Friday, March 13, 2020

Political Correctness Threatens American Higher Education

By some measures, American higher education is in the midst of a golden age. It enjoys a worldwide reputation as the best in the world. Global rankings of universities consistently put American institutions at the top. Students from virtually every country compete to gain entry to both their undergraduate and graduate programs. Faculty often enjoy both great prestige and impressive salaries.

Yet higher education in the United States has serious problems. The tuition its institutions charge students encumber many of them with career-distorting debt. For other young people, the price of enrollment places higher education out of reach altogether. Rising costs, along with the decline in the college-age population, is forcing some colleges to reduce sharply the number of faculty members and even to cease operations entirely. In addition, research has shown that a painfully large fraction of students demonstrate no discernible improvement in either the command of information or the capacity for thinking and reasoning over the course of their college years. They have, in effect, spent a great deal of money without getting what they paid for.

Among the most disturbing, and damaging, problems afflicting higher education is the widespread imposition within its institutions, by students, faculty, and administrators using both formal and informal methods, of a particular set of political ideas, beliefs, and values that are found on the left side of the Western political spectrum and have come to be called, collectively, political correctness. Three episodes at Yale University, beginning in 2015, illustrate its scope and impact.

In the first, the head of one of Yale’s residential units, known as colleges, announced that he would no longer be called the “master,” as had been customary and uncontroversial for more than eight decades. The word, he said, conjured up unacceptable associations with the plantations of the pre-Civil War south—although in academic life it has always had an entirely different meaning. There it stems from the Latin word “magister,” which historically denoted someone qualified to teach in a medieval university.

Then, under pressure from students, the university removed from one of the residential colleges the name it had borne since 1930, that of John C. Calhoun, a Yale graduate of the class of 1807 who served his country as a congressman, senator, secretary of state, secretary of war, and vice president. The name had become unacceptable to the students because of Calhoun’s support, two centuries earlier, for slavery.

Finally, in 2015, the head of a different residential college was surrounded and verbally assaulted by hostile students who were furious that his wife had, in response to a university email warning against wearing “inappropriate” Halloween costumes, ventured the opinion that Yale students were capable of deciding for themselves what costumes, if any, to wear. If a student encountered a costume that gave offense, she said, it might be a good idea for him or her to engage the wearer in a calm discussion of the reasons for this reaction. The video of this event, which was widely viewed on the internet, brought to mind the student-led “struggle sessions” in China during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, in which adults (many of them Communist Party officials) were viciously harassed by bands of students known as “Red Guards” and often suffered serious, even fatal, injuries.

Anthony Kronman holds two graduate degrees from Yale and has spent four decades there as a professor in its law school, serving from 1994 to 2004 as its dean. (The present writer—full disclosure—spent four happy years as a Yale undergraduate from 1964 to 1968.) Kronman has written a book explaining and exploring the surge of political correctness at Yale and other universities, subjecting it to searching and scrupulous criticism, and enumerating the costs it has exacted. In The Assault on American Excellence, he has produced an account that is cogent, alarming, persuasive, and, considering the gap between the author’s views and those that prevail where he teaches, courageous.

All of philosophy, it has been said, is a series of footnotes to Plato. It might, in this spirit, be said with only some exaggeration that all commentary on American society, customs, and beliefs is a series of footnotes to Tocqueville, a statement that applies here. Kronman takes his principal theme from the Frenchman’s 1837 classic Democracy in America. Tocqueville considered the America he visited to be the pioneer in a trend toward social and political equality that he believed, correctly, was destined to spread beyond the United States, sweeping away the aristocracies of Europe. He appreciated the virtues of equality as a governing principle but worried about the social costs of its triumph.

Similarly, Kronman imputes the surge of political correctness on campus to the embrace of a militant egalitarianism that, while conceivably justified in the political sphere, is incompatible with one of the virtues that universities, almost uniquely, can and should cultivate: what he calls “excellence.” By excellence, he means not the mastery of a particular skill or body of knowledge but rather the superior development of character, a “greatness of the soul,” which he identifies as historically, although not necessarily, an aristocratic feature of Western societies.

All apart from its deleterious impact on excellence as Kronman defines it, and which he highly values, political correctness has done substantial damage to American colleges and universities, as he documents in the book’s three central chapters. One of them deals with the meaning, in theory and practice, of diversity, which he terms “the most powerful word in higher education today.” (The University of California system, for example, has announced that all potential appointees to its faculties will have to demonstrate a firm commitment to diversity.) The academy defines diversity exclusively in terms of race, ethnicity, gender identification, and sexual orientation. Diversity of ideas and viewpoints is not included and usually not welcome. Another chapter of The Assault on American Excellence documents the negative consequences of summarily removing from buildings the names of people whose political and social views do not accord with those that now dominate American institutions of higher education. A third considers the status of speech, which is no longer entirely free on campus.

Tocqueville, and even more his British contemporary, John Stuart Mill, in his 1853 essay On Liberty, were concerned about the tyranny of the majority, to which they feared social equality would lead and that would suppress unpopular views. That is precisely what has occurred in American institutions of higher learning. The expression of ideas concerning the approved building blocks of diversity that depart from what has become campus orthodoxy risks intimidation and public vilification by the university community and even punishment by the university’s administration. Students censor themselves in class and prospective speakers holding (or thought to hold) forbidden views are often disinvited or, if they do speak, shouted down and even physically assaulted.

Besides violating the spirit (and perhaps in some cases the letter) of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, the suppression of speech subverts the two basic missions of the university. One of them is the discovery and production of knowledge, which requires free inquiry. The other is the education of students. At its best, this involves what the great sociologist David Riesman called “deprovincialization”—taking the individual beyond the boundaries of the familiar and exposing him or her to ideas, customs, and beliefs previously unknown and sometimes disorienting when first encountered. The demand, widely articulated on campus, that students be protected from exposure to ideas that distress them runs directly counter to one of the central purposes of the institution.

All of this is having an impact on the way Americans view universities. Political correctness of the kind that Kronman analyzes is fostering skepticism about, disapproval of, and even outright hostility toward institutions of higher learning in the wider public. That, in turn, poses a major threat to higher education in the United States. Its institutions, like all institutions, require public acceptance in order to survive. Indeed, colleges and universities need more than acceptance: They require active support. Public ones need appropriations from state legislatures; private ones depend on donations from individuals, often alumni. The collapse of support for them, which militant political correctness is fostering, would present American higher education with an even more serious problem than those it already has.


Political correctness should not cost MHS students a great teacher

Political Correctness is far more deadly than CoVid-19. While it does kill people, it also kills creativity and the human spirit. Case in point: Milpitas High School teacher, David Carter. While trying to creatively inspire his students to embrace the possibilities that technology offers them, he was struck down by the forces of political correctness. He was taken out of the classroom based on the opinions of the easily and habitually offended and may lose his job. But that may not be the worst that happened.

I suspect that Mr. Carter’s spirit has been crushed and his creativity has been greatly diminished. There may never be another morning where he gets up with a feeling of zippity-doo-dah and heads off to his classroom with a new approach that might inspire some student to go on to achieve. He may never be that wonderful teacher that some of us remember who turned our lives in the right direction because he may never teach again.

Not only that, there may be other teachers who have remarkable talent at teaching who will never try a creative approach to teaching because they have viewed what Mr. Carter has experienced at the hands of the politically correct crowd. 

 What was Mr. Carter’s crime? Innocence. He did not realize that dressing up and acting like somebody whom you admire is a bad thing. [He wore blackface]. Perhaps he was naïve. Nonetheless, he meant no harm and really did no harm. I doubt that anyone who complained really had such a fragile psyche that they needed psychological counseling.

When I was growing up, Jackie Robinson was an heroic baseball player much admired throughout the USA and particularly in my family because he was a classmate and friend of my uncle at Muir Tech (Now Muir High School) in Pasadena. At Halloween one year, my oldest brother dressed up as Jackie, complete with blackface.  If Jackie Robinson had been at one of the houses he trick-or-treated at, do you think that he would have been offended? I don’t think so. He probably would have been delighted at having a young fan paying such a tribute to him and put an extra Snickers in his bag. But… that was before political correctness started systematically killing the human spirit.

Mr. Carter: I hope that your spirit is not broken and that you go on to teach using all of your talent and creativity. Keep admiring the people you admire and bringing their spirit to your classroom. Political correctness has been around for a few decades now. It is getting old and will hopefully soon die.


'Political correctness on steroids': Australian principal's birthday cupcake ban backfires

An attempt by a Perth primary school principal to ban cupcakes on birthdays has backfired after the state government stepped in to put the policy on hold in the wake of widespread outrage.

The move by Arbor Grove Primary School principal Glen Purdy was chided by both sides of politics, with WA Education Minister Sue Ellery voicing her support of birthday treats and Opposition Leader Liza Harvey labelling the move "political correctness on steroids".

The Ellenbrook school's note to parents raised eyebrows after telling them the school executive had been mindful of the increasing number of students with food allergies and intolerances, the cultural diversity of the school, and the beliefs and traditions of those cultures.

The note asked parents to no longer send students to school with cupcakes, lolly bags or other unhealthy options to share with their classmates when celebrating their birthdays.

If a student arrived with such items, teachers would no longer hand them out, instead returning them with the student at the end of the day.

"I acknowledge that this may not be a universally popular decision, however it does avoid the risk of a child suffering a potentially life-threatening health issue that may arise should they ingest an item they are allergic to, is respectful to the cultural diversity within the school maximising inclusivity, and supports the School and Education Department focus on healthy food choices for students," the note said.

But Ms Ellery said the move went too far, telling ABC Radio she was not aware of which "cultural sensitivities" there would be around cupcakes.

