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Monday, September 2, 2019

Value for Money and Tolerance: Not American Higher Ed's Cup of Tea

Friends, I bring to your attention today a thought-provoking analysis of American higher ed and its many faults by Victor Davis Hanson.  I disagree with many of his assumptions -- his romanticization of the academy in the 60s and 70s, his condemnation of tenure, and his suggestion that many student debts should be forgiven -- but I agree with his overriding points that higher ed has become bloated with administration, slavish to the fashion for (selective) "inclusion", and oblivious to the marketability of many of its degrees.  I have little doubt that many who are in college don't belong there, and they could find better ways of establishing their credentials for gainful employment.  Above all, Hanson is right that too many professors use their positions to indoctrinate their students in leftist orthodoxy.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but writ large the academy is deluding millions of our best and brightest into supporting socialism, abortion on demand, environmental radicalism, reverse racism, anti-religious prejudice, Trump-hatred, and a host of other misconceptions.  Higher ed may never be a hotbed of conservatism -- but it could at least be more dedicated to professionalism and even-handedness.  That's not asking for too much, is it?


  1. Ok, here goes...

    I had a good laugh over the "or to be introduced to artificially informal profs (“Oh, just call me Bob—no need for ‘Doctor’ or ‘Professor’”--Dr. Waddy, I could never imagine calling you by your first name or any professor by their first name, even though I am way older than you and most of the professors. One, its disrespectful and Two you earned that right to be called Doctor (Unless I am told otherwise, a professor will be called that or Dr. so and so).

    As for exit exams, I can tell you, Geneseo does have such a thing. Or in my case, a final Senior Capstone Writing Project (more like a dissertation) and Presentation in front of the History Department that does take a semester to complete. Oh, I suppose I could try real hard and do that this semester, but quit honestly, I simply can not handle that workload, which brings me to the other subject; financial aid. Let's get real-I will never pay back what was loaned to me. NEVER. That will always hang around my neck, always. Davis is wrong; students do receive a entrance and exit financial disclosures and times, quarterly as well.

    Tenure: Sore subject. I believe there should be a three to five year contract and evaluation. Apologies, but there are some professors who ought not be teaching and some don't-teach that is. That word 'Tenured' alone, is being abused by many to make excuses for not teaching. There are also professors who simply have bad attitudes, bad dispositions in life etc. and who have no business being in a classroom. Just telling it like it is.

    A subject he didn't bring up is the brick and mortar vs. online learning. In today's tech. environment, higher ed. ought to make accommodations to those in the above 40 age group. I also think higher ed. ought to recognize that, albeit, we are a small group, but there are plenty of us who are in that age group who are non traditional students. I had to fight tooth and nail not to be forced to live on campus, oh the paperwork one has to go through. I do not like being linked in with that crowd-the traditional student. I have nothing in common with any student under the age of say 30. I usually end up doing group projects by myself, again, requiring special permission. The majority of traditional students do not know or understand what it means to have a deadline, share, get along etc. Frankly, I don't have the time to hold hands with anyone. Just keeping it real, again.

    I happen to agree there are students who ought not be there or should follow the trade route or even the Peace Corp. There lies part of the problem, pushing a person into higher ed. when there are other options. Unfort. we still follow the "norm"- go to school and get a job.

    Ok, I think I am done, that was enough to write and get off my chest. LOL

  2. Thanks for reading the article and pondering it so carefully, Linda.

    I agree about using formal titles with professors. It's "professional" and respectful...two things that seem to be going out of style very quickly.

    Hanson makes an interesting point about exit exams. They are rare, and in terms of national, objective exit exams, they simply don't exist, except in terms of entrance exams for grad school, or qualifying exams for professional licensure. It would make a certain amount of sense to measure what (if anything) students have learned. "Assessment" is designed to do that, but it's a joke and lacks any sort of legitimacy.

    I disagree about tenure, although I fully acknowledge that the problems you cite are real. If we abolished tenure, though, we would have NEW problems. For instance, what would be the life expectancy of a conservative professor like me? It would be measured in weeks or months, I suspect. How much greater would the PC pressure be on professors who had no security of employment? Tenure frees up professors to say and believe unpopular things, and to teach in unconventional ways. It has benefits.

    I agree about online teaching. It's the wave of the future, and it's destined to drag many colleges into the 21st century, as well as give them a run for their money in terms of competition. You realize, of course, that the requirement that you live on campus is just a con designed to extract more money from you... I'm glad you outsmarted them.

    College is a great opportunity for some. It's a huge waste of time for others. Let's hope that students, and employers, figure these things out over time.

