Tag Archives: inequality

Investing in Higher Education Will Not Bring Democratic Equality

old-fashioned-school-room.jpgBy Robert Weissberg


America’s
huge investment in higher education has always had a democratic justification: everyone
should be able to attend college because this opportunity would flatten the
social pyramid. Yes, a North Dakota State and Harvard degree differ in
prestige, but at least the North Dakota State graduate can join the game. Put
ideologically, investing in higher education–more schools for more kids–is
egalitarian.

Reality,
it seems, has refused to cooperate. The billions poured into higher education
have not flattened the social pyramid. If
anything, income gaps have widened as graduates from the top schools often earn
“obscene” salaries while those from lesser schools struggle to find decent jobs
to pay down student loan debt. Charles Murray’s Coming Apart depicts an America where the rich and poor increasingly live in diverging worlds. Clearly,
something is wrong with the traditional narrative that insists that a well-
funded, open access higher education for all can ameliorate the evils of
hierarchy.    

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Inequality Courses on Campus
Mostly One-sided and Dishonest

            By Charlotte Allen and George Leef

inequality.jpgThis article was prepared by Minding the Campus and the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

A new movement is rising on American campuses, timed perfectly to feed the frenzy over the income gap that is Occupy Wall Street’s main complaint. But this movement isn’t street populism; it’s another way for leftist professors to mold student beliefs.

Charlotte Allen’s essay, “The Inequality Movement – A Campus Product”
examined the phenomenon of college courses and programs on
inequality–that is, on income and other social differences among people.
It prompted both of us to wonder if students taking those courses would
hear any ideas inconsistent with the “liberal” orthodoxy that income
inequality is unjust, has been principally caused by racism, sexism, and
free enterprise, and must be combated with a variety of government
laws, regulations, and aid programs.

To find out, we investigated the syllabi and readings for a dozen
courses at well-known colleges and universities, public and private,
around the United States. The courses are:

Continue reading Inequality Courses on Campus
Mostly One-sided and Dishonest

The ‘Inequality’ Movement–A Campus Product

Robin Hood Index.jpgThe sharp political focus on inequality, driven into the public mind by the Occupy movement and endorsed by President Obama in his State of the Union message, was born, not on the street, but on the campus. It thrives there, mostly under the aegis of elite universities such as Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, Columbia and Johns Hopkins. Those universities have free-standing inequality centers bearing such titles such as Multidisciplinary Program on Inequality and Social Policy (Harvard), Global Network on Inequality (Princeton), and the Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality (Stanford).

Cornell now offers a minor in inequality studies for students who are ” interested in government service, policy work, or related jobs in nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), or want to go on to graduate work in anthropology, economics, government, history, law, literature, philosophy, psychology, public policy, or sociology.”

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How To Bridge the Educational Divide

In an essay in the Wall Street Journal plugging his new book “Coming Apart” (which I haven’t read yet), Charles Murray writes about a new American divide: “We have developed a new upper class with advanced educations, often obtained at elite schools, sharing tastes and preferences that set them apart from mainstream America. At the same time, we have developed a new lower class, characterized not by poverty but by withdrawal from America’s core cultural institutions.”

Conservatives like Richard Vedder see this as the inevitable result, not of a system rigged to favor the elite, but of bad government policies, particularly in education: because of government-sponsored grants and students loans, too many people are in college who shouldn’t be there; decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court and other legislative actions have virtually eliminated employment testing, which paved the way for certification inflation and the need for a college degree; laws protecting labor unions have virtually allowed them to put a choke-hold on the K-12 public school system.

These points have merit. But will less (or no) government support and more “vouchers and other pro-competitive measures” at all levels of education reverse the decline of real opportunities that Professor Vedder finds so disheartening? Should the free market determine who has access to higher education and can advance economically, culturally, even socially?

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“OccupyCUNY” Fails

Commendably, the trustees of the City University of New York
refused to bow to intimidation, and put the best interests of the university
first by approving, in a 15-1 vote, a new tuition structure. The new policy grants
CUNY the authority to raise tuition by $300 annually for the next five years.

