Author: Peter Wood

Peter Wood is president of the National Association of Scholars and author of “Diversity: the Invention of a Concept.”

‘Dignity,’ Another Legal Trojan Horse

“Dignity” has been taken out for another walk around the block.  In February 2014, I wrote an essay on Minding the Campus in which I commented on Attorney General Eric Holder’s speech to the Swedish Parliament, wherein he spoke of his nation’s commitment to the “dignity” of “every human being.” Over the last couples of […]

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Is ‘Get a Job’ the Purpose of College?

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker just made an unforced error.  He proposed—then backed away from—a change in the mission statement for the University of Wisconsin.  I admire Walker and view him as among the more attractive candidates for the Republican nomination.  And in that spirit, I’d like to offer him some friendly advice on a potentially […]

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The Muslim Call to Prayer at Duke

On January 14—a Wednesday—Duke University announced its decision to broadcast a Muslim call to prayer (the adhan) on campus at 1:00 every Friday afternoon.  An uproar ensued, fueled in part by Franklin Graham (son of Billy Graham) writing about the decision on his Facebook page.  The next day, Duke backed down, canceling its plan to issue the amplified adhan from […]

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Ferguson and the Decline in Anthropology

As examples of what my academic field, anthropology, has sunk to, here are four responses to the shooting and riots in Ferguson appearing in the current issue of Anthropology News. Each is  a retelling of what might be called the left’s canonical myth of Ferguson: facts submerged in a sea of fiction. Pem Davidson Buck, […]

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Marquette’s Reputation at Stake

“Be the difference” is the motto of Marquette University, the generally not-very-newsworthy Jesuit university in Milwaukee.  Marquette is in the news now for reasons that it cannot be very happy about. First a teaching assistant at the Catholic institution, Cheryl Abbate, a doctoral student in philosophy, was caught on tape earlier this year giving a […]

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Campus Tolerance for Violence

The post-Ferguson and post-Garner racial agitation has led to a wave of violent rhetoric and actual violence in the United States. Street protesters have called for “pigs in blankets,” declaring, “Arms up, shoot back,” and asking, “What do want? Dead cops.  When do we want it? Now.” This rhetoric has campus amplifiers. Is the infatuation with violence […]

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How Data-Mining Hurts Higher Education

Many colleges and universities have adopted data-mining to improve student retention and to channel students to courses and programs that the institutions judge most appropriate.  The future of higher education is here and it is, in spirit, benignly totalitarian.  Goldie Blumenstyk, writing about it in the New York Times, (“Blowing Off Class?  We Know”) emphasizes […]

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Libertarians vs. Progressives: The New Campus Divide

American college students these days seem to divide by moral temperament into two very different cohorts.  On one hand, a large number of students prize the freedom to do and say what they want and deeply dislike the constraints of external authority.  On the other hand, a large number of students prize social control as […]

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Common Core–The Elites Did It

At the invitation of the Alabama chapter of Eagle Forum—Phyllis Schafly’s pro-family conservative organization—I flew to Birmingham last week to give a talk on the Common Core K-12 State Standards.  Alabama was one of only a few states I had never set foot in.  When I mentioned that to an elderly gentleman I met at […]

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Stanley Fish Looks Postmodernly at Academic Freedom

Whatever their ostensible subjects, Stanley Fish’s books tend to be about Stanley Fish. His new one, Versions of Academic Freedom, extends the conceit. Which is not to say that the book is only a “Version of Stanley Fish.” It is also a succinct, well-informed, and often elegant essay.  Fish’s great talent is compression.  In this […]

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A Climate March against Capitalism

About 400,000 people assembled yesterday along Central Park West and marched down though Columbus Circle, to Midtown, and then east to the United Nations.  Billed as “The People’s Climate March,” the event was intended to focus the attention of national leaders in town for the United Nations Climate Summit, which starts on Tuesday. Some 50,000 […]

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‘Bill, You’re Wrong about Common Core’

For years, Bill Bennett, former U.S. Secretary of Education, has avoided taking a position on the Common Core K-12 State Standards.  But yesterday he declared himself in favor. His essay in The Wall Street Journal, under the headline “The Conservative Case for Common Core,” dwells on the idea that conservatives generally favor good books, shared […]

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Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome

Here comes PTSS, the latest concoction in the crowded field of group grievance. That would be Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome, the invention of “Dr. Joy,” Joy DuGruy, billed as ” the nationally and internationally renowned” researcher and educator. I will venture a guess that PTSS hasn’t yet caught the attention of many readers of Minding […]

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Making Jefferson, Madison and Franklin Disappear

History News Network In 2012, the College Board released a new set of standards for the Advanced Placement United States History (APUSH) course. APUSH vanishes some figures who would seem indispensable to any basic history of the United States. This is American history seemingly without Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison. “Seemingly” is a key word. If you […]

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Pushing American History as a Long Tale of Oppression

The Republican National Committee adopted a resolution on August 8 criticizing the College Board’s new Advanced Placement U.S. History (APUSH) course and exam. The RNC called for the College Board to “delay the implementation” of APUSH for one year and convene a committee to draft a new framework “consistent with” the traditional mission of the […]

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Campus Activism: the Fight for Imaginary Victories

This article is third in a series on “the year that was” in higher education. The first two articles are here and here.  Campus activism is, by and large, the world of make-believe.  Whenever students occupy a president’s office, Tinkerbell is not far away.  Whenever faculty demand a boycott, Professor Dumbledore winks at Professor Snape.