She told the Department of Education to ask the school to reconsider the policy, and in an updated notice to parents Mr Purdy said the school had put the new policy on hold, pending the outcome of a survey canvassing the school community.

"I will meet with members of the P&C and also provide the opportunity for all parents to have their say through an online survey," he wote.

Ms Ellery said ensuring parents were sensitive to students with allergeies was "perfectly reasonable and indeed appropriate".

"But banning cupcakes for cultural reasons is a bit beyond me," she said.

Ms Ellery said birthdays were important for students and was confident it was possible to find a way to celebrate birthdays with food "in a way that is safe and inclusive for all".

Opposition Leader Liza Harvey asked where common sense had gone.

"For goodness' sake. We shouldn't change our culture for other people's cultural reasons," she said.

A parent at the school told 6PR Radio her son had brought cookies for his kindergarten friends to enjoy on his birthday, but the following day the principal's decision was made public. She said parents were happy to work around allergies.

Mr Purdy told 6PR the school's focus was to put children's safety foremost and sharing food was not allowed. The issue of allergies and intolerances was a serious consideration.

"We do have a diverse culture clientele and some of our families do not have animal byproducts in their food offerings," he said.

"We have always as a school supported the celebration of birthdays and will continue to do so."

Western Australian Primary Principals’ Association president Ian Anderson said the majority of primary schools would have policies in place around students bringing cakes, treats and certain foods to schools due to allergy concerns and health issues.

“My understanding is that teachers will still celebrate birthdays in their classrooms and that the new policy is simply around bringing treats that could potentially develop an allergic reaction in a student," he said.


Thursday, March 12, 2020

Coed Receives 'Onslaught' of Hate, 'Threats of Violence' for Saying Socialism More Dangerous Than COVID-19

Given that socialism has killed roughly 25,000 times more people than the COVID-19 coronavirus has, and that there are a lot more people pushing for socialism than there are for COVID-19, it might seem uncontroversial to insist that socialism is more dangerous than COVID-19. Except for a very few radical environmentalists, COVID-19 doesn't exactly have anyone cheering it on. Socialism, despite its massive death toll, still enjoys millions of adherents and proponents, many right here in the USA.

Most alarmingly, you'll find them clustered on our college campuses, where you'd think that people would be smart enough and well-informed enough to understand that 100,000,000 (deaths due to socialism) is a much bigger number than 4,000 (deaths due to COVID-19). But of course you wouldn't actually think that, because as a devoted consumer of news, you're undoubtedly aware that our former institutions of higher learning have become hotbeds of dangerous silliness.

That's why University of Chicago student Evita Duffy found her physical safety under threat for having had the gall to publicly state the obvious to the willfully oblivious.

The university's Institute of Politics ran an Instagram campaign last week, giving students a chance to fill in the blank after "I vote because..." Duffy can be seen in the video holding a sign that says, "I vote because the coronavirus won't destroy America, but socialism will."

You can probably guess what happened next, but it was serious enough that Duffy -- who describes herself as a conservative Hispanic woman -- had to take it public with an op-ed in the student paper. She wrote that she hoped her "vote" message might "encourage a lively and robust debate on economics," but instead she received an "onslaught of online hate and threats of violence" from her tolerant, progressive friends.

She continues:

Fellow students attacked my character, my intellect, my family, my appearance, and even threatened me with physical violence, using foul and offensive language. I was called a racist and a xenophobe. Some compared me to animals. Others declared that they would personally stop me from voting, and many defended the personal attacks, saying I deserved to be bullied and that I don’t belong at the University of Chicago on account of my beliefs. I was told by many that I was the most hated person on campus. It was frightening. It was also hurtful, since some of the attacks came from people I considered friends.

It gets worse. Duffy says one commenter warned she should have to face "a brick wall," which is clearly a euphemism for summary execution, something at which socialists excel. They also told her she must "support a movement [socialism] that eliminates violence on a systemic level or face the consequences."

I'll let you try and wrap your head around that sentence while I pour myself a shot of something strong. Needless to say, claiming that you're eliminating violence on a systemic level by threatening with violence everyone who doesn't go along... need a drink, too?

But these are deeply stupid times we live in, and we could use more smart souls like Evita Duffy to combat the stupid.


On Collegiate Death and Dying

Recently, Concordia College in Portland, Oregon announced it was closing its doors at the end of this academic year. This was shocking to many in the Portland community and beyond, and has led to probable class action litigation from students arguing they were deceived by the school that failed to warn them of the impending death of the institution.

Concordia seemingly had done all the right things. It was a small school that over the last decade introduced several popular new programs, including a law school in Boise, Idaho and a program in homeland security, leading enrollments to expand to about 7,000 students by 2014. It promoted online offerings for an adult audience. Yet it had mounting expenses, partly related to companies helping it market and promote its online programs. An Inside Higher Ed article by Rick Seltzer shows it lost an extraordinary $11 million in 2017. From 2015 to 2019, revenues fell nearly 40% as the school started facing steep enrollment declines. The Lutheran Church bailed out Concordia for several years, but finally said, in effect, “enough is enough.”

Concordia in Portland (as distinct from the Minnesota-based Concordia) is, of course, far from unique. Many other private colleges such as Green Mountain (Vermont), Sweet Briar (Virginia) and Hampshire (Massachusetts) have either closed or barely stayed open after announcing plans to close. Most (Sweet Briar is a partial exception) lacked a significant endowment cushion to help cushion the school from unanticipated enrollment losses.

Even more precipitous declines have occurred in the for-profit sector, where schools like the University of Phoenix used to have hundreds of thousands of enrollees, and many have gone out of business or have been drastically changed (Kaplan, for example, is now owned by public Purdue University and run as Purdue Global).

But the private schools are far from the only endangered species in higher education. Small public universities living in the shadows of more prominent (and often wealthier) state universities have been particularly vulnerable. Take the 14 schools comprising the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. Total enrollment in these schools dropped more than 20% from 2010 to 2019. Moreover, the drop has been highly uneven. West Chester University’s enrollment is up, but six of the schools have had enrollment declines of 32% or more: Cheyney (the oldest historically black American college or university), Mansfield, Lock Haven, Edinboro, Clarion, and the large Indiana University of Pennsylvania, which lost nearly 4,800 students. Several of these schools are on life support or approaching intensive care. Cheyney was on probation until recently from its regional accrediting agency.

The problem is equally acute in the industrial Midwest. Southern Illinois University at Carbondale had more than 24,000 students in 1990. Now it is a shadow of its former self, with fewer than half that number of students.

As I have said before: there is a massive flight to quality in higher education. As students realize that a college degree is not a guaranteed path to vocational success, schools where students often drop out or end up getting desultory low-paying jobs are being avoided, while the selective admission schools are flourishing. Harvard, Northwestern and Stanford are not facing enrollment problems.

What is the solution? We are probably over-invested in higher education, and Schumpeterian creative destruction of schools will continue until we have fewer viable institutions and students, especially fewer ones majoring in topics that are politically correct but vocationally highly questionable: who wants to hire majors in gender studies?

Schools in serious decline face a moral dilemma. If they do not make their financial and enrollment situation transparent and clear to all applying, they could be considered guilty of deception or fraud. Yet advertising their weaknesses reduces applications even further—hastening their demise. Thus schools in distress hype their few strengths, hide weaknesses, and perhaps desperately try new programs or features for students (Esport centers, for example).

It is no wonder that the average tenure of college presidents has fallen sharply in recent times, to under five years. Running a university in this environment of falling enrollment is tough, perhaps legitimatizing the rapid increase in salaries of top university executives observed in modern times.


Australian universities must be brought to book on funding

For waste and perverse incentives it’s hard to go past the nation’s 39 universities, which, recent events notwithstanding, wallow in billions­ of taxpayer dollars.

As productivity growth and graduate starting salaries stagnate, it’s time to question whether reforms­ to higher education have worked in the interests of tax­payers and students.

They’ve certainly worked in the interests of universities, whose swol­len bureaucracies have be­come­ ground zero for highly paid BS jobs in “strategy, engagement, culture” et cetera. Almost 60 per cent of the 120,000 staff at our universities are administrators, rather than teachers or researchers.

Direct commonwealth funding for universities has more than doubled since 2009, when the Labor government removed a cap on publicly funded places, to about $9.8bn this financial year.

An even bigger problem is the surging take-up of Higher Educa­tion Loan Program loans, whose number exploded from 308,000 in 2010 to 522,000 in 2015. From 2010 to last year the stock of outstanding HELP loans soared from less than $20bn to more than $62bn.

Taxpayers are making huge losses on these loans — only $75 in every $100 is expected to be repaid. That means many graduates, who have to begin paying loans back when their incomes rise above about $46,000 a year, aren’t earning­ enough to do so.

The Parliamentary Budget Office­ warned in 2016 that the cost to the budget of these loans would rise to about $11bn a year by 2025 — more than double the budget surplus pencilled in for this financial year.

For all the deluge of public funds, little was done to ensure quality control. Many academics concede privately that standards have fallen — grade inflation is rife and there is pressure to pass stud­ents, especially from overseas.

That’s not surprising given more of the population is being pushed into university education, when the students and the economy might be ultimately better served by an alternative vocational career. Economist Andrew Stone offers­ two excellent ideas for improving value for money in his new book Restoring Hope, a must-read for anyone sick of hearing vague calls for “reform” without specifics.

Universities should have more skin in the game, he argues. At the moment they enjoy direct and indirec­t taxpayer funding, via HELP loans and grants to universities, without having to worry too much about whether students and taxpayers benefit.

If universities want to be “businesses”, they should have to accept risks like businesses do.

“The current financing system gives universities a large financial incentive to enrol students who academically ought not to be there, and by failing to impose any accountability for whether or not these students actually receive any benefit from their studies,” Stone writes.