The decision, of course, met with outrage from the
“OccupyCUNY” movement, which appears to believe that unless CUNY can be funded
through a tax on New York millionaires, it should be starved of resources–and
that it certainly shouldn’t get any money through either private gift-giving or
minor tuition increases.

Continue reading “OccupyCUNY” Fails

The Embarrassment of “OccupyCUNY”

A few weeks ago, I attended a presentation on the state of the university by CUNY chancellor Matthew Goldstein. In the Q&A session, a student asked Goldstein for his opinion on sympathy-protests with Occupy Wall Street that had sprung up on various CUNY campuses. Goldstein gave what seemed to me a reasonable answer. He said that he sympathized with some OWS goals, disagreed with others, and supported the rights of students to peacefully protest at CUNY. But, he added, he would not tolerate protests that infringed on the learning experiences of other students, who might or might not agree with the protesters’ aims.

I suppose it was inevitable, nonetheless, that an “OccupyCUNY” movement would spring up to test Goldstein’s resolve. According to the New York Times, organizers “were protesting not only tuition increases [of $300 per year] but also the university’s push for a public-private partnership,” such as the $1.4 billion in private philanthropy that CUNY has received this year. Of course, if the university received no private support, either tuition bills would have to increase dramatically or services, including the number of faculty, would need to be slashed dramatically. But logic doesn’t appear to be a strong suit of “OccupyCUNY.”

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The Anarchic Impulse in Zuccotti Park

The Occupy Wall Street demonstrators are no longer merely residents of Zuccotti Park, they have converted themselves into roving bands restricting traffic on Broadway and Church Street and occupying nearby buildings. Yet the city authorities avert their gaze and well known scholars who share a hard left ideology such as Cornel West, Slavoj Zizek and Frances Fox Piven offer words of encouragement to the demonstrators.

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Faculty “Requests” Aid Wall Street Protests

In contrast to the Tea Party protests of 2009-2010, the “Occupy Wall Street” protests appear to have generated a good deal of sympathy from the academy–at least from faculty in New York. A  BBC article, for instance, captured a photo of a “PSC Supports You” placard, a reference to the CUNY faculty union, the Professional Staff Congress, which has enthusiastically embraced the protest.

This aggressive level of faculty involvement–in what is a transparently political, and non-academic, affair–raises a tantalizing question of whether the “Occupy Wall Street” sympathizers are abusing their classroom authority on behalf of the protests. A spokesperson for UnitedNY.org, a group sympathetic to the protests, all but conceded inappropriate behavior by faculty members: “Professors are asking their classes [emphasis added] to take the day to actually go to this rally,” Camille Rivera told CBS New York.

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‘Cutthroat Admissions’ at Elite Colleges?

The Chronicle Review is notorious for publishing outlandish opinion pieces more in the nature of white-hot rants than well-reasoned essays. A good case in point is Professor John Quiggin’s “A Vicious Duo” (September 16 – subscriber site), is one of the most overwrought pieces I’ve read there.

Quiggin, who teaches economics at the University of Queensland in Australia, contends that America is beset by the twin problems of rising inequality of income and “cutthroat admissions” at our elite colleges and universities. That combination allegedly leads to a “self-sustaining oligarchy.” Whatever superficial plausibility his argument might have — especially for people like himself who live outside the United States — vanishes when you comprehend the following points.

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More Ed-School “Social Justice” Studies

The Boston Globe brings news of “discord” at the Harvard Education School. The issue, incredibly, involves claims by graduate students and some faculty members that the institution is insufficiently committed to a left-wing educational agenda.

Over the last few years, three “social justice” professors left the Graduate School of Education, including the husband-wife duo of Marcelo and Carola Suarez-Orozco. (She explores such only-in-academia topics as “the role of the ‘social mirror’ in identity formation” and “the gendered experiences of immigrant youth.”) In an example of the operation of free market capitalism that their scholarship would seem to condemn, the Suarez-Orozcos left Harvard for NYU.

This background contributed to the protests that erupted after the school denied tenure to Mark Warren. Warren describes himself as “a sociologist concerned with the revitalization of American democratic and community life,” who studies “efforts to strengthen institutions that anchor inner-city communities–churches, schools, and other community-based organizations–and to build broad-based alliances among these institutions and across race and social class.” His latest book is Fire in the Heart: How White Activists Embrace Racial Justice,which purports to “show white Americans can develop a commitment to racial justice, not just because it is the right thing to do, but because they embrace the cause as their own.”

