Soapbox: The Safe Space Issue

UC Berkeley ‘identity’ groups protest for safe spaces, block passage to white students
The College Fix
October 25, 2016

[Stepping onto soapbox:]

Attention students of the University of California, and, by extension, students of all public institutions of higher learning across this great state:

If you need a space free from debate, from intellectual challenge, and from viewpoints that you find objectionable, I am sorry, but you have come to the wrong place.

As a California taxpayer and a UC alumnus, I am more than happy to pay my taxes to ensure that you are safe from physical harm on campus, and will not tolerate violence against you from any source as long as you do none to others or their property. I will also not tolerate racism, threats of violence, or any form of coercive pressure upon you to conform to a point of view or ethos, whether that coercion is social, physical, or academic. You have every right to expect that there is room for you to state and defend your ideas.

But I will not pay one red cent either to protect you from ideas, opinions, and images you find objectionable, or from having your ideas intellectually manhandled, disproven, and perhaps even ridiculed. You are adults, ostensibly with the discernment and maturity to handle the intellectual challenges that are an integral part of the university experience.

Neither will I support you being sheltered from poor grades, providing they come not because of the opinions you hold, but because of your failure to defend them in accordance with the accepted standards of Socratic debate. Nor will I pay to protect you from poor grades if they are the result of your failure to support your argument to the academic standards that are the foundation of a liberal education.

That is not just my selfish opinion: it is stated differently, but that’s the fine print that comes when you sign your name to your enrollment forms.

An American university is not a four-year vocational school for entitled, sheltered, pampered members of the managerial class. It is a program to inculcate in you the intellectual rigor you require to take on positions of responsibility and leadership. That program is conducted via the time-honored means of adversity, challenge, debate, growth, and learning.

So if you lack the requisite discernment and maturity, if your own opinions and self-image are so fragile that you are unable to handle intellectual challenge, may I suggest, with love and respect, that maybe you are not yet ready for a university experience, and that perhaps you should pursue a different path until such time as you are ready?

So leave.

Or, better yet, get over it. Go back to class/your dorm/the library/the coffee house. Stand up. Shout your opinions. Make yourself count. Voice your anger. Fight injustice. Go to class. Learn from your professors and your adversaries how to make your voice not just heard but persuasive. And grow.

Because you may not have noticed it, but the world is not a safe place. In fact, it is getting more dangerous by the minute. The only way you will save it is by learning – and learning early – to live in a world filled with people who think, do, and express things that you find personally execrable. More important, you will need to be able to discern between someone who comes to those believes honestly, sincerely, and thoughtfully; and those who espouse their beliefs out of fear, greed, and/or ignorance.

Hail, California, and have a nice day.

[Stepping off of soapbox.]


The Closing of the Collegiate Mind

Perhaps the most nerve-racking duty of a senior class president at Scripps College in Claremont is securing a speaker for commencement. And Jennie Xu thought she had nailed it by booking Madeleine Albright , the first woman to serve as U.S. secretary of State.

Source: War criminal or role model? Madeline Albright as Scripps College commencement speaker hits a nerve – LA Times

I am sorry to say that I have lost whatever respect I had for Scripps, a once-outstanding example of what makes higher education in California so special. Today, it appears that their students are utterly incapable of entertaining – or even hearing – a political viewpoint that strays even a bit from their narrow band of correctness, whether from Madeline Albright or George Will.

What is so wrong with Madeline Albright? Whatever is wrong with George Will? Or Noam Chomsky? Or any controversial figure with a point of view? In my time in school – as not only a conservative but an officer of my College Republicans chapter – I paid to go see Angela Davis, Hunter Thompson, and a host of other somewhat lesser lights who held views I found objectionable, misguided, or repugnant, but who forced me to question my cherished values. There is nothing that all of us – scholars especially – need more than a regular forced excursion outside of one’s cloistered political echo-chamber.

If the students and faculty of Scripps are trying to send a message, the only message that is getting through is that they would prefer willful ignorance over the specter of cognitive dissonance. As a result, Scripps is in danger of downgrading itself from a respected tertiary institution to a finishing school with books, and the students and faculty will share the blame if that happens.

The Future of Harvard

In a true meritocracy, whites would be a minority of the student body. That worries some people.

Source: Is Harvard Unfair to Asian-Americans? – The New York Times

From The New York Times:

“The real problem is that, in a meritocratic system, whites would be a minority — and Harvard just isn’t comfortable with that.”

