Thursday, April 18, 2013

Is USC Another Left-Wing Seminary?

 Dennis Prager

Last week, a USC student released 15 minutes of excerpts from videos he had made of his political science professor, Darry Sragow.  Here is some of what the USC professor said to his students:

"California Republicans [are] really stupid and racist."

" ... Republicans are 82 percent white. Losers."

"The Republican Party in California ... is the last vestige of angry old white people. "

"The Republicans are trying to prevent people of color and people of lower income from voting by requiring voter ID."

"We discovered, and this is generally true, the least flexible voter in America, the person who's less likely to change their mind about anything is an old white guy. Old white guys are stubborn sons of bitches."

"There are tens of thousands of people who are now dead because George Bush, even though he got fewer votes, became the president of the United States. That's a fact. ... I think the election got stolen. That's what I think. ... [the Republicans] stole the election. And this happens all the time."

"Probably the biggest vulnerability that Romney has ... [is] that the guy doesn't understand normal human beings."

"All campaigns have a message it communicates to the voters:

[The Democratic message is] "Vote for Obama because he's gonna create jobs and keep the peace and protect social security."

[The Republican message is] "Vote for Romney because Obama is all f----ed up ... "

"The Republican Party is increasingly the last refuge of old, angry white people who don't like what's going on in this country."

Some points regarding Sragow's statements:

1. None had anything to do with teaching.

2. Each one is left-wing propaganda, examples of the widespread attempts at our universities to indoctrinate rather educate.

3. Some are not merely indoctrination, they are also false. For example, blacks are considerably less likely than whites "to change their mind about anything" political. Since 1964, the black Democrat vote has been consistently over 80 percent.

4. Though he is teaching at a university, Sragow has no compunction about cursing while "teaching." Cursing in public is characteristic of leftism. I provide many examples and explain why in my book "Still the Best Hope."

5. Substitute "old black" for "old white" and Sragow would have been suspended, if not fired. Substitute "old white women" for "old white men" and Sragow would have been suspended, if not fired.

6. According to his fellow liberal, Tom Brokaw, "old white guys" are "The Greatest Generation." Which is it?

What was USC's official response?

As reported in the campus newspaper, Daily Trojan: "The university responded Friday with a statement affirming faculty members' right to express their views."

And in the words of USC Provost Elizabeth Garrett: "The freedom to take unpopular positions and the freedom to express those positions publicly are at the foundation of what it means to be a faculty member of a university."

For the record, in 2009 USC Vice President of Student Affairs, Michael Jackson, published "an open letter to the USC community" in the Daily Trojan, attacking the College Republicans for inviting conservative activist David Horowitz to campus. But USC in no way condemned Sragow.

Furthermore, Garrett was wrong about universities and dishonest about USC. She was wrong about "what it means to be a faculty member of a university." It is not about taking "unpopular positions;" it is about teaching truth to the best of the professor's ability. And attacks on Republicans are hardly "unpopular positions" at USC, or at virtually any other American university. On the contrary, they are the dominant positions there.

For Provost Garrett's sake, therefore, here are some unpopular positions at USC:

--Marriage should remain defined as the union of a man and a woman.

--The human fetus should have at least as much right to life as, let us say, a dog.

--America is the greatest force for good in the world.

--Fighting communism in Vietnam was a morally noble venture.

--The greatest problem in black American life is not racism or poverty but the absence of fathers.

--The most effective -- often the only -- way to stop great evil is through war.

--More men than women are more willing to work more hours at a job.

--More women are likely to find happiness in a successful marriage and family than in a successful career.

--At this moment in history, the world has more to fear from fundamentalist Muslims than from fundamentalist Christians, Jews, Hindus or Buddhists.

Provost Garrett might want to inquire as to how many USC professors subscribe to, let alone, advocate in class, any of those positions.

At the Daily Trojan website, one commenter after another articulated what may be the only solution to USC and other universities having become left-wing seminaries:

Scott: "I am paying $65,000 per year for my son to be fed this hateful nonsense? The fact that the administration is not mortified by these statements is telling. Shame on USC."

