Sunday, April 19, 2015

Sustainability Gone Wild in colleges and universities

In a world of ever-increasing plenty, sustainability is irrelevant.  And plenty is created, not discovered.  It is created by human inventiveness, which has never been greater than now.

An example of how ingenuity creates resources:  Bauxite is an extremely plentiful mineral.  You can find it just lying on the ground as a sea of little red pebbles in some places.  But it was not a resource until Hall and Heroult discovered how to extract aluminum from it.  The Hall and Heroult process is now virtually the only source of aluminum and has made aluminum very cheap. 

As aluminum foil it is now so cheap that it is routinely put out with the garbage. Yet once it was up with silver and gold for rarity and value

Syracuse University alumni are new additions to the lengthening list of persons who can stop contributing to their alma maters. The university has succumbed — after, one suspects, not much agonizing — to the temptation to indulge in progressive gestures. It will divest all fossil fuel stocks from its endowment. It thereby trumps Stanford, whose halfhearted exercise in right-mindedness has been to divest only coal stocks. Evidently carbon from coal is more morally disquieting than carbon from petroleum.

The effect of these decisions on consumption of fossil fuels will be nil; the effect on the growth of institutions' endowments will be negative. The effect on alumni giving should be substantial, because divesting institutions are proclaiming that the goal of expanding educational resources is less important than the striking of righteous poses — if there can be anything righteous about flamboyant futility.

The divestment movement is a manifestation of a larger phenomenon, academia’s embrace of “sustainability,” a development explored in “Sustainability: Higher Education’s New Fundamentalism” from the National Association of Scholars (NAS). The word “fundamentalism” is appropriate, for five reasons:

* Like many religions' premises, the sustainability movement’s premises are more assumed than demonstrated.

* Second, weighing the costs of obedience to sustainability’s commandments is considered unworthy.

* Third, the sustainability crusade supplies acolytes with a worldview that infuses their lives with purpose and meaning.

* Fourth, the sustainability movement uses apocalyptic rhetoric to express its eschatology.

* Fifth, the church of sustainability seeks converts, encourages conformity to orthodoxy and regards rival interpretations of reality as heretical impediments to salvation.

Some subscribers to the sustainability catechism are sincerely puzzled by the accusation that it is political correctness repackaged. They see it as indisputable because it is undisputed; it is obvious, elementary, even banal. Actually, however, the term “sustainable” postulates fragility and scarcity that entail government planners and rationers to fend off planetary calamity while administering equity.

The unvarying progressive agenda is for government to supplant markets in allocating wealth and opportunity. “Sustainability” swaddles this agenda in “science,” as progressives understand this — “settled” findings that would be grim if they did not mandate progressivism.

Orthodoxy was enshrined in the 2006 “American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment.” Since then, the NAS study concludes, “the campus sustainability movement has gone from a minor thread of campus activism to becoming the master narrative of what ‘liberal education’ should seek to accomplish.”

Government subsidizes the orthodoxy: The Environmental Protection Agency alone has spent more than $333 million on sustainability fellowships and grants. Anti-capitalism is explicit: Markets “privilege” individuals over communities. Indoctrination is relentless: Cornell has 403 sustainability courses (e.g., “The Ethics of Eating”). Sustainability pledges are common. The University of Virginia’s is: “I pledge to consider the social, economic and environmental impacts of my habits and to explore ways to foster a sustainable environment during my time here at U.Va. and beyond.”

Sustainability, as a doctrine of total social explanation, transforms all ills and grievances into environmental causes, cloaked in convenient science, as with: Climate change causes prostitution (warming increases poverty, which increases … ). Or the “environmental racism” of the supposed warming that supposedly caused hurricane Katrina, which disproportionately impacted New Orleans blacks.

The same sort of people — sometimes the same people — who once predicted catastrophe from the exhaustion of fossil fuels now predict catastrophe because of a surfeit of such fuels. Former U.S. Sen. Tim Wirth of Colorado, divestment enthusiast and possessor of astonishing knowledge, says: If we burn all known fossil fuels, we will make the planet uninhabitable, so, “Why should any rational institution invest in further exploration and development when we already have at least three times more than we can ever use?”

There is a social benefit from the sustainability mania: the further marginalization of academia. It prevents colleges and universities from trading on what they are rapidly forfeiting, their reputations for seriousness.

The divestment impulse recognizes no limiting principle. As it works its way through progressivism’s thicket of moral imperatives — shedding investments tainted by involvement with Israel, firearms, tobacco, red meat, irrigation-dependent agriculture, etc. — progressivism’s dream of ever-more-minute regulation of life is realized, but only in campus cocoons.

College tuitions are soaring in tandem with thickening layers of administrative bloat. So here is a proposal: Hundreds of millions could be saved, with no cost to any institution’s core educational mission, by eliminating every position whose title contains the word “sustainability” — and, while we are at it, “diversity,” “multicultural” or “inclusivity.” The result would be higher education higher than the propaganda-saturated version we have, and more sustainable (!).


Wyo. Catholic College Latest to Abstain From Federal Student Loan Program

Wyoming Catholic College has joined a handful of institutions of higher learning that refuse to participate in federal student loan and grant programs because of “burdensome regulatory requirements [that] are clearly troubling for faith-based institutions.”