If what is being written about Harvard in this article is true, we can either rail at the university, or we can take an approach that would get the entire Harvard community to sit up and take notice.

We should make clear that it is Harvard’s right to allow itself to become a rich man’s club if it so chooses, within the letter of the law. But if it persists in its efforts to select students on the basis of something other than academic excellence, the University must understand that it places its academic reputation and ranking in danger.

No longer should we simply assume that Harvard is deserving of its place as an academically elite institution. As a finishing school for legacies and the well-to-do, I am sure it will contine to serve. But it cannot keep rejecting the finest American minds and cling to the myth that it remains the nation’s finest university.

Studying at the University of McDonalds

We must remember that putting oneself first is the essence of privilege, and that, in order to grow, we must leave this selfish mindset behind.

Source: What Working At McDonald’s Taught Me About Privilege | The Odyssey

Haverford College student Olivia Legaspi worked her way through college at the counter of a McDonald’s, and discovered that the values being promulgated at US universities are not what we need to be successful in life.

I have no doubt that Legaspi is not the only student in her school who feels this way, and that a large legion of current students in universities across America would agree. We need to hear more of their voices, if for no other reason so that we do not despair for having raised a generation of selfish narcissists. But the most important role Legaspi and her cohort can play is to shame their schoolmates who demand coddled comfort as their entitlement rather than challenge, rigor, and potent doses of hard truth.

It is fun for an AARP member like myself to toss around phrases like “Generation Snowflake.” Olivia Legaspi gives lie to that phrase.

Religious Universities: The Coming Reckoning


David Wheeler resents his conservative Evangelical education, and believes that it’s scandalous that students can use federal student loan aid to “attend a college that not only discriminates against legally married gay students, but also forbids students from dancing.”

Source: False Neutrality & the Left | The American Conservative

Dreher again.

This is a fascinating article for a lot of reasons, but it caught my eye because it is another signal that some on the Left wish to turn the crusade for gay marriage into a crusade against those who oppose it.

I don’t buy “slippery slope” arguments, so I am reluctant to believe that a rejection of, say, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, is necessarily the beginning of a liberal/Left/Progressive jihad against those who believe homosexuality or gay marriage to be morally wrong.

But when a professor of journalism suggests in The Chronicle of Higher Education that a college must abandon its religious-based convictions about sex, gender, and human nature in order for its students to receive federal aid, the ground ‘neath one’s feed suddenly develops a sharp downward slope and greasy ice forms afore one’s eyes.

This amounts to a morals test. If you believe that some behaviors allowed under the law are immoral, and wish to attend a university that holds those same convictions, that you are disqualified from receiving federal student aid. No problem, you say: they can go to a state school. That’s a great idea, except that in many states, California among them, state schools (including community colleges) are packed, leaving private, mostly parochial institutions as the primary choice for a number of students. You are, in effect, restricting the neediest students to institutions least able to accept or serve them. And, by the way, over fifty historically black colleges and universities in the US are private, religious universities.

We can – and will – argue about whether so many students in the US should be going to college, but we are not going to have that discussion until we come up with a better alternative. In the meantime, our goal should be to enable an education as far as a student can take it.

Absent assurances to the contrary, it is reasonable to assume that next on the docket would be removing federal research grants to professors at schools who have a moral stance on matters of sex and gender. Remember, when we’re talking about de-funding research, this is not just about Oklahoma Wesleyan or Liberty Baptist. We’re also talking about Notre Dame, Loyola, St. Johns, Georgetown, Villanova, Holy Cross, Yeshiva University, Gonzaga, Fordham, Trinity, Brigham Young, and hundreds of other respected centers of academic endeavor.

If we proceed down this path, there will come a point at which the government is essentially demanding the complete secularization of these institutions, or, unless the institution can suddenly find other sources of funding, their closure. At what point does all of this begin to transgress upon the Free Exercise clause, especially when many of these schools train and ordain both theologians and clergy? Further, at what point does this begin to have a depressive effect on both the quality and the availability of university educations?

One of the unique and remarkable aspects of American higher education is the sheer diversity of institutions available to prospective students. Historically religious colleges and universities make up an important part of that diversity. Men and women of faith who are also scholars have an opportunity to teach in an environment that accommodates their lifestyles. Students of faith have an opportunity to learn in an environment where the focus is both academics and the development of moral character. Both of those situations are unavailable in secular state institutions, and the full scope of fields of endeavor and all of America would be the worse off without them. Leaving aside the questionable legality of secularization, this would be a national self-inflicted wound.


