Tag: Higher Education

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I wonder, with the direction things are going in on some campuses today, if parents will be rethinking where they send their kids to school. For what tuition costs families, why pay someone to churn out an angry, closed minded, insulated, safe-space obsessed, ungrateful young adult? There are enough ways they can learn that in today’s […]

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graduation-photo-stockTrigger Warning: Some readers of this essay may object to the use of the word “freak” in ways that raise questions about how we may best characterize many current political figures and actions. And if you’re not offended, I haven’t done my job. So, let’s get on with things, beginning with the observation that while many of us are seeking professional counseling to cope with His Royal Orangeness clinching the Republican nomination for President, other things of political importance have plagued network headlines. All of which will demonstrate that insanity may be contagious; you catch it from professors and government officials.

Let’s begin with professors, specifically, a clutch of nut-job dons (but I repeat myself) at George Mason University who complained about renaming their law school after recently deceased Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, in exchange for a cool $30 million donation. As Christian Adams reported in PJMedia, these self-important undergraduate ninnies were concerned about “groups that were slighted by Justice Scalia,” perhaps “offended” by decisions he made on important cases.

It gets worse: look at the credentials of a few prominent objectors. One of them was an advocate for “trans justice and prison abolition, and queer anarchist anti-war activism,” and referred to Scalia as racist and homophobic. Another who specializes in “whiteness … and queer and feminist theories” has previously inveighed against “white terror” and declared “Capitalism is not in crisis. Capitalism is the crisis.” Another opposes sex-offender registries; still another whose research “is grounded in intersectional theory, with an explicit focus on race, class, gender, and sexuality,” opined that the law school renaming proposal constituted a plot by “two White, heterosexual, upper-class men” on a power trip. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Reaching the Cry-Bullies


shutterstock_145505071Victor Davis Hanson recently wrote about the campus “cry-bully” phenomenon: i.e., of students and faculty who inhabit the strange intersection of totally hapless victims and nearly-omnipotent censors. I’m sure the Ricochetoise don’t need to hear a recap of the demands for safe spaces, trigger warnings, divestments, and commencement speaker withdrawals that have informed that nickname.

In any case, here’s how Hanson thinks the situation will be fixed:

Ultimately, the cry-bully will grow up only when faculty and administrators do as well. And that remediation will not happen until state legislators, alumni, and philanthropists conduct an intervention to demand of universities and colleges the same maturity, accountability, and manners that they do from everybody else.

What Are Your Summer Reading Recommendations?


shutterstock_107696423One way to talk about reading recommendations might be to say that “the other day, after finishing Hegel’s Phenomenology of Mind and with ontological triads floating through my thoughts — there goes one now! — an image of Bernie Sanders flashed before my eyes.” Which of course covers the ground from the sublime to the incomprehensible. Or, from the incomprehensible to the … incomprehensible. Whatever.

Another way to start a conversation about reading recommendations is to imbibe the National Association of Scholars’ recent report on summer reading suggestions made by our illustrious colleges and universities for incoming freshmen. NAS scholars have their own views on these matters, of course, and let’s just say that for the most part they’re not terribly impressed with the list.

Here’s the summary provided by the email message (which also can be found here):

Making Tuition Reform Palatable


Tuition reformHow can we reduce the astronomical cost of college tuition?

The most direct but politically impractical solution would be to cut off all financial aid for three to five years. Universities would complain loudly, but if a Republican President and Congress persevered, ultimately the universities would be forced to cut bureaucratic and academic bloat — and hence tuition. Subsequently, we could revive aid, but only for the very poor who show academic ability. This would have much less of an inflationary impact.

If we do this, the universities will scream that American higher education will be destroyed. The student-age population (and their parents) will be affronted and outraged, making this approach politically untenable.

