faculty meetings. But all hope is not lost. Last summer we reported on the campaign of journalist Jamie Kirchick to be elected as the Alumni Fellow to the board of the Yale Corporation, with the intentions of trying to argue at the board level about Yale’s moral and intellectual dereliction. To be a candidate in the board election requires a lot of Yale alumni signatures within a short window of time, and Kirchick’s drive fell short.

This year Nicholas Quinn Rosencranz, a Yale Law grad and currently professor of law at Georgetown, is running an insurgent campaign. (The Rosencranz family has been very generous to Yale over the years; there’s a building named for them.) See this statement of the Alumni for Excellence at Yale about the myriad reasons for his candidacy, but most important, if you are a Yale alum (undergraduate or graduate school), scroll to the bottom and click on the button to sign Nick’s petition to be put on the board ballot. He needs to get 4,266 alumni signatures by October 1, at which point a full-fledged campaign can begin to win the alumni vote.

25 Aug 2019

The American College Dormitory

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My own college dormitory, one of “James Gamble Rogers’ sublime Yale residential colleges.”

Anthony Paletta reviews a recent book on college dormitories in America.

Hotels have received plenty of architectural attention, but unless you’re Howard Hughes or Coco Chanel you probably haven’t spent four years living in them. One space where most readers have likely spent just that long in residence–and that hasn’t attracted a fraction of that kind of attention—is the old-fashioned college dormitory, now ably addressed in Carla Yanni’s Living on Campus: An Architectural History of the American Dormitory.

The dormitory is an interesting space, intrinsically transient but often designed to serve as a social aggregator, edifying home environment and cocoon from baleful influences, once loose morals and religious nonconformists, lately Halloween costumes and Republicans. It’s a building type represented virtually everywhere in the United States—Yanni notes early on that there are likely more than thirty thousand dormitory buildings in the U.S.

The first unusual thing about American dormitories is simply how widespread they are. You don’t actually need to house students on-site: this happens for a very small minority of students in secondary and boarding schools, and a minority in graduate education. Living on campus is not remotely as common in a number of other societies, and wasn’t the standard even in some European societies that provided inspiration to American universities. A prime task is to explain “why Americans have believed for so long that college students should live in purpose-built structures that we now take for granted: dormitories. This was never inevitable, nor was it even necessary.”

The religious and often rural origins of many American colleges, designed to remove students from the malignant influences of the city, played a prominent role in the provision of housing. She quotes Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Fanshawe and its fictional Harley College—“The local situation of the college, so far secluded from the sight and sound of the busy world, is peculiarly favorable to the moral, if not the literary, habits of its students; and this advantage probably caused the founders to overlook the inconveniences that were inseparably connected with it.”

RTWT

I’ll bet the Yanni book overlooks the story of the Yale undergraduate of the 1850s who was expelled for shooting a deer on the New Haven Green from his dormitory window on the Old Campus.

09 Apr 2019

The Closing of the Millennial Mind

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Rod Dreher

Over the weekend, I met a friend in Cambridge, Mass., for lunch. He’s a foreigner studying at Harvard. He told me that his experience there has been quite an education in how the American elite constructs its worldview and reproduces itself. In fact, that is perhaps the most important lesson he has learned from his experience at the top US university.

I’m writing this with his permission, but I want to be careful about what I say, to protect his privacy. In general, he said it has been a real shock to him — and to the other foreign students in his circle — to observe how “coercive” (his word) the intellectual atmosphere at Harvard is, at least in the areas he’s been studying. He explained that it is quite simply impossible to discuss certain things, and ask certain questions, because of the ideological rigidity of the American students and their teachers. My friend made clear that this is the consensus view of the foreigners he knows there, whether they are on the left or the right.

My lunch companion said that the elites formed by this most elite American university are people who have set up a world in which they never have to encounter an idea, or a person, that they don’t already endorse or embrace. We were joined at the table by a third person, a left-wing Baby Boomer who works in a very liberal Boston institution (I’ll not name it to protect his privacy), and who said that he finds the ideological rigidity of Millennials and the generation behind them to be insufferable. Such joyless, humorless, incurious people, he said. The foreigner, though a Millennial himself, agreed.