A University is not Adult Day Care

OKWU Campus

At OKWU, we teach you to be selfless rather than self-centered. We are more interested in you practicing personal forgiveness than political revenge. We want you to model interpersonal reconciliation rather than foment personal conflict. We believe the content of your character is more important than the color of your skin. We don’t believe that you have been victimized every time you feel guilty and we don’t issue “trigger warnings” before altar calls.

Dr. Everett Piper
Oklahoma Wesleyan University
 This is Not a Day Care. It’s a University!

Would that every president of every university in America could express himself/herself with such candor, clarity, and leadership.

University faculty and staff, especially those at my alma mater, the University of California: stop kowtowing to students, and stop selecting as chancellors and presidents inoffensive invertebrates. That is not what built the modern American university, and it will be the lack of strong leadership that will speed the decline of higher education in the United States.

Yale and the Apotheosis of Infantile Leftism

“Free speech is all well and good, apparently, when the speaker is a bigoted lunatic from a “marginalized” group; not so good when the person in question is a Yale professor advocating for her students’ freedom to choose a Halloween costume.”

Source: Where Are The Adults at Yale? – Tablet Magazine

Read James Kirchick’s article. It is not perfect – he tries to make too many points at once – but he manages to make many that are worth positing.

First, that there are better ways to handle hateful speech, much less moderate arguments from a “well-meaning child developmental psychologist,” than plead for safe-rooms and the elimination of opposing voices on campus. He did so when he was a student, engaging in open debate without calling for institutional retribution against the individual (or the campus groups that sponsored him) who attacked both his identity and him personally.

Second, that any parallels between what is happening at Yale and the campus uprisings of the 1960s is superficial at best. Five decades ago the demand was for student empowerment and the freedom of speech on campus; now students are demanding protection from emotional pain and the end to free and open debate.

Third, that the current issue at Yale is the natural evolution of an identity politics that has devolved to ” ‘grievance mongering,’ which holds that the relative virtue of an argument is directly proportional to the professed ‘marginalization’ of its proponent,” and that whatever the virtues of such thinking may be, it is inimical to the goals of a liberal education.

Fourth, that the condemnation of such behavior comes not just from conservative old white men, but from acknowledged liberals like President Barack Obama.

And finally, that a university is not and should not be a democracy. It is, rather, an environment run by leading educators with the advice and input of students and primarily for the benefit of those students. Thanks to the efforts of the student movement of the 1960s, those being educated have a vote in the way a university is run. But they do not be pandered to and allowed to run rampant over the operation of the university, if for no other reason than their short-term desires are often at odds with the long-term interests of the university and the wider community it serves.


Greg Lukianoff: The New Yorker is wrong about Free Speech

“It’s because The New Yorker has a history of publishing great articles like Packer’s that I was so disappointed to read Kelefa Sanneh’s article, “The Hell You Say,” in the August 10 edition of the magazine. In the article, Sanneh likens free speech advocates (like me, I assume) to “gun nuts,” claims that campus speech codes have mostly been repealed (which is completely false), then bizarrely questions if people can believe in a diversity of belief. Those of us who are big fans of the concept of pluralism found the latter particularly mystifying.”

Source: A Dozen Things ‘The New Yorker’ Gets Wrong about Free Speech (And Why It Matters) | Greg Lukianoff

Read both Sanneh’s article and Lukianoff’s rebuttal. At the very least, Sanneh makes good points badly.

Defending the Liberal Arts Education is Not the Issue

Why America’s obsession with STEM education is dangerous”
Fareed Zakaria
The Washington Post
March 26, 2015

Out stumping for his new book In Defense of a Liberal Education, public intellectual Fareed Zakaria makes a case in the Washington Post that our national obsession with improving math and science education and de-emphasizing humanities is a dangerous path toward doffing our global competitive advantage. (NB: to clarify, Mr. Zakaria means “liberal” as in “liberal arts,” not “liberal politics.”

As the possessor of a bachelors degree in a liberal arts field, I am loathe to argue with Mr. Zakaria. Nonetheless, if his essay is any indicator of the content of his book I will not be adding it to my shelves anytime soon. There are several reasons.

