Tag: Higher Education

The Classicist Podcast with Victor Davis Hanson: “The New Dark-Age Mind”

 

As promised yesterday, here’s the second installment of the Hoover Institution’s new The Classicist podcast with Victor Davis Hanson (don’t get used to this pace — from here on out we’ll be releasing one new episode per week). Fair warning: this episode should probably be accompanied by a tumbler of scotch. Our topic: Victor’s thesis that the West is beginning the descent into a new intellectual dark age — something that he sees signs of everywhere from Ferguson to college campuses to the halls of power in California. Listen in below:

Outflanking Democrats on College Costs

 

shutterstock_201800939Many political debates in the upcoming presidential race will play out this way: The Democrat will offer “X for all” and the Republican will respond: “Do you have any idea how much that’s going to cost?” That’s the way nearly all political debates are engaged — usually to the disadvantage of Republicans (and the public fisc).

That’s why I wished, while attending a panel on higher education reform sponsored jointly by the Ethics and Public Policy Center and the Bradley Foundation, that every Republican candidate in America had been listening.

The Democrats have a tried-and-true formula (which is actually false, but work with me): They promise to spend more on education to make it more accessible. President Obama has proposed to make community college “free.”

Valuing College on a Risk-Reward Basis

 

college_risk_reward_shutterstock_032315Another study, “US university degrees: High cost, high reward,” shows that completing college is a good financial deal. But this one is a bit different in that it looks at the return of investment on a risk-reward basis. As researchers Jeffrey Brown, Chichun Fang, and Francisco Gomes explain, “College-educated workers are less likely to experience unemployment than workers without a high school diploma, but they also face much higher uncertainty in their career paths and lifetime earnings.”

And remember, this all assumes humans are risk averse. Investors, for instance, would rather have a low-risk portfolio than an high one if investment returns are equal otherwise.

From the study:

Back to School

 

shutterstock_28662005How many people here have been to college more than once? By that, I mean that years passed between a first and second degree, perhaps even in unrelated fields. When did you go back? Why did you go back? How was it different the second time?

I didn’t make the most of my first college experience. Since I decided to focus my career on my writing skills, an English major seemed appropriate. One doesn’t need a degree to learn to write. But employers expect a degree. So there I was, grudgingly. That grudging attitude wasn’t helpful. Nor were the frivolous elective courses. And if any degree would do, I was stupid to pursue a degree in the Liberal Arts.

So now, a decade later, I’m looking into programming degree plans. Any advice? Is an Associate’s degree sufficient for many decent jobs? I’m considering an AAS (Associate of Applied Science) with advanced certificates in C++ and Visual Basic. Programming experience would be useful in many fields, both for corporate and entrepreneurial efforts. But I’m particularly interested in game design, of which I’m fairly familiar and have connections.

What’s Wrong With the Humanities?

 

good_booksThe supply of people with PhDs in the humanities vastly exceeds the demand for them. Why?

The explanations for trouble in the humanities I see the most are:

1. People care too much about making money, not enough about the search for truth and beauty.

Why Does Harvard Discriminate against Asians?

 

We’re conservatives around here, though we often disagree about what, exactly, that means. But one area where there’s common agreement — at least, it’s always seemed to me — is the whole idea of racial preferences and set-asides. We’re against them, most of us. Mostly, the liberals are for them. But sometimes they get all tied up in knots when there’s an ethnic group being held back by quotas. Asians, for instance, seem to be actively discriminated against when applying to Harvard. From an editorial in the New York Times:

To get into the top schools, [Asians] need SAT scores that are about 140 points higher than those of their white peers. In 2008, over half of all applicants to Harvard with exceptionally high SAT scores were Asian, yet they made up only 17 percent of the entering class (now 20 percent). Asians are the fastest-growing racial group in America, but their proportion of Harvard undergraduates has been flat for two decades.

Racial Hysteria at UCLA

 

In a recent article, City Journal’s Heather MacDonald discusses some incidents involving the racial climate at UCLA. The incidents are so fantastic that at times the reader will probably suspect that MacDonald is guilty of hyperbole. However, I taught at UCLA for eleven and a half years. Things really are as bad as she describes.

One incident, which involves education professor Val Rust, illustrates the “eggshell plaintiff” attitude among some of the students at UCLA, how the tiniest slight can become a major racial grievance:

Who Paid for Astrid Silva to Go to College?

