Imagine There’s No Tenure, It’s Easy If You Try
Tenure is the only thing that stands between us and an intellectual orthodoxy imposed by power-crazed corporate interests who wish to stifle the free exchange of ideas. Fortunately, we have guaranteed life-long employment of academics ensuring academic freedom to keep the open dialogue going.
If you buy that, there is some oceanfront property in Afghanistan you might also be interested in. John Brown University philosophy professor James Bruce suggests the unthinkable in this Pope Center article by pointing out that the tenure process itself can stifle the dialogue more completely than forces outside the academy are likely to do. For young professors must be acceptable to colleagues to gain tenure, and if those colleagues are pony-tailed Marxist retreads from the 1960s, as is often the case, or even hipsterish Occupy Wall Street sympathizers, as is increasingly the case, there isn’t much deviation from the party line permitted. Eliminating tenure can free professors from the need to conform to such collegial rigidity.
Viable Alternatives to College
In this Freeman piece today, Jeff Tucker examines our mania for pushing most young people into college, and he looks at the alternatives.
He mentions a conversation he had recently with a young man in graphic design who said, “In my field, the employers regard college as evidence that you are willing to waste lots of time and money doing not much of anything productive. I decided to gain the competitive advantage and jump into the workforce at 20, get experience, and start climbing the ladder.”
That’s very interesting. It used to be the case that earning a college degree was a mark of distinction that gave you an advantage in the competition for jobs. Apparently, the pendulum is swinging back — getting a degree is now so easy that there is little distinction in it and the advantage goes to those who are willing to forgo the “five year party” (that’s the title of a recent book on college) and start working.
I agree with Tucker’s conclusion: “The path toward a freer educational market will be paved by private entrepreneurial efforts to meet the human needs that government programs leave unserved.”
Are JDs Really a ‘Good Investment’?
Inside Higher Ed has a story today, “The Upside of Law School” which tries to make the case that although lots of recent law grads are unemployed or working in low-paying jobs that may or may not have anything to do with the law, things will get better and once again the JD will be “a million dollar degree.”
I find this sort of thing objectionable for the same reason I find it objectionable for the college-industrial complex to tell kids that getting a BA adds a million (or any amount) to their lifetime earnings. Even if the legal industry eventually rebounds (and it might not; during this slump, I suspect that many businesses have found that they can nicely do with less legal advice than in the past), many students who go through law school will find that the best law jobs they can find don’t pay particularly well.
Academic Scandal at Winston-Salem State
This week’s Pope Center Clarion Call is by Shira Hedgepeth, formerly employed at Winston-Salem State University, one of the HBCUs in the UNC system. In it, she tells a story reminiscent of the Atlanta teachers who changed student answers on tests so as to make the schools look better. Similarly at WSSU, administrators seem more concerned with making the university look good (and keeping students happy) than with academic integrity.
Cato’s Amicus Brief in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action
Ilya Shapiro writes here about the Court’s next big “affirmative action” case, Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action. That’s the case arising out of Michigan’s Proposition 2, passed in 2006, forbidding state entities from using racial preferences, including in college admissions. The Sixth Circuit reached the absurd conclusion that the Equal Protection clause prohibits the people of Michigan from insisting that all citizens receive equal protection. The argument that enacting a constitutional prohibition somehow is “unfair” to minorities is pathetically flawed. For one thing, even if we assume for the sake of argument that affirmative action is a benefit for some minorities, it is harmful to others. Moreover, the political battle over Prop. 2 was not the Goliath versus David affair that you might assume, with the proponents of doing away with preferences controlling the airwaves and outspending the opponents. Actually, it was exactly the other way around. Almost all of Michigan’s heavy hitters either sided with the opponents or stayed out of the battle, and the anti-2 forces outspent their opponents by about 4 to 1. If those people want to take the matter back to the voters and seek to repeal the preferences ban, they are not at any disadvantage.
Another Serious Problem for Egalitarians
That is the “undercitation” of women and minority authors in philosophy. Thanks to a tipster who prefers to remain anonymous for this:
The SEP administrative staff has been following the discussion sparked
by Kieran Healy’s recent work regarding the undercitation of women
philosophers in articles published from 1993-2013 in four important
We take this citation issue seriously and we are writing now to
encourage our authors, subject editors, and referees to help ensure
that SEP entries do not overlook the work of women or indeed of
members of underrepresented groups more generally.
So please keep this in mind as you write, revise, or referee an entry
for the SEP. And any time you notice a source missing from an SEP
entry (whether or not it is your own entry), you are welcome to write
Thank you for your attention to this matter and thank you for your
participation in the work of the SEP.
All the best,
Ed and Uri
Edward N. Zalta Principal Editor
Uri Nodelman Senior Editor
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
The Diversity Mania and Sloppy Thinking
John Rosenberg has an excellent piece on his Discriminations blog, catalyzed by a line from pollster Charlie Cook that much of the writing about “diversity” is based on sloppy thinking. Indeed so!
The Swedish Model
Sweden is regarded in this country as the crown jewel of Eurosocialism, having a high standard of living that coincides with statist egalitarianism. Many regard it as the model for the rest of the world. Since American liberals love the Swedish model and regard higher education as the key to economic development, surely higher education in Sweden must be outstanding to produce such prosperity?
Or not. In this article on the Pope Center site, Anders Edwardsson, a Ph.D. candidate at Catholic University in D.C. and the possessor of an M.A. degree from the highly rated University of Uppsala, compares and contrasts the more “evolved” Swedish system of higher education with his experience in the U.S — and comes up with some unsettling observations about the path U.S higher education is taking.