On our way to the restaurant, I had mentioned to my foreign friend something I’ve heard from several of you readers of this blog who are conservative academics: that as long as old-school liberals remain in charge of faculties and academic institutions, there will be a place for right-of-center scholars. But when the Jacobin-like younger generation moves into leadership, that will be the end. He agreed, and brought up several examples from academia and academia-adjacent institutions (e.g., publishing). He told me one story about a left-liberal scholar he knows who has been turned into a non-person for questioning out loud some of aspects of au courant progressive dogma. I’m not easy to shock about things like this, but this particular story — my foreign friend named names — was for me a sign of how advanced the ideological militancy has become.

It recalled in fact an e-mail conversation I had last week with a liberal journalist friend who hates to see this closing of the left’s mind. My journalist pal said that he’s seeing on the left a moralistic refusal even to consider ideas, people, and data that contradict these leftists’ moral code. Understand: it’s not that this new breed of progressives disagrees (though they do); it’s that they believe, and believe strongly, that even to confront information that contradicts what they prefer to believe is intolerable.

Said my friend: “No wonder these people are always shocked by the latest developments in politics. They refuse to see the world as it is.”

RTWT

17 Nov 2018

Ross Douthat: Harry Potter’s World & Ours

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The dining hall of my personal Hogwarts.

Ross Douthat explained last year why the Harry Potter books struck such a chord in our contemporary meritocratic world.

[I]f you take the Potterverse seriously as an allegory for ours, the most noteworthy divide isn’t between the good multicultural wizards and the bad racist ones. It’s between all the wizards, good and bad, and everybody else — the Muggles.

For the six readers who have never read the Potter books but who have stuck with the column thus far nonetheless: Muggles are non-magical folks, the billions of regular everyday human beings who live and work in blissful ignorance that the wizarding world exists. The only exception comes when one of them marries a wizard or has the genetic luck to give birth to a magic-capable child, in which case they get to watch their offspring ascend to one of the wizarding academies while they experience its raptures and revelations secondhand.

The proper treatment of Muggles, meanwhile, is the great controversy within the wizarding world, where the good guys want them protected, left alone and sometimes studied, while the bad guys want to see them subjugated or enslaved (and all the Muggle-born “mudbloods” purged from the wizarding ranks).

All of this plays as an allegory for racism, up to a point … but only up to a point, because what’s notable is that nobody actually wants to see the mass of Muggles (as opposed to their occasional wizardish offspring) integrated into the wizarding society. Indeed, according to the rules of Rowling’s universe, that seems to be impossible. You’re either born with magic or you aren’t, and if you aren’t there’s really not any obvious place for you in Hogwarts or any other wizarding establishment.

So even from the perspective of the enlightened, progressive wizarding faction, then, Muggles are basically just a vast surplus population that occasionally produces the new blood that wizarding needs to avoid becoming just a society of snobbish old-money inbred Draco Malfoys. And if that were to change, if any old Muggle could suddenly be trained in magic, the whole thrill of Harry Potter’s acceptance at Hogwarts would lose its narrative frisson, its admission-to-the-inner-circle thrill.

Which makes the thrill of becoming a magical initiate in the Potterverse remarkably similar to the thrill of being chosen by the modern meritocracy, plucked from the ordinary ranks of life and ushered into gothic halls and exclusive classrooms, where you will be sorted — though not by a magic hat, admittedly — according to your talents and your just deserts.

I am stealing this magic-and-meritocracy parallel from the pseudonymous blogger Spotted Toad, who wrote a fine post discussing how much the Potter novels and movies trade upon the powerful loyalty that their readers feel, or feel that they should feel, toward their teachers and their schools. But not just any school — not some suburban John Hughes-style high school or generic Podunk U. No, it’s loyalty to a selective school, with an antique pedigree but a modern claim to excellence, an exclusive admissions process but a pleasingly multicultural student body. A school where everybody knows that they belong, because they can do the necessary magic and ordinary Muggles can’t.