The Higher Education Cost Bubble

First, no discussion about the nature of a university education can be divorced from its cost. It is too expensive to get a bachelor’s degree in this country, and that is burdening aged parents and turning our college graduates into wage slaves. Until we solve that problem – or make great strides toward it – everything else is so much re-arranging of deck furniture.

Before we go tossing money at the problem, we need to put the pressure on public universities to re-examine what they are doing with their funds. Money that is not going to scholarships, classrooms, labs, teaching staff, libraries, and the basic infrastructure to support students and instructors is being wasted. A half million new administrators have been added to university employment rolls in the US in the past 25 years, growing faster than student bodies. We need to look at what can be done to reduce the administrative burden on universities and reduce the number of administrators. Our target: cut administrators-per-student by 50% in 5 years.  Let’s cut capital spending on gold-plated facilities that turn universities into resorts with classrooms.

What is a BA For, Anyway?

Second, we should not be defending the liberal arts status quo any more than we should be stripping funding of the humanities. What we should be doing instead is conducting a national debate about the purpose of a baccalaureate degree. Is four years enough? Is it too much? How do we make it more affordable? And, most importantly, what should the content be?

Should we not be trying to create young men and women comfortably conversant in the idioms of a broad range of fields rather than laying on a minimal core requirement of box-ticking introductory-level courses? Would we not be better off filling the first two – or even three – years of a bachelor’s degree with rigorous survey courses in the humanities, in the social sciences, in physical sciences, in mathematics, leavened with composition, rhetoric, computer science, and foreign language, all prior to the commencement of the major program of study?

For if we are going to agree that the bachelor’s degree is not a vocational qualification, we should agree on its purpose, and I suggest that the purpose is to create a future filled with people capable of drawing from a range of fields to feed their creativity and our competitiveness. We want Renaissance Men and Women in the 21st Century sense, young people who could write a sonnet or an app, as comfortable at the easel as they are at the keyboard.

Those charged with teaching undergraduates would protest, I am sure, that not everyone could keep up with such requirements. No, probably not. But that brings us to my final point.

College As We Know It is Not For Everyone

We need to start a discussion in this country about whether everyone can – or should – have a bachelor of arts degree in the same way everyone can – or should – have a high school diploma. Each of us knows intelligent, capable 18 year-olds (or former 18 year-olds) for whom four or five years in the quest for a BA would have been a fruitless, frustrating, and wasteful endeavor. Indeed, there are 16-year olds for whom the last two years of high school are a waste of time. It is now time to ask whether we should be placing them on the same treadmill, or whether we should be offering something more valuable: an education designed to make them employable, productive, and, secure.

It is past time for us to begin to frame the future of trade and technical education, not only as an alternative track to a baccalaureate program, but as a means of offering retraining opportunities as job markets train. The decline of trade and technical education over the past four decades means that technical education has only been available through costly for-profit institutions, or offered as a part of an enlistment in the armed forces. Our young people should not have to put on a uniform or go into debt to learn the fundamentals of key trades or technical specialities, particularly those for which there is a constant need: machinists, auto repair, medical paraprofessionals, construction trades, bookkeepers, child care and elder care specialists, and food preparation specialists are just a few of the career areas for which our revived vocational school programs could cater. Many of these could be conducted in cooperation with local industries, expanding programs that already exist to provide a clear path from the classroom to the workplace.

Instead of cranking out millions of young people who will never find adequate employment to offset the costs of their college educations, we will be turning out ranks of readily employable apprentices, unsaddled with debt and ready to go to work. We need to forge a pathway for them to rewarding careers based on essential skills without owing their souls to the University of Phoenix, ITT-Tech, or DeVry.

The system cannot be framed in a handful of paragraphs, but issues like these suggest that Mr. Zakaria may well have done us all a greater service by using his bully pulpit to start a larger discussion about the real problems in American education.

We need to start this discussion to decide not if we are going to do this, but how. It is time for us to tear down our system of education and rebuild it from the bottom up. That is the only way we are going to ensure that our grandkids have a shot at a life even remotely as comfortable as our own.

Fired African-American Professor: Diversity ≠ Fairness

For his part, Mawakana says that making a broken system more diverse won’t make it fair. “It doesn’t matter if the professors are majority white, majority blue, or majority purple: they are achieving a racially discriminatory result.”

via Denied Tenure, Professors Sue Over Discrimination – Bloomberg Business.

Thank you, professor Mawakana. Can we now allow all universities to summarily fire their diversity staffs, and focus instead on enforcing a fair system?

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