Friday, November 18, 2005

CALL ME SCHOOL BULLY, CLOTH-EARS! So James Piereson is saying how the money we contribute to our alma maters is all going to buy Ward Churchill a new pair of America-stomping boots, and then his assertions get still bolder:
...this explosion of money has been accompanied by a steady erosion in the quality of education, especially in the humanities. Many research organizations, including the Intercollegiate Studies Institute and the National Association of Scholars, have documented the elimination of the traditional core curriculum at most of our leading universities.
No supporting figures or studies are cited -- alas! I was really looking forward to reading proof-points like "today only 35% of Harvard graduates can find a decent job" and "90% of Classicists identify Homer as the husband of Marge Simpson." In fact I would have appreciated any sort evidence at all.

Since the only authority Piereson gives for his charges are the names of the organizations that back him up, I checked them out instead.

Media Transparency quotes the President of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, T. Kenneth Cribb, who says ISI's mission is "to establish a contemporary presence for conservatism on campus, and contest the Left on its own turf. We plan to do this by greatly expanding the ISI field effort, its network of campus-based programming." What sort of programming? Well, ISI publishes Rick Santorum's books, such as It Takes a Family; perhaps, comes the academic revolution, Senator Man-on-Dog can teach zoology.

Further glimpses of ISI's reading list are on view in its donors reports: can you guess what texts are found in "ISI’s Law Enforcement Library," which is "distributed to student groups, as well as criminal justice departments, to facilitate an understanding of, and thoughtful discussion about, the many challenges facing law enforcement officers today"? No, not Clockers, you anti-Western-Civilizationist! "The Library includes volumes such as: A Student’s Guide to the Study of Law by Gerard Bradley, The Roots of American Order by Russell Kirk, and Are Cops Racist? by Heather MacDonald." Because if Manhattan Institute stalwarts like MacDonald aren't around to tell the kids at John Jay that cops aren't racist, the core cirriculum is dead.

Well, at least ISI's getting them to read -- a positive thing, as its VP of "Institutional Advancement" Jeff Cain tells us, "as [unnamed] study after [unnamed] study shows, the kids entering college today no longer read books." (Maybe it's time I got my doctorate! If I can do it without reading books, how hard can it be?) The ISI seems to be nerd-bait, using lofty notions of the academic calling to lure underserved prodigies unto the right-wing think-tank track. Well, as the pterodactyl/phonograph-slave said on The Flintstones, it's a living.

The National Association of Scholars, again per Media Transparency:
First gained notoriety in 1990 at the University of Texas, as Austin, where NAS faculty succeeded in blocking the inclusion in an English course of civil rights readings that had been proposed in response to increasing racial and sexual harassment on campus. During the controversy, the faculty group also encouraged a right-wing student group to lead an ultimately successful campaign to defund the unversity's Chicano newspaper.
With a record like that, who needs statistics? (Except the money-counting kind: the MAS gets beaucoup bucks from Scaife, Olin, and all the usual suspects.) Well, NAS does have a few numbers, or at least "declining" and "rising" number statements, regarding K-12 education. Their solution: No Child Left Behind! Making them the only "scholars" of any sort I've ever come across that are warm for it. (They also state that "there is no empirical reason to set a cap on [classroom] size." So quitcher bitchin', soccer mom, and help us punch ventilation holes in Johnny's new, SRO Chem lab!)

But, like all their type, NAS defines itself more by what they're against than what they're for. The air of constant edumacational crisis, requiring the immediate attention of pedagogical firemen supported by your tax-exempt dollars, is thick and heavy. At the online forum we are told that "Madison[, WI] is a Midwest center for drugs, binge drinking, recreational sex, homosexual pride, and abortion, and therefore it is a leftist favorite." (For bonus comedy points, the author portrays no awareness of student dissolution before our current age of homosexual pride; can't NAS afford prints of "The Rake's Progress"?)

What can one do about such outrages? Send money! And we in turn will send our foremost fist-shakers to state legislatures, where they will suggest a hostile takeover of college curricula by right-thinkin' Americans (or, as this particular speaker, Stephen Balch, hilariously puts it, the Legislature should "exercise due diligence in satisfying itself that the conditions under which [intellectual] autonomy has been granted are truly being observed." Well, someone l'arned him real good!)

I suppose if I looked harder and longer I might have found some solid proof that liberals destroyed our schools, but the more time you spend around these guys, the less you expect a straight answer.

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