Tag Archives: Obama

Obama’s Win Is An Indictment of Higher Education

This morning in the Weekly Standard, Fred Barnes summed
up
one condition of the Republican Party:

“What’s their problem? In Senate races, it’s bad candidates:
old hacks (Wisconsin), young hacks (Florida), youngsters (Ohio), Tea Party
types who can’t talk about abortion sensibly (Missouri, Indiana), retreads
(Virginia), lousy campaigners (North Dakota) and Washington veterans
(Michigan). Losers all.

“And those are just the Senate contests decided
yesterday.  In 2010, it was similar.  Republicans threw away two of
their best chances to gain seats, choosing pathetically incapable candidates in
Nevada and Delaware.” 

Indeed, conservative and libertarian teachers, writers, and
intellectuals have to wonder why the candidates they have to choose from are
precisely that, “pathetically incapable” mouthpieces who can’t talk about
controversial issues such as abortion sensibly. 

Here’s one reason why: those politicians didn’t study any
conservative thinkers in college.  When they talk, they say nothing that
suggests they have read much serious discourse on the right side of the
spectrum from Burke to Charles Murray.  Leftists have their nostrums down
pat (against racism, sexism, imperialism, economic inequality . . .), and
however dated and predictable those utterances are, liberal politicians stick
to the point and press it again and again.  Again, one reason is that they
received ample helpings of liberalism in freshman English, history, any
“studies course,” sociology, etc., reading some Marx, Foucault, Dewey, Malcolm
X, a bit of feminism here and multiculturalism there.  In school, those
future conservative politicians likely rejected those texts, but they didn’t
plunge into the other side’s corpus

It shows in the absence of depth in so many Republican
candidates.  When you hear them speak, nothing in the tradition comes
through–no Franklin on work ethic, Madison-Hamilton-Jay on power, Emerson on
self-reliance, Hawthorne on Federal employment, Thoreau on Big Government,
Booker T. Washington on individual responsibility, Willa Cather on the pioneer
spirit, and Hayek on social engineering.  This is a fatal deficiency, and
it neglects one of the strengths of conservatism (superiority in the battle of
ideas).  Worse, when conservatives don’t have the tradition in their
background, when they lose elections, they tend to look forward by examining
their relationship to the electorate instead of their relationship to first
principles and values.  Conservative candidates don’t need more political
calculation that competes with liberalism, but rather more intellectual heft
that presents a better alternative to liberalism.

It won’t happen in college, so maybe organizations such as
the Manhattan Institute should run two-week seminars for office-seekers. 
Not policy-making or campaign strategy sessions, but short courses in
conservative words and ideas.  Have them read Franklin‘s Autobiography, Washington’s
Up from Slavery, and Cather’s O Pioneers!  Let them know,
too, that while we all await the Second Coming of Ronald Reagan, one way Reagan
thrived in politics is by withdrawing for a time and reading Hayek and Friedman
carefully, soberly, far from the madding crowd.

Student Voices
The Candidates Flunk Education Policy

Yesterday Time Magazine published articles by President Obama and Governor Romney on their higher education policies. Both paint a rosy view of a college degree but offer few specifics on how to best facilitate it. Obama speaks highly of his college days, acknowledging that “Michelle and I are who we are only because of the chances our education gave us.” Similarly, Romney lauded America’s universities for “promoting inquiry, inspiring creativity, and ultimately preparing our citizens for success.” They both seem to believe that if we could hand out enough degrees to enough people at a low enough cost, our country would be in great shape.

Missing, of course, is the much greater importance of individual student effort, ambition, drive, and keen insight, all of which play an exponentially larger role personal success than does the possession of a diploma. Increasing college education access is not a panacea for all societal harms. Colleges provide specialized training and education for a select group of the population, and that’s okay. Sending everyone to college deprives opportunities for trade schools and other forms of education, and given that we have 115,000 college-degreed janitors, it’s probably safe to say that we already have plenty of people going to college.

Both candidates wish to lower the cost of education, though by different methods. Obama promises to increase federal student aid, proudly proclaiming that “we stopped student-loan interest rates from doubling” and “gave nearly 4 million more young people scholarships to help them afford their degree.” This ignores the strong evidence of the Bennett Hypothesis, which indicates that increasing federal aid actually drives up the cost of college by incentivizing colleges to charge higher tuition in a quest to capture that federal money.

Romney’s plan, to his credit, follows the logic of the Bennett Hypothesis; in the Time piece he writes that “endless government support only fuels skyrocketing tuition.” But unfortunately Romney’s proposed solution is wishy-washy. He prefers private loans to government-subsidized student loans but gives no specifics on how to scale back government involvement. And while he hopes to tackle the drop-out problem, he offers nothing but a promise to give potential drop-outs more “support.”

Most disappointing in both pieces is the politicization of education. Obama ends his piece with a plea for political support. “I’m not only asking for your help. I’m asking for your vote,” he instructs his readers. Even Romney’s piece, while steering clear of obvious references to election day, interrupts his policy explanation to complain that President Obama reneged on his higher education promises.

If we want real higher ed reform that scales back government subsidies and encourages alternative forms of education instead of funneling everyone through universities, we’ll have to look elsewhere.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Rachelle DeJong is a senior at The King’s College.

Campus Due Process, Obama-Style

In this
week’s Chronicle of Higher Education, Joseph Cohn, director of policy at
FIRE, summarizes
the due process implications of a letter sent to colleges and universities last
April by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. As was widely
reported at the time, the letter instructs schools to adopt the lowest standard
of proof in our judicial system, preponderance of the evidence, in cases of
alleged sexual misconduct, ranging from harassment to rape.

During
the Bush Administration, Cohn notes, colleges enjoyed greater flexibility in
their proceedings, and the Office of Civil Rights accepted a wide variety of
standards among institutions.  The new directive, signed by Obama
appointee Russlyn Ali, allows little latitude.
 

Supporters
have defended the lower standard of proof by citing civil lawsuits that also
rely on a preponderance outcome, but the elements of civil lawsuits that are
missing from campus hearings are worth listing:

  • Civil
    trials have impartial, legally-trained judges; campus hearings often rely on “a
    panel of faculty, students, and/or administrators.”
  • In civil
    cases, either party may demand a jury; in campus hearings, the option isn’t
    available.
  • In civil
    cases, parties have right to counsel; in campus hearings, “parties to these
    hearings frequently have no right to counsel.”
  • In campus hearings, “rules of evidence don’t apply,” and witnesses “are usually
    not placed under oath.”

According
to Cohn, of 198 colleges ranked by U.S. News & World Report, 30
institutions so far have complied.

This is a
travesty of due process, but it pleases advocacy groups such as the Women’s
Sports Foundation, the Association of Title IX Administrators, and Wendy Murphy
(remember the Duke Lacrosse Scandal?), all of whom signed a
statement
in support of the letter. One particular sentence in the support
statement indicates clearly why the new standard is a dangerous one.  It
reads: “The preponderance standard is the only equitable choice under Title IX
as it avoids the presumption, inherent in a higher standard of proof, that the
word of a victim is less weighty than the word of an accused individual’s
denial.”

Note the
acceptance of victim status for one party before the respective “words” have
even been given.  In some cases, of course, there will be physical
evidence of assault, but in other cases, we have precisely a contest of words
alone.  With the stakes so high for the accused, should the accuser’s
accusation be as “weighty” as the accused’s denial?  Yes, according to
these groups and the Obama Administration, and they dress it up in a language
of “equity.”

Want to Hear Obama? Just Say You Support Him

Many people are miffed at the way the University of
Wisconsin is handling President Obama’s visit to our campus today. Concerns are
not with the visit per se–most of us think the event is something very
compelling, a bit of history entering through our gates. The location of the
speech in the heart of the campus is one problem–it requires the cancellation
of some classes. A far bigger one  is
that to get tickets to the event, students are required by the University to go to the Obama campaign website, provide
contact information, and then click on a button that says ‘I’m In!’.

A faculty colleague,
Ken Mayer, sent around an email of protest. He wrote: “Having a president visit as an
educational public event is one thing. Forcing students to declare their
support for a presidential candidate in order to attend the event on campus is
quite another. Should we be in the business of helping a campaign farm
thousands of email addresses?”

Mayer’s point is very well taken. The University is
making itself a partner in a campaign operation that will take extensive
student information and use it for campaign purposes. I cannot imagine this
procedure being employed for a typical public speech on this campus.

In addition, this procedure raises questions of
“compelled association.” Under the First Amendment, no one can be compelled to
associate with or support ideas or causes with which that person disagrees or
does not care to associate. A long line of cases support this principle: the
right not to speak or associate is the flip side of the right to speak or
associate.

It is very likely
that principled students–those on both sides of the political spectrum as well
as many students who have taken my First Amendment class–will refuse to so
associate. Interestingly, many pro-Obama faculty members I have spoken with have
expressed deep concerns about the procedure for obtaining a ticket. Mayer and I
have expressed our problems with the handling of this event to campus
authorities, but at least I have not heard back as of this writing.

Is this an example of a partisan university bending over
to accommodate the progressive hero? I do not know. I think the more likely
explanation is that decisions were hurried, and that it simply may not have
occurred to anyone that the registration procedures in this case posed serious
problems for the principles of an open university. By delegating this plan to
the campaign itself, we have forsaken our commitment to an open university at
the same time that we are striving to affirm those principles by holding this
extraordinary event. This is not something of which we should be proud.

Those Mealy-Mouthed Statements from Our Cairo Embassy

Near
the beginning of Bruce Bawer’s strong new book, The Victims’ Revolution, he talks about the anti-American attitudes
that are nearly mandatory on campuses today and how they radiate throughout our
culture. Those attitudes, inculcated by so many professors, range from
apologetic and guilt-ridden to outright contemptuous and reflexively supportive
of our enemies. The incredibly abject comments from U.S. officials on the
murder of the US ambassador to Libya and the assaults on our embassies in Libya
and Egypt are fairly mild, but still stunning, examples of these attitudes in
action.

What
did the US Embassy in Cairo have to say about the murder of four Americans by
mob violence? It tweeted “U.S. Embassy condemns religious incitement,”
referring to the homemade and obscure anti-Muhammad movie the mob thought
was worth killing for. Nineteen minutes later the embassy thoughtfully added
that it condemns the attack of the mob as well, perhaps because it dawned
on them that self-hatred wasn’t playing well at home. Those early tweets were
deleted, but the official statement from Cairo was just as bad: “We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the
universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.”
     

These
same attitudes infected the mainstream media as well. The New York Times buried the mob violence and killings at the bottom of Page 4, not
mentioning that an ambassador was killed and assuring any readers who got that
far that anti-American feelings are confined to “pockets” in the Middle east.
On the First Page, however, was a big story that Mitt Romney was not opposed to
the Vietnam war as a college student in 1966. Likewise, o
n Morning Joe the all-lefties panels focused exclusively on Mitt
Romney’s statement, the point of which I 
couldn’t quite figure out from the indignant discussion. Romney’s campaign said: “It’s
disgraceful that the Obama Administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks
on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the
attacks.” I’m not sure Romney should have jumped in at that point. However, the
statement is clearly sensible and accurate, particularly since the Obama
statement was almost as mealy-mouthed as those from the tragically inept
embassy in
Cairo.

Aki Peritz, a former U.S. intelligence analyst,
had the best comment: “Upon reflection, a future press release might
state, ‘We condemn the morons who overran part of our Embassy earlier today.”
Yes, whatever their hurt feelings are.

 

Why President Obama Can’t Lower Tuition

In his acceptance speech at the Democratic National
Convention last night, President Obama promised that he would “work with
colleges and universities” to slow the steady rise in tuition we have experienced,
cutting the rate of increase in half. Inside Higher Ed has the
story
.

Naturally, the president’s statement drew applause from the
Democratic faithful, but is there the slightest reason to think that Obama can
slow the rise in tuition any more than King Canute could roll back the tide? I
think not.

First, the executive branch of the federal government has no
constitutional authority over higher education. The president can “jaw-bone”
college leaders, imploring them not to increase tuition, just as President
Kennedy pleaded with steel executives not to raise prices in 1962, but he can’t
command either private college officials or state university leaders to keep
tuition at any level.

Second, there are reasons
why tuition has been increasing and it’s hard to see how President Obama is
going to change the underlying reality. He continues to encourage more young
people to go to college and has facilitated that by getting Congress to
increase Pell grant amounts.  More
students with more money to spend – that’s a perfect recipe for college
officials to increase their revenues. Why wouldn’t they take advantage of the
situation, just because the president made a speech?

Third, it’s possible that Obama might resort to asking
Congress to enact some kind of price control over higher education, threatening
to take away federal dollars unless the schools keep their price increases down
to “reasonable” levels. The Republicans threatened to do that back in the Bush
years, but the bill never went anywhere, and for good reason. Price controls
are blunt, clumsy instruments that are easy to evade.

Finally, merely halving the rate of increase in college
costs, assuming that could be done, wouldn’t be much of a victory. If indeed
college and university administrators felt pressured to cut costs, there is
little reason to think that they would start with the most needless of budget
items. In California, for instance, where the state’s budgetary woes have
required cuts in university budgets, the sacred cows of “diversity”–academic
programs and administrative offices – have been spared.

Lower tuition sounds good, but what Americans should want
from higher education is increasing value. We’ll only get that through more
competition.

Campaigning in the Classroom

Last month, distinguished Ohio State English professor Brian McHale sent out the following email to colleagues:

Colleagues,           

I’ve been in touch with a couple of campus organizers for the Obama campaign, who have asked me to pass along to all of you a request for access to your classes in the next few weeks. If you were willing, they would send along a volunteer to make a pitch to your students about registering to vote. This would involve five minutes or less of class time, at the beginning or end of class (whichever you preferred), and the volunteer could make him/herself available after the end of class to sign up students who wanted to register on the spot.

If you were willing, the volunteers could also take a couple of extra minutes to see whether they could interest any of your students in volunteering for the Obama campaign themselves. If you weren’t comfortable with this, however, you’d only need to say so, and the volunteer would limit his/her presentation to voter registration, and leave the recruitment pitch out; it would be your call.

I don’t need to tell you that voter registration is absolutely the key to this election, not least of all in the state of Ohio.

(I don’t need to tell you this because it has been made so manifestly plain by those who have been doing their best in several states, including ours, to limit access to the polls in various ways.) I hope you can see your way to helping bump up the voter registration and turnout among this key constituency–our students.

The easiest way to arrange for volunteers to visit your classrooms is to contact Natalie Raps or Matt Caffrey directly: [address removed] and [address removed]. Alternatively, you could contact me, and I’ll put you in touch with them. Either way, please do it!

Democracy: love it or lose it.

Peter Wood reproduces the entire message at the Chronicle of Higher Education and adds that Caffrey and Raps belong to the official Obama campaign in Ohio.   

Once the email went public, the legal counsel at Ohio State issued a statement asserting that “Simply put, partisan political discussions may not be sponsored by university employees on the Ohio State campus. I urge you to refer to the guidelines regarding political activity by employees of the university.” No professor should bring “political organizers into our classroom.” 

Once again, as with the earlier case of “tenured incognizance,” there is no need to debate the matter. The impropriety of bringing Obama campaign staff into a classroom, even under the guise of a non-partisan registration session, is beyond question. Not to the professor, though, and this is the remarkable thing about the whole story. In the Lantern piece, we read that McHale did not believe he did anything wrong. 

I believe him. If he were disingenuous here, then he would have been wary enough not to put his recommendations down in writing and send them out to fellow professors. Apparently, he really didn’t know that having a couple of Obama staffers address his students, a captive audience, went way over the line into partisanship. The argument that students had the right to opt out of hearing about joining the Obama team doesn’t pass the smile test. To believe that it lifted pressure from the students contradicts both common sense and leftist beliefs which say that power operates subtly and covertly, beneath the guise of institutional practices.

McHale is a chaired professor who has written extensively about postmodernism and theory. It is amazing–and exasperating–that such a sophisticated analyst of text and power should become so callow and obtuse when real power is at stake. For conservative reformers, it is one thing to combat deliberate strategies of indoctrination on campus, but contesting actors incognizant of their own malfeasance is a whole other chore.

The Affirmative Action Zealots Have Won: Time to Surrender

white flag.jpg

For a half century
I’ve vehemently opposed racial preferences in higher education. Opposition was
partially ideological–I believe in merit–and partly based on sorrowful
firsthand experience with affirmative action students and faculty. Though my
principles remain unchanged I am now ready to concede defeat, throw in the
towel and raise the white flag. Abolishing racial preferences is the academic
equivalent of trying to win a land war in Asia: the enemy is just too strong,
too tenacious and willing to use whatever means necessary. Our side may win a
few battles, e.g., California’s Proposition 209, Hopwood, but at the end of the day, hoards of faceless
bureaucrats and left-wing faculty soldier on. If it takes a village to uncover
special abilities that justify admitting the academically marginal, rest
assured, the village will be recruited, trained and then celebrated as
champions of social justice. Our side just lacks the stomach to outlast zealots
who shamelessly use every ruse imaginable.