Reflections on Self-esteem in Education


patton_1Probably the best way to begin a discussion about self-esteem is to issue a trigger warning for our snowflake community. That is, it seems only fair to warn our campus’s gravitas-challenged evanescences that the following words might propel a hasty scrambling toward the fainting couch. Likely few have subjected their delicate eardrums to the gravelly tones of George C. Scott’s rendition of General Patton’s famous presentation, given many times, and simply referred to as “the speech.” Here is a sampling: “We don’t want yellow cowards in the army. They should be killed off like flies. If not, they will go back home after the war, [expletive] cowards, and breed more cowards. The brave men will breed more brave men. Kill off the [expletive] cowards and we’ll have a nation of brave men.” Which is not perhaps the gentlest manner to talk about genetic inheritance, but still effective in its own way.

Patton’s spiritual offspring currently are defending our country, snowflakes and all, in a world replete with evil and aggressive people who wish to destroy us, and it is always an honor to meet America’s guardians in person. Closer to home we find the inspiring life and recent act of Pittsburgh Steelers’ fearsome linebacker, James Harrison, who refused to permit his sons to receive “two trophies for nothing.” He just couldn’t stomach his young men getting “2015 Best of the Batch Next Level Athletics Student-Athlete Awards” — a title so vacuous it makes even a snowflake sound heavy. Then there’s that superb Kia commercial, now gone viral, about another father who can’t believe his victorious son received a “participation trophy” after his team won every game. He peels off the namby-pamby plate, writes in bold letters “Champs,” and hands it back to his son, proclaiming, “Here you go, champ!”

Here you go, indeed. Both events are Pattonesque and, like the general himself, recognize achievement and refuse to take seriously hurt feelings or damaged self-esteem attendant to the many tribulations and defeats one encounters throughout life. In fact, so much of America today reeks with such nauseating attention to self-esteem, it’s enough to make General Patton, if he were still around, want to slap your face. Actually, many thousands of faces, including those of students, administrators, and college presidents throughout the land. But we might ask, why all of them — why not just the sneering faces of our prolific protesters — why include their ostensible leaders, as well? The answer is that they’re all engaged in the same activity, which is to enhance their self-esteem, to project their claims of moral superiority over others and thereby make themselves feel better about themselves. What better way to do this than by assuming the aura of noble victims seeking justice from overseers who are ever so ready to put their virtuous souls on bold display by internalizing grievances and granting rowdy petitioners everything they want?

Time to Rethink College (Part 3): Do-It-Yourself Gap Year


shutterstock_33959002In parts one and two, I warned students and parents about wasting time and money on a bad college strategy, and noted that a great option is to allow a gap year between high school and university. But how does a gap year work? There are two aspects: the work itself and lining up college for later.

The Work “Curriculum” I hadn’t expected my daughter to land as wonderful a job as she did, so let me explain how the gap year approach would have worked even if she had only landed a job sweeping floors. She had an advantage over kids going to college: they vacated the job market, so she had little competition in the fall for jobs typically given to them. So, the idea was to go after intern positions that were vacated at the end of summer. Lots of companies have college interns during the summer. Employers like the low pay and limited commitment. So when she interviewed, she announced three things:

  1. That she was taking a gap year to get job experience to verify her career choice and was looking for an intern experience.
  2. That she was already accepted at a college and would only be available only until fall the following year.
  3. That she was willing to take a part-time position, short-term position, or full-time position (anything).

That immediately solicited respect in the person she interviewed with. Also, with little experience to speak of, she would never get in the door by sending out résumés. So she went in-person from target company to company with the following approach. Walk in with no appointment, ask the receptionist if she could leave her résumé. If so, ask a few questions about the company, then say “I happen to have my portfolio. Since I am here, do you think someone might be able to see me now?” She got interviews 20 percent of the time that way. That approach got her a wonderful job at a firm that probably had a stack of a thousand résumés in waiting.

Time to Rethink College (Part 2): Wasted Money, Wasted Time


As I mentioned yesterday, two of my kids are already through college, but I’m employing a new strategy with my third. If your children plan to jump straight from high school into college without work experience, let me share the perspective of a parent who has been there, done that, and paid the bills. I don’t want you to waste your money or your kids to waste their time.

27PercentI surveyed some of my peers (50+ age) and only half of them were working in a job related to the degree they got. But back in the ’70s, only a quarter of my cohort went to college, which means this smaller group would have been more careful in degree selection and more likely to get it right. It is worse now. A study by the New York Federal Reserve Bank found only 27 percent worked in a job even related to their degree. And, by the way, the study found almost no one with a History or Liberal Arts degree who actually work in their degreed fields.

Time to Rethink College (Part 1): Don’t Be a Lemming


LemmingsStudent2If you have kids and plan for them to step from high school straight into college without any work experience, take a seat: I’m about to disabuse you of that idea. I’ve got three kids, two already through college, so I have done this before. We finally figured it out with the last kid. Allow me to give you the new strategy, because we are bucking the trend.

The Problem

From all sides — her peers, her high school, and the larger culture — there was tremendous pressure on my daughter to choose a career and go straight to college. The private high school my daughter just graduated from boasts a college admission rate of 98 percent! That admission rate is part of the school’s marketing, and it wants that rate to be as high as possible.

Private-Sector Solution to Rising College Tuition, Student Debt


shutterstock_151974746With the federal Department of Education now overseeing $1.2 trillion in student-loan debt, attention has been driven to the cost of tuition at our institutions of higher education. While it may appear that the causation runs from higher tuition to student debt, it’s more likely that it runs the other way.

When the federal government attempted to increase the number of low-income homeowners by requiring banks to increase the percentage of their loans to low-income households, and by purchasing mortgages through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the result was a sustained increase in housing prices and a vast expansion of mortgage debt. We’re pretty well aware of how that ended up.

We should not be surprised that, as the federal government expanded its role in higher education through Pell Grants and loans to students without regard for their ability to pay the loans back, tuition has risen. Over the past 30 years, tuition has risen by 146 percent at private four-year colleges, to $31,231 (in constant 2014 dollars). The increase for in-state tuition at public four-year institutions has risen 225 percent, to $9,139.

What is the Point of an MFA?


MFAWhen even The New York Times is questioning the value of a Master of Fine Arts, you know something has happened:

It depends on where you’re coming from. If you are one of the truly privileged, you will probably do well with an M.F.A., locking into a publishing system fine-tuned to reward those already rewarded, those without debt, with cultural cachet, with the rent paid for. If you happen to be below that level, with just enough privilege to fool yourself to take on debt, you will probably use your M.F.A. to carry out the “shadow-work” of the creative economy, giving the successful their veneer of success. You will talk about their books, attend their readings, blog and tweet about their work, hoping to ascend to their level one day. And you might.

Yikes. That stung just a little bit and I avoided graduate school like the plague. I’m not sure at what point the MFA transformed itself from academic stepping stone into a pseudo-credential for non-academic jobs. From something you needed to teach to something you needed to work. Hovering over this shift is a very obvious question: What are they teaching you in an MFA that you couldn’t learn yourself?

Political Correctness Creates Fools, Bullies, and Cowards


pronouns29n-2-webChroniclers of academic insanity have a real beaut on their hands at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Apparently the apparatchik in charge of something called the Office of Diversity and Inclusion invented a series of new pronouns to ensure that all the institution’s incoming Babes in Toyland will be accepted regardless of their gender or species preference. Old-fashioned designators such as “him” and “her” must now succumb to the brave new world of “ze, hir, zir, xe, xem, and xyr.” Fortunately for the Klingon-challenged among us, this edict is accompanied by a chart illustrating the old terms and the proposed new ones.

That covers PC and fools. What about bullies? Oh my. So much evidence, so little time! At the risk of pointing out the obvious to weary culture warriors, let’s throw out a few oldies but goodies anyway. Zo, sie zay zyr liken de traditional marriage? (Sorry, still trying to get those pesky pronouns correct). Bigot! Homophobe! You probably also eat at Chick fil-A, which everyone knows is run by Christians. Or Nazis. Same thing, right? Speaking of which, comparisons of Nazis with radical Islamists are not welcome, regardless of what the two groups share in terms of historical connections and committing unspeakable barbarisms. Above all, do not refer to undocumented immigrants as ‘illegal aliens’ or ‘Democrat voters-in-waiting’, lest you be accused of being a Hater, Divider, Racist, or Republican. And sink that anchor babies talk. In fact, shut up already!

Which leaves us with the PC-coward connection, especially on our college campuses. Just think about all those institutions that are filled with wide-eyed, eager-to-please swarms, pitifully naïve about the ways of the world, bereft of knowledge, guts, good sense, and often good manners. And that’s just the administrators. For the students, the aforementioned have something special in mind, particularly if the little darlings get the vapors after being exposed to some idea that conflicts with years of determined indoctrination. Hence, trigger warnings, counselors, and quiet rooms, where nary a contrary thought is allowed to venture and all the micro-aggressions melt away in an ambience filled with soothing music, soft colors, padded walls, and maybe a pizza or two.

Clinton: Let’s Do For Education What Obamacare Did For Health Care


imageProbably the simplest description of Obamacare is that it took all the worst aspects of the American healthcare system — the artificially restricted markets, the disincentives to purchase care or insurance directly, the mandates some states imposed on the kinds of packages available, etc. — and doubled-down on them. As a result, healthcare is more expensive, restricted, regulated, and complicated than ever before. Despite years of salesmanship and meddling, the president’s signature legislation has yet to crack a positive approval rating, and currently has support of just 41 percent of Americans.

That Hillary Clinton wants to do essentially the same thing for American higher education is one of those things that is simultaneously amazing and wholly unsurprising. From the New York Times:

Under the plan, which was outlined by Clinton advisers on Sunday, about $175 billion in grants would go to states that guarantee that students would not have to take out loans to cover tuition at four-year public colleges and universities. In return for the money, states would have to end budget cuts to increase spending over time on higher education, while also working to slow the growth of tuition, though the plan does not require states to cap it.

The Libertarian Podcast: Reforming Higher Education


Hillary Clinton has a plan to make it easier for American kids to get a college education. Richard Epstein thinks it’s nuts.

That’s the point of departure for this week’s discussion on The Libertarian podcast. From there, we discuss the shortcomings of the “everyone should go to college” mindset, debate whether students should take on investors rather than take out loans, and consider whether higher ed is about to face major disruption. As ever, you can subscribe to The Libertarian podcast via iTunes or listen in here after the jump.

Dispatches From a Higher Ed Insider


shutterstock_120855589During the editors’ podcast last week, we wandered off onto the topic of online education, with a special emphasis on the idea that it has the potential to be an antidote to much of what’s wrong with modern American college campuses. That wasn’t a topic any of us had planned to discuss — it grew naturally out of our ad spot for The Great Courses — so the resulting conversation may have been a bit desultory.

Luckily, this being Ricochet —where you can find an expert on anything if you just look hard enough — I subsequently received this bit of correspondence from an academic working in a leadership position in a public regional comprehensive university. His point (and it’s a good one): our conversation entirely elided the complications posed by accreditation. That individual has generously allowed me to reproduce it here:

I probably spend about 4-6 hours each week thinking about online education or at least have lately.  I have both created coursework online and administered programs that offer online education and online degrees. Our leadership urges us to create more and more of it.

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The horrific, racially motivated murder spree by Dylann Roof also served as a call to action for those who see the awful events of Wednesday night as corroboration of their core beliefs about the poisonous nature of American culture. Briefly, two key tenets of modern progressivism are that, one, racism is virtually ubiquitous.  Even when […]

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