The GSE grants tenure to around 20 percent of its junior faculty, a rather high percentage for any Harvard entity. So Warren’s chances were never particularly good. And neither the Globe article nor any other reporting I’ve seen on the case alleges procedural or other forms of impropriety in the tenure decision.

Nonetheless, a group of graduate students penned an open letter implying that Warren deserved tenure simply because of the agenda associated with his scholarship. Meredith Mira, a fifth-year doctoral student, termed the decision “incredibly demoralizing,” and complained, “Without this knowledge, we aren’t adequately prepared to go out and lead education reform.” Warren himself implied that the subject of his scholarship alone should have justified tenure. He told the Globe, “The work I do on community organizing has an essential contribution to make to addressing the problems facing our public education system and I am disappointed to see that it does not have a place at Harvard.”

Dean Kathleen McCartney could have responded to such protests by noting the obvious–“social justice” is an empty term, whose precise meaning depends on the political beliefs of the faculty member. Warren’s definition of “racial justice,” for instance, clearly does not include those who (quite reasonably) define “racial justice” as ensuring that all American citizens are treated equally under the law and by government entities, regardless of the color of their skin or their ethnic background. And the “social justice” championed by graduate students such as Mira clearly would not include figures who define “social justice” as upholding Biblical fundamentalism by denying gay and lesbian couples the opportunity to adopt children.

In short, by embracing the promotion of “social justice” as a legitimate goal of public education, left-wing extremists like those at the Harvard Education School provide a cover for right-wing extremists like the Texas Board of Education to impose their own view of “social justice” on public school students.

But McCartney didn’t communicate that message. Instead, she bent over backwards to appease the protesters. In an open letter, she promised that the school’s curriculum would remain “directly relevant to issues of equity, diversity, and social justice.” McCartney additionally informed the Globe that social justice studies “is an area we need to strengthen.”

The dean’s handling of this affair unintentionally revealed the continued irrelevance of education schools, which remain committed to using jargon to impose the professors’ one-sided political views on the nation’s public educational system.

”Gender Gap” Mania

Inside Higher Ed had a brief notice yesterday, “Worldwide Gender Gap in Academic Salaries in Science,” that, though accurate as far as it goes, is revealingly, almost humorously, incomplete and misleading.
Here is the IHE piece in its entirety:

A worldwide analysis by Nature of the salaries of men and women in academic science has found that men’s salaries were 18 to 40 percent higher in countries for which there were significant sample sizes — Australia, Britain, Canada, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Spain and the United States. The general pattern was for salary gaps to grow over the course of careers, with men’s salaries starting to gain relative to women in the three-to-five year period after the start of a career in Europe and after six years in North America.

The American higher education establishment, and apparently those who report on it, suffer from gap mania. Everywhere they look there is some “gap” to be corrected, and some uncorrected, often hidden (read “structural”) discrimination causing it. To see that attitude at work here, I encourage you take a look at the Nature article linked above. If you do, you will see that it is not “a worldwide analysis … of the salaries of men and women in academic science” at all. Entitled “For Love And Money,” the Nature article begins by noting, in bold, that “[t]he self-reported contentment of researchers with their chosen profession depends on more than just salaries, according to the results of our international career survey.”
The purpose of the survey, in short, was only incidentally to examine men’s and women’s salaries. Rather, it aimed “to track contentment with one’s job by region or by job attributes such as health care, the degree of independence or mentoring potential,” and it was not limited to “academic science.”

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Why U.S. Men’s Soccer Will Now Decline

The U.S. soccer team surprised most viewers by tying its first-round World Cup game with soccer-powerhouse England 1-1—and then tied Slovenia 2-2 in a match that many said the Americans should have won except for a bad referee call. Furthermore, the US.-U.K game, televised on ABC, drew 14.5 million viewers, a record for a first-round World Cup contest (the U.S.-Slovenia game, at 10 a.m. EDT on ESPN, attracted 3.9 million). Yet at the very same time that both the quality of and interest in U.S. men’s soccer is surging, U.S. colleges’ support for the men’s soccer teams and their players—the next generation of World Cup contenders—is in seemingly inexorable decline, thanks to the Education Department’s draconian rules for enforcing Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in higher education..
On the eve of the U.S.-U.K match the College Sports Council (CSC) released an analysis of what it called a “tremendous disparity of opportunity between male and female soccer players” in NCAA Divison I schools, the schools that invest the most in student athletics and thus usually attract the best student athletes. The analysis of the NCAA’s own published data for the 2008-09 academic year revealed that a combination of gender quotas imposed by the Education Department and NCAA rules favoring women over men in awarding college athletic scholarships have resulted in drastically reduced opportunities for college men to play on soccer teams and even fewer opportunities for them to receive scholarships for doing so.
In 1996 the Education Department issued a set of safe-harbor standards that colleges could follow in order to be deemed in compliance with Title IX and thus avoid expensive lawsuits over disparities in athletic spending. The easiest standard, chosen by the overwhelming majority of institutions, was “proportionality”: spending on athletics proportional to the ratio of males to females attending the college in question. Proportionality might have seemed fair in 1996—even though women tend to be less interested in the costly team sports that attract men—because only 52 percent of college students were female back then. Now the female-favoring gender disparity is much bigger: 57 percent to 43 percent.

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Ideals and Realities in Student Protests

On March 5th in the Wall Street Journal, Peter Robinson penned an op-ed on the California higher education budget crisis entitled “The Golden State’s Me Generation”. Robinson begins not with the finances behind the tuition hikes and protests, but rather with the framing of the reaction. He cites participants in the “Strike and Day of Action to Defend Education” casting their efforts in terms of “Freedom Riders,” “farmworkers,” and the fight for justice in the 60s and 70s. Berkeley urban studies professor Ananya Roy provided a racial angle as well, announcing “We have all become students of color now.”
“Evoking protests against the Vietnam War,” Robinson observes, “one banner carried by students at San Francisco State University read, ‘Shut It Down like ’68.’ ‘Today we strike!’ shouted a Berkeley student, ‘Today we march! Today we show solidarity with the workers!'”
This is the vocabulary of the peace movement and civil rights and labor protections of migrant workers. It demonstrates, among other things, the continuing moral authority of those causes, even though they took place 40 and 50 years ago. But there is a giant problem with invoking the movements: if you want to align yourself with the Selma marchers, Cesar Chavez et al, then you better experience some of the same sufferings and indignities that they did. If not, then the citation of such honored and sometimes martyred precursors starts to look a lot more like vanity than politics.
This is, indeed, Robinson’s conclusion: “Yet what did the protesters demand? Peace? Human rights? No. Money. And for whom? For the downtrodden and oppressed? No. For themselves.”

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What African-American Studies Could Be

While this year has become best known as the fortieth anniversary of Woodstock, it was also forty years ago that the first African-American Studies department was established, at San Francisco State University.
Forty-one fall semesters later, there are hundreds of such departments. Has what they teach evolved with the march of time? What should the mission of a truly modern African-American Studies department be?
The answer common in such departments is that the principal mission is to teach students about the eternal power of racism past and present. Certainly it should be part of a liberal arts education to learn that racism is more than face-to-face abuse, and that social inequality is endemic to American society. However, too often the curriculum of African-American Studies departments gives the impression that racism and disadvantage are the most important things to note and study about being black.

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Ranking Colleges By ”Economic Diversity”

In an effort to show which colleges are reaching out to low-income students, U.S. News & World Report has published “economic diversity” rankings of American colleges and universities. That sounds ambitious, but the rankings are based solely on the percentage of students at each institution who receive federal Pell grants, which mostly go to applicants from families with incomes under $20,000 a year. The magazine concedes that the percentage of Pells “isn’t perfect” as a measure of commitment to enrolling low-income students, but says many experts consider it the best available gauge.
Highest in the rankings is an institution most American have likely never heard of—the University of La Verne, La Verne, California, with 89 percent of students on Pell grants. Many colleges at the top of these rankings, unsurprisingly, are non-selective institutions, many of which explicitly cater to low-income students. Among the highest-ranking high-prestige colleges and universities are UCLA (35 percent) and the University of California, Berkeley (32 percent). The most selective institutions tend to cluster low in the rankings, at 10 percent (Yale, Princeton, Duke, Tufts, Northwestern) or below (Notre Dame, William and Mary, Virginia, Washington University in St Louis).
The rankings respond to complaints that U.S. News focuses too tightly on rich private universities, as well as to complaints that race and gender preferences ought to be converted into class-based ones that help the children of the poor regardless of race or gender. Pell-based rankings are simple, easy to compile and demonstrate U.S. News’ social concern. But are they helpful? Not yet. It isn’t useful to know a college’s percentage of Pell students (the figure at the University of Texas—El Paso is 53 percent) unless you also know the likelihood that those students will succeed (small in the case of UTEP, which has a graduation rate of 7 percent after six years).

“Poverty Studies” – Because There Are Never Enough “Studies”

Here’s one of the latest of those interdisciplinary and usually heavily politicized “studies” programs on college campuses: “poverty studies,” taking its place alongside black studies, Chicano studies, women’s studies, gay studies, and the rest of the ideology-driven academic disciplines in which undergraduates and graduate students can specialize as alternatives to more traditional fields such as history and engineering. At best, poverty studies is glorified service learning, in which college students can receive academic credit for working in homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and other worthy volunteer endeavors. At worst, poverty studies means immersion in victimology, with young people being encouraged to view “society” (shorthand for American capitalism and racism) as the main reason why some people are poor.
A typical poverty studies program is that at Washington and Lee University, created in 1997 by Harlan Beckley, a Washington and Lee religion professor. Beckley teaches the program’s introductory course, Poverty 101 (he also teaches most of the other poverty studies classes at Washington and Lee, a top-rated and expensive liberal arts institution in Lexington, Va.). The good news about Beckley’s syllabus for Poverty 101 is that the reading list does not include Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed, in which the well-heeled socialist author chronicles the month-long stints she spent working at Walmart and similar demeaning outfits before walking off the job in a huff. More good news is the syllabus’s numerous and rigorous paper assignments, to the point that several commenters on Rate My Professor complain that Beckley is not the pushover easy grader that they apparently expected him to be.
The bad news is that Beckley has very distinct ideas about what contributes to poverty in the United States, and they do not include welfare dependency, out-of-wedlock births, dysfunctional inner-city culture, or teachers’ union-dominated public school systems that ensure that large numbers of young people graduate from high school without basic reading and math skills. Instead, in Beckley’s view, the chief cause of American poverty is…America. His syllabus states that Poverty 101 “focuses on the United States, perhaps the most impoverished of any developed nation.”

Continue reading “Poverty Studies” – Because There Are Never Enough “Studies”

Your Orientation Stories Wanted

We’re looking for any upcoming or recent accounts of freshman orientation from those who’ve undergone the process or shortly will. PC skits, “white privilege” games, and the like, we’re interested in all of this. Any stories are welcome and encouraged. Write us or urge anyone you know who might be going through the process to write us at editor@campusmind.org

Probing The Black-White Achievement Gap

The Kellogg Foundation is funding a survey of four college campuses by Harvard’s W.E.B. Du Bois Institute and the Educational Testing Service to examine how students of color’s experiences on college campuses impact the notorious black-white achievement gap.

Namely, it will examine how the students feel “welcome and unwelcome, respected and disrespected, supported and unsupported, and encouraged and discouraged.”

However, will the researchers be interested in evidence that the black-white achievement gap is connected to aspects of parenting and peer identification that begin long before college? That is, will there be room in their assessment for, as it is put these days, culture over structure?

In his detailed survey of Shaker Heights, Ohio, Black Students in an Affluent Suburb, the late Berkeley Anthropology Professor John Ogbu found that black parents often aren’t aware of how closely they need to attend to their children’s homework and are less likely to confer with their children’s teachers, and that black teens have a tendency to disidentify from school as “white.” Subsequent studies have shown that black students are likely to spend less time on homework than white or Asian students and are less likely to be popular if they achieve in school.

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