Patterico's Pontifications


One View on the Ivy League

Filed under: Education — DRJ @ 3:18 pm

[Link from DRJ]

Foundation for Economic Education: Ivy League Schools Today Put Politics First and Achievement Last

With college application season in full swing, many applicants are hopeful that getting into the nation’s highest-ranked universities means acquiring skills and knowledge meant for the best and the brightest. They would be wrong. As affirmative action court cases and skyrocketing tuition rates reveal, today’s Ivy League institutions have strayed from their sacred mission, putting their own personal biases ahead of the advancement of their students.

As a Valedictorian with a perfect SAT score, I was accepted to several Ivy League schools. After careful consideration, I turned them down in favor of my state school, which saved me over two-hundred grand. Today, as a medical student and researcher, I have no regrets.



Irony: Oberlin College, This Week

Filed under: Education — DRJ @ 3:49 pm

[Headlines from DRJ]

Earlier this week in punitive damages hearing:

The defense then argued that notwithstanding the Form 990, the college had cash flow and liquidity issues that would make a large punitive award difficult for the college. The defense compared the relatively poor financial condition of Oberlin College to other colleges and universities in Ohio. The defense argued that students would be harmed by a large verdict because the college might have to cut back on grants given to students.

Public statement after punitive damages verdict:

By now many of you will have heard about the latest development in the Gibson’s Bakery lawsuit, a jury’s declaration of punitive damages against Oberlin. Let me be absolutely clear: This is not the final outcome. This is, in fact, just one step along the way of what may turn out to be a lengthy and complex legal process. I want to assure you that none of this will sway us from our core values. It will not distract, deter, or materially harm our educational mission, for today’s students or for generations to come.



USA Today: Georgetown to expel student after he sues over its handling of college admissions probe

Filed under: Crime,Education — DRJ @ 7:00 pm

[Headline from DRJ]

Georgetown to expel student after he sues over its handling of college admissions probe:

A Georgetown University undergraduate student whose dad has already pleaded guilty to paying $400,000 to the ringleader of a nationwide college admissions bribery scheme is now suing the school to try to stop disciplinary action from the university.

He is a junior and says he “had no knowledge” of his father’s payment.

Read more @ USA Today.


HEADLINE: DSST Stapleton changing name …

Filed under: Education,Race — DRJ @ 8:21 am

[Headline from DRJ]

DSST Stapleton changing name … because of former Denver mayor’s KKK ties:

Students at DSST Stapleton, located at 2000 Valentia St., participated in a process to consider renaming their school, which is in a neighborhood named for Benjamin Stapleton, a Denver mayor in the 1920s who was a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

According to Wikipedia, Stapleton, Denver is a planned neighborhood at the site of the former Stapleton International Airport.



Better That Ten Innocent Suffer Than One Guilty Go Free

Filed under: Accepted Wisdom,Education,General — JVW @ 3:34 pm

[guest post by JVW]

Rep. Jared Polis, Democrat from Boulder County in Colorado, has stirred controversy with comments he made at a House Subcommittee on Higher Education meeting. While in full-blown pander to the campus rape hysteria crowd, Polis let loose with the following regarding students who have been accused of sexual assault:

If there are 10 people who have been accused, and under a reasonable likelihood standard maybe one or two did it, it seems better to get rid of all 10 people. We’re not talking about depriving them of life or liberty, we’re talking about them being transferred to another university, for crying out loud.

Polis uses “people” in his revised Blackstone’s Ratio, but one doesn’t have to be a mind reader to understand that he really means “men.” He dismisses the idea that lives could be ruined by suggesting that it would be practical and easy for students to transfer, overlooking the fact that most universities aren’t keen on taking in students with a record of expulsion on their history. Fortunately, he seems to be way ahead of even left-wing sentiment here. The reliably progressive editorial board at the Boulder Daily Camera, his hometown newspaper, has dubbed the nascent Polis Ratio as “a spectacularly bad idea.”

I have worried for some time now that the most ridiculous ideas from the left are initially dismissed, but have a tendency to stick around and gather momentum among the academic, media, and advocacy classes until they suddenly become the latest manifestation of Social Justice. Would anyone want to bet against this idea being adopted in the Democrat Party’s 2024 election platform?



Jonathan Chait on Political Correctness, Then and Now

Filed under: Education,General,Political Correctness — JVW @ 11:51 am

[guest post by JVW]

In the continuing effort to acknowledge those moments when our ideological opponents have a moment of sanity and allow themselves to see things from our perspective, let me bring to your attention Jonathan Chait’s interesting exploration in New York Magazine of the politically correct mania currently sweeping not just our country but by and large all of Western thought.

Chait begins the article by rehashing the familiar story of Omar Mahmood, the University of Michigan student who was kicked off of the daily campus newspaper after writing a satirical column mocking political correctness and microaggressions for a conservative campus publication. Chait, a Michigan alumnus, ties that story in to a 1992 incident at that very campus in which radical feminists influenced by law professor Catharine MacKinnon attempted to shut down an exhibition by a feminist videographer which aimed to explore the lives of workers in the sex industry. The arguments of the radical feminists 22 years ago will sound familiar to those of us up to date with the current movement to censor ideas that exist outside the narrow canon of tolerance: that being exposed to this material poses “a threat to the safety” of those students which justifies their claiming the mantle of victimhood and the corresponding right to act as censor. As Chait notes in comparing the 1992 and 2014 incidents at UM, “In both cases, the threat was deemed not the angry mobs out to crush opposing ideas, but the ideas themselves. The theory animating both attacks turns out to be a durable one, with deep roots in the political left.”

It’s a long piece and Chait weaves in several different pieces of evidence, from protests against campus speakers to the Obama-Clinton primary battle of 2008 to Charlie Hebdo. He traces the journey of politically correct totalitarianism from the rarefied and dopey mores of academia to the hive-like communities that have developed on social media. Those who are judged to be insufficiently deferential to the oppression suffered by the victim group du jour are routinely hassled, bullied, and threatened on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other platforms popular with a young audience that is susceptible to mindless conformity in the name of social popularity.

But Chait also makes a very keen observation regarding another reason for why we are now hearing of so many instances of the left enforcing PC orthodoxy. As Chait writes, “Every media company knows that stories about race and gender bias draw huge audiences, making identity politics a reliable profit center in a media industry beset by insecurity.” At the same time success breeds imitators, so every interest group that manages to browbeat its critics into submission is an enticement for another interest group to attempt the same. This leads to an unacceptable situation that Chait neatly summarizes:

Political correctness is a term whose meaning has been gradually diluted since it became a flashpoint 25 years ago. People use the phrase to describe politeness (perhaps to excess), or evasion of hard truths, or (as a term of abuse by conservatives) liberalism in general. The confusion has made it more attractive to liberals, who share the goal of combating race and gender bias.

But political correctness is not a rigorous commitment to social equality so much as a system of left-wing ideological repression. Not only is it not a form of liberalism; it is antithetical to liberalism. Indeed, its most frequent victims turn out to be liberals themselves.

Of course, Chait being Chait, he later has to let loose with a paragraph of nonsense designed to remind everyone that hey, he’s a good lefty too, not one of those awful reactionary rightwingers:

Political correctness appeals to liberals because it claims to represent a more authentic and strident opposition to their shared enemy of race and gender bias. And of course liberals are correct not only to oppose racism and sexism but to grasp (in a way conservatives generally do not) that these biases cast a nefarious and continuing shadow over nearly every facet of American life. Since race and gender biases are embedded in our social and familial habits, our economic patterns, and even our subconscious minds, they need to be fought with some level of consciousness. The mere absence of overt discrimination will not do.

Get that? “The mere absence of overt discrimination will not do.” Why shouldn’t we read that to mean that Chait is suggesting that it’s not enough if I am cordial to Al Sharpton and treat him in a way that is honest and fair; unless I eventually come to see things his way I cannot truly be considered to be a “good person.” What else could Chait possibly mean with his blandishments about a nefarious and continuing shadow and biases embedded in our subconscious minds other than the tired claim that unless you vote Democrat you are a racist.

That aside, this is by and large an honest and worthy exploration of a rather illiberal phenomenon that has been cultivated, protected, and advanced for far too long. One can only hope that more thinkers on the left – especially members of those cherished victimized groups – will join him in opposing the mindlessness of enforcing cultural orthodoxy. Again, it’s a long read, but the full article is worth the while. Read the comments too, if only to get your daily allotment of self-regarding leftists who make the “our opinions are the only moral ones, so it is perfectly fine for us to censor your amoral deviations from proper thought” argument that we have all come to know.



Oh, But This is Rich!

Filed under: Education,General,Health Care,Public Policy — JVW @ 2:45 pm

[guest post by JVW]

A bunch of PhDs who apparently don’t understand the concept of irony:

Health Care Fixes Backed by Harvard’s Experts Now Roil Its Faculty (New York Times).



Campus Sexual Assault/Rape: Epidemic or Hysteria?

Filed under: Education,Political Correctness — JVW @ 11:33 am

[guest post by JVW]

Picture this scenario: You are a software salesperson for a medium-sized firm. You spend your day contacting potential customers, both via cold calls and for follow-ups to previous conversations. It’s hard work and your success rate is fairly low (the salesman’s lament is that you hear “no” ten, twenty, even thirty times for every “yes”), but you make enough sales to be considered a moderate success.

One day you are at work and you are asked into a closed meeting. There you are confronted by the VP of human resources, the associate director of manufacturing, one of the senior programmers, and a marketing assistant. They announce to you that they are the company’s disciplinary panel and that you are under investigation because a customer with whom you wrote a contract back in November 2012 now claims that you offered them a kickback and that you wrote the contract in a way that runs afoul of the law.

“Wait a minute,” you say to them, “if you are alleging that I broke laws then I want a lawyer present.”

“This is not a legal proceeding;” the VP for HR replies, “this is an informal hearing in which we are only establishing whether or not you are subject to internal sanctions.”

You are read the allegations against you as reported by the customer, but you are denied a copy of the written accusations and your accuser is allowed to – even encouraged to – leave the room during your “testimony.” You are required to address these allegations immediately on the spot without any time to prepare a defense. No one on the disciplinary panel has a legal background and no one has experience in software sales or writing contracts. There is no hard evidence of your alleged wrong doing in terms of saved email or phone messages. Still, based upon your demeanor and your testimony and the importance of the customer, the panel judges that you are very likely to have committed the acts of which you are accused, so your employment is summarily terminated and you are escorted out of the building.


Does that sound far-fetched? This is apparently roughly analogous to the situation faced by an unnamed male Swarthmore College student who was subject to campus disciplinary proceedings based upon a rape that was alleged to have occurred 19 months earlier. This case has been covered by Powerline, with some original reporting coming from a conservative Swarthmore publication earlier in April with a follow-up a couple of months later. The ending is similar to the scenario I posited below: the student is never charged with a rape, yet Swarthmore deems that he is worthy of expulsion based upon what certainly appears to be a superficial investigation carried out by a panel with no particular expertise in this area.

This is the end result of a campaign waged by campus feminist activists. Unhappy that the vaunted sexual liberation of American youth oftentimes has deleterious consequences, they have determined that there exists today a “rape culture” on campus that is almost exclusively the fault of young male students and the overall patriarchal campus culture. They draw upon the figure from a study of two universities to conclude that one in five college women is subjected to unwanted sexual contact at some point during her undergraduate years. The study in this case defined “sexual contact” as “forced touching of a sexual nature (forced kissing, touching of private parts, grabbing, fondling, rubbing up against you in a sexual way, even if it is over your clothes).” Unsurprisingly, the most aggressive voices among highly politicized feminists have changed that statistic into one in five women being raped in college.

So it comes as no surprise that the Obama Administration — which depends heavily on young single women delivering votes for him, his agenda, and his preferred candidates — would make addressing campus sexual assaults a priority item. The Department of Education, invoking Title IX, is threatening federal intervention against any institution they judge to be unsuitably aggressive in investigating and punishing reported sexual assaults. More ominously, the administration is coercing universities into creating the same sort of kangaroo courts, devoid of due process and staffed by administrators with zero legal training, similar to the one that expelled the Swarthmore student.

Certainly there is no shortage of loutish college boys who seek to use alcohol and peer pressure to entice naive college girls into pushing past the boundaries of their modesty, just as there is no shortage of mindless floozies who believe that drunken sexual promiscuity is a sign of maturity and advances the cause of feminism. Contrary to the clichés that abound among college administrators, our colleges and universities are not populated solely with mature and sophisticated adults, but also with plenty of overgrown adolescents who are no more capable of handling adult freedoms at age 19 than they were at age 15. Any attempt to change a campus culture (and, let’s face it, a youth culture) which fosters regrettable and sometimes even criminal sexual hookups needs to focus on a variety of factors including the easy availability of alcohol and drugs, the loosening of sexual mores in our society, and the lack of rules and supervision prevalent in today’s college environment. Designating young women as perpetual victims always teetering on the verge of being force-fed liquor and raped by uncontrollable college brutes will only further polarize debate, sometimes along rather unpredictable lines. Since she is far more eloquent than I, let me allow Christina Hoff Sommers to have the final word on what she terms the “rape culture hysteria”:

Molestation and rape are horrific crimes that warrant serious attention and vigorous response. Panics breed chaos and mob justice. They claim innocent victims, undermine social trust, and teach us to doubt the evidence of our own experience.

E.M. Forster said it best in A Passage to India, referring to a panic among “good citizens” following a highly dubious accusation of rape: “Pity, wrath, and heroism filled them, but the power of putting two and two together was annihilated.”



The Coming Higher Education Bubble

Filed under: Education,General — JVW @ 6:49 am

[NOTE FROM PATTERICO: Please welcome long-time reader JVW as a guest blogger here at Patterico. JVW’s comments are always well-written and well thought out, and this post continues the tradition.]

