Sunday, April 23, 2006

Vive la Revolution: After 25 years, conservative papers have stirred campus debate

In the summer of 1980, a clutch of students at a small college in New Hampshire, disaffected by campus liberalism and incensed by the unfair treatment of an insurgent candidate for the board of trustees, founded a conservative newspaper. That might have been the end of it, but the Dartmouth Review promptly scandalized the campus with its heterodox opinions and brash style, and hostilities escalated.

In the years since, the Dartmouth administration has gone to great measures to stop the presses, including frivolous lawsuits against the paper and kangaroo suspensions of its editors. Mission hardly accomplished: As the Review tonight celebrates its 25th anniversary with a black-tie gala in Manhattan, we'd like to raise a glass to conservative student papers across the country. What was once a lonely voice challenging campus orthodoxy is now a boisterous chorus.

By 1984 the University of Chicago Counterpoint, the Harvard Salient, the Princeton Tory and the Virginia Advocate had joined the fight. As more and more such publications cropped up, they were brought under the patronage of the Institute for Educational Affairs (IEA), which was funded, in part, by the John M. Olin Foundation. According to James Piereson, Olin's former director, the goal was to invest in "conservative knowledge production."

And it wasn't a passive form of knowledge. Articles from the 1980s and '90s--in conservative student papers around the country--focused on the decline of academic standards, the excesses of militant feminism, the hypocrisy of racial preferences and the reign of political correctness.

Their audience included alumni. In 1994, Yale alumnus Lee Bass learned from the campus conservative journal Light and Truth that his $20 million donation to the school, aimed at establishing a program in Western civilization, was not being used for its intended purpose. The university, it turned out, had refused to launch the program because of faculty hostility. In the ensuing controversy, Yale was forced to return the gift--with interest.

Such victories have not come easily. In addition to being denounced as "fascist" by administrators and faculty members, conservative papers have been subject to theft and vandalism by students. In 1997, a mob stole a press run of the Cornell Review and burned it in front of an audience that included several administrators, including the dean of students. The school did nothing and later defended the protesters' "freedom of expression."

Today the Collegiate Network, the successor to the IEA, supports about 95 right-leaning campus papers. Their writers and editors help to promulgate and legitimate conservative ideas that are rarely encountered in the lecture hall. Their iconoclastic tone appeals to students who are open to new ideas but skeptical of settled "truths."

The papers are even contributing to a gradual shift in the culture of universities. Conservative student journalists have helped to overturn speech codes at Stanford, George Mason and the University of Wisconsin. As civil-liberties lawyer Harvey Silverglate notes: "It is now difficult or virtually impossible for a college administration to justify or rationalize censorship when it is brought to the attention of the free world."

Which won't stop college officials from trying. But the American campus is no longer a liberal mausoleum. A lively debate has started, and we have intrepid young journalists to thank.



If a child's parents habitually fail to show up when asked to come to parent-teacher conferences, the school principal would be empowered to withhold the child's report card, under a bill approved narrowly by the state Senate on Wednesday. The bill is aimed at forcing parents to become more involved in their child's education, said its sponsor, Sen. Julie Quinn, R-Metairie. Her Senate Bill 564 requires teachers to notify the principal when parents or legal guardians fail to attend or respond when asked to attend a parent-teacher conference. The principal, after deciding the failure is habitual, must send a written notification to the parents and demand a response. The principal then must withhold the next report card "until the issue has been addressed to the satisfaction of the principal."

The 20-13 Senate floor vote sends the bill to the House Education Committee. Opponents said while they agreed with Quinn's intentions of getting parents more involved, they disagreed with punishing the child. Sen. Don Cravins, D-Opelousas, said he would prefer making it a criminal offense for a parent to fail to respond to a request for a parent-teacher conference, with some kind of community service as a penalty. "To put the stress on the kid is inappropriate," Cravins said. "You can't legislate common sense." The bill got the minimum 20 votes -- a majority of the Senate's 39 elected members -- required for final passage.


The child would be embarrassed, and unconcerned parents would be unconcerned about not getting a report card

Top Marx for Australia's educators

John Howard is absolutely correct in seeing post-modernist influence behind the dumbing-down of the English syllabus and in the growing disrespect shown for significant literature. But does he - or most parents - appreciate fully the extent to which Marxist ideology hides behind the mask of postmodernism?

Communism has never achieved even 2 per cent of the total vote in Australian federal elections. In the sphere of public education, however, the grip of ideas that have their origin in Marxist theory has never been greater. Children are now regularly indoctrinated in Australia's public schools with political ideology that is the opposite of that supported by their parents. Add to this an accelerating decline in quantifiable standards of learning and achievement and you see why a sizeable migration to private education has been taking place for years.

If parents were offered a totally depoliticised system of public education - even one approximating to a classical model from 50 years ago, which emphasises the acquisition of skills rather than of attitudes - I have no doubt that many would embrace it with enthusiasm. In terms of measurable academic standards, hopes for worthwhile future employment, ability to cope with tertiary courses and the development of genuinely independent, educationally informed minds, such an alternative could not help being an improvement on the present, covertly politicised and academically disastrous model. Such an alternative would, of course, be resisted to the death by those who now dictate educational policy. Such educationalists invariably claim - in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary - to know best what is most beneficial and desirable for those in their power.

Does such a claim to omniscience sound familiar? It certainly should to anyone who has ever lived for any length of time under a communist regime. Under such regimes even abject failure was always represented as triumph or impending triumph. Regular observers of our educational scene should have realised by now that wherever radical educational initiatives - generally of postmodernist and thus Marxist origins - appear to create chaos or failure such shortcomings find themselves twisted through 180 degrees to re-emerge as triumphant vindications of doctrine: "Our children may not be able to read, spell, punctuate, add or subtract or show even the slightest grasp of the pleasures and purposes of significant literature but what they have been forced to recognise are the power structures concealed in educated discourse. Access to the mysteries of such recognition will make them the true world citizens of the future." What I am referring to here obliquely is the brave new world of what is termed critical literacy.

It may be instructive for parents who remain understandably in the dark about any supposed need to analyse language largely or solely in terms of power relationships to understand why their children should be obliged to view the written word in this one-eyed fashion. The originator of these ideas was a French Marxist historian/philosopher who died 22 years ago and whose entire life was consumed by a corrosive hatred of the kind of conventional, middle-class, "bourgeois" values that tend to obtain in modern Western democracies such as Australia. The man in question was Michel Foucault. Was this paragon truly the possessor of an exceptional, visionary and supremely balanced mind whose theories of life and society should be accepted by the rest of us - including parents of hundreds of thousands of children now attending Australian schools - without question?

When not exercising his supposedly superior vision of the true nature of bourgeois Western societies, Foucault was a promiscuous masochist whose areas of interest were in torture, drug-use and totally anonymous sex. His spiritual hero was the Marquis de Sade. As well as seeking the destruction of conventional Western capitalist societies, the admired philosopher had a parallel penchant for destroying himself, attempting suicide a number of times and finally succeeding in dying prematurely at the age of 57 from a sexually transmitted disease.

Whether any of these acknowledged facts fitted him supremely to be a posthumous arbiter in the way our children and university students are taught is not for me to say. These personal details of Foucault's life are, incidentally, freely available, being discussed in disturbing detail in a biography written by James Miller, The Passion of Michel Foucault (Simon & Schuster 1993).



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here. My home page is here


No comments: