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Why President Obama's Rankings Are a Good Place to Start, Kevin Carey, Chronicle of Higher Education, March 10
Crying About Student Debt?, Robert L. Burns, Chronicle of Higher Education, March 10
Professionalism and Formality, Will Miller, Inside Higher Ed, March 10
The Other Higher Education Bubble: Labor Supply, James Patterson, The Federalist, March 7
How PowerPoint is Ruining Higher-Ed, Rebecca Schuman, Slate, March 7
Are Systems Bad for Flagships?, Robert Berdahl, Steven Sample and Raquel M. Rall, Inside Higher Ed, March 7
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The SAT Upgrade Is a Big Mistake
By Peter Wood
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 SAT should be seen first of all as a rescue mission. As the Common Core flounders, he is
throwing it an SAT life preserver.
I'll explain, but first let's get the essentials of how the SAT is about
March 10, 2014
Another day, another report on "gender inequities" in STEM fields. Early Academic Career Pathways in STEM: Do Gender and Family Status Matter?, just released by the American Institutes for Research, begins by summarizing the familiar litany of laments: not enough women on STEM faculties, and the few there "are more likely than men to be in lower academic ranks and work at less prestigious institutions" than men and receive an insufficient "level of recognition, career affirmation, and resources."
Ho hum. This report, however, does contain one interesting finding: "Not only overall, but regardless of marital and parental status, significantly higher proportions of women than men had secured academic versus nonacademic positions upon earning their STEM PhDs." 79% of women began their careers in academia, the Chronicle of Higher Education noted in its discussion of the new report, while only 67% of men did so.
The fact that a higher proportion of women than men with new STEM Ph.Ds are choosing academic careers, even if they are young mothers, ought to produce some reconsideration of the vast flow of funds now devoted to analyzing and removing the various "barriers" that are thought to turn them away.
Typical of these programs is the National Science Foundation's ADVANCE program, in which NSF has invested "over $130M," whose goal "is to develop systemic approaches to increase the representation and advancement of women in academic STEM careers." In addition to the ubiquitous "implicit and explicit bias,"one of the barriers -- which the ADVANCE program refers to as "external factors" -- to be overcome is the "differential effect of work and family demands" on women STEM academics. The new American Institutes for Research study, however, finds no such "differential effect" in choosing in choosing an academic career. Any disadvantage from being married and having children, it concludes, exists "for both men and women."
Or take another NSF program, Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP), a program I discussed here a week or so ago that is devoted to encouraging "underrepresented minorities"(URMs) to prepare for and enter "academic STEM careers at all types of institutions of higher education," in large part so that they can provide "role models" for other URMs to choose academic STEM careers.
If women STEM graduates are already choosing academic careers disproportionately more than men, is this plethora of gender-based proselytizing programs really necessary?
Someone should do a major study -- and make no mistake: it would be a major project requiring extensive research -- of just how much money the National Science Foundation, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and other government agencies and private institutions spend each year -- not on producing more science, technology, engineering, and math but trying to socially engineer the STEM workforce. Add to that sum the amount spent on studies and reports pointing out the "inequities" that demand such spending and in not too many years the result would probably be enough to send a woman to the moon.
is an excerpt from remarks by Professor Robert Paquette, co-founder of
the Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization,
on winning the Jeane Jordan Kirkpatrick Prize for Academic Freedom, Friday,
March 7, at the CPAC convention in Maryland. The award is sponsored by the
American Conservative Union Foundation and the Lynde and Harry Bradley
At many of the most prestigious liberal
arts colleges in the United States, departments of English no longer require of
its majors the reading of Shakespeare; departments of history mandate that its
majors take multiple courses in non-Western history but have either no
requirement or a token requirement for American history. Faculty,
administrators, and trustees have openly betrayed the finest traditions of
liberal arts education by passing off the swindle known as the open curriculum,
which, in truth, means the no curriculum, as something somehow worthy of a
$60,000 per year price tag.
I have lived in the belly of the beast of
higher education for 33 years as a practicing historian. The animating
principles of that great experiment in republican government, I tell my
students, centered on the defense of limited government, voluntary exchange,
private property, and civil freedom. Does anyone in the audience tonight
believe that more than a tiny fraction of students graduate from college these
days with a deep and abiding appreciation of the worth of these principles?