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Look What the College Board Has Done to U.S. History

The College Board recently released its new AP U.S. History (APUSH) Curriculum Framework.  It is, in many respects, a dispiriting document.  A great deal of important U.S. history is given cursory treatment and some ideological themes are sounded rather loudly.

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Climate Reparations—A New Demand

At the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference in December 2009, leaders from more than a hundred nations gathered to consider an agenda that included a massive transfer of money from developed countries to the Third World.  The developed states were tagged to provide $130 billion by 2020 to help developing nations deal with the consequences of […]

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Questioning the Data on Sexual Assault

National Association of Scholars How frequent are sexual assaults on campus? President Obama recently cited the estimate that one in five women enrolled in college suffer sexual assault by the time they graduate. The Bureau of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey, based on reported crimes, put the rate at 1 in 40. Reported crimes inevitably fall short […]

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Stanford Divests–and Entangles Itself

Stanford University’s board of trustees has voted to divest from the university’s $18.7 billion endowment all of its holdings in coal-based energy companies.  The university, which is private, has not disclosed what holdings these are, their market value, or the likely cost to the institution in foregone growth of its portfolio. The significance of the […]

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Why Do Most College Students Think the Same Thoughts?

When I was an undergraduate in the early 1970s at an elite liberal arts college, my anthropology professor assigned me as a paper topic, “Why do nearly all the students in the college wear blue jeans?”  It was a surprisingly tough question.  Looking around, virtually every student at the all-male college was wearing Levis or […]

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High Art Deserves a High Place in Higher Education

How do the fine arts fit with the liberal arts?  Not as well as one might think. Painting, music, photography, and other arts are often part of today’s jumbled curriculum, but they seldom have the academic status of disciplines such as English and art history.  The situation is reversed when it comes to public status, where having a prize-winning […]

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Outside the ‘Consensus’–
Notes of a Climate Change ‘Denier’

As a child I relished picking through rocks to find fossils of the lush tropical swamp that once covered my corner of southwest Pennsylvania. On trips to Ohio I collected specimens of the briny brachiopods that littered the floor of an inland ocean. Climate changes. I knew that by age seven. Whether it is changing […]

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Common Core: Peter Replies to Sol Stern

My friend Sol Stern has published a rejoinder here to two essays I recently published about the Common Core K-12 State Standards.  Sol had quite a bit to say and I have replied point by point in an essay on the National Association of Scholars website.  What follows is an abbreviated account.  Sol makes, by […]

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What the Common Core Will Do to Colleges

Changes in the SAT, announced on March 5 by the College Board, adjust the test to the ongoing decline in the nation’s public schools. The new test lightens vocabulary and math and eliminates the penalty for bad guessing. The new SAT grows out of and accommodates the Common Core State Standards, the controversial set of […]

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The SAT Upgrade Is a Big Mistake

The College Board is reformulating the SAT.  Again. The new changes, like others that have been instituted since the mid 1990s, are driven by politics.  David Coleman, head of the College Board, is also the chief architect of the Common Core K-12 State Standards, which are now mired in controversy across the country.  Coleman’s initiative in revising the […]

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Academic Justice and Intellectual Thuggery

By now, Ms. Sandra Y. L. Korn must be wondering whether she picked her words wisely.  On Monday, February 17, Ms. Korn, a Harvard senior, published an essay in The Harvard Crimson, titled “The Doctrine of Academic Freedom,” with the explosive sub-head, “Let’s give up on academic freedom in favor of justice.”  The Crimson has […]

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‘Dignity’–New Verbal Weapon of the Left

The academic left has created a great deal of mischief by appropriating wholesome words for unwholesome ends. This game has been perfected with diversity, inclusion, social justice, and sustainability–all words that mean roughly the opposite of what they sound like.  Diversity on college campuses denotes both lockstep conformity on identity group politics and radical stereotyping of people by race.  Inclusion means excluding […]

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Iced Out: We Held a Conference
and Bowdoin Stayed Home

On February 6 the Maine Heritage Policy Center sponsored a small conference in Brunswick, Maine. The idea was to present a follow-up to the National Association of Scholars’ lengthy study, What Does Bowdoin Teach? How a Contemporary Liberal Arts College Shapes Students, by following one of its many threads. KC Johnson, one of the speakers, published […]

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Defending the Humanities and Heather Mac Donald

Heather Mac Donald may be the Ida Tarbell of our age: a writer who combines a meticulous eye for facts, intellectual brilliance, a sure sense of the historical moment, and deep moral seriousness. Tarbell is famous for her History of the Standard Oil Company, serialized in McClure’s Magazine between 1902 and 1904, and is celebrated today by the Left for […]

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