Minding the Campus

  • Degrading The Academic Vocation
    Minding the Campus on April 19, 2010

    It is now nearly forty years since the sociologist Robert A. Nisbet published The Degradation of the Academic Dogma, followed two years later by Philip Rieff's Fellow Teachers. Then in the late 1980s, Allan Bloom's best-selling bombshell, The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today's Students took pride of place in the sublime critiques of the university. Taken together, these three books stood against a tide that could not be contained, leaving in its wake an even more emboldened organization determined to survive regardless of what it might discard as no longer relevant to its mission.


  • "Feelings" Education---It Starts in Ed School
    Minding the Campus on April 16, 2010

    The teenage girl standing with her father in line behind me at Kroger was clearly annoyed with her teacher. "I just gave her some b.s.," she said. They were discussing the school day, and a writing assignment. Her father asked her what the topic had been and between loading my items onto the conveyor belt I gathered that the assignment had involved a journal entry regarding feelings about family and living arrangements. "Well," her father replied, "you could have answered that with fewer than twenty words: 'My parents went through a ten-year custody battle and now I live with my father.'" "Yeah," the daughter replied, "she has no business knowing about that stuff." I cheered her on inside, for her resistance to an intrusive English teacher.


  • Feminist Scholar Can't Condemn Stoning of Muslim Women (That Would Be Intolerant)
    Minding the Campus on April 13, 2010

    In his impressive recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education on the formerly banned Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan's first appearance in the United States, Peter Schmidt includes one tidbit that I found particularly interesting. After noting that Ramadan faced a surprising number of critical questions from a Cooper Union audience thought to be overwhelmingly friendly, Schmidt added that Ramadan also

    received support for his positions where it was not entirely expected. Such was the case, for example, when the discussion turned to the longstanding controversy over Mr. Ramadan's refusal to call for an outright ban on the stoning of Muslim women for adultery, and insistence that there should instead by a moratorium on stoning, in general, while Muslims jurists discuss whether it should continue. A fellow panelist, Joan Wallach Scott, a professor of social science at the Institute for Advanced Study, in New Jersey, who identified herself as a feminist, said, "I actually think that his solution to the problem is not a bad one," because an end to stoning cannot be imposed on the Muslim world by the West.

    Professor Scott is considerably more than just "a feminist," as she coyly described herself. In fact, she personifies the preconceptions and biases of academic women's studies and is one of the nation's leading feminist theorists and historians.


  • A Move Toward Common Sense on Title IX
    Minding the Campus on April 12, 2010

    At a time when every major bill coming out of Congress seems to push 2,000-plus pages, it is easy to forget that arguably the most sweeping and controversial piece of higher education policy in history, Title IX, was a mere 36 words in the Higher Education Amendments Act of 1972. Some laws, it turns out, pack quite the punch. At first glance Title IX hardly seems controversial. It simply prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance. In practice it affects everything from sexual harassment policies to staff hiring procedures to athletics programs. It is that last area that has sparked quite the firestorm, providing fodder for countless court cases, policy debates, gender equity seminars, and, most recently, a report from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.


  • On Pigeons, Pells and Student Incentives
    Minding the Campus on April 8, 2010


    Jackson Toby, professor emeritus of sociology at Rutgers and author of the new book, The Lowering of Higher Education in America, delivered this speech yesterday (April 7) at a luncheon in New York City. The luncheon, at the University Club, was sponsored by the Manhattan Institute's Center for the American University and Minding the Campus.


  • Why the Great Books Aren't the Answer
    Minding the Campus on March 31, 2010

    For several decades, conservative critics of higher education have argued against trends toward the elimination of "core" curricula and with equal ferocity against their replacement by "distribution requirements" or even open curricula. They have, in particular, defended a curriculum in "Great Books," those widely-recognized texts in the Western tradition authored by the likes of Plato, Aristotle, Dante, Mill, and Nietzsche, among others. This curriculum - preserved still in some of the nation's leading universities such as the University of Chicago and Columbia University - as well as at the heart of the longstanding Great Books approach of St. John's College - is seen as a bulwark against contemporary tendencies toward relativism, post-modernism, and political correctness.


  • Dartmouth Turns on a Dime
    Minding the Campus on March 29, 2010

    I once asked a pilot friend if he didn't tire of the lumbering, leviathan commercial airliner he flew. He surprised me by saying that a 747 can handle like a Lamborghini if ever it needed to. A bit of that seems to be underway in Hanover, New Hampshire, where the new president of Dartmouth College, my alma mater, is responding with alacrity to the slackening economy.


  • Hate and Free Speech at Wisconsin
    Minding the Campus on March 25, 2010

    By Donald Downs A student newspaper at the University of Wisconsin-Madison drew an unusual and alarming advertising request for its online edition. The request to the Badger Herald came a few weeks ago from an agent for Bradley R. Smith, a notorious denier of the Holocaust and founder of the loopy fringe group, Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust. Unlike ads in the Herald's paper edition, online ads linger for a month, providing more opportunity for mischief. Like some other controversies involving the Herald in recent years, this episode began, essentially, as an accident. 


  • Shall We Rank Law Schools for Diversity?
    Minding the Campus on March 22, 2010

    Two law-school professors, Vikram David Amar and Kevin R. Johnson, recently published a piece in FindLaw.com on "Why U.S. News and World Report Should Include a Diversity Index in its Ranking of Law Schools." Early on, the piece notes a research finding that, by including in its law-school index the LSAT scores and undergraduate GPAs of the students admitted and enrolled, the USNWR ranking "creates disincentives for schools to admit and enroll applicants from underrepresented groups that have not - as groups - fared particularly well in grades or on standardized tests." The good news is that Amar and Johnson don't suggest what many on the Left would immediately demand, namely that the index and, for that matter, law schools themselves simply ignore test scores and grades if they have a politically incorrect disparate impact. The bad news is that the authors instead embrace the "welcome development" that Bob Morse, USNWR's "point person for law school ratings," has "recently expressed openness to thinking about incorporating a 'diversity index' into the rating methodology." Amar and Johnson then agree with Mr. Morse that "measuring diversity is a very complicated issue," since after all it requires deciding which racial groups "should be included in the definition of diversity, and determining the extent to which the diversity index should go beyond race and ethnicity - to include socio-economic class, gender, sexual orientation, geography, age, and perhaps religion and other characteristics ...." True enough (and probably a good reason to rethink the wisdom of the whole undertaking).


  • Tell Me Again---Why Is He at Princeton?
    Minding the Campus on March 18, 2010

    Van Jones, the Oakland, Calif.-based radical activist and author who was forced to resign his post as the Obama administration's "green jobs czar" in September after it was revealed that he had signed a "truther" petition in 2004 calling for an investigation of President George W. Bush's supposed collusion in the massacres of Sept. 11, 2001, now has a new post: on the faculty of Princeton University.


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Mid-length articles on the politics, the business, and the philosophy of higher education, and how a traditional liberal arts education is faring in contemporary academia.

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