Mike: "Lost a lot of respect for my alma mater today. They won't get another dollar from me."

KJM: "I am alum and hereby withholding any further support of my alma mater."

Non-leftists who give money to an American university are usually funding the erosion of that university as well as the erosion of their own values.


Texas considers a proposal to reverse grade inflation

Grade inflation is real, rampant, and ravaging a university near you. It would be a scandal if more people knew about it.

A bill filed in March in the Texas legislature looks to ensure that more do. Called “Honest Transcript,” it is a model of brevity, at only a little more than 300 words. Yet its sponsors expect it to shake up higher education in the state and beyond. They believe that when the public gets wind of higher education’s widespread grade-inflating practices, it will put a stop to them. Others, less hopeful, think that public transparency will merely reveal public indifference.

The bill would require all public colleges and universities to include on student transcripts, alongside the individual student’s grade, the average grade for the entire class. This would help potential employers determine whether a high grade-point average signified talent and achievement or merely revealed that the student had taken easy courses.

The Honest Transcript bill was introduced in the Texas house by Republican Scott Turner, a freshman representative and former NFL cornerback (Redskins, Chargers, Broncos), and in the state senate by veteran Republican Dan Patrick. Supporters argue that its modest transparency requirement would show how grade inflation has severely degraded the significance of college degrees.

A half-century of grade inflation has been demonstrated repeatedly by national studies. Today, an A is the most common grade given in college — 43 percent of all grades, as opposed to 15 percent in the 1960s, according to Stuart Rojstaczer, formerly of Duke, and Christopher Healy, of Furman, who conducted a 50-year survey of grading. Arthur Levine, president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, has also studied the trajectory of college grades. He finds that in 1969, 7 percent of two- and four-year college students said their GPA was an A-minus or higher; by 2009, 41 percent of students did. Having been either a college student, a professor, or an administrator for nearly 30 years, I am not surprised by such findings. Nor, I suspect, is anyone else in the academy. And neither are employers. People who make hiring decisions here in Texas complain to me that grade inflation makes it virtually impossible to rank job applicants accurately, because nearly all have A or B averages.

It gets worse. A 2011 national study published as the book Academically Adrift, by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa, found that our puffed-up prodigies are learning much too little. Thirty-six percent of the students it surveyed show little or no increase in their ability for critical thinking, complex reasoning, and clear writing after four years of college. Small wonder that employers are frustrated, with the annual parade of impressive transcripts hiding empty heads.

Employer concerns notwithstanding, universities have a higher calling than simply preparing future workers. Almost all of them proclaim in their mission statements that they seek to enhance their students’ capacity for independent thought. In undermining this, their noblest calling (which harkens back to Socrates’ declaration that “the unexamined life is not worth living”), grade inflation is especially harmful: It eats away at the essence and morale of an academic institution. For Rojstaczer and Healy, “when college students perceive that the average grade in a class will be an A, they do not try to excel. It is likely that the decline in student study hours, student engagement, and literacy are partly the result of diminished academic expectations.”

This, then, is the academic reality whose veil the bill would lift: Too many students are learning too little, yet their grades have never been so high.

Will Texas universities oppose transcript transparency? It’s hard to imagine a principled basis for resistance, since universities are defined by the pursuit of knowledge and its dissemination to students and the larger society. Nevertheless, one university has complained to Representative Turner that the bill would create “processing difficulties in the Registrar’s office.”

This objection comes too late, for such “processing” is now the norm. Recently, through services such as and internal school websites, students have been able to sift through the grading histories of professors. MyEdu proclaims that it “works directly with universities to post their official grade records, including average GPA and drop rates. Yes, really — these are the official grade records straight from your university.” It boasts a membership of over 800 schools and more than 5 million students. Its reach in Texas extends to nearly every public college and university.

One major concern for almost everyone involved with higher education is low graduation rates. Nationally, about half of entering students do not complete college; most of those who do finish take longer than four years, which hikes the cost of their degrees. Those who fail to graduate do not fail to acquire student-loan debt, which, lacking a degree, they often find hard to repay. National student-loan debt is approaching $1 trillion and now exceeds total credit-card debt for the first time. Sixteen states have adopted or are considering “outcomes-based funding,” through which a portion of state higher-education appropriations are awarded to schools based on certain metrics, including improved graduation, retention, and completion rates.

