Friday, August 16, 2013

How Multiculturalism Transformed My College

The historian Polybius famously observed that empires deteriorate either internally or from without.  In some cases, however, they fall apart in both ways. This latter situation applies to American higher education, which has succumbed to numerous corrupting influences all at the same time.

To make my point, I’ll discuss the transformation that befell the college where I was employed between 1989 and 2011. Elizabethtown College, located in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, was for most of its history a sleepy Anabaptist college, affiliated with the Church of the Brethren. When the college offered me a position as a full professor, I accepted, welcoming the opportunity to live in a charming setting and to teach at a socially traditional college.

I also imagined that I would be able to converse with a scholarly community, but my teaching experience at Elizabethtown, with a few notable exceptions, was far from stimulating. Most of the students didn’t seem eager to learn and when given the chance, were happy to disparage me and other equally demanding professors on the compulsory “evals.” Worse than the hostility of the disengaged students was the reaction of antiwar faculty colleagues who disliked my philosophy, despite my own reservations about a militantly interventionist foreign policy. Attempts at civil debate with them proved futile.

A new administration took over in 1996. It was headed by a sociologist of religion with Lutheran theological training. He pushed the college in an unmistakably ideological direction from which it would never turn back.

The new president enjoyed going to conferences with other college presidents and schmoozing with the Middle States accreditation agency that the college uses to validate its degrees.  Each time he attended such meetings, he would come back with a new diversity program to implement, or he would decide to increase the responsibilities of the college’s diversity dean in fighting for “tolerance.”

This typically took the form of being more “welcoming” to our modest number of non-Christian, non-white students. For awhile, any mention of Christmas by the faculty and staff was frowned on; and even a “Yule Bowl” celebration was awkwardly renamed Holiday Bowl at the last moment, in case a non-Christian student might take offense at a gathering associated with a Christian holiday.

My wife, who was a bookstore employee, brought up certain facts in a letter to the college newspaper: Yule festivals were a pre-Christian Germanic thing and it was ridiculous for a Protestant college to try to obliterate its specifically Christian roots.

My black student assistant (one of the few non-whites on campus) found it strange that the entire school was celebrating Kwanzaa as a “black religious festival,” when his Baptist family in New Jersey cared only about Christmas. I explained to him that his parents were not politically correct blacks, unlike the white administration at the college.

From my conversations with the president, I found nothing to suggest that he believed any of the multicultural doctrines he so energetically pushed. He was just taking his lead from the presidents of other colleges, and undoubtedly trying to make the increasingly leftist faculty like him.

And the faculty seemed delighted with his initiatives. When the administration came forth with an extensive program to integrate multiculturalism into the curriculum, there was enthusiastic faculty approval.

The multicultural pedagogy would furnish the principles for the orientation of new students, inspire the list of guest speakers who would be invited to campus to edify us, and justify the stress on diversity and social justice that went into the college’s new mission statement.  Even without injecting the righteous odor of PC into every core course, the entire college would emit its fragrance.

In its effort to get the faculty to vote to make diversity the overriding goal of the institution, the administration, aided by the social work and religion faculties, relied upon the supposed need to fight “hate crime.”  We were confronted by events that never occurred, but which were said to throw a pall over the college. The administration spoke as if there were torrential outbursts of hate against Hindu, Muslim and Jewish students, based solely on the assertion by one Catholic faculty member who had converted to Hinduism that some students looked at him in a “bigoted way.” (Those looks were better explained by the fact that he wore a pony tail.)

And though the president proposed a solution (recruiting more minorities from inner cities) that had nothing to do with the alleged offenses, that didn’t matter. One after the other, faculty members stood up to proclaim, “It’s time we make a statement.”

To make matters worse, there was a low endowment at Elizabethtown, and the tuition-driven college became heavily dependent on certain cash cows. These were primary education, communications, and social work, which all served as vehicles of leftist indoctrination.

The students and faculty who were associated with those majors hardly distinguished between leftwing activism and traditional college study. They were expected to assume certain political attitudes and to act on the basis of them as part of their college education. Students in certain majors were expected to hear all of the politically correct speakers (such as education radical Jonathan Kozol) who were brought to campus and to write papers on what they learned from the speeches.

Even staying in the dorms required getting along with a dean of students, who imposed her political values on recalcitrant residents. Students of mine were dressed down by this dean and the provost for not being sufficiently sensitive to uncorroborated “hate crimes.” In more than one case, honor students (from the political science department) were threatened with expulsion for disputing the diversity dogma that had been proclaimed for the “college community.”

Note that there was an aspect of the college’s Brethren heritage that worked against maintaining college standards. The school claims to “be educating for service,” and one frequently heard students emphasize the joys of being “hands on.” In primary education, one could be “hands on” by joining the National Education Association and by demonstrating with its members. One had an especially good opportunity to be “hands on” by attending the speech by black communist activist Angela Davis last fall, which was sponsored by the college.