Continue reading The Affirmative Action Zealots Have Won: Time to Surrender

Student Voices: The Obama’s Administration’s Attack on Religious Colleges

With election season well under way, the Obama administration now finds itself up against lawsuits brought by several of the nation’s most prominent religious universities. Catholic University and the University of Notre Dame have already filed suit in opposition to the now-infamous federal requirement that insurance companies provide no-fee coverage of a slew of contraceptive pills. And now, as CNN’s Belief Blog reports, they have been joined by Wheaton College, an evangelical institution. Wheaton’s lawyers claim that the mandate is an insult to Wheaton’s institutional beliefs, because it forces the school to both cover and provide guidance for the use of abortifacients.

Continue reading Student Voices: The Obama’s Administration’s Attack on Religious Colleges

A Survival Guide for the Right in Leftist Academia

Back in 2010, University of Illinois, Chicago, Professor and former
Weatherman radical Bill Ayers gave a presentation on Public Pedagogy at the
American Education Research Association annual meeting. Ayers, then a member of
AERA’s governing board, made the claim that he, Bill Ayers, was really not a
terrorist. Ten of the first 11 sentences in the talk abstract were in the first
person singular, before Bill Ayers switched gears to say that really, any
violence Bill Ayers might have encouraged merely came in response to the evils
of the U.S. government.   

Continue reading A Survival Guide for the Right in Leftist Academia

A Controversy at Post-Catholic Georgetown

kathleen_sebelius.jpgKathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, is scheduled to speak Friday at a Georgetown University commencement event, setting off protests among Catholics and others who believe the Obamacare mandate violates religious liberty. So far, some 25,000 people have signed petitions asking for the invitation to be withdrawn. On campus, the reaction seems more tepid: only 9 of the 1500-plus faculty members and just 3 of the 55 resident Jesuits are known to have joined the protest.

For President Obama, the speech sets up a likely win-win outcome:
dispatching a nominal Catholic to a nominally Catholic university that
yearns to be secular (the question, “Is Georgetown still a Catholic
university?” has been asked since the mid-60s) either provokes an angry
response that would fit the “war against women” scenario, or a trifling
one demonstrating that the Catholic bishops have bluster, but few troops
behind them, even on a Jesuit campus.

Continue reading A Controversy at Post-Catholic Georgetown

The Notorious “Dear Colleague” Letter in Action

Inside Higher Ed brings interesting news today about how the infamous “Dear Colleague” letter from the Obama education department–which requires all sexual assault and harassment cases to be judged by the lowest possible burden of proof, a preponderance of the evidence–has affected one university campus. In response to the letter’s mandate, the University of North Carolina has reconfigured its disciplinary procedures, in part due to a desperate hope to retain some semblance of due process for accused students.

Continue reading The Notorious “Dear Colleague” Letter in Action

Still For Obama, But Disenchanted

For the Obama campaign, the college campus poses a whole different challenge in 2012 than it did in 2008. Earlier, the campus was one of the most solid and energized pro-Obama zones in the country. The group Students4Obama, which operated on more than 700 campuses, was just one program in the conversion of the campaign into a youth-oriented, cool-emanating social movement among the students. Among young voters in general, 18-29-year-olds, the preference for Obama over McCain ended up reaching an unprecedented 27 points.

Continue reading Still For Obama, But Disenchanted

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.”

Continue reading The ‘Inequality’ Movement–A Campus Product

The Terrible Textbooks of Freshman Comp

Norton Reader.jpgFreshman composition class at many colleges is propaganda time, with textbooks conferring early sainthood on President Obama and lavishing attention on writers of the far left–Howard Zinn, Christopher Hedges, Peter Singer and Barbara Ehrenreich, for instance–but rarely on moderates, let alone anyone right of center. Democrats do very well in these books, but Abraham Lincoln–when included–is generally the most recent Republican featured.

Take The Norton Reader, for instance. Someone sent it to me, presumably because I teach freshman composition myself. Much of the volume is made up of popular writing by ideological writers of the left and political speeches that strain the traditional standards of rhetorical worthiness. Among the latter is the instant classic, Barack Obama’s “A New Beginning” speech delivered in Cairo in 2009. It drew quite a bit of criticism, especially over historical inaccuracies. Yet none of this was mentioned. Topic questions were also embedded to trigger predetermined responses from students.

Lincoln, King and Obama

With my curiosity piqued by the obvious bias, I decided to look at other textbooks. What I found was the widespread promotion of Obama, thinly disguised by claims about his rhetorical skills. (Entering college freshmen are likely to have already been exposed to a lot on Obama, much of it from Scholastic, which offers a teachers’ workbook, as well.) Other than one or two columns by a token conservative, like David Brooks, the rich array of conservative writing was ignored.

The Norton Reader, like most, is divided thematically. Interestingly, Obama’s speech is not included in the section, “Politics and Government,” where Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address, and Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” appear. It shows up in the “Spoken Words” section that is made up of MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Eleanor Roosevelt’s “On the Declaration of Human Rights,” William Faulkner’s “Nobel Prize Speech,” and Al Gore’s speech, “The Climate Emergency” that became the basis of the film and book, An Inconvenient Truth. While acknowledging that Gore’s speech was given during the 2004 presidential campaign, the editors treat his data as undisputed scientific fact. For example, topic question 4 asks the student: “Gore gives three leading causes of the climate emergency: population growth, technology, and our way of thinking. List the kinds of evidence and examples he uses in this part of his speech, and suggest how the diversity of evidence and examples helps him communicate with his audience.” There is no hint that there is disagreement on the issue. None of the five topic questions allow the student to dissent from any part of Gore’s argument.