    1. I agree about your thoughts on tenure...and I often wonder about that. You and a few others at ASC are the exception, as are the professors at Geneseo (at least the ones I have had, with the exception of one, long story on that one). Needless to say Dr. Waddy, it would bring new problems, no easy answers.

      Did you see that Boris Johnson has been dealt a set back? I see they clearly do not want to side with the USA. you think the UK is on the brink of collapse?

  3. Dr. Waddy and Linda: That was some article; perhaps it was overly broad but in general made some supportable observations describing some frequently experienced phenomena.

    I was struck by your use of the qualifier "selective" in characterizing efforts at "inclusion". You were right. I made a fuss about the recent renaming of several dorms at SUNY New Paltz mainly because of the disingenuousness of the process.I read the college President's extended defense of his decision to support the change in order to make persons theretofore "uncomfortable" on campus, well, comfortable. It featured an extended description of the establishment of a dorm reserved for black students in the '70's. I was there and I knew this dorm to be an unwelcoming place for non black students and a frequent source of shouted taunts and threats directed at passing non black persons. I observed several incidents of black on non black harassment and threats. Does this not happen at New Paltz anymore? If not, was some remedial action taken; if so, it was not described in the current President's impassioned account of the history of efforts to afford "inclusivness" and comfort to all. Given the shameful radical reputation earned by New Paltz since then (acknowledged to me face to face by a recent past New Paltz President), it is reasonable to think that no action was taken to counter it and that it may continue to this day. This apparent prejudice is almost certainly manifested widely in the American academy today, in many forms.

    1. Jack, I had forgotten you are presumably close to New Paltz? My late father in-law had a farm in Walkill and we resided in Hudson at one point many years ago, lovely area.

      Indeed, prejudice is manifested widely, sigh...

  4. Dr. Waddy and Linda: Linda,your point of view, that of a student on today's campus but older and wiser than most students there, is particularly valuable.

    The institution of tenure may tend to confirm that most American academy faculty are truly leftist. You would think if they were not, if they were "fronting" in order to "get over", that achievement of tenure would free them of that need. The academy is of course a nexus for social life and a vindictively leftist atmosphere probably fosters this bias both in students and the former students who form the faculty.

    1. It is scary Jack what is being taught now...critical thinking is a must. smiles

  5. Linda: I attended New Paltz from '72-75, for its wonderful Asian Studies program, after I got out of the Navy. It is a beautiful location but even then was quite radical. David Horowitz termed it the "the most communist college east of Berkeley". It really went off the deep end in the '90's and into the 21st century. A now former President of the college essentially agreed with me on that at a reunion. However, after the college welcomed William Ayers to the campus I objected strenuously. Ayers is anathema to the conservative NY tax payers who also must support this college. I thought maybe I had seen in the college's recent programming some movement toward balance and objectivity but the PC dorm renaming process smacks of the same unjust leftist bias. But this is Cuomo York now; criminals matter, illegal immigrants matter but lawful conservatives are to be ignored. Tom Reed for Governor.

  6. Linda, it's utter wackiness in the U.K. Parliament at the moment, but I wouldn't say the country is close to collapse, by any means. The norms of British politics are very much in flux, though, as is Brexit. I'll post about it today...

    Jack, you're right, as usual -- the Left doesn't give a fig if people it dislikes are "uncomfortable". In fact, making us uncomfortable is one of their few joys in life. How does the heated, vicious anti-Trump rhetoric on campuses make Trump voters (half the country!) FEEL??? Pretty bad, I would expect. Lefties couldn't care less. In fact, they seek to marginalize all those who dare to defy them. "Diversity" and "inclusion" are words that ought to cause a great deal of mirth when they're employed by liberals, because they don't believe in them in the slightest.

    Does tenure play a role in the leftward drift of academia? I doubt it. Tenure has been a constant in higher ed for decades. The political devolution of academics has happened regardless of tenure. Indeed, I doubt you would find that adjunct and temporary faculty are either more or less liberal. I view it primarily as a cultural phenomenon, and self-reinforcing. The less contact academics have with conservatives, the more contempt they hold us in. In most departments, I don't believe they would give a conservative candidate the time of day. They would assume he/she/it is a racist, sexist, homophobe, and file them in the discard pile.

    Jack, I'm sure it's been tough to see an institution you love succumb to the Evil One (and I'm not talking about Hillary). Every American college or university has been slipping gradually into PC insanity, though. In some places the pace is brisker than in others, but everywhere we are losing the culture wars, bit by bit. It's disheartening.