May 3, 2012, 3:02 pm
I was never a big fan of the feminist mantra that the “personal is political.” But the corollary–that any political remark must be taken personally–seems in many ways even worse. My last blog post has earned me even more opprobrium than usual among the Brainstorm commenters, and it seems that they have decided to take as a personal attack something that is clearly not. The comments regarding my post seem to boil down to the following:
I am picking on people because they are black (and I am a racist).
I am picking on people even though I don’t have a Ph.D.
I am picking on people who are too young and inexperienced to defend themselves.
I am picking on people even though I haven’t read their entire dissertations.
Let me take the first two criticisms first. My qualifications to post on this blog consist of the fact that I have been a journalist writing about higher education…
April 30, 2012, 10:24 pm
NB: To see Chronicle editors’ final response to the below post, please read “A Note to Readers.”
You’ll have to forgive the lateness but I just got around to reading The Chronicle’s recent piece on the young guns of black studies. If ever there were a case for eliminating the discipline, the sidebar explaining some of the dissertations being offered by the best and the brightest of black-studies graduate students has made it. What a collection of left-wing victimization claptrap. The best that can be said of these topics is that they’re so irrelevant no one will ever look at them.
That’s what I would say about Ruth Hayes’ dissertation, “‘So I Could Be Easeful’: Black Women’s Authoritative Knowledge on Childbirth.” It began because she “noticed that nonwhite women’s experiences were largely absent from natural-birth literature, which led me to look into historical black midwifery….
April 23, 2012, 9:24 pm
Of all the news about the ballooning college debt in this country–now said to top a trillion dollars–none has depressed me more than this piece in last week’s Wall Street Journal. It’s perhaps not surprising but all of that debt is influencing other life decisions young adults are making. Sure, we joke about how 20-somethings move back to Mom and Dad’s basement to save money. But these are people who are putting off marriage and having kids in order to pay off loans. Here’s the start of the piece:
Between the ages of 18 and 22, Jodi Romine took out $74,000 in student loans to help finance her business-management degree at Kent State University in Ohio. What seemed like a good investment will delay her career, her marriage and decision to have children.
Ms. Romine’s $900-a-month loan payments eat up 60% of the paycheck she earns as a bank teller in Beaufort, S.C., the best…
April 16, 2012, 9:17 pm
I see the New York Times has a report out on the first Sex Week at Harvard. Apparently a decade behind Yale on this one, Harvard students decided it was time to explore their friskier sides. (At least they wanted to do so more formally. When I was a student, my house just had an annual party at which pieces of chocolate shaped like genitals were handed out. You weren’t required to sit through any panels or lectures, as I recall.)
Of course, events like Sex Week are always couched in the language of providing students with “more information.” The piece begins with an exchange in which a senior finds out for the first time that Implanon, an implantable form of birth control, is available to her for free! How had she gone through four years without such a vital piece of information, the reader is left to wonder? Well, you know, it’s because she’s a Harvard student. As one of the…
April 11, 2012, 11:41 am
In honor of the 50th anniversary of the release of the Port Huron Statement on student activism, NYU will be hosting a conference this week about the history and continued relevance of the document. The student-activist movement on campus has certainly turned college life upside down in the past 50 years. It has been responsible in no small part for the elimination of the core curriculum, the addition of politics to every traditional discipline and the introduction of numerous disciplines driven only by politics, the wide acceptance of the anything-goes social environment, and the addition of thousands of administrators to acknowledge and cater to every idealistic desire of these young idealists.
But I wonder whether the leaders of the movement believe they have made progress toward their own stated goals. These two paragraphs from the statement stuck out for me:
April 5, 2012, 9:49 am
I can’t say whether Andrew Lohse’s account of Dartmouth’s fraternity culture is entirely true, but I would be surprised if most of it weren’t. Lohse, an imperfect whistleblower, offered his story to Janet Reitman, a writer for Rolling Stone. It reads more like an episode of Fear Factor than a description of life at an Ivy League school. There’s so much vomiting during his fraternity career that he loses all the enamel on his teeth.
I could say that these kids have too much time on their hands, that they are “souls without longing” (to borrow a famous phrase) or that there is simply not enough oversight on campus. But that still wouldn’t explain what the appeal of this kind of behavior is.
I spent my freshman year at Middlebury College, whose atmosphere was not much different. There were no fraternities by the time I arrived—they were turned into co-ed social houses, as I…
April 3, 2012, 1:01 pm
The New York Times article today on the disappearance of “black caddies” from the professional golf tour is one of those pieces that has to make one wonder whether the media’s race consciousness has gotten just a little out of hand. It’s not an uninteresting piece. Essentially, the author, Karen Crouse, notes that once upon a time, blacks pretty much dominated the caddy profession, particularly in the South. She quotes one of the founders of the famed Augusta National Golf course: “As long as I’m alive, all the golfers will be white and all the caddies will be black.”