Put unis themselves on the hook, in part, for students debts. HELP loans would become joint loans, under Stone’s plan. Universities would be required to pay an annual interest charge on loans that weren’t being repaid. This would focus the minds of univer­sity administrators on the quality of their courses and the wisdom of enrolling students who are likely to benefit little from them.

Second, the government should oversee a standard set of tests accessible to all that people could use to demonstrate their literac­y and numeracy to employers — and far more cheaply and quickly than slogging through a three-year arts degree.

University is mainly about signal­ling one’s ability to employers compared to others, and too often not about learning anything vocationally useful. Employers can’t simply ask job candidates how good they are.

Sure, students with degrees tend to earn more than those ­without them, but that has little to do with what they have actually been taught at university. Anyone can sit in university lectures, for free, and binge on knowledge for as long as they want. But without the piece of paper at the end, it’s all, vocationally speaking, a waste of time.

“Young people feel the need to obtain tertiary qualifications — potentially spending several years in further study, accruing sizeable debts and forgoing substantial earnings — even though the training they receive is of little or no value, either educationally or in terms of specific job skills ­acquired,” Stone says.

In economic language, a big chunk of university study is consumpt­ion, not investment.

Each year, samples of graduat­ing students from all 39 univer­sities should also be required to sit these new, standard tests, so university grades could be compared consistently. Public and private high schools are already subject to similar quality control through ­national standard tests.

Outside narrow disciplines such as medicine, it’s hard to see how much of what is taught at universi­ty today is useful for any occupation. The vast bulk of graduate jobs, which are typically white-collar, require skills that are learned on the job.

Universities, understandably, will recoil at these two ideas, but they are both very much in the interests of the broader community. Especially as the economy turns down, we can’t afford to keep mindless shovelling scarce resources — both money and people — at universities.


Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Vocational schools become the latest front in the battle for educational equity

What the writer below appears to fail to understand is that tradesmen are not dumb.  You have to have a pretty good level of abiity to do a trade successfully.  So requirements aimed to filter out dummies are essential.

The proposal below is to bypass those filters for some students.  It will be futile.  If the kid cannot do the work he will just waste his own time and the time of those who try to help him

Underlying the proposals appears to be an assumption that the filters are in some way unfair or wrong.  That should be tested before any changes are made.  The filters are presumably the product of long experience and any alternative is unlikely to be an improvement

As a middle schooler in Worcester, Priscilla Sanchez had typically fuzzy notions about the sort of career she might one day pursue; options ranging from forensics to cosmetology appealed to her. Either way, Sanchez dreamed of going to the city’s vocational high school, where she knew she could build a career without going to college.

Sanchez was a bright student, but her record wasn’t perfect: A fight in middle school had led to a suspension. But teachers had told her she was smart and encouraged her to apply to the highly sought after Worcester Technical High School. When Sanchez didn’t hear back, she blamed herself. “I thought maybe I wasn’t smart enough,” said Sanchez, now 20. “[Tech] was known as a school for smart kids with a good record.”

The problem wasn’t with her, but with how vocational education has changed and — some would say — lost its way.

Many of the state’s 37 vocational schools have come under fire recently for using their admissions criteria to screen out struggling students like Sanchez — exactly the sort of non-college-bound striver they were built to serve. Over the past two decades, the schools have been transformed from their blue-collar roots into high-tech training centers that prepare students equally for college or for well-paying jobs in the trades. Today, some are better funded than nearby public schools, and they have become increasingly selective in who they admit.

But enrollment figures indicate — and a growing number of activists and officials contend — that schools such as Worcester Tech are shutting out more challenging and disadvantaged students, taking advantage of the autonomy the state grants in admissions to cherry-pick more academically prepared students with better discipline records. They are behaving a lot like exam schools, with similar invidious effects, and mayors from across Massachusetts want the state to intervene, dictating more closely how the admissions process should work.

A Globe review of state data shows that some of these schools have become whiter and wealthier, enrolling fewer students with special needs or who are still learning English than many of the largest school districts that direct students their way. Meanwhile, students like Sanchez are being turned away.

At Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School, for example, only about a quarter of students come from low-income families, even though two of the largest cities in the area served by the school — Gardner and Fitchburg — have student poverty rates over 50 percent.

The gap is particularly stark when it comes to students who are still learning English. The vast majority of the state’s regional voc-techs enroll English learners at significantly lower rates than many of the largest districts they serve.

For example, nearly a quarter of students in Lowell Public Schools are still learning English. But fewer than than 10 percent of students are English learners at the Greater Lowell Technical High School, which also accepts students from the much smaller towns of Dracut, Dunstable,and Tyngsborough.

“It’s really a civil rights issue,” said Mark Hawke, town administrator for Westminster, which sends students to Montachusett Tech. “So many kids are getting left out.”

In late January, Hawke joined nearly two dozen mayors who signed a letter urging state education officials to require some vocational schools to abolish their selective admissions processes and adopt a lottery system instead. Currently, Massachusetts permits vocational schools “to determine which applicants have an ability to benefit” from a voc-tech education using admissions criteria that include student grades, counselor recommendations, discipline and attendance records, and perhaps a student interview. The state leaves it to individual schools to assign value to each category.

“These schools have used their selective admissions authority to admit students largely on [the] basis of their academic performance,” the mayors wrote in the Jan. 30 letter, addressed to Massachusetts education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley and Secretary of Education James Peyser. “The lack of fundamental fairness in regional vocational admissions has persisted for far too long.”

Without forceful state action, they added, some schools “will be unwilling to relinquish their ability to bolster school performance through selective admissions.”

For decades, the state’s vocational schools served as a critical bridge for non-college-bound students, providing a path to steady work in the trades for children from poor or working-class families, many of them minorities or immigrants. Vocational schools were a place that offered a chance for everyone, even if they weren’t high-achieving students.

The mayors argue that although vocational schools have used admissions criteria for decades, the state’s 1998 implementation of the MCAS prompted many voc-techs to prioritize student achievement and attendance.

Vocational school administrators quickly learned they could raise their school’s MCAS scores — and by extension, its reputation — simply by choosing stronger students.

“It is hardly surprising that public schools with the authority to select their students would recognize it as a competitive advantage and give preference to applicants with stronger academic, attendance, or discipline records,” the mayors wrote.

Some of the state’s most demographically imbalanced schools had already come to the attention of Riley, who sent letters last November to six of the schools, citing “enrollment discrepancies” with their surrounding student populations.

At the time, Riley said he planned to propose revisions to state regulations for voc-tech admissions this spring. In the meantime, he exhorted the superintendents to identify policies and practices “that may be impacting equitable student access ... and to voluntarily enact changes.”

But Kevin Farr, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of Vocational Administrators, said the schools are simply following state guidelines.

“It’s all within the current regulations,” said Farr. “The criteria are fair.”

Lewis Finfer, co-director of the Massachusetts Communities Action Network, compared the problem at the more exclusive voc-techs to the controversy over Boston’s exam schools, which critics have long charged use an admissions process that disadvantages low-income applicants and students of color.

“When you have a ranking system by grades, and attendance, and discipline, you end up favoring middle-class students, more so than kids who are from poor and working-class backgrounds,” said Finfer. “Public schools should be equally open to all students.”

At some schools, however, the picture is quite different. Minuteman Regional Vocational Technical High School, which serves affluent towns such as Belmont and Lexington, enrolls disproportionately higher rates of low-income and special-needs students. Meanwhile, at Belmont High, where only about 7 percent of students are poor, 80 percent of graduates earn a post-secondary degree within six years.

Another outlier is Boston’s Madison Park Vocational High School, which unlike many voc-techs does not use performance-based admissions criteria. The school has significantly higher numbers of low-income and special-needs students than the rest of the district. Not that it has served them particularly well: After years of decline, Madison Park was deemed “underperforming” by the state in 2015 and has yet to emerge from turnaround status.

But in many other communities, voc-techs have become highly sought after options, rivaling, or even surpassing nearby high schools in terms of the success of their graduates.

Officials at Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School said they had about 275 kids on the waiting list last year. Statewide, the number is closer to 3,000, according to a spokesperson at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The state funding formula also gives vocational schools a boost for staff and materials not found at other schools, and voc-techs frequently outspend their traditional counterparts by many thousands of dollars each year on a per-pupil basis.

Hawke said the schools can be so flush that Gardner once received textbook donations from Montachusett Technical, or Monty Tech.

“The stuff they were getting rid of was newer than the stuff we were still using,” said Hawke, who formerly served as Gardner’s mayor. “They really don’t want for anything.”

But Monty Tech, one of the schools flagged by Riley, arguably does not serve the students who could most benefit from its resources: Just 1 percent of students at the school are English learners, a rate dwarfed by that of the largest city sending students to the school, Fitchburg, where the rate is closer to 16 percent.

Sheila M. Harrity, Monty Tech’s superintendent-director, acknowledged that the school of roughly 1,400 students has lower English learner rates.

“We are trying to address that,” she said, adding that application materials are offered in Spanish and that she was proud of their progress so far. “Last year we had eight students [learning English], and this year we’ve almost doubled it to 15.”

Similarly, Greater New Bedford Regional Tech, another school identified by Riley, has much lower rates of poor students, students with special needs, and Latino students than its largest sending district, New Bedford Public Schools.

But the largest discrepancy lies with those still learning English: Whereas nearly 30 percent of New Bedford students are still learning English, the group makes up less than 4 percent of the voc-tech’s student body.

“There are enormous disparities,” said Mayor Jonathan Mitchell of New Bedford, who signed the letter. “They don’t have a legitimate educational basis to justify it.”