Similarly, Obama’s claims in his Cairo speech are presented without any skepticism. CBS News, hardly a conservative organ, reported that praise for the speech usually focused on its “delivery,” but noted that even the Huffington Post marked the “lack of substance in the words.” William Bradley’s column there claimed that the speech’s arena itself was reason for its success: “The positions [Obama] laid out are positions he had in his campaign. But he did say it all at once, and quite well.”

Obama’s historical inaccuracies in the speech go unchallenged, like attributing the invention of printing to Muslims (it was the Chinese) or crediting Morocco with being the first to recognize the United States (No–Russia, France, Spain and the Netherlands did it earlier). And again, there is no mention of criticisms of the speech, many of them well-founded.

Two of the four topic questions require the student’s uncritical affirmations. Question 2 refers to the seven “specific tensions or issues affecting the current relationship between the United States and Muslim nations.” Were the enterprising student to select one of those as instructed and examine it in detail, but with outside evidence, he would then be faced with the next part of the question: “How does Obama develop his argument so that it will appeal to various audiences?” The assumption that Obama does appeal to various audiences gives the lie to the usual claims about making students “critical thinkers.”

Just Obey the President’s Call

Obama speaking.jpgUsually the last topic calls for a more open, creative response. For Obama’s speech we have: “Obama concludes with a call to action directed especially toward the world’s youth: ‘And I want to particularly say this to young people of every faith, in every country–you, more than anyone, have the ability to re-imagine the world, to remake this world.’ Write a paper in which you discuss ways you personally might respond to this call.” Disguised as a question, this is a not-so-subtle request to obey the president’s call.

There is not only lack of balance in terms of political representation, but also in sources of the essays. While the anthology does contain a smattering of classics from Emerson, Thoreau, Orwell, and the like, modern selections make up the bulk of the volume. Most come from general interest publications, but it seems the editors never heard of National Review, the Weekly Standard, the American Spectator, or New Criterion. Yet, The New Yorker, the New York Times, the New York Times Magazine, the New York Review of Books, and Harper’s offer numerous excerpts each. A number also come from American Scholar and Georgia Review. There are multiple offerings by the likes of Anna Quindlen, Barbara Ehrenreich, and Joan Didion. The “Ethics” section contains an offering by Peter Singer, by an abortion clinic nurse, and from several animal rights advocates, but nothing from a traditional Judeo-Christian perspective. Bedford/St. Martin’s too includes Obama in several textbooks. A Memorial Day speech at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery provides the sole presidential offering in Making Sense. The 2012 edition of The Writer’s Presence: A Pool of Readings offers Obama’s election night “Grant Park Victory Speech.” (The previous, 2009, edition that contains an excerpt from Obama’s memoir Dreams From My Father apparently went to press before the election. Dreams must have been assigned widely, for endotes offers help to students, as does BestEssayHelp.com for the Inaugural Speech.)

The Victory Speech’s salvific message is enhanced by its placement amidst accounts of the inherent hopelessness of life in America by the same authors (Alice Walker, Joan Didion, Barbara Ehrenreich, Peter Singer). Again, no balance is offered. What might be useful is Ronald Reagan’s short speech on his landslide victory that is marked by humility, in contrast to Obama’s insistent proclamations of the historical significance of his election as “the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful….” Topic questions at the end ask students to connect this speech to the Gettysburg Address (!) and MLK’s “I Have a Dream.” The editors seem to be aware of crossing a line, however, for in the instructor’s manual they acknowledge that Obama is “the focal point of a great deal of emotion on either side of the political spectrum.” They therefore advise limiting class discussion to the speech’s “persuasive power.” The attempt to mask such cheerleading is further betrayed by the inclusion of other selections, like John Edgar Wideman’s “Street Corner Dreamers,” which is about what the Victory Speech means to the hitherto hopeless denizens of our nation’s cities. Wideman asks, “Do I glimpse that change in the way they walk and talk, the way they occupy space and flash looks at one another, urgent exchanges of joy, anger, longing, understanding, impatience, solidarity, challenge, like the undeniable, irrepressible reality embodied in singer Sam Cooke’s voice when he promises change that must come–music that might be in the general air now or playing just around the corner in the voice of Barack Obama?”

(An accompanying photo announces, “Barack Obama plays basketball with local youths in Chicago’s Southside, where he launched his career in public service as a community organizer.”)

Wideman continues the rhapsody: “Not Barack Obama singing, but Barack Obama in charge, calling the meeting to order. Putting a finger to his lips: Quiet, everybody, please.” The section includes an essay by Howard Zinn, the late over-the-top historian who is simply described as “professor emeritus of political science at Boston University . . . known both for his active involvement in the civil rights and peace movements and for his scholarship,” however, strains credulity regarding simple rhetorical criteria. The editors list Zinn’s numerous publications and say only about his political allegiances that he argued “that perseverance [sic] in the face of opposition is essential.” Topic 1, though, asks, “Explain what Zinn means by what Leon Trotsky called the ‘natural selection of accidents’ (paragraph 2) preventing true depictions of war, class, and race from appearing in films.” Topic 3 then directs students’ attention to Obama again: “‘What steps do you believe President Obama will take to improve your life? (Possible answer: he could lose in November.)