[Guest post by JVW]

Note: As a long-time reader and commenter, I am very pleased to make a modest contribution to this fine blog. When we were discussing my contribution, Patterico specifically mentioned my longstanding interest in higher education issues, so I would like to start out by addressing some issues that I have seen percolating over the past twenty years. This post will be a general overview of the problems facing higher education, and I hope to follow up with specific posts geared towards graduate education, undergraduate education, and college budgeting and financial aid coupled with the increasingly federalized loan industry. Since I know many of you have extensive experience with higher education as students, parents, alumni/ae, employees, and taxpayers, I would welcome your comments.


Photo: Students of Kansas State Normal School (now known as Emporia State University), one hundred years ago.

In the aftermath of the great housing bubble pop at the end of the last decade, many economists began to point out the numerous parallels between the housing market and the higher education market: the unshakable faith that investment in the commodity would lead to long-term profitability, the incredible willingness to go deeply into debt in order to be an “investor” in the commodity, and the shortsighted anti-market interventions by the government in order to continue to prop up a scheme with obviously shaky underpinnings.

Fear of a college bubble goes as far back as the early 1970s, when Time Magazine ran an article titled Education: Graduates and Jobs: a Grave New World [linked article available for subscribers only], which reported that the huge number of Baby Boomers who had attended college and, particularly, graduate school had led to an oversupply of students with graduate degrees in proportion to the available jobs. I will have more about this in a later post. By 1987, Education Secretary William Bennett was beginning to explore the relationship between ever-increasing federal support for financial aid and loans, and the corresponding tuition increases that colleges were imposing. Fast-forward to early 2013, and even left-wing journalists who have every reason to be allies of the higher education establishment are openly noting that colleges are too big and too expensive, and produce too many underwhelming students with too much debt.

So it would seem that the existence of the bubble is fairly well established, despite the insistence of some bubble-denialists. It is thus left merely to forecast what kind of havoc might ensue from the bubble’s pop. Already we are seeing colleges reduce their enrollments or even shut their doors all together. After reaching a peak in 2011, college enrollments have dropped in both the 2012-13 and 2013-14 academic years. A 2012 report [PDF download] from Bain & Co. summarized the problem succinctly: “Institutions have more liabilities, higher debt service and increasing expense without the revenue or the cash reserves to back them up.” Less than a year later, a New York Times columnist estimated than fewer than one in eight U.S. colleges and universities seemed to have the financial wherewithal to withstand the coming turmoil.

We’ll come back to this in a bit, but in the meantime I’ll leave you with a series of questions to mull over in the comments: Is college still a worthwhile “investment” and if so, under what circumstances? Are we sending too many kids to college, and if so, what alternatives should they be presented with? Finally, what happens when the bubble pops? Do we see the growing influence of self-paced online education embodied by MOOCS [Massive Open Online Courses — P], with perhaps traditional college classes only continuing for upper-level courses? If so, how does that affect the traditional blended role of the professor as both instructor and researcher?


POSTSCRIPT FROM PATTERICO: If you want to read more about the higher education bubble, grab yourself a copy of Glenn Reynolds’s broadside The Higher Education Bubble. It’s a long essay in an inexpensive booklet form that can be read in under an hour, and the ideas are well worth that short time investment.


Gloom, Doom and Socialism

Filed under: Economics,Education,Obama — DRJ @ 12:06 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

The financial news is gloomy as the sluggish economic recovery shows signs of faltering. As columnist Irwin Steltzer noted over a year ago, the Obama Administration is making America more like Europe everyday:

“In the end, Americans will live in smaller houses, drive cars more like those to which Europeans are accustomed, and will rely on European-style healthcare. In short, we will be more like you, which is after all the social democratic model to which Obama wants to convert America.

The president also intends to change the way our children are educated. He says he wants teachers to be compensated on a merit basis, and parents free to select schools they deem best for their children. But his allies in the teachers’ union won’t go along with this, and in the one test of his rhetoric so far he has allowed Democrats in Congress to kill a programme that provided funds to allow a few thousand poor, mostly black children to escape the horrors of the Washington DC school system and instead attend swanky private schools of the sort in which he has enrolled his daughters.

There is no doubt about one thing: the president intends to increase the number of students financially able to attend college. America will, in the end, have more degree-wielding students and fewer horny-handed sons of toil. That will produce another result the president has in mind as he rebuilds the American house on his rock: the earnings premium paid to highly educated workers will decline as the number of men and women competing for those jobs increases, and the relative wages of the fewer blue-collar – by then, green-collar – workers will increase.

This greater equality of income distribution is, for Obama, the summum bonum. He is redesigning the tax system to narrow the after-tax gap between “the rich” – family incomes above $250,000 (£170,000) a year – and lower earners, even if the economic cost of such a move (reduced risk-taking) is quite high. Equality, not economic efficiency, is his goal. Which is why he favours raising the rate at which capital gains are taxed even if the result is a fall, rather than an increase, in the Treasury’s net receipts.”

For someone who isn’t a socialist, he sure acts like one.


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