Thus the Potterverse, as Toad writes, is about “the legitimacy of authority that comes from schools” — Ivy League schools, elite schools, U.S. News & World Report top 100 schools. And because “contemporary liberalism is the ideology of imperial academia, funneled through media and nonprofits and governmental agencies but responsible ultimately only to itself,” a story about a wizarding academy is the perfect fantasy story for the liberal meritocracy to tell about itself. …

In the Potter novels the selective school is conterminous with wizarding society as a whole (allowing for some elves and goblins to do maintenance and keep the books), and thus the threats to that world’s liberal integrity all come from within the academy’s walls, from Slytherin House and its arrogant aristocrats, who must be constantly confronted in the halls and classrooms of the beloved school itself. Voldemort, the dark lord, has Muggle blood, but he isn’t trying to rally an army of non-magic-wielders to seize Hogwarts’ towers; he’s trying to remake meritocratic — er, magical — institutions in his own dark image. And so the battle for Harvard — er, Hogwarts — is the battle for the world.

Which is basically the premise of a great deal of youthful liberal activism these days — that once the last remnants of Slytherin are eradicated from the leafy quads of Yale or Middlebury, once Draco Malfoy’s frat or final club is closed and the last Death-Eater sympathizers purged from the faculty, then the battle of ideas will have been finally and fully won.

But what house was Boris Johnson in?

RTWT

17 Nov 2018

The Mission of the University

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University of Bologna, the oldest in the world, founded 1008.

A Facebook friend shared this:

Several weeks ago, a FB friend steered me to an essay on the decline of the university. It was pedestrian, as these things go; you likely know the reasoning as well as I do by now. But there was a reader’s comment attached that has haunted me since.

The reader argued that the essayist was upset because he (the essayist) assumed that the mission of the university was fixed. He (the reader) has a point. Most of the earliest universities in Europe and America were founded to glorify God and train clergy; that was the dominant university mission for over 600 years and only began to shift during the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment refocused (again, most) universities on the pursuit and dissemination of truth. (Note, that “t” is in the lowercase; truth, in the lowercase, is merely a correspondence between what is thought and said and a reality that exists independently of what is thought and said.)

Perhaps what’s going on now is yet another shift in the mission of universities–a shift away from the pursuit and dissemination of truth and toward a kind of bourgeois, psycho-therapeutic performance of collective identities and grievances.

If that’s what’s going on, then we are surely going to witness a schism within the university, a schism in which mathematics and hard sciences go in one direction (i.e., continue the pursuit and dissemination of truth) and the social sciences and humanities go in another direction (described above).

12 Nov 2018

Camille Paglia Speaks Out

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Yale Professor Cleanth Brooks 1906-1994, leading figure of the New Criticism.

In Quillette, Claire Lehmann interviews Camille Paglia on the current state of the Humanities in the universities, Leftist Ressentiment as Religion, and Feminism.

Claire Lehmann: You seem to be one of the only scholars of the humanities who are willing to challenge the post-structuralist status quo. Why have other humanities academics been so spineless in preserving the integrity of their fields?

Camille Paglia: The silence of the academic establishment about the corruption of Western universities by postmodernism and post-structuralism has been an absolute disgrace. First of all, the older generation of true scholars who still ruled the roost when I arrived at the Yale Graduate School in 1968 were not fighters, to begin with. American professors, unlike their British counterparts, had not been schooled in ferocious and satirical debate. They were courtly and genteel, a High Protestant middlebrow style. Voices were hushed, and propriety ruled at the Yale department of English: I once described it as “walking on eggs at the funeral home.”