These days, there are no such rules. Not only does that mean we have some black golfers out there, but it also means that caddying as a profession has become more open to people of all races. And with the money on the professional golf tour being what it is, there is a lot of competition for those caddying slots….
February 7, 2012, 9:52 am
Americans like higher education and American philanthropists like to give to higher education. According to The Chronicle, 19 of the top 50 donors last year gave to colleges, more than to any other cause. “Of those, 10 provided support to institutions that were not their alma maters. Altogether, the 19 donors gave colleges more than $1.5-billion.”
Perhaps the fact that half of these philanthropists did not simply write big checks to their alma maters (though they’re probably doing that as well) is a good sign. Maybe donors are looking more at the quality of the school and the worthiness of its programs than simply giving out of nostalgia because they had a good time at the football games or because that’s where they met their future wives.
Last week, there was more heartening news on this front. Judge Richard Bray, the CEO of the Beazley Foundation, decided to suspend its giving…
January 24, 2012, 10:34 pm
According to a piece in the Harvard Crimson: “Eric R. Brewster ’14 and Avery A. Leonard ’14 fought off drooping eyelids and the urge to sleep last week as they held a phone conversation that lasted for 46 hours, 12 minutes, 52 seconds, and 228 milliseconds—potentially setting a new world record.”
Those wacky Harvard kids! Trying to break world records in their spare time. But wait! This stunt is so much more than that. It’s an “art installation,” according to the organizers. It was actually “the premiere creation of the Harvard Generalist, a new student arts cooperative.”
How was this art, you might ask? “Stage Manager Ginny C. Fahs ’14 said that the performance was much like an athletic competition because it required extreme endurance from Leonard and Brewster. ‘This explored deterioration—physical, mental, and emotional,’ Fahs said. ‘Because of that deterioration, the …
January 17, 2012, 10:03 am
cross posted from Philanthropy Daily:
We’re still in the thick of primary season now, but maybe it’s time to start worrying about the general election — not who is going to win, but how the contest will be run and how it will be covered and how much the subject of race is going to be a factor. It would be easy to dismiss Lee Siegel’s op-ed in yesterday’s New York Times as a bunch of pundit claptrap, which I will do in a moment, but I am concerned it is a bad sign of things to come.
Siegel’s amazingly ignorant and ill-timed thesis is that the “one quality that has subtly fueled [Mitt Romney's] candidacy thus far and could well put him over the top in the fall [is] his race. The simple, impolitely stated fact is that Mitt Romney is the whitest white man to run for president in recent memory.” Maybe you were thinking this is the beginning of some Chris Rock sketch…
January 9, 2012, 10:46 am
This week’s award goes to Corey Robin. I really hope that I’m not the only one who finds Robin’s Review cover essay completely offensive. Maybe there are even a few wives, secretaries, and factory workers (of every political stripe) who will find this a little condescending:
Despite the very real differences among them, workers in a factory are like secretaries in an office, peasants on a manor, slaves on a plantation—even wives in a marriage—in that they live and labor in conditions of unequal power. They submit and obey, heeding the demands of their managers and masters, husbands and lords. Sometimes their lot is freely chosen—workers contract with their employers, wives with their husbands—but its entailments seldom are. What contract, after all, could ever itemize the ins and outs, the daily pains and continuing sufferance, of a job or a marriage? Throughout American…
January 9, 2012, 9:56 am
If you want to get an idea of how social conservatives are going to be treated by the media in this election cycle, look no further than Saturday night’s ABC debate. George Stephanopoulos’s endless exchange with Mitt Romney about whether he favored a ban on contraception and whether he would consider it constitutional if a state voted to ban it may have seemed like a puzzling digression. In fact, Mitt Romney probably reflected in his flustered answer the puzzlement of the whole audience at this line of questioning. What state was trying to ban contraception again? But presumably Stephanopoulos thought he was showing some great fissure in the Republican party. It’s true that Rick Santorum doesn’t favor contraception but the vast majority of his constituency–even the pro-life ones–are not against contraception. Does Stephanopoulos really think this is going to be the deciding issue–or…
January 3, 2012, 10:01 am
Well, it looks like the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit has decided to issue a stay of the lower court’s order for Boston College to turn over its interviews with former Irish Republican Army members to U.S. prosecutors and the British government. (See my post on this subject yesterday here.) BC was willing to turn over the records, claiming that this was a better outcome than taking the risk that the government would force them to turn over everything from the project, rather than just certain interviews.
But individual historians on the so-called Belfast Project appealed the lower court’s decision last week and were rewarded with this stay. The battle cry of “academic freedom” has been raised again. And this time it’s supposed to trump investigations into criminal or terrorist activities. Another win for the ivory tower!
January 1, 2012, 9:55 pm
So it looks like Boston College will have to give to federal prosecutors the tapes of interviews that researchers and journalists there conducted with at least one member of the Irish Republican Army. As part of this “oral history project,” BC promised interviewees that their stories would be kept under wraps until after their deaths.