‘Hearts Bursting with Love and Pride’

Another Bedford anthology, America Now: Short Readings from Recent Periodicals, does not include speeches or book excerpts. Yet, a thematic section focuses on “Barack Obama: What Does His Election Mean to America?” The head note introduces the readings with the claim that Obama’s election “filled the country, from left to right, with a momentary euphoria.” In this section are two essays from Essence, one the aforementioned Wideman essay, and one by Diane McKinney-Whetstone on “The First Family” (“When the crowd surged forward, hearts bursting with love and pride, the lens shifted and altered the world’s view of the Black family,” with topic questions driving home the point that racism had hitherto stymied the black family); an essay from Tikkun that the editors explain is a criticism from the left, “arguing that [Obama] represents a continuation of the conventional policies of the Bush administration, policies [the author Christopher Hedges] believes are determined and orchestrated by a corporate oligarchy”; and a student essay titled “Obama–President for All” (“while Obama embodies a milestone in America’s history as the first African American president. . . .”).

Hedges, an unusually angry senior fellow at the Nation Institute, who wrote what is described as a “call to arms” for the first issue of the Occupied Wall Street Journal, claims that “the old engines of corporate power and the vast military-industrial complex continue to plunder the country.” Obama is simply, in Hedge’s estimation, a new brand of the unlawful President Bush, for he refuses to “dismantle Bush’s secrecy laws and restore habeas corpus.” The editors’ footnote explains only, “habeas corpus: The principle that an accused person should be allowed to know the charges against him or her exactly; the Bush administration suspended it during the War on Terror.”!

The substitution of “person” for “citizen” and the refusal to describe Hedges’ real position is, of course, irresponsible. The fact that this textbook is aimed at the student with a low reading level, one who would be least likely to know this information on his own, suggests a goal that has very little to do with education. Nor do the other volumes for that matter. They want to tell students what to think, not how to write.

Professor Sanctioned for Siding with Rush

Inside Higher Ed reports this morning — surprise! — that “®oughly two-thirds of public and private college presidents say they plan to vote for President Obama in November.” Only two-thirds? Actually, that is a surprise.

I wonder how many of them are in states that have had to cut or reduce spending on higher education because of a lack of economic growth caused, at least in part (in my view, in large part) by President Obama’s economic policies. Liberals, of course, have a hard time comprehending why rubes and other conservatives would ever vote against what liberals are sure is in their interest. “For the life of me,” a typical one (unsurprisingly, a journalist) wrote in typical frustration on Democratic Underground several years ago, “I don’t understand what causes a person to vote against their own best interests.” Journalist, meet university president.

Continue reading Professor Sanctioned for Siding with Rush

The Obama Video: Fuss and Obfuscation

The 1990 Harvard Law School video of Barack Obama endorsing a quota-hire protest unearthed by Buzzfeed has generated widespread comment in both the blogosphere and the conservative media. Much of the commentary from the right was overheated and wide of the mark; representative commentary on the left, however, was deliberately deceptive.

Continue reading The Obama Video: Fuss and Obfuscation

The Troubling Video of Obama at Harvard Law

Obama diversity video.jpgFor Democrats (like me) concerned with academic freedom and depoliticizing personnel and curricular processes in higher education, the 2008 primary season offered only one candidate who even might adopt a good policy on higher education, an area where the GOP has had the overwhelming advantage in recent years. Even if he wasn’t a transparent phony, John Edwards (Version 2008) was presenting himself as a hard-left anti-poverty crusader, and seemed likely to embrace a more politicized academy. Hillary Clinton was running a rally-the-base campaign; and in a party whose base consists of African-Americans, labor unions, and feminists, it was clear Clinton’s higher-ed policy would bolster the race/class/gender dominance of the contemporary professoriate.

But Barack Obama offered promise. Not only was he running on a kind of
post-racial platform, he had the record to back up his rhetoric. His
career featured none of the inflammatory screeds so common among Chicago
African-American politicians. He had demonstrated an ability to work
with downstate Republicans in the Illinois legislature. And in the U.S.
Senate, he was one of only two Democratic senators
to support a Justice Department investigation of Mike Nifong–a
mini-Sister Souljah moment in which the nation’s first serious
African-American presidential candidate publicly repudiated the man to
whose efforts Duke’s Group of 88 had attached their professional
credibility.

Continue reading The Troubling Video of Obama at Harvard Law

‘It’s a Major Assault on Religious Freedom’

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The abortion-drug and contraceptive mandate issued by the Obama administration is a frontal assault on the freedoms given to every American by God Himself, and guaranteed in our Constitution.  If allowed to stand, the precedent will have been set that the government can, in fact, prohibit the free exercise of religion, by taking to itself the power to define what is and is not religious behavior, and by punishing those whose faith leads them to make decisions for themselves or their organizations that contradict government directives.

There are many in the press, however, who want to hijack this discussion and make it about a woman’s “right” to contraception.  But this is not the central issue.  At the heart of the matter is whether the government can require religious organizations, or individuals, to provide services or engage in practices that violate their religion-based moral convictions.  That is why Geneva College, with the aid of the Alliance Defense Fund filed the lawsuit, Geneva College v. Sebelius, in federal court in Pittsburgh, PA on February 21st.

Our Board of Trustees Policy Manual says this:

“Geneva College publicly professes that Jesus Christ is the ruler of all institutions.  Should it develop that federal and/or state laws or regulations are deemed to require the College to act in a way inconsistent with the Word of God, the Board of Trustees will actively seek to challenge such laws or regulations, and/or support a position of dissent, such as the College took in response to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.”