MyEdu has many tools that can help students graduate, but some argue that it also contributes to a grade-shopping ethos. The Austin American-Statesman notes critics who slam the site “for pandering to students interested primarily in using it to identify faculty members who reliably give high grades. A UT-Austin student survey conducted last year confirmed most students used the site to check professors’ grade distributions.”

Linking grade inflation to such sites ignores the fact that grading standards have been progressively watered down since the early ’60s, while MyEdu is relatively new to the scene. Lax university standards and old-fashioned word-of-mouth had already proven quite effective at inflating grades. Blaming transparency for grade inflation is like blaming a blemish on your mirror. If critics are correct that grading-history sites facilitate grade-shopping, however, the Honest Transcript bill could balance the access already available to students with equal access to parents and employers. The result, they hope, will be the unmasking of higher education’s pretensions.

Honest Transcript’s sponsors also hope that transparency will encourage prospective students and parents who truly care about education to avoid the majors with the easiest grading. But that’s not likely, say Arum and Roksa in Academically Adrift. Criteria other than academic standards, such as “student residential and social life,” likely drive students’ decisions, as does “the ability with relatively modest investments of effort to earn a credential” for a job. Why make things harder with a GPA-reducing return to former standards?

Such doubts transcend the current debate. Discussing property, Aristotle cautions that “the nature of desire is without limit, and it is with a view to satisfying this that the many live.” Easy grades in vapid courses are a result of the effort to satisfy that desire. The proponents of Honest Transcript aim, in a small way, to turn the many toward something nobler, and their effort may have implications well beyond Texas.


ABCs for Today’s Public School Students

A is for Alzheimer’s Disease. If you eat lots of vegetables and floss your teeth, you will live a long time and get this condition as your reward.

B is for Baconator. If thou shouldst ever eat one, thou shalt surely die.

C is for Crumbling Infrastructure, an incantation government officials mutter when they want to spend more of the public’s money on “stimulus.”

D is for Disability Insurance Benefits. Just say that your back hurts or you have a “mood disorder” and get money in return.

E is for Energy Savings, an all-purpose excuse for wasteful government regulations and mandates.

F is for Food and Drug Administration, an indispensable government agency that makes sure no food or drug will ever harm you unless it does so anyhow.

G is for Gun Control. Unless you are a police officer or a soldier, you should never touch a gun.

H is for Hunger, which was a big problem in the USA until St. Franklin D. Roosevelt banned it by executive order.

I is for Interest – what you don’t have in learning anything in public school.

J is for Junk Food, the stuff you really like to eat.

K is for Karl Marx, Karl Rove, and Boris Karloff – all famous movie actors.

L is for Let My People Go, the demand that Moses made on Pharaoh in order to get the Jewish kids out of the Egyptian public schools.

M is for Multiculturalism. Marxism has new clothes!

N is for Nanny State, because you are too stupid to make personal decisions for yourself.

O is for Oppression, which a government can bring about only in other countries, by definition.

P is for Private, a once predominant part of human life that the government had to destroy in the public interest.

Q is for Quaint, an overly delicate action no longer considered apt, such as a congressional declaration of war before the president shouts, “bombs away!”

R is for Railroad Transportation, a highly subsidized deity worshiped by progressives, especially when it is carried out on light rails.

S is for Satisfaction, a feeling that government officials will never experience until they have all the power.

T is for Trick Question, the only kind a federal prosecutor will ever ask you when you are on trial.

U is for Ubermensch, members of the power elite (in contrast to Untermensch, which comprises the rest of us).

V is for Virtue, a quality that conservatives believe can be attained by pounding people with a government hammer until they shape up.

W is for Watermelon, the model for the environmental movement.

X is for X-ray Vision, which government investigators use to discover the countless crimes we have committed without even knowing it.

Y is for Yes Men, the kind of men with which aspiring politicians and government officials surround themselves.

Z is for Zeus, the most powerful god that ever existed until the creation of the modern state.


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