An ossified New Criticism was then still ascendant. I had been trained in college in that technique of microscopic close analysis of the text, and it remains a marvelous tool for cultural criticism: I have applied it to everything from painting to pop songs. However, my strong view at the time (from my early grounding in archaeology) was that literary criticism had to recover authentic historical consciousness and also to expand toward psychology, which was still considered vulgar. Harold Bloom and Geoffrey Hartman (whose Yale careers had begun amid tinges of anti-Semitism) were moving in a different, more conceptual direction, heavy on European philosophy.

By the early 1970s, when I was writing my doctoral dissertation (Sexual Personae, directed by Bloom), change suddenly arrived from outside: deconstruction was the hot new thing, hastened along by J. Hillis Miller, who left Johns Hopkins for Yale. I thought Derrida and DeMan and the rest of that crew were arrant nonsense from the start, a pedantic diversion from direct engagement with art. About the obsequious Yale welcome given to the pratlings of one continental “star” visitor, I acidly remarked to a fellow grad student sitting next to me, “They’re like high priests murmuring to each other.”

The New Criticism desperately needed supplementation, but that opaque hash (so divorced from genuine art appreciation) was certainly not it. I was disgusted at the rapid spread of deconstruction and post-structuralism throughout elite U.S. universities in the 1970s, when I was teaching at my first job at Bennington College. The reason it happened is really quite prosaic: a recession hit in the 1970s, and the job market in academe collapsed. Fancy-pants post-structuralism was the ticket to ride for ambitious, beady-eyed young careerists on the make. Its coy, showy gestures and clotted lingo were insiders’ badges of claimed intellectual superiority. But the whole lot of them were mediocrities from the start. It is doubtful that much if any of their work will have long-term traction.

As I argued in my long attack on post-structuralism, “Junk Bonds and Corporate Raiders: Academe in the Hour of the Wolf” (Arion, Spring 1991; reprinted in my first essay collection, Sex, Art, and American Culture), Lacan, Derrida, and Foucault were already outmoded thinkers even in France, where their prominence had been relatively brief. There was nothing genuinely leftist in their elitist, monotonously language-based analysis. On the contrary, post-structuralism was abjectly reactionary, resisting and reversing the true revolution of the 1960s American counterculture, which liberated the senses and reconnected the body and personal identity to nature, in the Romantic manner. It is very telling that Foucault’s principal inspiration, by his own admission, was Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, which I loathed as a college student for its postwar passivity and nihilism. (As a teacher, I admire Godot as a play but still reject its parochial and at times juvenile world-view.)

Post-structuralism, along with identity politics, made huge gains in the 1970s, as the old guard professors proved helpless against a rising tide of rapid add-on programs and departments like women’s studies and African-American studies. The tenured professoriate seemed not to realize that change of some kind was necessary, and thus they failed to provide an alternative vision of a remodeled university of the future. I myself was lobbying for interdisciplinary innovation in the humanities—something that remained highly controversial right through the 1980s, when there were fierce battles over it where I was then teaching (during the merger of the Philadelphia College of Performing Arts with the Philadelphia College of Art to form the present University of the Arts). Another persistent proposal of mine has been for comparative religion to become the undergraduate core curriculum, an authentically global multiculturalism

Most established professors in the 1970s probably believed that the new theory trend was a fad that would blow away like autumn leaves. The greatness of the complex and continuous Western tradition seemed self-evident: the canon would surely stand, even if supplemented by new names. Well, guess what? Helped along by a swelling horde of officious, overpaid administrators, North American universities became, decade by decade, political correctness camps. Out went half the classics, as well as pedagogically useful survey courses demonstrating sequential patterns in history (now dismissed as a “false narrative” by callow theorists). Bookish, introverted old-school professors were not prepared for guerrilla warfare to defend basic scholarly principles or to withstand waves of defamation and harassment.

However, it is indeed difficult to understand why major professors already in safe, powerful positions avoided direct combat. For example, although he had made passing dismissive remarks about post-structuralism (“Foucault and soda water”), Harold Bloom never systematically engaged or critiqued the subject or used his access to the general media to endorse debate, which was left instead to self-identified conservatives. The latter situation was clearly counterproductive, insofar as it enabled the bourgeois faux leftists of academe to define themselves and their reflex gobbledygook as boldly progressive.