Or is it more likely that a substantial number of students graduate able to
parrot one or another fashionable and distortional discourses of oppression in
which we see--and here I paraphrase from any number of listings in college
catalogues-- the intersections of class, race, gender, and sexuality.
For the Doubting Thomases, I
say perform this simple experiment: Go to the home page of the website of
any elite college or university in the United States. Activate the
search engine by plugging in such words as social justice, sustainability,
diversity, multiculturalism, sexism, racism, Marx, activist, and identities.
Total the references. Now perform a similar search for, say, conservative,
entrepreneur, Western civilization, Shakespeare, Judaic, Aristotle, and
Christian. Get the point.
A major theme of my Duke
lacrosse blog has been the almost complete lack of accountability for
statements and judgments on the case made by academics and journalists. Duke's
trustees awarded the institution's feckless president, Richard Brodhead,
another five-year term. No fewer than four members of the Group of 88--the
faculty who rushed to judgment in a guilt-presuming ad--left Duke for more
prestigious positions at other schools. (The most recent such announcement came
a mere two weeks ago.) Imagine the fate of professors in the politically
correct academy who had rushed to judgment against more favored groups on
The media experience was
similar. Selena Roberts, the sports columnist who drove much of the Times' guilt-presuming message, was
hired away by Sports Illustrated. (Roberts,
for those with short memories, compared
members of the lacrosse team--"a group of
privileged players of fine pedigree entangled in a night that threatens to
belie their social standing as human beings"--to "drug dealers and gang members
engaged in an anti-snitch campaign.") And
Duff Wilson, the chief reporter for the Times'
hilariously one-sided news coverage, went on to become associate editor for Reuters' global enterprise
unit--and, almost incredibly, an adjunct professor at Columbia's School of Journalism, where he'll have the opportunity to influence the
next generation of journalists.
But a lack
of accountability for politically correct campus-related reporting is hardly
confined to the Duke lacrosse case. Take, for instance, the case of Katie
Baker. A few months ago, I critiqued Baker's odd Newsweek reporting about
one of the earliest California legislative efforts to weaken campus due
process. In her article (a hard-news piece, not an op-ed), Baker repeatedly
described accusers as "sexual assault survivors" or the "victim"--suggesting
that she believes that the mere filing of a complaint indicates that a rape
occurred. She also passed along, without critical comment, a highly
controversial Justice Department claim that college women are four times more
likely to be sexually assaulted than the rest of the population. Skepticism
about what the government says doesn't appear to be Baker's forte.
It turns out that the presentation
in the Newsweek piece reflected
Baker's basic beliefs about due process and sexual assault. She had come to Newsweek from Jezebel, where
she labeled the Wall Street Journal's
James Taranto as a "prolific woman-hating troll."
(Those in the reality-based community on this issue know Taranto as author of
perhaps the single best exposé of the effects of a lack of due process on
campus, in his column about Auburn.) For good measure, Baker described Taranto
as a "cockroach," and added--in all caps--"HE IS THE WORST."
Reflecting her commitment to
open intellectual exchange, Baker announced that she was "not interested in
engaging with Taranto."
(or, perhaps, because of?) this record, Baker has just been hired by BuzzFeed. Her
task will be "to cover
criminal justice and other legal and social issues related to college
campuses," and assisting another reporter in the publication's "rape culture
process, it seems, be damned.
March 7, 2014
you stop and think, it's unfair to the many writers at the New York Times who produce columns that don't have an ideological
edge, to tar them with the brush that is rightly applied to its overwhelmingly
unfair and unbalanced editorial pages. Just because the most conspicuous part
of a newspaper is terribly slanted is not a good reason to think badly of the
rest of it. Guilt by association is always a bad, illogical practice.
occasions that introduction is a recent New
York Times piece by writer Eduardo Porter, "The
Bane and the Boon of For-Profit Colleges." Because many liberal politicians
(most notably Iowa's Tom Harkin) have had knives drawn against for-profit higher
education, you might expect that the Times
would take the same stance, but Porter's article is not a hit piece at all.
begins by interviewing Marc Jerome, vice president of Monroe College, which has two campuses
in the New York area. The college is indeed a business, founded 80 years ago by
Mr. Jerome's grandfather. It is emphatically not a degree mill. Porter notes
that more than 90 percent of recent graduates tracked by the school either
continued their education or found employment. (Many well-known, non-profit
colleges couldn't match that record.)
irritates Mr. Jerome is the way for-profits have been singled out for hostile political
attack. Some certainly have scammed gullible students, but not his school.
"Targeting only for-profit institutions and exempting nonprofit institutions
with poor outcomes is ultimately more harmful to the students the
administration is seeking to protect," he states. Clumsy federal regulations
meant to solve one problem (the fact that many students who enroll in
for-profit colleges don't graduate and find "gainful employment") are likely to
have the unintended consequence of harming students who will be lured into
non-profits that will be worse for them.
piece doesn't quite articulate the crucial point, although readers might find
it between the lines: There is nothing necessarily bad about for-profit
education, nor anything necessarily good about non-profit education. In both,
the problem lies in the way we subsidize education.
Friedman often said that when people spend their own money, they're much more
careful than when they spend someone else's money. That's just as true about
education as anything else.
students are mostly spending other people's money through grants or seemingly
benign government loans, they are far less careful about getting good value than
if they were spending their own money. Schools
offering good educational value for the dollar, like Monroe College evidently
does, will do fine in a system without easy federal money. Degree mill scams, on the other hand, will
wither and die, for-profit and nonprofit alike.
has written a commendably fair and balanced piece. Some Times writers do that, just as some for-profit colleges are good
One of the biggest challenges MOOCs
face is facilitating community and conversations among students. The MOOC I'm
taking, "Introduction to Sustainability," has three main kinds of discussion forums
where students can start conversation "threads" and respond to others: 1) one
for general discussion in which people post about anything they think is relevant;
2) video lecture forums where students respond to each individual lecture; 3) forums
devoted to each week, sorting comments by syllabus chronology rather than by recurring
The comments range from
self-interested (an advertisement for one student's start-up wifi provider) to
helpful (advice to Mac users whose operating systems can mess up some comment
formatting) to inquisitive (does cap and trade reduce carbon emissions?). When
I started a thread asking students if they thought environmental devotion was
an ethical duty that trumped economic analysis, I found that the act of writing
and citing sources made my question and its responses more thoughtful than
either one might have been otherwise. But I also found that the anonymity of
the Internet can make it easier for some to ignore civility. The three
discussion "conduct standards" in the forum instructions remind students to be
polite, be sensitive, and post appropriate content. (Nothing about a student's
duty to post true statements or logical arguments, incidentally.)
This week, Professor Tomkin is
giving extra credit to those who post a recommendation for a particular
environmental policy and who respond to other people's recommendations.
Usually, though, there's no reward for commenting; to post or not to post is up
to the student. This lack of incentive makes conversations worse than they
might be in person, where professors' expectations and the instinct to defend
one's opinions can drive students to participate. Online, everything depends on
the student's own initiative. But that laissez faire policy also creates better
outcomes than in most online courses, where students complete trivial
commenting exercises yet have little interest in their distant classmates. In
the MOOC, students comment only when they have genuine questions. Thus there
are fewer discussions, but the students who participate care more about
That can also mean, though, that
more students are posting questions than are responding. Indeed, most of the posts
have been viewed by about 30 students, according to the running counts shown
next to the thread titles, and many have only one post, the original question,
per thread. Several have two to five posts as a couple of students interact. The
longest thread I've seen has 46, and the second longest, 30; that thread was
titled "I'm finding the quizzes difficult. How about you?"
Professor Tomkin himself is beyond
the students' reach, though at the end of each week we get an email from him recapping
that week's content and summarizing what he considered the most interesting
student exchanges. There are notices
posted on the course page reminding us that "the instructor is not able to
answer emails sent directly to his account" and "all questions should be posted
to one of the above forums." Instead, a
number of "community TAs" from the University of Illinois monitor the forums and
post occasional responses.
(This is Part 3 of Rachelle De Jong's series on taking a MOOC. You can find Part 2 here and Part 1 here.)
March 6, 2014
Cross-posted from See Thru Edu
is some sort of poetic justice or perfect symmetry in the recent discovery that
a Duke University student is paying her tuition by working as a porn star.
There are certainly schools with more Bacchanalian social structures than Duke;
many of its students are quite serious about their educations and have enough
self-respect to avoid the worst campus excesses. But Duke's recent
sex-scandal-ridden history, featuring incredibly weak administrative
leadership, makes it the perfect place for yet another such humiliation.
libidinous atmosphere was first hinted at in Tom Wolfe's novel, I
Am Charlotte Simmons, published in 2004 (although Wolfe denied his
fictitious Dupont University was based on Duke, the many parallels and
coincidences were hard to ignore). It became the poster child for campus
licentiousness in 2006 when a scandal erupted over a stripper who
falsely accused lacrosse
team members of rape. The school's response, from president
Dick Brodhead to the Gang of 88 faculty members, was to vilify the
accused students and paint targets on their backs, even though there was
considerable evidence that the woman was lying. (Questions raised then
regarding her mental instability were recently confirmed when she was convicted
of murdering her boyfriend.) Brodhead eventually had to apologize for siding
with the stripper and the radical faculty members, but his reputation as a
cowardly follower of the worst faculty elements was cemented.
2008, a Duke
performance by the
"Sex Worker's Art Show" led to national exposure of the exceedingly raunchy and
antisocial antics of a travelling troupe of strippers and prostitutes. (Due to
that exposure, the Art Show no longer tours college campuses.) The performance
was partially paid for with school funds under the control of the administration.
was followed by the Karen Owens
scandal in 2010. Owens
was a Duke student who created a PowerPoint presentation describing in
cringe-inducing detail her numerous sexual liaisons with athletes. She showed
it to another student who put it on the web for public viewing, where it went
viral. The derision directed toward the Duke community was so great that
Brodhead again leapt into action, this time by admonishing the student body in
a weakly worded email, asking them to behave better.
him appear even more ineffectual, Brodhead's tepid attempt at leadership
coincided with a campus visit by a so-called "sex educator"--again, partially
paid for by funds distributed by his administration--who encouraged young women
to experiment sexually with wild abandon. The expert offered such common sense
advice as suggesting that it was okay for a young woman to go home with a
complete stranger from a bar as long as they could "gaze longingly into each
others' eyes," and that American children should begin having sex as early as
puberty, "like they do in Europe." In fact, such "educators" regularly appear
on the Duke campus, with the administration offering both funding and its
Continue reading "Will Duke President Address Latest Scandal?" »
Rutgers's faculty and campus
newspaper are offering one final lesson for its seniors: don't engage with opposing views.
On the recommendation of its Board of Governors, New Jersey's flagship public university has invited
Condoleezza Rice to address the graduating class of 2014. Dr. Rice, of course,
is both an accomplished scholar and dedicated public servant. Her life story is
remarkable--born and raised in the Jim Crow South, she rose to become Stanford
University's provost, President Bush's national security advisor and America's
first female African-American secretary of state. By any reasonable standard,
she is a fine choice for commencement speaker.
This hasn't stopped members of the Rutgers Faculty
Council from adopting
a resolution urging the university to rescind its invitation. For them,
Rice's role in the Bush administration renders her persona non grata. Rutgers' Daily Targum agreed, proclaiming
"we just don't feel comfortable having politicians as commencement speakers at
Even taking the editorial board at its word, a
no-politician standard is ludicrous. Would the Targum oppose President Obama, Hillary Clinton, or Elizabeth Warren
(who was granted an honorary degree from Rutgers in 2011 with little protest) as
possible commencement speakers because those on the right may find them
Note that the invitation to Condoleezza Rice has already been extended. As the C.
Vann Woodward Report observed, "Once an invitation [to speak] is accepted
and the event is publicly announced, there are high risks involved if a
University official ... attempts by public or private persuasion to have the
invitation rescinded." Why? Because it sends the message that being shielded from
those with whom you may disagree is preferable to hearing what they have to
say--a notion antithetical to the pursuit of truth that is the heartbeat of a
Of course, Secretary Rice is unlikely to touch on
politics in her address. What the Faculty Council is really saying is that pursuing
certain policies can render an individual unfit to speak at Rutgers, no matter
what that individual says. This is rank political discrimination at its worst.
Thankfully, Rutgers's administration is standing firm. The university is
showing that when a principled administration and Board of Governors work
together, they can serve as bulwarks for academic freedom.