Coping with Tragedy
Since 2008, the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy has published articles about lessons learned in college. The series, “If I Knew Then What I Know Now,” is written mostly by students, who offer advice based on their experiences. That advice has ranged from encouraging other students to speak up in class to how to choose a major to practical recommendations such as avoiding credit-card debt. The latest in the series is different, however. In “Transition and Tragedy,” Zachary Williams explains how he tried, without complete success, to cope with the sudden death of his mother during his freshman year.
Student Aid Does Lead to Tuition Inflation
Cato’s Neal McCluskey has a very useful post here on the research that has been done on the relationship between government aid for students and the rising cost of going to college.
If the feds had a program to aid consumers of, oh, refrigerators, would anyone doubt that refrigerator makers would understand that such aid allowed them to raise prices? But higher ed is non-profit, so college leaders wouldn’t do such a thing.
‘Hey, Mom and Dad -- How About a Second Mortgage . . .’
“How about taking out a second mortgage or home equity loan so I can pay my student loan bills?” Mike Tremoglie writes about the pros and cons of doing that here.
If some people do so, it will help to keep the college bubble going a little longer, but it looks like a very bad idea.
Skin in the Student Loan Game
One of the authors’ proposals in the new book by William Bennett and David Wilozel, Is College Worth It?, will send shivers up the spines of many second-tier and third-tier college officials. That will happen when they realize that, if the proposal were to be made the law of the land, the school would have some “skin in the game” with college loans, meaning that they would be responsible for “ten to twenty percent of loans originating so that students can attend there.”
That means that all the disengaged slacker students who these same officials are now encouraging to unwittingly bury themselves in debt with little hope of getting any reasonable return on their college investment would become, in part, the schools’ responsibilities. Shrinkage of departments that specialize in slacker students would be an inevitable result, as would the loss of many faculty and staff positions. George Leef reports on Bennett’s and Wilozel’s book in this week’s Clarion Call.
Is the MBA Bubble Bursting?
The renowned Thunderbird School of Global Management is selling its campus to for-profit college operator, Laureate Education Inc., in an attempt to stay afloat.
At one point in time, the MBA was considered a ticket to top investment banks or consulting firms, but a financial crisis and down economy hampered what was left of that reality.
I love my MBA students, but I question their timing for pursuing their degrees. Students with years of work experience have much to gain (from each other) when they are together in a classroom. But most MBA students I see have (maybe) two years of career experience; I can reach those students in my own way, but they are honestly better off career-wise at Hamburger University instead of a State U MBA program.
I’m not immune to this criticism; I sought my MBA two years after my undergraduate work. By the time I finished my degree, the inexperienced and overeducated Jason was told by employers that “if this was 1997, we could afford to hire you, but now we need people with experience.”
Prager U: Forgiveness
Several Prager University videos touch upon political issues — this one does not. The latest course is useful for anyone who is (at least partly) human. Watch as Dr. Stephen Marmer of UCLA Medical School discusses the anatomy of offering forgiveness.
Forgive me if I suggest that it’s worth sharing with others.
That Embarrassing ‘Statement’ on Diversity
The higher-ed establishment recently published a splashy “statement” defending the use of racial preferences in deciding which students to admit. In today’s Pope Center piece, Roger Clegg of the Center for Equal Opportunity scrutinizes it and finds that it’s full of erroneous notions and empty clichés. Colleges and universities may have an interest in assembling a diverse student body, he argues, but a student’s race has no logical bearing on whether he or she will do anything to add to the academic environment on campus. Just because a student is put into one of the “historically underrepresented” groups does not mean that he or she will enrich the school intellectually; conversely, students who don’t qualify for “underrepresented” status might do so — but they’re overlooked.
Too bad that no one in the higher-ed establishment has the nerve to speak the truth and admit that the preferences regime is a costly game that allows the establishment to feel good about itself.
Why Do We Need This ‘Initiative’?
Inside Higher Ed reports that the White House is taking criticism for not appointing a permanent head of the Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Those institutions have lots of problems, but can’t they handle them on their own? Even if not, what good can the White House do? This looks like nothing but expensive grandstanding in a field where the executive branch has no constitutional authority.
Should We Be Pro-Choice in the Hiring of Teachers?
Should school officials be limited to considering only teachers who have state licenses? Suppose that those officials (or some of them, at least) thought that individuals without such government approval would be better than individuals with them? Wouldn’t education improve if they could select the prospective teachers they believe best able to do a good job? A recent Pope Center piece by Jane Shaw and Zachary Williams explores that issue.
Specifically, legislation now in the North Carolina General Assembly would allow charter-school leaders to hire teachers who haven’t gone through the state-mandated course of training in an education school. No doubt the guild (i.e., the education schools) will fight against this. They don’t want competition and will proclaim their “expertise” in preparing teachers as the reason to maintain the status quo.
Explaining the Black/White Graduation Gap
Based on Missouri data, the authors of this new NBER paper conclude that the gap in college-graduation rates is mostly explained by differences in student skills. Thus, the place to start in reducing the gap is the pre-college years.
Peter Wood on Fisher and the Establishment’s Defense of “Diversity”
On Minding the Campus, NAS president Peter Wood has an excellent essay about the Fisher decision and the way the higher-ed establishment is circling the wagons to defend its obsession with “diversity.” I recommend the essay, and for those with more time, I also recommend Peter’s book Diversity: The Invention of a Concept.
Consensus, Not Truth
It’s hard to pin down exactly what is happening to science in academia, but it seems to be losing its objectivity. Special interests, such as environmentalists (under the banner of sustainability), are pushing toward subjective decisions rather than the search for factual knowledge and understanding. John Droz Jr., a retired physicist in North Carolina, has made it his mission to collect examples and show, in formal presentations, the intellectual distortions he sees in academic science. “Droz’s presentation cites well-known example after example in which accepted standards of proof are cast aside to reach predetermined political ends,” writes Jay Schalin of the Pope Center.