But James O’Brien, Greater New Bedford Tech’s superintendent-director, blamed officials at the sending districts rather than the voc-tech’s admission procedures. He said some area middle schools don’t allow his school access to eighth graders to tell them about the technical high school.

“Those different subgroups are not applying to our school because they're not aware of what we have to offer,” said O’Brien.

Mayor Mitchell countered that fully 75 percent of eighth-graders from New Bedford schools apply to the voc-tech, which he said accepts about 60 percent of them.

O’Brien said he’d be willing to expand the vocational school’s enrollment if he had the funding.

“If the money’s flowing our way, we can get very creative with a schedule,” he said. “We’ll accept them all. But at some point, when do the floodgates stop?”

Given the state’s range of schools and student populations, there’s no quick fix to the mayors’ concerns, said Thomas Scott, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents.

“It is not a simple issue where we can just make some admissions policy changes and it’s going to solve the problem,” he said. “It varies a lot from one place to the next.”

When she wasn’t accepted at Worcester Tech, one of the schools flagged by Riley, Priscilla Sanchez wound up at the city’s struggling North High School. False fire alarms were common, she said. There were a lot of fights. Many of her classmates were suspended, and she found the school chaotic and full of distractions.

Sanchez said she eventually got pregnant and dropped out of school altogether. She said she later earned her GED and is now studying criminal justice at North Shore Community College.

Even so, she thinks often of how things might have turned out differently if she’d gone to Tech.

“I think I’d be farther than I am now,” she said. “I just kind of stepped back a bit.”


Some MBA Programs Are an Overpriced Credential, but Others Give Real Value

Once a hot degree, the MBA is now being questioned by more and more people. Wall Street Journal columnist Andy Kessler, for example, recently wrote that “the cost is prohibitive.” As a professor who teaches in the now questionable program, please allow me to provide some insight.

Before I go on, here’s your disclaimer. I enjoy teaching my MBA students. If I was on the outside looking in, I could easily go scorched earth. Given that I believe teaching is my calling, I think I provide value. But, I’m also not naïve. There are many flaws with the MBA in 2019—but there are still some good reasons to seek one.

The main flaw in the “burn it down” media regarding higher education is that the practices of elite programs are often projected onto the landscape of all of higher ed.  This is akin to the flawed thinking that suggests the “average CEO” earns what those fat cat CEOs take home.

When people imagine grocery shopping, most don’t gravitate to Whole Foods. It’s likely Walmart, Costco or a local supermarket. When they picture a personal vehicle, it’s not The Ultimate Driving Machine, rather it’s more likely to be Toyota, Chevy, or Honda. When discussing the MBA in general, it’s more appropriate to think of programs at a regional state university than Harvard of Stanford.

Only a relative handful of the total granted MBAs are from the elite schools. Decreasing enrollment at elite schools does not have to signal gloom and doom for everyone else. While the lesser programs may aspire to be elite, they also know that their “customers” exist in a different market segment. Most MBA students are working adults seeking to change careers or to bolster their resumes.

Additionally, lots of them learn nothing about business at all in college, and only later, when they’re trying to advance in the business world, do they realize that they have big knowledge gaps to fill. But those bright and hard-working adults don’t want to take out a second mortgage to do so.

Thus, to keep down the cost, some “non-elite” MBA programs have moved partially or wholly online, as it has at my institution, where MBA enrollment has increased tenfold. Critics will argue already inferior programs will be even more watered down as professors become system administrators of standardized assignments. Yet, given the video and audio software available, online courses have the potential to be as good, or better than, traditional courses – especially when considering how much informal online learning already takes place.

Students report feeling engaged in my courses because I deliver leadership training in a podcast fashion that can be replayed at any point. They also appreciate that I allow flexible deadlines so that they feel more in control of the flow of the class, which is in line with how many of them consume content (e.g. iTunes U and YouTube).

While that may not convince purists, when the MBA is delivered effectively and efficiently at an appropriate cost, students leave with an educational background in accounting, finance, marketing, leadership, and strategy.

Unless the landscape changes, though, widespread college closings due to the higher ed bubble bursting or through an industry shift toward apprenticeships, on-the-job training, and employment testing—adults will still seek such signals, often for extrinsic benefits, and colleges will try to provide the best MBA programs for these degree seekers.

Yet, as I indicated above, I’ve heard all the criticisms. For those readers who are fans of that red meat style of critique, here is your tomahawk steak. MBAs are said to be a waste of time and money. As management scholar Henry Mintzberg wrote 15 years ago, the wrong people are pursuing an MBA at the wrong time and for the wrong reasons. They mistakenly believe that simply attending more school will better educate them for success in their next job.

Back when an MBA wasn’t so common, the degree was a stronger signal to the job market that you may possess something unique. In 1955, colleges granted ten times more undergraduate business degrees than MBAs. Now, it’s virtually one-to-one. It seems like everyone has an MBA. It’s the new bachelor’s degree.

You’ll be more successful learning on the job, the critique continues. You can even buy books like The 10-Day MBA and What they Don’t Teach you at Harvard Business School and get the knowledge at a fraction of the tab.

It’s easy to bash the MBA, because it’s not what it once was.
Then there is that “post-Enron,” virtue signaling mandatory ethics course designed to protect the school from an association with nefarious business practices. Yet, it’s highly unlikely that the course has ever discouraged any aspiring white-collar criminal from immoral practices.

So with all those flaws, why should anyone waste their time with an MBA?  I’ll end with the same advice I give to my undergraduates when they ask me that question.

Make it a rational decision. Do your research. Begin with the end in mind.  In order to get the most out of an MBA, the adult learner needs a cost-benefit analysis involving location (elite vs. non-elite schools) and program type (full-time vs. part-time).  If you have the funds and the time to make the MBA your full-time job, target a full-time program at the best school that will accept you. Once there, excel in class and grow your network. You’ll probably land a solid position with this strategy for now.

If your situation requires you to stay at your current job, remain close to your home, and possibly have your company pay for the tuition, target a part-time program in the local market or research fully online MBA programs from non-predatory institutions. This strategy will provide you with some new tools and a credential to add at the end of your name that, like many of the students in my program, you can leverage at some local company where all of management has the same degree.

It’s easy to bash the MBA, because it’s not what it once was. But then again, neither is your music collection, your communication devices, and your television. The difference is that while the latter examples have evolved, the MBA is at the point where it will either become a Betamax or an Apple Watch. Time will tell.

Programs that understand the need to effectively position their MBA against the other post-secondary options will find a good market, but those that waste students’ time and money won’t.


Brisbane teachers fail kids in maths

NEARLY three-quarters of students in years 8-10 were taught maths by teachers from outside the field, a survey of Brisbane students has found.

The revelation is in a survey by Australian Catholic University mathematics education lecturer Dr Michael Easey, who surveyed 423 students.

Having an out-of-field maths teacher made a staggering difference to which level of mathematics students chose to study in years 11 and 12. "From this study, it is very evident that if teachers are qualified to teach mathematics, students were more likely to select more mathematically demanding upper-secondary mathematics courses, mathematics B but especially mathematics C," Dr Easey said.

"In this study, some students choosing to study mathematics B or mathematics C provided written comments that suggested a feature of their experience of learning mathematics were teachers who were 'expert', 'enthusiastic', and `challenging'."

Of students surveyed, 274 identified which subject level they would choose, with 22 per cent opting for mathematics A, 30 per cent choosing mathematics B and only 12.5 per cent choosing mathematics C.

Students who had no, or only one, out-of-field mathematics teacher across years 8 to 10 were more than 20 times More likely to choose maths C over maths A in senior years. Students who had two out-of-field mathematics teachers were only three times more likely to choose mathematics C over mathematics A.

Data from the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute (AMSI) shows one in three secondary mathematics classes is taught by an out-of-field teacher around Australia.

AMSI schools program manager Janine Sprakel said it was of great concern that the number of students choosing to study mathematics in senior secondary school and university was dropping. "Our future is STEM - that is well established," she said.

"It makes sense that the teachers who are trained in mathematics suggest to their students that they would be capable of undertaking mathematics at a higher level in Year 12 and in university."

She said while there were great teachers without a background in mathematics teaching, specialist teachers had a different level of understanding and enthusiasm.

Queensland Teachers' Union president Kevin Bates said there were shortages of specialist teachers, particularly in mathematics, sciences and information technology design, which increased workloads.

From the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" of 8.3.20

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

American Higher Education: Beset with Problems, but Solutions Exist

Richard K. Vedder

I will concentrate today on the economics of higher education—why it is so costly, and a few things we can do about it. When I entered Northwestern University over six decades ago, the tuition fee was $795 a year, which is under $7,000 in current dollars. Today, Northwestern’s annual tuition, excluding room and board, is $56,232—eight times as much.

A similar pattern exists with state schools. When I started teaching at my state school, Ohio University, in the mid-1960s, the tuition fee of $450 was less than one-third what it is today, adjusting for inflation.

The higher education establishment usually stresses two explanations for rising costs. First, some economists argue that higher education is a service industry where productivity improvements are hard to accomplish. Teaching is like theater, they say—performing King Lear takes as many actors to perform today as when Shakespeare wrote it 400 years ago.

Professors require compensation increases like other professionals. As salaries rise with productivity in the rest of the economy, they must rise in higher education as well, thus necessitating higher fees to cover increased personnel costs.

The second explanation for rising student fees is that state governments are reducing their support of higher education. Where in the 1960s, state subsidies covered 50 percent or more of university budgets, now they only finance 10 percent to 30 percent of them, again necessitating higher fees.

These explanations are both weak. With respect to the first (often called the Baumol hypothesis), resources universities spend on professors and teaching is only about one-third of total university spending. A typical university has more administrators than faculty. Moreover, technological advances allow professors’ lectures to be replicated many times for large audiences electronically.

As to declining state support, the actual number of dollars appropriated by state governments for higher education is at a record high—$96.6 billion for this fiscal year.

Part of the reason why state appropriations are a smaller portion of university revenues than previously is that those budgets, at least until recently, have grown on a per-student basis. A generation ago, universities didn’t have expensive armies of diversity and sustainability bureaucrats or other administrative positions unrelated to the core academic mission. Moreover, fees have also risen sharply for private schools that receive no state subsidies.

If those two factors are minor, then what explains the explosion in higher education tuition fees? From 1840 to 1978, tuition rose about one percent a year more than the overall inflation rate. Since the incomes of Americans were rising two percent annually, college was becoming more affordable. In the next 40 years, 1978 to 2018, however, tuition rose about three percent annually more than inflation, and also much faster than income growth, which actually slowed down. The burden of financing college rose sharply.

Why did this happen? The reason reflects the explosion in our huge and dysfunctional federal student financial assistance program, especially student loans.

Before 1944, we had no federal student support and limited support (mainly the GI Bill) between 1944 and the late 1960s. In the 1970s, federal student loans became prominent.

As then-Education Secretary William Bennett observed in a 1987 New York Times op-ed, the colleges, realizing that kids could borrow large sums to help pay for college, started raising fees aggressively.

Research by a number of scholars at the New York Federal Reserve Bank of New York and at the prestigious National Bureau of Economic Research confirmed that Bennett was right. The best estimate is that for every dollar more federal assistance provided each student, schools raise their fees by 60 or 65 cents, capturing a large majority of the federal aid.

Student loans help schools much more than students.

And within schools, the increased revenues have financed a massive expansion of administrative staff, some reductions in teaching loads for tenured and tenure track faculty, and increased student amenities—things like climbing walls and lazy rivers.

It is noteworthy that, originally, the push for federal student financial assistance was motivated by a desire to increase access for lower-income students to attend college. On that score, the student aid program has been a colossal failure. The proportion of recent college graduates from the bottom quartile of the income distribution now is smaller than in 1970.

Before discussing some possible remedies for the current dysfunctionalities in public policy, I should provide more detail on inefficiencies making colleges so expensive.

We could begin by suggesting that college resources are vastly underutilized. Start with the buildings. Most of them are largely unused for several months a year, mainly the summer. But even during the academic year, most classrooms are lightly used in evenings and weekends, with the “weekend” beginning on some college campuses around five p.m. on Thursday.  By contrast, how much business office space lies empty for at least one-third of the time?

And what about the faculty? Fifty years ago, tenured faculty taught six hours a week, sometimes nine. At similar schools today, they teach three to six hours a week, for 30 or so weeks a year. Even someone teaching two courses is in the classroom less than 200 hours a year and spends maybe a similar amount of time preparing lectures, grading papers and exams, and advising students.

Today, the number of bureaucrats exceeds the number of faculty at most schools.

Low teaching loads are usually justified on the grounds faculty members are doing research. But does anyone read it? One study showed that over 1,000 academic papers are published annually on Shakespeare. Few papers get more than one or two citations. Is there that much new insight we can gather from the writings of the Bard, as great as he was? Diminishing returns set into almost everything, including academic research.

But faculty aren’t the biggest component in rising academic costs and inefficiency. A typical school in, say, 1970, had perhaps one non-instructional white-collar worker for each two faculty; today, the number of bureaucrats exceeds the number of faculty at most schools.

We have armies of administrators doing tasks that did not even exist 50 years ago. The University of Michigan, for example, at last report had 93 diversity and inclusion administrators, of whom more than two dozen made over $100,000 annually. I ask: If that school fired all of them, saving probably $10 to $15 million annually, would Michigan revert to massive racial and gender discrimination? I doubt it.

There are lots of cost-enhancing eccentricities of higher education that we can’t discuss in detail. The institution of tenure in some cases raises costs and impedes needed change. The heavy subsidization of sports, unique to American universities, needs to be revisited. So does accreditation, which was originally designed to protect consumers from fraudulent or shoddy instruction. It does little of this today. Schools of great distinction typically have the same accreditation as schools that do horrible jobs of educating students. Accreditation is costly, excessively complex, lacks transparency, and is mired in conflicts of interest.

Colleges are too expensive, but what can we do about it? If the federal student loan programs instituted 50 years ago are a prime culprit, wouldn’t we sharply reduce tuition price inflation if we got rid of those programs?

University people would scream, “Eliminating federal aid will lead to lower enrollments and prevent some poor kids from going to college.” I would argue that in a world where 40 percent of full-time college enrollees fail to graduate in six years, and where 40 percent of those who do graduate are underemployed, we are overinvested in higher education and some enrollment decline is desirable.

Moreover, I think alternative modes of financing college will evolve. One option would be to introduce on a wider scale privately funded Income Share Agreements (ISAs), where students who previously borrowed for college now sell equity in themselves—a share of postgraduate earnings for several years. An engineering graduate of Duke or NC State might agree to pay eight percent of her earnings for 10 years in return for the money to finance college. By contrast, a gender studies major at East Carolina might have to pay 18 percent of her earnings for 25 years. The terms on ISAs would encourage enrollments in good programs training workers to do productive things—more engineering, less gender studies bloviating.

If it’s politically impossible to end the current federal student loan program, at least several changes could mitigate its damage.

Most important, schools could be forced to have “skin in the game,” sharing in the losses occurring when students default on loans. Schools would become more careful about who they accept for admission and perhaps even nix trendy majors like gender studies.

Similarly, we should reform student loans in other ways. We could impose minimal academic standards—students with poor first-year performance could be constrained from borrowing for a second year, for example. We could impose stricter limits on the amount of borrowing and end loans to parents of students—PLUS loans.

State governments perhaps should give money to students, not to colleges. Pell Grants should be changed into scholarships given directly to truly low-income students, not to college financial aid offices.

Finally, the U.S. Department of Education has harmed higher education in America, and probably K-12 as well. It is time to eliminate it.


The Ever-growing Costs of Mandatory Student Fees

North Carolina public universities are more than just institutions of higher learning. They are each small cities of young adults with Olympic-level athletic franchises, massive dining and fitness clubs, and special interest hobby communities supported by extensive human and physical infrastructure.

To fund the many perks and benefits of university life, schools charge extra fees beyond tuition and room and board. In the University of North Carolina system, students at each of the 16 member institutions pay, on average, more than $2,500 annually in mandatory fees.

Mandatory student fees are slowly going up at North Carolina public universities, making attendance more expensive and raising questions about the true need and value of the amenities they help provide. Those fees have risen by 16.9 percent since the 2015-2016 academic year, on average, and schools are planning another markup set to take effect this fall.

UNC system mandatory fees pay for a variety of university costs, including:

Health Services
Student Activities
Educational and Technology
Campus Security
Debt Service

Association of Student Governments ($1 per student)
Each UNC school has a tuition and fees committee that meets during the fall semester to determine what additional revenue is needed. The committees include faculty, staff, and students. Rate changes agreed upon by the committees are then sent to the boards of trustees for approval, and chancellors ultimately submit them to the Board of Governors.

Any fee increase must be accompanied by expenditure plans and background information justifying their need. System rules limit mandatory student fees from growing by more than 3 percent overall each year, and the addition of new fees is currently prohibited. Mandatory student fees are the same for all students, regardless of whether they’re North Carolina residents, an undergrad or grad student, or if they live on-campus or off.

The Board of Governors discussed mandatory student fee increases for the 2020-2021 academic year during its January meeting and will vote on the issue in March. If the proposed increases are approved, fees will rise by an average of 2.4 percent across the system, from $2,611 to $2,674, but these increases are very different from school to school.

By fee type, campus security fees would grow the most: By 13.8 percent on average. However, they would remain inexpensive, ranging between $30 and $50. The fees support Title IX coordinators, campus security officers, and on-campus investigators. Four dollars per student go to the system office to support active shooter training on campuses and additional security personnel.

A much larger fee than campus security, student activities fees would see 2.6 percent growth on average, rising from $643 to $660. As the name implies, they support the upkeep of student union and intramural activity facilities, as well as student groups. Student governments have the power to direct where much of this money is spent, which can lead to on-campus political problems.

As David French of The Dispatch wrote,

Student fees prop up interest groups, and sometimes they support ideologically driven campus ‘centers’ dedicated to gender equity or LGBT equality. The end result is that students are involuntarily forced to fund an enormous amount of campus activism. It’s a comprehensive system of compelled speech that would be shockingly unconstitutional virtually everywhere but the academy, where the Supreme Court has ruled that the university’s educational mission gives it the authority to compel student funding [of] student expression.

The allocation of funds for student activities must be viewpoint neutral. It’s difficult, though, to identify and correct any wrongdoings. Student governments can impose their own requirements for student group funding requests and split funds across the ideological spectrum. Instances of alleged bias arise from time to time.

Outside of ideological battles, athletics fees may have the widest variation in cost and have a large impact on student life from school to school. They are commonly the most expensive fees that students pay, yet their benefits are unevenly shared.

Those fees support athletic scholarships, staff salaries, travel, and facility maintenance and operation. Each system school, except for the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, has athletic programs and mandates these fees. On average, schools have proposed a 2.8 percent increase in athletics fees, from $735 to $755 for the 2020-2021 academic year.

Most students who don’t play a sport will never get to use the locker rooms and practice facilities for which they paid. They can attend athletic events and get a discount compared to public tickets, but not all students care about sports and would rather spend their time socializing, working, or studying. And of course, students must pay athletics fees whether their school’s teams win or lose.