Our lawsuit challenges the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ regulations under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that mandate religious employers like Geneva provide abortion-inducing drugs through the health insurance we provide to our employees and students.  The mandate also forces the college to fund government-dictated speech in the form of counseling that is directly at odds with the religious message we wish to convey to our students and the broader culture.  We believe this mandate is a violation of the freedoms of religion and speech guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States and affirmed by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Plan B and Ella Are Not Preventive

The technical aspects of the situation are simple.  The Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA), which founded the college in 1848, holds the position that human life begins at conception.  Geneva’s policies have long reflected the position of the church in that we have excluded coverage for elective abortions and abortion-inducing drugs from the insurance plans we provide to our employees and students.  Preventive oral contraceptives are and will continue to be covered.  But drugs such as Plan B and Ella, the “morning after” and “week after” pills respectively, are not fundamentally preventive; they function to prevent implantation or otherwise kill a human embryo.  Thus, they violate our consciences and our long-standing practices in support of life.  Yet the FDA has labeled them “contraceptives,” and the rules being promulgated by HHS require that they be covered by employer-provided health plans.
In the words of Greg Baylor, Senior Counsel for the ADF, “This mandate offers no choice.  We either comply, and abandon our convictions, or resist and be punished.  Geneva College and other employers who do not qualify as sufficiently religious under the federal government’s excruciatingly narrow definition of religious organizations, cannot freely abandon the mandate.  Obamacare imposes exorbitant penalties on entities that would refuse to comply.  These penalties would undermine Geneva College’s ability to pursue its religious mission.”  The government cannot be allowed to force anyone to buy and sell insurance coverage that subsidizes the killing of young human beings.  Nor can it be allowed to define what is considered religious belief or behavior.  To grant it this power eviscerates the First Amendment.
Our freedom to exercise our religion is guaranteed by the establishment and free exercise clauses of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, and further protected by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  Our freedom of speech is secured by the free speech clause of the same amendment.  Both our freedom of religion and our freedom of speech are violated by this government mandate.  This is not a Roman Catholic issue.  It is not a Reformed Presbyterian issue.  Indeed, it threatens religious organizations and people of all faiths.
Geneva’s motto, Pro Christo et Patria, “for Christ and Country,” has never been understood to suggest two equal authorities.  Rather, Jesus Christ is Lord of all, and we seek to educate students who are prepared to serve the country and society out of love for and obedience to Him.  When the state stands in opposition to Christ, we must make our stand with and for Him.  Our government should not be able to force us to buy or sell insurance that subsidizes morally objectionable treatments.  If we do not contest this mandate, we believe that we would be responsible for allowing abortions to occur.
Greg Baylor concluded our joint press conference this way: “Every American should note that a government with the power to do this to Geneva College has the power to do anything to anybody.”  Our elected officials swear to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, not distort and upend it.  Thus, Geneva College and the Alliance Defense Fund are, by this lawsuit, exercising the final right granted in the First Amendment: “to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”  And we do so on behalf of the millions of Americans who still believe in the promises that we have inherited from the founders of this great nation.

Obama Seeks Disability Quotas

Cross-posted from Open
Market

The Obama administration is pushing quotas in the workplace
and higher education, seeking to force
businesses
that have federal contracts to hire at least 7 percent disabled
workers, and encouraging colleges to use race in admissions to achieve a
“critical mass” of black and Hispanic students — a de facto quota.  It is
also apparently drafting
an executive order about sexual-orientation discrimination among federal
contractors, an order that key administration allies would like to include
“goals” (effectively, quotas) for gays and lesbians (most Americans work in states, cities, or counties
that already forbid sexual-orientation discrimination, but these laws do not
require preferences for gays or lesbians, and at least a few expressly forbid
“affirmative action” discrimination against heterosexuals. Virtually all
Fortune 500 companies already ban sexual-orientation discrimination).

Continue reading Obama Seeks Disability Quotas

Is Another Furor Over Religious Liberty Coming?

Pressure has been building for President Obama to sign an executive order prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression by federal contractors, a move that might make the recent controversy over requiring religious institutions to offer contraception services look mild by comparison.

Metro Weekly recently reported on a strategy session in retiring Rep. Barney Frank’s office attended by representatives of the ACLU, Lambda Legal, and other gay and transgender equity advocacy organizations to organize a campaign for such an executive order. Shortly thereafter on Feb. 6 the San Francisco Chronicle’s web site published a press release from the Williams Institute at the UCLA law school calling for a gay rights executive order, and the New York Times published an OpEd, “What Obama Should Do About Workplace Discrimination,” by M.V. Lee Badgett, the Williams Institute’s research director.

Continue reading Is Another Furor Over Religious Liberty Coming?

Foolish Defense of the Politicized University

Political observers might have noticed that hostility to
higher education has formed a sub-theme of the Republican presidential race.
Mitt Romney has criticized Barack Obama for embracing
the ideals
of the “Harvard faculty lounge.” Rick
Santorum
, more recently, has faulted Obama for encouraging all students to
attend college, which the former Pennsylvania senator has termed
“indoctrination mills.”

Continue reading Foolish Defense of the Politicized University

Is Investing in Community Colleges a Good Idea?

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President Obama’s fiscal 2013 budget contains an $8 billion program called the “Community College to Career Fund.” It would encourage community colleges, in partnerships with employers, to train about two million workers for future jobs. Since there are about 1,045 community colleges in America, the program would amount to a grant–over three years–of a little under $8 million per institution. Not all the funds, however, would go directly to the colleges themselves; some would go to state and local governments to recruit participating companies, some to underwrite an online entrepreneurship training program, and some to underwrite paid internships for low-income community-college students.

Using federal grants, the colleges would set up “community career centers where people learn crucial skills that local businesses are looking for right now, ensuring that employers have the skilled workforce they need and workers are gaining industry-recognized credentials to build strong careers,” according to a White House statement. The career centers would specifically train students for employment in health care, high technology, and “green” industries–areas expected, at least in the predictions of the Obama administration, to grow substantially over the next few years.