In October 1990, I sat with my longtime mentor Bloom at a presidential dinner preceding his Shakespeare lecture at Bryn Mawr College in the Philadelphia suburbs. I told him about the exposé of post-structuralism that I was writing for Arion (and that took six months to do). He flatly replied, “You’re wasting your time.” I must suppose there was simply a generational divide: as a product of the 1960s, I still passionately believe in reform as an ethical imperative. Furthermore, most of my teaching career has been spent at small art schools, which have always spurned the conformist formulas and protocols of traditional universities.

Nevertheless, the poisons of post-structuralism have now spread throughout academe and have done enormous damage to basic scholarly standards and disastrously undermined belief even in the possibility of knowledge. I suspect history will not be kind to the leading professors who appear to have put loyalty to friends and colleagues above defending scholarly values during a chaotic era of overt vandalism that has deprived several generations of students of a profound education in the humanities. The steady decline in humanities majors is an unmistakable signal that this once noble field has become a wasteland.

Do you believe that politics and in particular social justice (i.e., anti-racism and feminism) are becoming cults or pseudo-religions? Is politics filling the void left by the receding influence of organized religion?

Paglia: This has certainly been my view for many years now. I said in the introduction to my art book, Glittering Images (2012), that secular humanism has failed. As an atheist, I have argued that if religion is erased, something must be put in its place. Belief systems are intrinsic to human intelligence and survival. They “frame” the flux of primary experience, which would otherwise flood the mind.

But politics cannot fill the gap. Society, with which Marxism is obsessed, is only a fragment of the totality of life. As I have written, Marxism has no metaphysics: it cannot even detect, much less comprehend, the enormity of the universe and the operations of nature. Those who invest all of their spiritual energies in politics will reap the whirlwind. The evidence is all around us—the paroxysms of inchoate, infantile rage suffered by those who have turned fallible politicians into saviors and devils, godlike avatars of Good versus Evil.

My substitute for religion is art, which I have expanded to include all of popular culture. But when art is reduced to politics, as has been programmatically done in academe for 40 years, its spiritual dimension is gone. It is coarsely reductive to claim that value in the history of art is always determined by the power plays of a self-referential social elite. I take Marxist social analysis seriously: Arnold Hauser’s Marxist, multi-volume A Social History of Art (1951) was a major influence on me in graduate school. However, Hauser honored art and never condescended to it. A society that respects neither religion nor art cannot be called a civilization.

RTWT

Even well-educated people on the Left,like Paglia, recognize the disastrous state of contemporary culture.

17 Oct 2018

Chicago Prez Robert Zimmer Stands Foursquare for Free Speech

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Robert Zimmer, President of the University of Chicago.

Good news for a change from Campus Reform.

The University of Chicago president defended his school’s commitment to free speech in an address to the City Club of Cleveland.

University of Chicago President Robert Zimmer said during a speech on Oct. 3 that “challenging one’s assumptions inevitably creates discomfort, but a discomfort that is necessary for growth, understanding, and achievement.” Zimmer continued by describing what he believed to be three contributing causes of a decreased commitment to freedom of expression across U.S. universities.

“Privileging feelings, to the extent that a child feels they are always entitled to feel good and comfortable, and that the world should be organized around this, is not helpful in this regard.”

“Some people are trying to keep certain views unexpressed out of self-righteous, moral, or political indignation, an agenda driven by such moral or political views, and comfort, arrogating to themselves and those they agree with the right of speech, while denying it to others,” Zimmer said, outlining the first cause.

The second contributing cause, according to Zimmer, is that universities are suppressing free speech in the name of fighting against the exclusion of historically marginalized groups. He makes the case that freedom of expression is necessary for fostering an environment of inclusion.

