Campus Scenes

Campus Scenes

Moral Bankruptcy

By 5.7.14

If you want to get some idea of the moral bankruptcy of our educational system, read an article in the May 4th issue of the New York Times Magazine titled, “The Tale of Two Schools.”

The article is not about moral bankruptcy. But it is itself an example of the moral bankruptcy behind the many failures of American education today.

Someone had the bright idea of pairing public high school kids from a low-income neighborhood in the Bronx with kids from a private high school that charges $43,000 a year.

When the low-income youngsters visited the posh private school, “they were just overwhelmed” by it, according to the New York Times. “One kid ran crying off campus.” Apparently others felt “so disheartened about their own circumstances.”

What earthly good did that do for these young people? Thank heaven no one was calloused enough to take me on a tour of a posh private school when I was growing up in Harlem.

Campus Scenes

Degrees of Difficulty

By 5.5.14

It is graduation season. The time of year for caps and gowns, for cheers and tears, for joyous celebrations, for poignant class reunions… and, of course, for the awarding of hundreds of honorary degrees.

A friend is planning to be in New Haven later this spring to celebrate his 50th Yale reunion. He tells me that, as his class prepares to celebrate the half century since their 1964 graduation, a classmate is circulating a petition demanding that the University withdraw an honorary degree it awarded in 1996 to a Swiss billionaire whom an Italian court has recently convicted and sentenced to 18 years in prison for criminal activities and negligence resulting in the deaths of 2,000 people from asbestos disease.

The Yale grad’s petition raises a host of questions. Are there legitimate precedents for universities withdrawing such degrees in light of (then) unknown circumstances in a recipient’s past? Surely there are many others who received such honors who have proven to be equally unsavory.

Campus Scenes

The University of Texas Show Trial

By 4.16.14

From the way the University of Texas at Austin’s boosters latch on to a bit of marketing jargon, bragging about their school’s invented standing as a “nationally recognized tier one research institution,” you’d almost think the term meant something. The truth is that the state’s best attempt at a public university ranks fifty-second in the nation.

So the school effaces its conspicuous mediocrity by talking up its research, the hundreds of millions of dollars spent each year supporting its globe-spanning research projects and world-class research libraries filled with millions of volumes (of research, for researchers). In one five-minute promotional video, I heard the word research 33 times.

The university’s president, Bill Powers, is the chair of the nation’s largest association of research universities, and his supporters hold him out as a champion of free inquiry. So it’s no small irony that this cult of research has waged a brutal campaign against a reform-minded university regent named Wallace Hall with this accusation: He has been doing too much research.

Campus Scenes

God and Sexuality at Bowdoin

By 3.9.14

To be at home in all lands and all ages;
To count Nature a familiar acquaintance,
And Art an intimate friend;
To gain a standard for the appreciation of others’ work
And the criticism of your own;
To carry the keys of the world’s library in your pocket,
And feel its resources behind you in whatever task you undertake

I remember hearing these words — “The Offer of the College” — in my earliest days as a Bowdoin College first-year. They came in a whirl of initial activity: a “pre-orientation” trip to a beautiful coastal locale filled with awkward conversation between pre-oriented students; kissing my parents goodbye after all the boxes were moved in; and, this being a Maine college, a lobster bake to formally kick the year off.

Campus Scenes

Save Our Catholic Schools

By 11.27.13

About 10 years ago (ancient times) there was a song on the radio from a sensitive hipster band. One of the song’s plaintive rhymes described “Catholic schoooool, as vicious as Roman ruuule.” The singer described a lady in black, hitting his knuckles, asserting that “fear is the heart of love.” From the first I heard it, I was perplexed. This individual couldn't be much older than I; unless parochial schools vary in a radical fashion, I couldn’t help but wonder whether the lines sprang from some retro-minded muse, rather than life.

Campus Scenes

Common Core: The Obamacare of Education

By 11.26.13

At least a dozen states are now delaying or rethinking their implementation of the new Common Core educational standards, as opposition from parents and teachers grows. No wonder: Initially, teachers thought Common Core was just another educational fad destined to soon be replaced by the next new idea. But they've found instead that Common Core is an educational track that parallels the Obamacare: both are designed to “fundamentally transform” America, both were conjured up out of audacious incompetence, both are products of ideological thinking rather than experience and common sense, and both are guaranteed to produce disastrous consequences.

Campus Scenes

Rogue Hall Monitors

By and 11.11.13

IN HIS 1951 book God and Man at Yale, the document that, to simplify only a little, launched the conservative movement, William F. Buckley, Jr. lamented what he later called “the phenomenon of the somnolent college trustee.” Looking back in 2007, Buckley concluded that little had changed in the intervening 56 years. “Mostly, the college establishment is regnant,” he wrote. “Trustees are expected to be affable creatures, preferably rich and generous. They are not expected to weigh in on college affairs, which are adequately handled by presidents, provosts, deans, and lesser administrative folk.” 

Campus Scenes

Viva La Revolucion!

By and From the November 2013 issue

CONSERVATIVES PROPERLY BEMOAN the state of education in America. Our K-12 system exists to benefit teachers, not students, who perform poorly next to their peers from comparable first world countries. Higher ed isn’t in any better shape. But just when you think things can’t get any worse, they don’t. We’re on the cusp of a revolution that will blow up the education system in America, top to bottom.