The federal money undoubtedly looks good to administrators at community colleges, which currently enroll some 6 million students, more than half of all Americans attending undergraduate institutions of higher learning. Nearly all community colleges, which typically award two-year associate degrees and shorter-term vocational certificates, report burgeoning enrollments during the current period of recession and shrinking funding from the strapped localities and states. There is a problem, however: community colleges have an admirable goal of providing second-chance education to young people who either performed too poorly in high school to get admitted to a conventional four-year college or can’t afford four-year-school tuition. But they have a poor track record in keeping those students around until graduation with any sort of degree or certificate.

The retention figures are not encouraging. According to the Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics, only 12 percent of community-college students earn an associate degree within the standard two years. That figure rises to 22 percent if students stay on for a third year and 28 percent if they stretch out their educations for four years, or twice the norm. Four-year colleges, by contrast, graduate about 53 percent of their students within six years. Students’ poor preparation for college-level work is clearly the reason for the dismal graduation rates of community colleges. About two-thirds of their entering students must first pass remedial math and English courses before they can qualify to take a single course for college credit–and most never succeed in passing those elementary classes. You can blame urban America’s failed K-12 system, or you can conclude that substantial numbers of young Americans lack the cognitive ability to succeed in college, but the fact remains that community colleges, with their bulging populations of directionless and under-performing students, may not be the best settings in which to produce a skilled workforce.

Exacerbating the problem is that most of the anticipated job openings in the U.S. during the near future will require workers who possess exactly the sort of math and reading-comprehension skills that most community-college students these days seem unable to master. There is currently a shortage of skilled employees in high-tech industries, and some two million manufacturing jobs are expected to open up by 2018 thanks to expected retirements–but most of those jobs require workers who can operate sophisticated machinery, follow complex instructions, and demonstrate some facility at math and statistics. The training itself for 21st-century jobs can be expensive. Mark Schneider, a former commissioner of education statistics who currently serves a vice president of the American Institutes for Research and a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, told the Associated Press that little is known about the effectiveness of most community college programs.

“We need measures of how well they are training their students, how well their students are being placed in the job market, and…are they making money?” Schneider told the AP. “We need to track them really, really carefully. And we need to make all that information available to students before they sign on…and before taxpayers subsidize all of this.”

A few months ago I surveyed some successful vocational-training programs at community colleges. In contrast to the Obama administration’s ambitious vision of using federal dollars to turn out large numbers of skilled workers in short order, these programs tended to be small-scale, dependent on modest grants from the involved industries themselves, and centered around nationally recognized certificates issued by private entities that attested to the recipients’ specific job skills and underlying cognitive attainments. Key to many of the programs was ACT’s National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC), which measures recipients’ math and reading abilities. One of the programs was at Shoreline Community College near Seattle. Shoreline used a grant from the Manufacturing Institute, a nonprofit affiliate of the National Institute of Manufacturers, to integrate the NCRC and certification from the National Institute for Metalworking Skills into a three-quarter-long manufacturing program. The program’s retention rate (95 percent) and job-placement rate (100 percent) were stellar–but it was also a small, highly focused program with only 50 students per cohort. The obvious question is: can that sort of success be replicated on a large scale with widely varying students, faculty, and educational standards–along with the potential for waste that a spigot of federal dollars always presents?

Of course it is also possible that the $8 billion that the Obama administration envisions for transforming community colleges into massive job-training centers may never materialize. In 2009 Obama’s budget promised some $12 million in federal funding to community colleges that aimed mostly at building and repairing new infrastructure. A Democratic Congress pared that amount down to $2 billion. With deficit-conscious Republicans in control of at least one chamber this time around, Obama’s promised $8 billion could be trimmed even more drastically.

Obama Fosters the Skyrocketing Tuition He Criticized

Cross-posted from Open Market.

In his State of the Union Address, President Obama decried
skyrocketing college tuition
, attempting to take advantage of public anger over the steadily-worsening college tuition bubble.
This was ironic, since his own Administration has done much to foster rising college tuitions.

For example, it imposed the 90-10 rule, which forced low-cost educational institutions to raise their tuition to comply with a new federal regulation requiring them to charge
enough over federal financial aid so that at least 10 percent of education costs don’t come from financial aid.  For example, Corinthian College had diploma programs in health care and other fields that can be completed in a year or less.  Until 2011, many of those programs had a total cost of about $15,000, which meant that federal grants and loans could cover nearly 100 percent of their cost.  In response to the Education Department’s rule, the college raised
tuition
to comply with the 90/10 rule.  The net result of the Obama Education Department’s rule was to “create a perverse, no-win ‘Catch-22’ that could prevent low-income students from attending college,” by encouraging such colleges to raise tuition to outstrip rising financial aid by more than ten percent.  Administration allies like Senator
Richard Durbin (D-IL) are now pushing a new rule, the 85-15 rule, that would require low-cost institutions to further raise tuition so that at least 15 percent of education costs aren’t covered by financial aid.  (With this kind of mentality, it is no wonder that college graduation rates have actually “fallen
somewhat
since the 1970s” “among poor and working-class students”).

Continue reading Obama Fosters the Skyrocketing Tuition He Criticized

The Times Vilifies Another Athlete, Presenting No Evidence

Over the past year, FIRE has led a campaign of civil liberties
organizations against the Obama administration’s infamous “Dear Colleague”
letter, which ordered colleges and universities to lower the burden of proof in
their on-campus judicial proceedings. The letter demanded that all universities
receiving federal funds employ a “preponderance of the evidence” standard (in
other words, a 50.1 percent degree of certainty) to determine guilt on
allegations of sexual assault.

Given that campus judicial procedures already are tilted,
often wildly so, in favor of sexual-complaint accusers, the letter has produced
a guilty-unless-proven-innocent standard for accused students. In at least one
case, that of Caleb Warner at
the University of North Dakota
, the standard (before FIRE’s involvement)
amounted to guilty even when proved innocent by the local police.

Continue reading The Times Vilifies Another Athlete, Presenting No Evidence