But on behalf of British authorities, federal prosecutors here “demanded anything in the college archive related to the 1972 abduction and murder of Belfast mother-of-10 Jean McConville, who the IRA admitted to killing and secretly burying, claiming she was an informer,” according to the BBC.
According to The New York Times, “The subpoenas summoned interviews from two members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, Dolours Price and Brendan Hughes, a commander who died in 2008. They accused Gerry Adams, the president of Sinn Fein, of running a …
December 29, 2011, 3:52 pm
There’s a new book out by a former National Public Radio correspondent named Eric Weiner, which seems to be yet another in a long line of works by secular Jews who suddenly discover that there are people who take their faith seriously. Whether the result is books like Hanna Rosin’s about Patrick Henry College or Lauren Sandler’s about the evangelical youth movements, there seems to be no end to the appetite of secular elites for finding what they see as bizarre religious enclaves.
Weiner’s book, at least according to reviews, seems to position itself more as a personal quest. But in the end, whatever personal longings he feels seem to be an excuse to study the odd religious practices of others. Here’s a bit from Joshua Hammer’s review in Sunday’s New York Times:
Still, Weiner’s odyssey feels unsatisfying. His quest for a religious identity isn’t particularly convincing; in fact…
December 6, 2011, 3:46 pm
Crossposted from Philanthropy Daily:
It looks like this nation is taking a giant step backwards in the field of racial preferences. On Friday, the Obama administration issued a letter to college and university presidents, urging them, in the words of The New York Times, to “get creative” in their promotion of racial diversity. The new guidelines offer college administrators ways to essentially skirt the Supreme Court rulings on racial preferences. The Times offers a useful side-by-side comparison of the Bush administration guidelines for this issue and Obama’s:
Where the Bush administration’s letter in 2008 states, “Quotas are impermissible,” the 2011 version says “an institution may permissibly aim to achieve a critical mass of underrepresented students.” Even in addressing the same principles, the framework is practically reversed. Obama guidelines:…
December 5, 2011, 3:45 pm
It looks like CUNY may be falling back down the academic ladder. After a miraculous turnaround that accompanied the end of open admissions in 1999, CUNY had set a bar for a public university with high academic standards that could serve a broad urban population. Then on Thursday, a committee tasked with creating a new core curriculum for the school released its final recommendations. From all accounts, it seems to be a grand plan for dumbing things down.
The Board of Trustees had apparently complained that the schools’ system for transferring credits was too complex (many students go from one of the junior colleges to one of the system’s senior colleges and the range of requirements was quite broad.) So they decided to go with the lowest common denominator. According to The Chronicle, students will take their “first 30 credits in two categories. The first would be a 12-credit…
November 29, 2011, 9:44 pm
So what should students of elite schools do when they graduate? An article in today’s New York Times describes how Occupy Wall Street forces on campus are trying to push seniors to consider careers besides investment banking and consulting. At Yale, for instance, a group of students
turned a Morgan Stanley information session into a protest site. While their fellow students, clad in suits and clutching folders with résumés, filed into The Study at Yale, a local hotel, to learn more about the investment bank, a group of approximately 25 Yale undergraduates protested outside. They held signs and chanted slogans like “Take a stance, don’t go into finance” and “25 percent is too much talent spent” — a nod, protest organizers said, to the quarter of Yale graduates who typically take finance and management consulting jobs after graduation.
The recruiting environment on campus…
November 22, 2011, 5:02 pm
I was a little skeptical when I read Michael Bérubé’s op-ed in The New York Times the other day about Joe Paterno. He wrote that “Penn State faculty members were permitted to feel less conflicted about the school’s football program than our counterparts elsewhere; we took pride in the fact that the school had never run afoul of the N.C.A.A. and that its football coach benched star players for missing class. Now we are in shock.”
In shock? Really? Except when it comes to making sure players don’t receive any money from recruiters, the NCAA is a keystone cops organization that is mainly concerned with its own bottom line. If Bérubé is really going to suggest that he and his colleagues felt satisfied because the school hadn’t run afoul of the NCAA, then his argument in the column in favor of greater faculty governance as a solution to Penn State’s problems seems pretty laughable…
November 17, 2011, 5:41 pm
There’s an entertaining account of a recent speech by Judge Richard Posner on the Education Week Web site. Apparently, he thinks high school students are too “spolied and coddled” and they have “excessive self-esteem” and their parents are “aggressive.” And that’s why they keep suing and threatening to sue their high schools every time they disagree with a grade or a rule. He thinks that students should quit being offended by every display of the Ten Commandments or any mention of religion and that more deference should be given to school administrators.
I tend to agree with him on most of this. But when deference is given to school administrators, the religious kids are the ones who usually get the short end of the stick. I remember years ago writing about the case of a kindergartner who when the kids were asked to share their favorite story was barred from reading a story from the…