East Carolina University students would see the greatest increase in athletics fees, a 6.5 percent hike from $773 to $823. The East Carolina Pirates recently completed a round of major athletic facility updates, including a $60 million upgrade to the school’s football stadium. Its teams compete in the Division I American Athletic Conference (AAC), which includes nationally recognized colleges that are competitive, but not dominant. The school has experienced some tumultuous changes in leadership at the same time, including an instance where some trustees attempted to secure a student body president who would support their stances on issues like fee increases.

East Carolina, though, doesn’t have the highest athletics fee in the UNC system. Elizabeth City State University takes the prize instead. Students there are facing a 3.7 percent hike in athletics fees from  $899 to $932 to support the Vikings’ 11 varsity athletic programs. Elizabeth City State competes in the Division II Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA), a conference of Historically Black Colleges and Universities that also includes Winston-Salem State University and Fayetteville State University.

On the other end of the scale, North Carolina State University and UNC-Chapel Hill have the lowest athletics fees, charging $232 and $279, respectively. Neither school has proposed increases for the coming year. They are members of the prestigious Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) with large followings that generate revenue, especially in men’s basketball and football. Their athletic programs receive more revenue from media deals, apparel, concession and ticket sales, and alumni donations than other system schools do.

Athletics fees can comprise a large chunk of the athletic department’s budget. At East Carolina, 34 percent of the budget is thanks to student fees. At UNC-Chapel Hill, only 7 percent of its budget comes from student fees.

Beyond accounting, there are numerous ways to determine the value of these fees. In the 2018-2019 Director’s Cup ranking of the overall success of schools in Division I athletics, UNC-Chapel Hill finished 10th while East Carolina finished 148th. By that individual metric, East Carolina’s higher fees may not have been worth the money. Personal enthusiasm for a school’s athletic programs may also skew the value perception of student fees.

There is far more data that can be investigated on this subject, but it is clear that mandatory student fees at North Carolina’s public universities fund aspects of university life outside of education, like student activities and athletics, that can be of subjective value.

Those fees make students attending a UNC system school pay thousands of dollars more than they otherwise would. As fees continue to creep up, UNC leaders need to be mindful of the financial burden it puts on students trying to earn a degree.


Australia: Easier university admission for girls outrageous, says PLC principal Kate Hadwen

The principal of Australia’s largest private school for girls has ­described as “outrageous” the ­decision by the University of Technology Sydney to lower entry standards for female students who want to take STEM courses.

“We don’t need it, do we, girls? No,” said Kate Hadwen, head of Pymble Ladies College, one of the best-performing schools in the country.

The scheme, announced by the UTS for 2020, says girls can enter STEM courses with 10 fewer Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank points than boys.

The girls are then encouraged to aim at careers in science, engineering, IT and maths.

Dr Hadwen was asked for her opinion about the program by one of her students during a Women and Education event hosted by The Australian for International Women’s Day.

Dr Hadwen replied: “It’s outrageous. The thinking is to try and encourage girls into STEM. But I just think that it’s absolutely saying women need help. We don’t need help. We’re great as we are, thanks very much.”

Dr Hadwen said only 40 per cent of students used the ATAR to access university. “So 60 per cent of students will get a university placement through a portfolio and a multitude of other entries,” she said. “You have to earn your place there … I’m a believer in that.”

UTS declined to comment, saying it had nobody available to ­defend the “ATAR-adjustment” program for girls.

The university was criticised when the program was announced last year, prompting Verity Firth, director of UTS Centre for Social Justice and Inclusion, to say: ­“Reviews were oddly mixed. The word ‘merit’ was thrown around like a javelin.”

Women comprise half of all university students, but they don’t tend to do the courses that are still seen as “male” such as engineering, IT and building and construction. Men don’t do the courses seen as “female” either: arts and communications.

The federal government has several programs designed to ­encourage girls to study STEM subjects, such as Curious Minds for talented girls in Years 9 and 10.

Program manager Vanessa Kates said the program, delivered by the Australian Mathematics Trust and Australian Science ­Innovations, identified excellent candidates through a competition, “and the girls, when we contact them, often don’t realise how well they are performing”.

“Very often, they say: Are you sure you mean me? We say ‘Yes, we think you are talented, you are fabulous, you can do this’. And they are often surprised.”

She agreed “something needs to be done” to encourage girls “but I fear that it (ATAR adjustment) may entrench the prejudice against girls, if people are able to say, ‘Oh, you only got in because of the special credit they gave you’.

“The girls we see are … intelligent and have many options, and it’s up to us to say give it a crack, you’re actually excellent.”

The University of South Australia has a STEM Girls program, targeting Year 11 students, some of whom are thinking of dropping maths and science in favour of subjects thought to be “easier”.

“It’s because there is so much emphasis on the ATAR,” she said. “We hear things like: I don’t think I should do the harder subjects, or subjects that are perceived to be harder, like high-level mathematics, because then I won’t get the ATAR I need.

“But if you don’t go on with high enough level mathematics, you can’t actually get the STEM career you want.”


Monday, March 09, 2020

I’ve Been Fired. If You Value Academic Freedom, That Should Worry You

Just a whiff of incorrectness is fatal

Bo Winegard

Until a week ago, I was a tenure-track assistant professor at a small college. Then I was fired. And although I am but one professor at one small college in one small town, I want to persuade you that, if you care about free speech and free inquiry in academia, you should be alarmed by my termination. My troubles began in October 2019 when I was invited to address an evolutionary group at the University of Alabama. I had decided that I would discuss human population variation, the hypothesis that human biological differences are at least partially produced by different environments selecting for different physical and psychological traits in their populations over time. I planned to defend this view as most consistent with a Darwinian understanding of the world.

My first day in Tuscaloosa was uneventful. On the second day, I visited a class and had an enjoyable discussion with students about various topics, including human evolution and social signaling. I was then supposed to meet professors and students for lunch, but instead my guide delivered me to an empty room where I received a number of texts from my host: The professors had found my RationalWiki entry, which accuses me—inter alia—of writing “racist bullshit for the right-wing online magazine Quillette.”

Notwithstanding its name, which indicates a commitment to thought and reason, RationalWiki is a highly partisan and tendentious site which its authors use to mock and defame their political opponents. (They have also refused to update misinformation about my work and views even after I have written corrections.) Which is to say that it is not a reliable source of information about anything, still less a sound basis upon which to judge a person’s character. Professors routinely warn their students not to cite Wikipedia, but the lies and misrepresentations on my RationalWiki page were thought to be so unanswerable that the faculty who read them refused to meet with me so I could speak in my own defense. (A handful of other curious professors did extend me the courtesy of a meeting, and we enjoyed a perfectly civil chat.)

I assumed that my scheduled talk would be cancelled, but it was not. I thought the room would be empty, but it was not. Word had evidently spread and a number of angry students were in attendance. The atmosphere was hostile, and the audience was eager to challenge me, but I was able to deliver my talk as planned. The Q and A that followed was quite rowdy, however—one of the students yelled that I was a racist and someone else accused me of promoting the long-discredited pseudoscience of phrenology. And so on. It was not an especially cordial or constructive exchange of ideas.

Shortly after my talk, the student newspaper published a clearly slanted article about the event that casually quoted anonymous criticism that my work “resembles the pseudoscience employed by eugenicists.” This criticism was completely irrelevant to my talk, in which I never discussed anything resembling “eugenics,” and was likely included to poison the study of human biological variation by associating it with other unsavory intellectual traditions. The group that invited me to speak also issued an unconditional apology to attendees of my talk and vowed to do better. My lecture, they explained, was “non-scientific” (it formed the basis for an article that passed three reviewers at a professional psychology journal) and they had been unaware of what I planned to say (I had provided them with an outline of my talk at least two months in advance, which they had approved). And as soon as controversy arose, they denounced me and my expressed views (most of which are undisputed in the relevant literature), and explained that the invitation they had extended had been a mistake.

When the newspaper article was emailed by persons unknown to my university’s provost and president, I was called for a meeting. They were not terribly pleased, but the meeting was uneventful and I was told to be more strategic in my navigation of such a sensitive topic. I agreed that I would try. A few months later, however, someone using a pseudonym began emailing my provost, my president, and my entire department (but not me) links to my articles (including those written for this outlet) and screenshots of “offensive” tweets. My anonymous accuser held me to be guilty of all kinds of treachery and threatened to inform the board of trustees of my sins.

One of these tweets was only up for an hour before I deleted it and posted another clarifying my meaning. It had read: “The greatest challenge to affluent societies is dealing openly, honestly, and humanely with biological (genetic) inequality. If we don’t meet this challenge, I suspect our countries will be torn apart from the inside like a tree destroyed by parasites.” My tweet was not about groups, but rather about individual genetic differences, and the need to create a humane society for everyone, not just for the cognitive elite and hyper-educated (a theme I discuss often). The simile about parasites was a reference to political conflict and not a reference to some group of humans or another. (A fair-minded examination of my Twitter history, which comprises more than 30,000 tweets, will reveal that I have never said anything divisive about human groups. And I have always argued that people should be treated as individuals not as representatives of a demographic.)

In any case, this episode earned me another meeting with my bosses. I am not able to divulge all the details of what followed, but this meeting was rather less congenial than the last. They expressed disappointment in me and particular dismay about the tweet I had deleted, which they said evoked anti-black and antisemitic tropes. I repeatedly agreed that it had been carelessly worded and did not convey what I meant. I pointed out that I had deleted it shortly after posting it and issued a clarification. I also explained that I value free speech and free inquiry and that I would continue to pursue potentially controversial topics. Finally, I warned them that an article I had co-authored on human variation would soon appear in a respected peer-reviewed journal.

As fraught as that meeting was, the possibility of my termination never came up. Again, they beseeched me to be more strategic. Again, I agreed. By the time the meeting was over, I had managed to convince myself that everything had been straightened out and that I had come to an understanding with my superiors. I concerned myself with fretting about how my new paper about human variation would be received when it was finally published online. As it turned out, the article provoked a minor fuss on Twitter, but nothing that caused any noticeable concern at work. I was enormously relieved. My colleagues and I had managed to write about human population variation and the world hadn’t come to an end.

A few days later, however, my boss informed me, without any warning, that the college was not renewing my contract—in other words, they were firing me. I don’t know if my paper was the proximate cause of my firing, but in the light of the foregoing weeks’ tumult, it was plausibly the last straw. Nevertheless, I was nonplussed. Fired? I had worried vaguely about such an eventuality, but didn’t really think it would happen. I naively assumed that the norms of academic freedom would prevail. They did not.

My situation might strike you as trivial and insignificant. And, indeed, I am insignificant. But my firing is not. I did not enjoy the protection of tenure (I was, however, tenure-track), but we should not rely upon tenure to uphold free inquiry. Academic health is not served by a message that tenure can only be secured by those prepared to embrace political orthodoxies. After all, if tenure is intended to protect people who challenge dogmas and orthodoxies, why would we support a system that punishes non-conformists and that sieves them out before they are capable of safely challenging prevailing views?

Many people disagree with my views about human population variation, about conservativism, about immigration, about economics, indeed about almost everything. That is just part of living in a liberal democracy. Disagreement is what powers intellectual progress, and without it neither the political process nor the scientific method can function. But unless we can agree on the foundational value of academic freedom, all scholars will become vulnerable to ideologically motivated punishment. Science, the great intellectual achievement of civilization, will become the servant of politics.

I followed all of the protocols of academia. I published articles in peer-reviewed journals. I shared my ideas, always politely, on Twitter, and I encouraged people to debate me and to criticize my ideas. And I was fired. If it can happen to me, then it can happen to any academic who challenges the prevailing views of their discipline. You may disagree with everything I believe, say, and write, but it is in everyone’s interests that you support my freedom to believe, say, and write it.


Are University Policy Experts Good for Society?

One argument for public support for universities is that they provide “positive externalities” or spillover effects. Experts, always university trained and often professors, are able to shape policy for the public good. While perhaps not Plato’s philosopher kings, their superior knowledge merits them a special role in advancing our society. The economic advancement of humankind was closely associated with the Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries expanding the boundaries of human thinking, and Enlightenment thinking became enshrined and strengthened at universities.

University-based researchers like Jonas Salk have conquered polio and other great diseases. At this very moment, many university-trained scientists are trying to find a way to stop the coronavirus threatening the planet. And academic expertise extends beyond science: in foreign policy, for example, Henry Kissinger went from being a Harvard professor to becoming arguably America’s most prominent and successful 20th century diplomat.

More generally, nearly all policymakers in America were shaped in their thinking and in their capacity for critical reasoning to some significant degree by their university training. Has higher education raised the quality of our political debate and decision-making? Although hard to measure, I think the evidence supporting that proposition is meager—non college-educated persons like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln were among our greatest leaders.

But it is in economics where university trained individuals perhaps most profoundly impact public policy. I am reading a delightful book by Simon Bowmaker, When the President Calls: Conversations with Economic Policymakers ( MIT Press, 2019). Bowmaker interviewed 35 former top government officials who worked in administrations as far back as Harry Truman and as recently as Donald Trump, most of whom also had strong ties to universities before and/or after government service. They had such jobs as Treasury Secretary, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers. or chair of the Federal Reserve Board. I have had some connections with about half of them and have found them generally highly intelligent, often insightful individuals.

That said, “experts” in my field often make mistakes, and it is not altogether clear whether the economy has been in better shape having PhDs in economics playing a strong role in determining macroeconomic policies. If government agencies like the Treasury or the Federal Reserve were run by businessmen instead of professional economists would they have been better or worse off? Much of America’s ascendancy into economic and political prominence occurred long before university policy experts placed a major role in decision-making, before we even had a Council of Economic Advisers.

All this reminds me of a personal involvement in the policy realm. In December 2008, in the midst of the financial crisis, I testified before the Joint Economic Committee of Congress with such illustrious university based economists and sometime government officials as Larry Summers (Harvard professor and president who was Secretary of the Treasury) and Alan Blinder (Princeton professor once vice chair of the Federal Reserve Board), as well as Robert Rubin, former leader at Citigroup and Goldman Sachs and also Secretary of the Treasury.

All this group of illustrious experts testified that economic recovery from the financial crisis would be mightily helped by a large economic stimulus package—at least $800 billion. Only one witness, me, from relatively obscure Ohio University, disagreed. I said my reading of the historical and theoretical evidence suggested the stimulus program would have little or no positive effect.

A month later, with Barack Obama in office, the stimulus package of almost precisely that magnitude was swiftly adopted. The chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, Christina Romer, before and after that appointment a professor at the University of California at Berkeley, stated that if the stimulus program were adopted, the unemployment rate would not rise above 8%. It promptly rose above 8%—for 43 consecutive months, the longest bout of prolonged unemployment since the Great Depression. The “experts” were mostly wrong.

“Expert”errors reduce the faith that society has in the universities that trained and employed them. Moreover, the role of colleges as crucibles where novel ideas are formulated and explored has been further sullied by the suppression of free speech on some campuses and the extreme lack of intellectual diversity in the social science and humanity disciplines important for shaping public discourse.


Illiteracy — A True Denial of Civil Rights

"Once you learn to read, you will be forever free." —Frederick Douglas

Americans can't celebrate their love for books during National Reading Month without also questioning the literacy of our most vulnerable citizens — our youth.

The argument for school choice grows stronger as more research outlines the roadblocks to literacy in our public schools.

According to the latest data administered by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), nationally, only 35% of fourth graders read at a level that is proficient or above. In my home state of Tennessee, as well as in Hamilton County where my family resides, the numbers average about the same, with little over a third reading above the aforementioned level. Pay a visit to an eighth-grade classroom and the numbers don't get any better. According to the NAEP data, nationally, only 32 of students could read at a proficient level.

The statistics go on to suggest that students who are "socioeconomically disadvantaged" — including African Americans and Hispanics — show a trend of underperforming in literacy compared to their Asian and Caucasian counterparts.

Why does this matter? According to a study published by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, if children cannot read by the fourth grade, not only are they four times more likely to drop out of high school but nearly half of the classroom material will be "incomprehensible."

But what you won't see are headlines and articles highlighting this state of emergency in our education system. Instead, you'll read social-media campaigns about how students are exceeding key "improvement" measures (that of course obfuscates whether these children are actually academically competent).

Our kids can't read, yet in Hamilton County the school board approved a new four-year contract renewal for current superintendent Dr. Bryan Johnson, which also comes with a promised 2.5% pay increase for teachers.

By this logic, you could go into a five-star restaurant, order a sirloin steak, receive chicken strips instead, and still pay a premium and a tip. The order is wrong, yet we must still pay for it somehow. Illiteracy is not the ticket item any of us asked for.

Education Savings Accounts (ESAs), however, allow us parents to take our money elsewhere. (I make my case for this in a previous article.)

With March being #NationalReadingMonth, I urge parents to read between the lines and look closely at what your local legislators are telling you (and not telling you) about the state of our education. Before they ask for your money, ask them for proof of their service. Because for many children, literacy is their one ticket to freedom. To leave our kids illiterate would be a true denial of civil rights.


Sunday, March 08, 2020

The Brutal and Beautiful Art of Education

Tara Westover and her family lived off the grid on Buck’s Peak, a mountainside in Idaho so remote that life there was anchored in “circles of perpetual change that, when complete, meant that nothing had changed at all.” Tara’s father, a Mormon fundamentalist whose family had been living on the Peak for a half-century, ruled it as his kingdom, where he prepared for Jesus Christ’s second coming.

He “lived in fear of time,” as Tara wrote in her memoir, Educated—but time still transpired in his world, even if it was ending.

Educated details Tara’s escape from that world, the creation of her own life at Brigham Young University and, later, her development as a young scholar at the University of Cambridge. Yet what defines the arc of her story is not simply education, but her conscious choice to embrace education as a means of deliverance from an unpleasant past. Our personal histories, however unpleasant, can rarely be forgotten, but Tara’s story demonstrates how a liberal education can equip students with the tools to interpret these histories. It’s a memoir that, perhaps unintentionally, captures just how liberating the humanities can be.

The Westover parents homeschooled all their children. On Buck’s Peak, education was “entirely self-directed,” as Westover remembers it. Education was merely an open pitch, inviting exploration—but only when the children weren’t at work preparing for the Days of Abomination.

Indeed, an ever-present possibility of apocalypse loomed in the family’s psyche. As such, summertime was not enjoyed as a time of play, but constituted “canning season” for Tara and her siblings. The family’s military-grade 50-caliber rifle was a similar investment for the future. Beyond the preparation of provisions, the family’s Mormon fundamentalism, as interpreted by Tara’s father, forbade the use of modern medicine, a false god “whore[d] after” by the “faithless.” Herbs were “God’s pharmacy,” and Tara’s parents considered their use as a “spiritual doctrine.”

Tara’s “worth felt conditional:” “What was of worth was not me, but the veneer of constraints and observances that obscured me.” Educated captures the echo of this realization in Tara’s formal education “of a young girl rewriting her history.” As such, Westover’s is a story that reveals how education, however broadly defined, is a means for a more critical engagement with one’s past.

After much intra-family fighting about college, Tara decided to enroll at Brigham Young University. Her transition to university life was harder than her original decision to leave home. She had to learn about the culture of campus life, both the academic and the social sides. After weeks struggling in class, she discovered that textbooks were the bread-and-butter of studying. She adjusted to communal living and the norms of hygiene, such as washing her hands with soap after using the bathroom.