Zimmer cited “the privileging of feelings” as a third cause: “Privileging feelings, to the extent that a child feels they are always entitled to feel good and comfortable, and that the world should be organized around this, is not helpful in this regard. And what we are seeing in some cases within high schools and universities is an expectation, and then demands, for such privileging, and then the inappropriate acquiescence to such demands.”

The University of Chicago president concluded his speech by stating that “creating a sanctuary for comfort is not fulfilling our responsibility. It is only through an environment of intellectual challenge and the free expression and open discourse that provides this challenge, that we are fulfilling our obligations to students, their future, and the future of our society.”

The University of Chicago has been known for its embrace of freedom of speech. It released a policy report in 2015, known as the “Chicago Statement,” which expressed the school’s commitment to the ideal. Since then, at least 35 schools have adopted the same policy, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).

RTWT

HT: Glenn Reynolds.

Come on, Bonesmen, fire that weasel Salovey, double this guy’s salary and bring him to New Haven!

07 Sep 2018

A Lot of Us at Yale Were Minoring in That Back in 1968

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WYNC:

It’s No Joke: Students Can Minor in Marijuana At Stockton University

Students at Stockton University will soon be able to minor in marijuana.

The south Jersey school rolls out its new “Cannabis Studies” minor program next week. While several schools around the state offer courses in cannabis as part of their science programs, Stockton may be the first higher education institution in the Garden State to launch a program designed to prepare students for the rapidly expanding weed industry in New Jersey — and across the nation.

“It’s an industry that is developing and certainly there are a lot of possibilities and new jobs,” said Kathy Sedia, who is an associate professor of biology at Stockton and coordinator of the program. Stockton is nestled in the Pine Barrens just a short drive from the Jersey Shore.

RTWT

HT: Bird Dog.

To get an A, you have to be able to roll a toothpick-thin joint with one hand.

03 Aug 2018

It Takes More than Test-Scores to Build a Meritocracy

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Some building at Harvard.

Wesley Yang, in Tablet (Funny, he doesn’t look Jewish.), has an intelligent, fair-minded essay on the paradoxes of Ivy League admission.

Private colleges in America were all founded to pursue a certain vision of the world. Even if many have fallen away from their original religious sectarian missions, they retain a certain coherence of purpose through their ability to mold their classes as they see fit. On its face, there is nothing wrong with maintaining admissions policies that favor certain kinds of people over others—provided of course that the preference doesn’t violate the law by discriminating against applicants on the basis of their race, gender or national origin. Some schools want to teach Catholics. Some want to teach Jews. Some want to train scientists. Others want to train investment bankers and politicians. Each of these schools will design admission policies accordingly.

There is also something intuitively true about the proposition that grades and test scores are imperfect proxies for genuine merit in whatever area or field. The Ivy Leagues have always refused to be the colleges of the “best students” and have instead sought to identify the “leaders of tomorrow.” It doesn’t take too much thinking to realize how little overlap there might be between these categories of person. In an amicus brief submitted on behalf of Harvard University in 1974, the Harvard law professor and former solicitor general of the United States, Archibald Cox, noted that Harvard College selected less than 15 percent of its entering class purely “on the basis of extraordinary intellectual potential,” going on to express the fear that “if promise of high scholarship were the sole or even predominant criterion, Harvard College would lose a great deal of its vitality and the quality of the educational experience offered to all students would suffer.”

Any system focused on the likely leaders of tomorrow must include the sons and daughters of privilege along with the brightest and most driven students, giving the former the access to the latter and vice versa. Such a class will by definition have a better understanding of the ways of the world and how to master it, which is in part why Harvard intervened in the first case to go before the Supreme Court challenging affirmative action. As Jerome Karabel, author of The Chosen: A History of Exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, makes plain, Harvard’s interest in the case “went well beyond the issues of blacks and other minorities.”

As Karabel writes, the case “raised the specter of an encroachment on the institutional discretion that Harvard believed indispensable to the protection of vital institutional interests. In the worst case, a ruling for DeFunis [the student who was denied admission] might lead to the court imposing the model of pure academic meritocracy that [Dean W.J.] Bender and his successor at Harvard had so definitively rejected.”

