Campus Scenes

Campus Scenes

In Defense of Liberal Arts

By From the Sept/Oct 2014 issue

Poor liberal arts. People don’t esteem the term—or its cousin, “liberal education”—very much these days, it seems. Evaluating the success or failure of an education now requires measurable outcomes, such as test scores or post-college employment. Learning is, more and more, about return on investment. K-12 education is increasingly focused on testing. In everyday conversation, the evaluation of a college major generally assumes the form of a question: “What can you do with that?”

This is a reasonable question, albeit one that liberal education finds itself mostly unable to answer. Conjuring the image of a thousand English majors working behind the counters of a thousand coffee shops, critics of liberal education demand to know what could possibly justify this outcome. Though the most popular major in America is, in fact, business, followed by the social sciences, nursing, education, and psychology—none of which are liberal arts subjects—it’s the useless liberal arts student, underemployed and deep in debt, that comes in for scrutiny.

Campus Scenes

How the Supreme Court Created the Student Loan Bubble

By From the Sept/Oct 2014 issue

Business reporters and talking heads are tripping over themselves to predict the next bubble. It’s the least they can do after so many of them fueled the dot-com and real-estate booms and busts that tanked the economy and robbed millions of Americans of their hard-earned (or at least borrowed) money. Many have identified higher education as the next Big One. College spending has all the makings of an economic bubble: supply that exceeds demand; a market wildly inflated by government intervention; a return on investment on par with a Tulsa, Oklahoma timeshare; art history. 

Campus Scenes

In Our Colleges and Schools Ignorance and Indoctrination Go Hand in Hand

By 10.15.14

Goddard College’s recent decision to have its students addressed from prison by a convicted cop killer is just one of many unbelievably irresponsible self-indulgences by “educators” in our schools and colleges.

Such “educators” teach minorities born with an incredibly valuable windfall gain — American citizenship — that they are victims who have a grievance against people today who have done nothing to them, because of what other people did in other times. If those individuals who feel aggrieved could sell their American citizenship to eager buyers from around the world and leave, everybody would probably be better off. Those who leave would get not only a substantial sum of money — probably $100,000 or more — they would also get a valuable dose of reality elsewhere.

Nothing is easier than to prove that America, or any other society of human beings, is far from being the perfect gem that any of us can conjure up in our imagination. But, when you look around the world today or look back through history, you can get a very painfully sobering sense of what a challenge it can be in the real world to maintain even common decency among human beings.

Campus Scenes

We Invited Ayaan Hirsi Ali to Yale—And Outrage Ensued

By 9.16.14

Just under three weeks ago, Yale President Peter Salovey delivered his freshman address on free expression. He quoted extensively from the Woodward Report, a document whose language he called “clear and unambiguous” in its defense of free speech, and he made the case for why “unfettered expression is so essential on a university campus.”

Our community now faces an opportunity to put these ideals into practice. The Buckley Program, an undergraduate group on campus, recently invited Ayaan Hirsi Ali to give a lecture this week. An accomplished and courageous woman, Hirsi Ali has an amazing story. She suffered genital mutilation as a child and later fled to the Netherlands to escape an arranged marriage. These are beyond mere “unfortunate circumstances,” as some organizations have called it. Once in the Netherlands, she worked at a refugee center, became a politician, fought for human dignity and women’s rights and ultimately abandoned her Muslim faith. In her works since then, she has voiced strong opinions against Islam, opinions which have provoked constant threats on her life ever since.

Campus Scenes

Notre Dame at a Crossroads

By 8.11.14

From the title, you may think I am referring to Notre Dame’s decision to invite President Obama to receive an honorary degree and deliver the commencement address to the graduating class of 2009. At the time, Obama had only his election to his credit while, to his discredit, were his pronounced pro-abortion views. The invitation led to intense and widespread criticism, including criticism from some 80 American Catholic bishops. It also led to the arrest on graduation day of the “Notre Dame 88” for trespass. Unthinkable was the arrest — at the behest of Notre Dame Security supervised by a Catholic priest who serves as president of the university — of an elderly priest for kneeling on a sidewalk on campus while praying a rosary.