“By abstaining from federal funding programs, we will safeguard our mission from unwarranted federal involvement—an involvement increasingly at odds with our Catholic beliefs, the content of our curriculum, and our institutional practices,” college president Kevin Roberts said in February after the school’s board of directors voted unanimously to reject federal funding.

“Our decision is a prudential one,” said board chairman Andrew Emrich, adding that “pivotal legal decisions, executive orders, and administrative interpretations were all pointing to some near-term (and perhaps long-term) challenges for institutions of faith.”

“We really didn’t want the federal government meddling in our lives here,” board member David Kellogg told The New York Times. “The federal  government hands you money and then threatens to withdraw that money if you don’t do what they want.”

It costs $28,150 a year to attend the small four-year liberal arts college in Lander, Wyoming, which has a great books/great outdoors curriculum, and requires students to participate in a three-week backpacking trip and turn in their cell phones and computers while on campus. The college set up a private loan program to help current and future students who need financial aid.

“There’s a real concern that eventually strings will be attached to student aid, and they don’t want to be put in that position,” explained Patrick Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, which recommends the small Catholic college to prospective students and their families.

“They want to retain their Catholic identity despite increasing efforts by the Obama administration and the Left to force their social agenda, which is rooted in non-discrimination law.

"If those laws can be applied in the same way as Title IX, any institution that participates in the student loan program will be forced to comply with their social engineering,” such as providing benefits to same-sex couples, allowing transgender students access to bathrooms reserved for the opposite biological sex or even altering the content of their instruction.

“There’s a grave danger that this is the direction we’re headed,” Reilly added, noting that intrusion into college curriculums has already begun.

“We’ve had a situation with Franciscan University of Steubenville [Ohio] where an accreditor for the psychology program stepped in and complained about a discussion of different forms of [sexual] deviancy. So it will likely come through the accreditation process first,” he told

“It’s very difficult for larger institutions that have used the federal money to expand their campus facilities to not participate in the student aid program because they’re competing against institutions that do participate,” he pointed out. “But Wyoming Catholic College is new and renting its current space, so they can keep costs as low as possible.”

Several Supreme Court cases involving government funding and religious freedom during the 1960s and ‘70s prompted a number of prominent Catholic colleges and universities, such as Fordham and Georgetown, to “take their crucifixes down” and transfer ownership from religious orders to lay boards of trustees. “It turned out that the worst-case scenarios did not materialize, but they secularized anyway,” Reilly said.

“Catholic institutions have generally been very wary of taking federal money, but grants or student loans were considered different because the money supposedly went to the individual student, not directly to the institution. However, Title IX ended that illusion,” he told

“It’s clear that the federal government can, through non-discrimination laws, impose nearly anything it wants. That hasn’t happened yet, but for schools with a strong Catholic identity like Wyoming Catholic College who were considering participating in the student loan program, it’s a bad time to get in.”

Christendom College in Virginia, Hillsdale College in Michigan, and Grove City College in Pennsylvania also do not participate in federal student loan programs.

“The College’s decision has proven prophetic given the federal government’s current assault on religious freedom and its expanding use of funding conditions to promote policy preferences,” Christendom’s website states. “The federal government takeover of the student loan industry as part of the recent health-care reform is a stark warning that the government is seeking broader control of higher education.”


Schools Are Panicking over Testing Opt-Outs

When it comes to testing, just say no

When it comes to the welfare of their kids, parents can be pretty formidable. As it becomes increasingly clear in school districts across America that the standardized tests aligned with Common Core standards are making education worse, more parents are choosing to just say no.

Most states have provisions to allow parents to opt out of standardized tests if they have a reasonable objection, but as increasing numbers of people are taking advantage of this option, the schools are starting to get a bit jumpy. In Wayne County, West Virginia, for example, some students are feeling pressure to conform or be cast out.

West Virginia has two basic standardized tests, the older assessment known as the Westest, and the newer Smarter Balanced assessments that are being phased in as part of Common Core. After a wave of opt-out requests in Wayne County, a special assembly was called to single out the students who requested to opt out, with conduct that has been described as “bullying.”

The affected students told their story on the Tom Roten radio show, and said that the school tried to intimidate them into taking the tests, even though they are not legally required to. The obvious question is, why do schools care so much?

The answer can be found in audio of a school board meeting held on December 19, 2013 (relevant audio begins at 1:26:32 in the video.) The State Superintendent of Education was asked point blank about opting out of standardized test, and said quite clearly that there was no penalty for students who wished to opt out. In fact, he said it multiple times. This should settle any questions about whether parents are allowed to opt out, but what comes next reveals why schools are so eager to conceal this fact. Schools have participation quotas for their tests, meaning that a certain percentage of students have to take them, or else the school itself faces a penalty, typically in the form of funding.

So schools are panicking that they may lose money and therefore are trying to bully students into taking endless tests that don’t actually educate people. It’s easy to blame school administrators for this, but the root of the problem is the tests themselves, along with the incentives and quotas handed down from the federal government. This further underscores the urgent need to sever the link between the federal incentives and education funding. and restore autonomy to state and local school systems.


No comments: