Monday, May 29, 2017

Forum: Are America's Universities Fixable?

Every week on Monday, the WoW! community and our invited guests weigh in at the Watcher's Forum, short takes on a major issue of the day, the culture, or daily living. This week's question: Are America's Universities Fixable?

Mike McDaniel: America’s universities are fixable, but only if there is sufficient and sustained public outrage resulting in a perpetually panicked political class. I speak, of course, of public universities. Private schools can do pretty much whatever they please, which is as it should be.

Obviously, the primary problems are a complete retreat from the classical--traditional if you will--goals of the university: the imparting of advanced knowledge, the preservation of all that is best in western civilization, and the development of high-level reasoning skills. Undergraduates come to college in the expectation of gaining all of this, and with the very humble understanding they lack it, an understanding that was once imposed on any undergraduate imaging themselves above such trivial concerns.

Of course, without a clear hierarchy of intellect and supervisory power, the university has degenerated to its current state. Yet even in our advanced age where the worth and brilliance of the individual has reached matchless heights, 18 year-olds still know damned little. Because colleges now accept just about anyone whose checks clear, requiring the establishment of remedial high schools on virtually every campus, 18 year-olds tend to know even less than the 18 year-olds of a generation or two ago.

Combine this with the rise of identity politics, which has seen the establishment of all manner of “studies” degree programs--black studies, women’s studies, queer studies, trans studies etc.--and far too many universities are about little more than deconstructing all previous, essential knowledge and cultural tradition in favor of the whims of the almost entirely socialist/communist professoriate, and their all too willing, and all too witless, special snowflake charges.

Here’s where it gets difficult: adult supervision must be, once again, established. It’s difficult because it will require state legislatures to demand it, and to cut off the money spigot to enforce it. It will also require Boards of Reagents willing to do the same, which means firing non-adult administrators. Here is a short, and non-comprehensive-- list of what will be required to return the university to the status of, well, a university:

1) Cut all administrative staff to the bare bones, leaving only enough people to do truly administrative tasks, such as keeping student records, etc. This alone will eliminate the huge and wasteful diversity bureaucracies that contribute nothing to education.

2) Hire only people who understand the true task of the university, and have the backbone to do what is necessary to enforce it, as college presidents and similar positions. Fire as necessary. Lather and repeat.

3) Do away with all “studies” programs and everyone involved with them.

4) Admission upon merit, regardless of race, national origin or gender. College level work will be required in college from the first day on campus. We don’t care about your sexual orientation as long as you don’t use it to distract from the mission of the university.

5) Hire teachers based on their ability to teach their disciplines. Fire them when they no longer teach their disciplines. If they want to be politicians or community organizers, free them to follow their dreams.

6) Actually require ass in the class. Keeping track of attendance will end most disruptive and meaningless campus protests and remind students why they are in college. If attendance is optional, there is no university.

7) Exams will be cancelled only for disasters on the order of once a century blizzards, flaming hail, nuclear detonations, the Rapture or the Second Coming. This will also tend to remind students why they are in college and assure them their teachers and administrators are serious about it.

8) Anyone wearing a mask on campus for any reason other than Halloween or theatrical production will be immediately arrested and later, expelled. This too will remind students of the purpose of the university.

9) Anyone occupying an office or building, or in any way disrupting a proper educational environment will be immediately arrested and later, expelled. Etc.

10) People not old or wise enough to write a competent freshman-level essay will make no demands. If they demand to make demands, they will be expelled. We don’t care about your feelings; we care about your learning. Perhaps by the time they reach the end of their junior year (why would anyone think anyone knows anything about college before then?), the occasional suggestion might be entertained, but no suggestion that would upset the proper relationship between students and faculty/staff, or that would in any way disrupt the proper educational environment will be considered.

11) Credit will be awarded only for academic pursuits. Participating in “The Resistance” against President Trump, the rule of law and the Constitution, for example, is not an academic pursuit.

12) In all colleges, true freedom of speech--consistent with a proper educational environment--shall be maintained, and in all disciplinary matters, due process of law shall attain.

13) All crimes committed on campus shall be investigated by the police, not politically correct faculty or administrators. If the police determine no crime was committed, the college shall not discipline the suspected student.

14) Students, at all times, shall behave in a civilized manner. Students--or faculty--behaving rudely shall immediately be reminded of their obligations of civility, if necessary by the repeated application of pepper spray, a police baton, Taser, etc.

15) Focus on graduating employable adults, and on helping them find employment.

It’s a start.

Don Surber: Until such time as universities return to the classics in arts and sciences, they will continue to be sheepskin mills that indoctrinate Marxists.

Rob Miller: 'Fixing' this is a far bigger task than most people realize.  Once the teacher's unions and the Left got hold of education, they began indoctrinating their students starting from K-12. A lot of those students are now in charge of the administration of our universities. Like the president of Evergreen State College, George Bridges:

Needless to say, as professors and administrators percolate through the system, they hire and vote to extend tenure to others like themselves.

Another hideous problem few people are aware of is a nasty little time bomb courtesy of former President Barack Hussein Obama that not only allows outrageous increases in already swollen college tuition, but will make the resulting student loans a trillion dollar continuing entitlement on the American taxpayer's collective backs. The way this was set up, you and I will be paying for all those expensive gender studies and marginal 'liberal arts' degrees held by barely employed superannuated interest.

So what I propose is fairly radical, and based on the idea that you sometimes really do have to destroy the village to save it.

First, there needs to be a complete re-working of the K-12 school systems. I know from personal experience that private schools can deliver a vastly superior education compared to the public schools at far less per pupil that the public schools spend. That's especially true of private schools where religious teaching is part of the curriculum, because it provides both discipline and moral training.

There's no reason the DOE can't provide vouchers for private education, with some important caveats.

All schools should be accredited by the DOE based on their curriculum and results, which can be tracked by test scores on placement exams administered by the DOE. No schools, public schools included would be accredited unless they showed such results. The textbooks used could also be a factor. Those public schools failing to become accredited would lose a percentage of federal funds based on how badly they performed based on set criteria, and a list of accredited and unaccredited schools would be freely available to the public, so they they could make intelligent decisions about their children's education. Blue run municipalities and states could obviously make up some of the public school shortfall, but as more and more parents vote with their feet, this would become untenable and thus also eliminate a major funding source for a certain political party. Moreover, they would be forced to change. Federal nationwide open shop legislation for public employees is another tactic that could be used.

At the same time,  the DOE could mandate tracking in the public and private schools. Some children are obvious university material, Others are not, and would benefit a lot more from trade schools and paid apprenticeships.  Far too many people go to college because it's become de riguer,  at least according to a number of educrats who seek to prolong the status quo. And because more useful alternatives need to be created.

What I'm suggesting, of course is that we copy the British system on K-12  with its O-level requirements. And I'm also suggesting that  the DOE, with new hands on the wheel, take more active participation in educational standards. The states and individual school districts won't, because too many of their politicians are  beholden to both the prog-fascist ideology and the teacher's unions.  The awful thing about Common Core wasn't the idea itself, but who was making up the guidelines and 'standards.'

Every university now has a substantial amount of its students enrolled in remedial classes for basic English and math. Many of these students either fail or get useless but expensive degrees. And since many of them came from schools where even basic discipline was not a priority, they act out.  In an age where participation trophies are the norm and unearned self-esteem is king, that's simply what you end up with.

The political climate in today's universities?  That isn't going to change in the short run, but in some cases we could start by starving the beast. Imagine a federal system where Sallie Mae student loans and Pell grants  are only available to students who pass a qualifying exam similar to the SATs.  Federal grants would also be available, but only to students taking on serious disciplines like the sciences. That would lead to a very different class of students over time.

Laura Rambeau Lee : When you hear that our colleges and universities are liberal, unless you have gone to college or visited a campus recently, you would not believe how far left they have become. I went back to finish my bachelor’s degree and attended a liberal arts college to major in American Studies, in part to gain a better understanding of our history to help with my writing and also to really see what was being taught to our young adults today. What I discovered were neo-Marxist professors and a curriculum of indoctrination and hatred of America. This ideology permeated every class I took with the exception of the classes in law and our Constitution. The reading material and class discussions were dark, morbid and dystopian. My experiences at this college horrified me as I saw how easily these professors manipulate their students into thinking and believing in certain ways. Of course, the left has been doing this for a very long time now and they truly have the methodology fine tuned. As an adult learner I could see the manipulation but I worry that our young adults are not mature enough to challenge what they are learning. I proudly say I graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor’s Degree in Bitterness Studies.

Our universities must be fixed. Since they receive federal and state monies there should be a mandate to present a balanced curriculum, particularly in the American Studies departments. By the time one gets into college they should already have learned the fundamentals needed to live in the adult world. A university education is a gift and should be treated as such. Not everyone needs a college education, as there are many occupations that don’t require a college degree. As so eloquently stated in the short video below, Dr. Jordan B. Peterson, Psychology Professor at Toronto University, explains “The True Purpose of a University Education”.

Bookworm Room : I do not believe the universities will change until all government funding goes away. Some will normalize without taxpayer funding and some -- like the one Bernie's wife drove into bankruptcy -- will mercifully disappear. To the extent they are antisemitic, anti-American, anti-white, anti-male grievance mills, with the STEM departments rapidly acquiring the Marxist infection plaguing the liberal arts departments, I say good riddance to bad rubbish.

Well, there it is!

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