Campus Scenes

The Old Sheepskin Blues

By 8.5.14

My college diploma is 50 years old today. Good grief. What does that make me?

Looking for something else in my filing cabinet recently, I ran across my diploma from the University of South Florida in Tampa. It informs me, in bold and fancy type-face, that by authority of something called the Board of Control of the State of Florida, and the recommendation of the faculty (which must have been a close thing), that the degree of Bachelor of Arts “with all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities appertaining thereto” is hereby conferred upon Larry N. Thornberry on August 5, 1964.

Campus Scenes

One Fewer Good Ol’ Boy at the University of Texas

By 7.9.14

He fondly loved, for instance, his position as a "persecuted" man and, so to speak, an "exile." There is a sort of traditional glamour about those two little words that fascinated him once for all and, exalting him gradually in his own opinion, raised him in the course of years to a lofty pedestal very gratifying to vanity.

Demons rarely gets the respect accorded Dostoevsky’s other masterpieces, in part because its merciless satire of academic dissidents is so unflattering to many of the people who dispense that respect.

His Stepan Trofimovitch publishes a few obscure journal articles early on, then slips into a comfortable life of no significance tutoring rich kids. He still regards himself a dangerous revolutionary, a persona based on some faded associations from his youth and a dumb “allegory in lyrical-dramatic form” published in a collection of revolutionary verse. When that publication outs him, he writes “a noble letter in self-defence to Petersburg,” but in “his heart he was enormously flattered.”

Campus Scenes

‘Ivory Tower’ — A Documentary Babel

By 6.12.14

Conservatives have assumed that young people are coming to understand that increased government inducements to take out student loans for college are traps that keep graduates from becoming financially independent, starting families and otherwise embracing full adulthood. What started modestly as scholarship aid is now a trillion dollar loan program that perversely gives colleges and universities incentives to continue raising spending and tuition rates, thereby promoting the still further government expansion of student loans.

Students are hurt, taxpayers are hurt, but universities — part of the political base of progressivism — are the financial beneficiaries.

Campus Scenes

Know-Nothing Know-It-Alls

By 5.16.14

Commencement ceremonies now serve as an exclamation point to the horrible education received by students. Too ignorant to know that they don’t know, graduating activists regard successful attempts to block speakers as triumphs instead of reflections on their failures to learn.

Former University of California-Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, a champion of illegal aliens receiving in-state tuition, racial preferences, and gay marriage, is the latest unlikely target of the campus Jacobins. A group of Haverford College students notified him through letter that “we are extremely uncomfortable honoring you” and that his presence at graduation “deeply disturbed” them. His offense? During his chancellorship, police arrested a group of protesters, fulfilling, of course, their ambition.

The know-nothing know-it-alls, which included just sixteen of the several hundred graduating seniors, issued nine abasing demands to the elderly physicist. “If you choose not to confront the issues before you,” they warned, “we will have no other option than to call for the college to withdraw its invitation.”

Campus Scenes

The Screw Turns at the University of Texas

By 5.14.14

A Texas politician named Dan Flynn really liked my piece in this publication last month, which was weird, since I called him and his colleagues “crooked,” and accused them of putting on a show trial meant to intimidate a whistleblowing university regent into silence.

But Flynn liked my piece so much that he apparently copied it. He seems to have cut and pasted long passages from this article and two others that I wrote for Watchdog.org, and put them into his own letter, right down to a typo that slipped past this magazine’s usually squinty editors.

In fairness, I have to admit that my arguments were devastatingly effective. If he needed to refute a 2,380-page report in just a few paragraphs, I can see why he’d want to borrow some choice irony and hypocrisy.

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