Those difficulties forced Tara to answer the famous question posed by Mark Edmundson: “Who are you and what are you doing here?” Tara answered that question by studying intellectual history and, eventually, the University of Cambridge, where she earned her D.Phil. on a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. As Tara’s education advanced, however, the acerbic echoes of home faded. Her father became a “smaller” authority in her life as she realized that he was trapped in his own head. The “literal and mental” distance Tara had traveled at BYU and Cambridge was staggering. An insurmountable crevasse opened between Tara’s worldview and her father’s.

To read Educated is to read of that realization’s impact on the development of a mind, to immerse oneself in a text about “the conviction to live in your own mind, and not in someone else’s.” Readers may be tempted to interpret Westover’s Educated as the latest iteration in a trend of memoirs about rural poverty (such as J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy), but to classify Westover’s story as such would be to capture only part of her self-portrait.

Her intellectual transformation from an inquisitive but disadvantaged young girl into an ambitious scholar is Educated’s defining arc. Indeed, Westover’s formal education, and her choice of history as a major, signifies more than a career choice. It represents the determination with which Westover distanced herself from and developed beyond the stultifying seclusion on Buck’s Peak, and thus the cultural, spiritual, and intellectual isolation that defined her childhood.

Tara’s crucial insight, however, is this: A college education, no matter its location, cannot deliver us from the past. Education can only equip us with the tools to interpret and live with that past. In fact, for all her academic achievements, Tara writes that she remained “two people, a fractured mind.” Drawing on John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty, here Tara conveys the true value of being educated, that is, the ability to critically engage with one’s history.

Tara conveys the true value of being educated, that is, the ability to critically engage with one’s history.
A liberal education, however, is not just essential for the self-reflection and formation captured in Westover’s story. It is a central component of responsible citizenship.

Just as education enables us to analyze and explain the encounters and interactions that constitute our personal histories, education also empowers us to become engaged citizens. Indeed, engagement with one’s community—regardless of whether that engagement is of a custodial, conservative nature or more critical in approach—is facilitated by an awareness of its history.

Contemporary debates about higher education often fail to convey that a college education is liberating, and not only because of the independence it offers young students. Disciplines such as art history, French literature, and philosophy can each equip their students with the emancipatory tools of self-reflection, thereby helping students situate their own histories and aspirations within the wider world. No wonder, then, that those disciplines can also be the training grounds for engaged citizens. Despite university cuts and enrollment figures to the contrary, a liberal education remains a reliable road for personal and political development.


Education Secretary Threatens Union Power

Since nearly the moment she was announced as President Donald Trump’s selection for education secretary, Betsy DeVos has been under relentless fire from Democrats and their allies in the education establishment. The most ruthless attacks come from national teachers unions like the NEA (National Education Association) and the AFT (American Federation of Teachers) and their state affiliates.

The NEA launched the “Fire DeVos Pledge,” declaring her to be the least qualified secretary of education in history. The claims include: “Her education freedom scholarships are ‘degrading’ to public schools, ‘threaten students’ civil rights,‘ 'widen educational inequity,’ are a personal attack on teachers, and are ‘dangerous.’”

Nor are the attacks limited to rhetoric. Thanks to threats from the teachers unions and their thugs, American taxpayers now spend $6 million per year for a security detail to protect DeVos. And she personally covers their travel expenses.

What atrocities have occurred at the direction of Secretary DeVos that warrant such hostility?

She is an enormous advocate for educational freedom, supporting mechanisms like vouchers and ESAs (Educational Savings Accounts) that put power over children’s education back in the hands of parents instead of bureaucrats. This allows poor children in failing schools the same opportunity for a quality education that children of the affluent and politically connected receive.

The ugly truth is that America’s education system is mediocre at best, an anachronism of the industrial age, ill-equipped to develop the minds of our children in the information age. Our children are placed in educational assembly lines, in batches by age, taught the same things in the same way, regardless of the strengths and weaknesses of each child, and regardless of their interests.

Our children suffer as a result, and teacher-union bosses couldn’t care less.

Al Shanker, former president of the American Federation of Teachers, when asked about the impact four teacher walkouts in less than a year would have on the children, famously retorted that he would “start representing kids when they started paying union dues.” Nothing has changed.

DeVos seeks to expand educational freedom and drastically reduce the size, scope, and reach of Washington politicians and bureaucrats, as well as teachers unions, which have an incestuous, symbiotic relationship. Unions provide (almost exclusively Democrat) politicians an army of campaign workers and millions in member dues in the form of campaign contributions, and the politicians block measures that allow parents the ability to move their children out of failing schools.

The politicians and union leaders thrive, but the children suffer.

Yet as noted by Rebecca Friedrichs, founder of “For Kids & Country,” a 28-year public-school teacher, and the plaintiff in a 2016 Supreme Court case that dealt an enormous blow to unions, “Freedom for families means fewer educators paying union dues — a threat to union power.”

All over the country, when “right to work” laws are passed, union membership plummets. While government-sector union membership stands at 37%, private-sector union membership barely registers at just 6%.

Unable to compel workers, union participation falls precipitously. Fewer union members means less in union dues, which means less money to pay off the politicians who give power and taxpayer money to union leaders.

Choice is the death knell for unions, which is why union leaders have long engaged in threats, intimidation, and even violence to protect their power. Those that threaten their power are subjected to character assassination and harassment by union mobs and their willing accomplices.

The federal Department of Education was established in 1979, with a budget of $12 billion. That grew to $70 billion in FY2017, Barack Obama’s last year, for a department employing more than 4,000 bureaucrats who do nothing but micromanage the decision-making of countless thousands of schools around the country.

Yet after four decades and hundreds of billions of dollars, the academic achievement of American children is stagnant in math and reading, and worse in science. As Secretary DeVos correctly notes, government can’t fix public schools.

The American people would never tolerate federal bureaucrats and their union cronies dictating where we select our groceries, especially if the stores we were forced to shop at offered no selection, stale bread, moldy fruit, and rotting meat.

Yet that is exactly what government forces us to do with our children, our most cherished possessions: feed them the educational equivalent of stale bread and rotting meat.

President Trump and Secretary DeVos are fighting the unions to obtain quality education and choice for our children. Every American should join them in that fight.


Study: Peers, as Much as Faculty, Responsible for Harassment of Conservatives at Colleges

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have found that conservative students more often self-censor on campus than liberal students. The reason? Not to avoid negative backlash from professors as much as that from other students who don't share their point of view.

Timothy Ryan, an associate professor of political science, and Mark McNeilly, a professor of marketing, sent a survey to the entire undergraduate student body at UNC-Chapel Hill. They found that conservative students who self-censor outnumber liberals, 68% to 23%.

Ryan and McNeilly note that the students did not respond negatively to maltreatment by professors nearly as much as they reacted to backlash from peers.

As they report:

In contrast, students reported substantially more anxiety about how their own peers would respond to expressing sincere political views — and the divides between liberal and conservative students are larger. Seventy-five percent of conservative students said they were concerned that other students would have a lower opinion of them if they expressed their sincere political views in class. But only 26% of liberal students had this concern."

They then asked if more liberal or conservative students would carry out tactics to block events that presented alternate views. Guess what?

Nearly 20% of liberal respondents indicated it would be appropriate to prevent other students from hearing a campus speaker express the disliked view. But just 3% or less of moderate and conservative respondents indicated that doing so was appropriate.

This stands to reason, and reflects a trend at other universities. Protesters at Evergreen State College and Reed College made national headlines for harassing professors who, while undeniably liberal, failed to stay woke enough. Bret Weinstein, a former biology professor at Evergreen, faced violent protests by students after he declined to participate in an informal protest in which all white people left campus for a day. He eventually resigned after noting that the campus was "out of control." At Reed, the Humanities 110 lecture faced months of student protests for supposedly not including enough people of color in its historical review.

It used to be that conservative college students feared negative backlash from their more liberal professors in the form of bad grades and leftward-leaning curriculum. Anymore, students come to college already conditioned to censor their own less-woke worldviews. This indicates that the problem could go much deeper, as secular humanists and social Marxists — after their own collegiate conditioning — have taken over the curriculum in high schools, middle schools, and even elementary schools. There's a reason intersectionalism is ascendant as an ideology.

That doesn't mean college curricula escape blame. One of the most prominent examples of millennial progressivism, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, holds a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations and Economics seeped in cultural Marxism. Counter to the many headlines touting her degree in economics, it really isn't an economics degree as much as it is a degree in Third-World nation studies. She's undeniably intelligent, having graduated cum laude, but not exactly the next Thomas Sowell.

AOC is but one example of students graduating from institutions of higher education with their heads filled with progressive mush. The new trend, however, means that they don't just get poorly served by college professors — all too often they enter the academy preconditioned to seek out affirmation of what their previous school experience taught them. Ryan and McNeilly write of the result:

In order to better understand the typical experience of a university student, we believe it’s important to go beyond singular dramatic confrontations. The deeper story about free expression on campus, as our study shows, is not just about the shouting that takes place during high-profile incidents on campus. It’s also about what students say — and feel compelled to keep to themselves — in lecture halls and classrooms throughout the school year.

Mark Bauerlein expounds on this point at Minding the Campus:

The bigger story here is that many young Americans have failed to learn the basics of pluralism and the First Amendment. They don’t understand that higher education requires a suspension of political passions. They are too certain of their beliefs and ready to trash people who disagree. It isn’t just conservative students who are in jeopardy. Higher education itself is in trouble when the individuals it is trusted to educate are set against the freedom and forbearance that are necessary to higher learning.
Institutions once founded on the Socratic method have turned their backs on debate altogether in too many cases. This bodes ill for those who resist tyranny.