 

“We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.”
— John F. Kennedy

It is common for politicians in speeches to use a very unscientific method to prove a point. Out of millions of people, they pick one personal story of someone who may tug on some heartstrings. These anecdotal undertakings of course prove nothing about the policy being presented and don’t really serve as a proper exemplar for the group being represented. It’s simply a distraction; a ploy to obfuscate thought.

Progressive Puritans Try to Ruin Halloween

 

Traditionally moral scolds have been characterized as creatures of the right, but today all the tsk-tsking arises from the fever swamps of progressive purity. The next victim of these pinched-face church(less) ladies is Halloween.

The College Fix (hat tip to John J. Miller) notes a series of advisories and admonishments being distributed to students around the country. They also reprint a letter issued by a Residence Life coordinator at the University of Wisconsin-Madison:

Back in the Saddle

 

Last year, I was on sabbatical at the Hoover Institution, which is located on the Stanford University campus right next to the university library. It was a useful perch, and last winter a very pleasant place to be. I and my family enjoyed being in Silicon Valley.

We were, nonetheless, glad to get back home in mid-June — for home is, after all, home — and I was pleased when the freshmen showed up a week ago on Sunday and classes started up again the following Wednesday. I have always been delighted when a term ended and no less delighted when the next one began. I enjoy the teaching, but it is exhausting; and I enjoy reading and writing, but it is a solitary pursuit.

Obama, a Modern-day Lucius Mummius Achaicus?

 

The number of Obama Administration attacks on private industry are simply too numerous to count. A Google search of the Environmental Protection Agency’s “War on Coal” produces more than 2.8 million results! But the onslaught isn’t reserved only to the energy industry. The private sector “zone” is so flooded by relentless federal pressure that many of these regulatory crusades fail to get noticed anymore.

One such Presidential war that has largely escaped notice is the effort to obliterate for-profit higher education which the free market produced to fill in the gaps in service from the public and non-profit universities.

My Statement Regarding the Abuse of Harassment Codes on Campus

 

Today I addressed the United States Commission on Civil Rights to talk about the role that federal law and regulations have played in encouraging campus speech codes. Here is my testimony:

If you had told me before I started working at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, the leading defender of free speech rights on college campuses, that I would routinely battle the startling misapplications of harassment codes to punish speech that is clearly protected by the First Amendment, I probably wouldn’t have believed you.

Recovery Summer: “It’s Happening Agonizingly Slowly”

 

The Los Angeles Times reports that “The labor force participation rate remained at 62.8% in May, the lowest level since 1978 and a sign that many people have given up looking for work.” Total U.S. employment six years after the Great Recession is 6.9 million jobs short of where we should be, accounting for population growth. 

“Things are improving, but it’s happening agonizingly slowly,” said Heidi Shierholz, a labor market economist at the Economic Policy Institute.

Left-Wing McCarthyism at the University of Hawaii

 

HawaiiAs a graduate student at Texas A&M, and later at Princeton, I studied how unfair allegations and unfair investigative practices had chilled freedom of speech in the United States during the McCarthy era in the 1950s. Having suffered from the political repression of China’s Cultural Revolution, I can testify to the collective madness that destroyed the lives of millions. I consider McCarthyism a similar political horror, though generated by the American Right and less destructive than the Chinese nightmare.

Yet today, more than half a century after the death of McCarthy (and, we had thought, his method of waging politics) Left-wing McCarthyism dominates the discourse of too many college campuses, supposedly the home of learning. Unfortunately, the campus where I teach, the University of Hawaii, is among them.  With collective identities of gender, race, and class dominating practically every discussion, both in and out of classes, professors seek to protect themselves from attack from the politically correct through ritual obeisance. Liberal arts education is no longer even slightly “liberal,” (a word derived from the Latin “libertas,” or liberty, subsequently resurrected by the civic culture of early modern Europe). Students are systematically discouraged from questioning the new orthodoxy, sometimes through bullying and sometimes through the threat of ostracism, enforced by “speech codes.” Administrators have at best become apathetic in promoting a free exchange of ideas and have signed on as sensitivity police.