Equally significant were the multiple “hires” that took place during this time. Most of the younger people who came on board have better credentials than the older generation of faculty. Unfortunately, they are not much interested in serious scholarship, but delight in complaining about any hints of sexism and racism they claim to have spotted on campus. The primary effect of the younger faculty has been to radicalize the institution beyond recognition.

Elizabethtown’s pitiable transformation corresponds to a widespread degradation of learning. What bothers me about such glib generalizing, however, is the unwillingness of those of my generation to acknowledge that what they are deploring happened on their watch.

This process of change took place in different places and varied contexts, and so when I hear from those who lament what has befallen our college that “it’s really the same all over” I get intensely annoyed. I have no doubt that at Elizabethtown something could have been done to make things less crazy if fewer professors had hidden their heads in the sand. There was rarely a vote on any issue that radicalized the school in which the “nays” could not have won or at least held their own. The critics were just too cowardly or self-centered to let their opposition be known at the appropriate time.

Although this passage from Burke may now be overworked, it seems particularly apt looking back at my college experience: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”


How 100,000 British pupils could be taught maths and science by teachers with NO TRAINING in those subjects

Thousands of secondary school children could be taught maths and science by teachers with no training in the subjects because of a recruitment crisis, an academic has warned.

Up to 30 per cent of places on postgraduate certificate in education maths courses due to start in September have not been filled.

Physics has also suffered a significant shortfall, along with modern foreign languages and English.

The lack of candidates is being blamed on growing confidence elsewhere in the jobs market and a squeeze on teachers’ pay.

It means more than 100,000 pupils could have classes with teachers who are not trained in the subject.

Numbers of applicants for maths are down 709 on last year and in physics by 386. Both are ‘national strategic priorities’ at A-level according to Education Secretary Michael Gove.

Design technology has shed 345 applicants and English 343, although the latter had a surplus last year.

Professor John Howson, of Oxford Brookes’ University, said the Government got ‘complacent after the recession’ as secondary school rolls fell and a ‘high spot’ of teacher retirements eased.

He said although lots of people wanted to study teaching at that point, due to job shortages elsewhere, ‘this was never going to last’.

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders said there were ‘big gaps in recruitment’ particularly in science, technology, engineering and maths.

A Department for Education spokesman said there was no teacher shortage, adding: ‘This is scaremongering and based on incomplete evidence.’


British private schools preparing to dump mainstream High School exams

Britain’s leading private schools are preparing to abandon A-levels because of controversial reforms to the “gold standard” qualification, headmasters have warned.

Rising numbers of fee-paying schools could scrap the exam in its current form amid a backlash over changes to way the qualification is run.

As sixth-formers across the country prepare to receive their results tomorrow, it emerged that many heads were considering shifting towards an alternative version of the exam created for schools overseas.

In all, 72 schools entered pupils for International A-levels this summer but it is believed numbers could soar in coming years.

One leading head said the exodus could eventually mirror the shift towards the international version of GCSEs which is currently taken by around 400 private schools.

Andrew Grant, former chairman of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses' Conference, which represents 250 top schools, including Eton, Harrow and Winchester, said a “high proportion” of HMC members were unhappy with changes to A-levels.

It comes as 300,000 teenagers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland prepare to receive A-level grades on Thursday.

Currently, pupils sit AS-level exams in the first year of the sixth-form and then A2 exams in the second year – with overall marks combining to form the final A-level result.

But the Government has outlined plans to turn AS-levels into standalone qualifications from 2015 onwards, with results no longer counting towards final marks. Instead, most pupils will only sit exams at the end of the two-year course.

Ministers insist it will cut down on the number of exams taken between the age of 16 and 18 and enable pupils to study subjects in more depth.

But the move has been criticised by HMC.

Mr Grant, the head of St Albans School, Hertfordshire, told the Times Educational Supplement: “I know I am speaking for many of my colleagues in HMC when I say we will look for a way of continuing the AS-level system.

“We at St Albans School are looking very, very seriously at International A-levels because we feel there is a tremendous value in the feedback provided by AS-levels at the halfway point.”

Cambridge University’s exam board currently run International A-levels, retaining exams in the first and second year of the course.

The Perse School, Cambridge, is among those already shifting towards International A-levels, which will retain the AS Level at the halfway point.

Bernard Trafford, head of Newcastle-upon-Tyne Royal Grammar School, and another former HMC chairman, said he “did not rule out” opting for the International A-level.

Many other schools have already moved towards other alternative exams for 16- to 18-year-olds, including the International Baccalaureate (IB) and the Cambridge Pre-U qualification.

Figures show 99 schools entered the Pre-U this year and 188 offered the IB.

Separately, International GCSEs – introduced over the last decade to create an alternative version of GCSEs – are currently taken by around 400 private schools in Britain.

Mr Grant said he could envisage a shift towards International A-levels in similar numbers.


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