Karabel’s book is an exhaustively detailed survey of the ways in which the Ivy Leagues battled through the decades to hold the threat of pure meritocracy at bay. At the start of the 20th century, the meritocratic danger was Jewish. In 1908, Harvard began to select its students on the basis of a set of admissions examinations. By the 1920s, as Karabel writes, “it had become clear that a system of selection focused solely on scholastic performance would lead to the admission of an increasing number of Jewish students, most of them of eastern European background.” The institutions sought, as Karabel put it, “the latitude to admit the dull sons of major donors and to exclude the brilliant but unpolished children of immigrants,” and therefore created a system relying on “discretion and opacity—discretion so that the gatekeepers would be free to do what they wished and opacity so that how they used their discretion would not be subject to public scrutiny.”

The system of holistic admissions that place a heavy stress of highly subjective qualities such as character, personality, and leadership that we all take for granted was invented during an era of radical immigration exclusion to supply the discretion and opacity that the institutions demanded in order to maintain the kind of student bodies that they thought suitable—namely white, Christian, and Anglo native-born. But while holistic admissions were born in racist exclusion, the affirmative action debate presented a golden opportunity for the institution to recast this discretion as something at once legally and morally unassailable—by cloaking the institutional interest in independence and discretion in terms of protecting and advancing the interests of racial minorities. This ingenious move, reconciling the claims of justice and self-interest in the manner habitual to a certain kind of liberal, secured the cartel power of the Ivy Leagues to mint a ruling elite for a generation.

No one should fault the keepers of the Ivy Leagues for seeking to hold in balance inherited privilege with meritocratic excellence. It was the smart play. No one can gainsay the results obtained by what history will regard as some of the greatest brand managers the world has ever seen. The election of Donald Trump in 2016 ended a string of 27 consecutive years in which the president of the United States held a degree from either Harvard or Yale University. Every member of the Supreme Court is a graduate of one of two law schools, Harvard or Yale. Harvard University has an endowment of $37 billion, which is a sum at least four times larger than that controlled by hedge-fund king George Soros.

Neither should we begrudge those invested in this system of mutual advantage their exasperation at Asian immigrants for unwittingly acting as spoilers. For that is what Asians have done: By arriving here in such large numbers, and importing their distinctive orientation toward education—by doing so well on grades and tests and being so assiduous in their pursuit of extracurricular activities—they’ve made it impossible for the brand managers of the Ivy Leagues to preserve the balance between merit and social justice and inherited privilege in a way that is remotely tenable. Something had to give, and it appears that soon enough, something will, with large consequences for the country.

RTWT

18 Jun 2018

For the Convenience of Today’s College Students

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HT: Vanderleun.

03 May 2018

American University: “Women Can, Ex Post Facto, Revoke Consent!”

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A new story of life at the University today strongly suggests that male college students would be well advised to restrict their romantic lives to paid professionals.

Washington Examiner:

American University is requiring all new students take a controversial sex education training course or face academic discipline.

In screenshots obtained exclusively by Red Alert Politics, American University asks students hypothetical questions about sexual encounters in an online course called “Campus Clarity: Think About It.” The program also asks students personal behavioral questions like how many sexual partners they’ve had and how often they drink.

“Alex and Jen played beer pong together and she even made out with him,” the module prompts. “How then could Alex have assaulted her?” one hypothetical asks.

The material teaches that women can change their mind about consent the day after an encounter, effectively leaving women with the ability to re-write history and accuse sexual partners of inappropriate behavior despite receiving consent.

Sydney Jacobs, a former student at American University, told Red Alert Politics she was threatened with academic probation when she did not complete the online training during the Spring semester of 2017.

“As a reminder, any undergraduate student that does not meet this requirement will be referred to Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution Services and be assigned an educational sanction,” an email sent from the AU Wellness Center to Jacobs read in part.

RTWT

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