 Consider Rutgers, “The State University of New Jersey.” Condoleezza Rice had been scheduled to give the commencement address this spring. An African-American success story, Dr. Rice has served the academy as a professor of Political Science and Provost at Stanford University and has served America as both National Security Advisor and Secretary of State. Who can doubt that, having risen from modest beginnings in the hothouse environment of the 1960s South, she would have much of value to impart to the graduating class at Rutgers? And yet, the faculty approved a resolution calling for the university to disinvite her.  Dr. Rice gracefully withdrew from the graduation ceremony in order to preserve the harmony of the celebration. It should have never come to that.

FIRE Study: ‘Disinvitation Season’ Is Getting Worse

 

shutterstock_150667244It’s not just a question of perception; the push for speakers (commencement and otherwise) to be disinvited from campus has gotten worse.

As I wrote in a long piece today in the Huffington Post:

So far, FIRE has discovered 192 incidents in which students or faculty have pushed for speakers invited to campus (both for commencement and other speaking engagements) to be disinvited since 2000. Eighty-two of those incidents were “successful” in that ultimately the speaker did not speak. Of those 82 successful disinvitations, 53 occurred via the revocation of the speaker’s invitation to campus, 17 were from speakers withdrawing in the face of protest, and 12 were “heckler’s vetoes” in which speakers were shouted down, chased off stage, or otherwise prevented from speaking.

Why Not Tax Tenure?

 

Over at Bloomberg Views, Megan McArdle writes a provocative reflection on the nature of wealth. An excerpt: “I’ve been reading Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century. You’ll have to wait on my thoughts on the book until they’re a bit more fully formed. As I’ve been reading, though, I keep returning to a question I heard at an economics conference a couple of months back: If we did implement a wealth tax, should it tax tenure?”

Professorial tenure is, after all, a valuable asset. As long as you show up and teach your classes, and you don’t make passes at your students or steal from the department’s petty cash drawer, you can draw a paycheck for the rest of your working life. And since the abolition of mandatory retirement ages, that working life can be as long as you like.

The UC Santa Barbara Massacre: A Simple and Modest Proposal

 

UCSBElliot Rodger, the killer at UC Santa Barbara, was not just mentally disturbed, he was a grade-A jerk. He was envious of wealthy people, yet drove a BMW. He was inconsiderate of his roommates; this included playing loud music in the middle of the night. A neighbor tried to help him meet people by taking him to a party, but instead he acted “like a ghost” and “just stared at people.” He harbored a grudge against a girl who rejected him when she was in seventh grade. Despite all this, he considered himself polite and a gentleman.

A simple reform might have prevented this, or at least shifted the problem to a different school. In its admissions process, the University of California does not require letters of recommendation. It should start.

If it had, I suspect that Rodger would not have been able to persuade a teacher to write such a letter, or a least to write one that was complimentary. Under such a policy, I think the probability is high that Rodger would not have been admitted to UCSB.

The Demand Side of the College Bubble: A Thought Experiment

 

shutterstock_117714808I’m thinking a lot about an idea I’ve had recently for a new business, based, in part, on Peter Thiel’s notion of awarding grants for those who drop out of college. Perhaps you can give me your thoughts? I’d like to figure out a way for the Thiel Fellowship to scale. While I’m sure it’s nice for the 20 kids who are selected for the $100,000 grant, it’s not exactly going to create the kind of technological innovations we need. So here’s my idea: 

What if high-achieving students started systematically getting admitted to top schools and the rejecting them? Such students could then use their admissions letters to signal to prospective employers that they that they have high IQs without having to contract the debt that increasingly accompanies a college education. The employers, in turn, could train these students to their own specifications — and cheaply.

I think you could actually turn this idea into a company and seriously affect the demand for top colleges. The supply side is already affected by Udacity and a few other resources for online learning, but the demand side will only be challenged when fewer and fewer high-IQ students opt against top name brand colleges.

Debating Memes: Silhouette Man

 

Scandinavian countries are awesome. At least that’s what all of my liberal friends tell me. These countries are virtual socialist utopias of equality and happiness, as well as a model for a progressive America. As one who remembers the meaning of the word utopia (no place), I am innately skeptical of such claims. The left wing meme generation machine ™ does not share my skepticism however, and has created a comic strip of sorts that explains why Americans are stupid for not giving “free” college education to all of our students. Meet Silhouette man.

sm1-f