A Memo to College and University Students

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MEMO

To: College and University Students
From: Someone who Does not Know Everything, but Knows Some Things
Re: Happiness and Success

You are not guaranteed happiness.
You are not guaranteed emotional satisfaction.
You are not guaranteed success.
You are not guaranteed to have any career you want; you must have the talent, skill, and hard work needed to succeed in that field.
You are not guaranteed a passing grade or any other grade in a class other than what you earn.
You are not guaranteed freedom from criticism of your views in class or in any other context.
You are not guaranteed that all your choices are good.
You are not guaranteed wealth.
You are not guaranteed “safe zones” in the real world.
You are not guaranteed that elections turn out the way you feel they should.
You are not guaranteed that everyone else agree with your opinions.
You are not guaranteed to know everything–or anything in particular.
You are not guaranteed protection from sickness, injury, death, loss of loved ones, or any of the other bad things that happen to all of us as part of the human condition.

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University Student Behavior

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A crowd of college students at the 2007 Pittsb...

A crowd of college students at the 2007 Pittsburgh University Commencement. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As late as the early 1960s, the professor had a near absolute authority to discipline a class in whatever way the professor saw fit. Some professors would even slap students who made foolish comments. Very few people would want to return to those days–a university student should not be afraid of a professor. However, student behavior since the early 1960s has worsened in the college and university setting.

The problem began in 1964 with the student revolutions. Beginning with the “Free Speech Movement” at the University of California at Berkeley, which originally allowed anyone, no matter what the person’s ideology, to speak, the student movement degenerated into an orgy of radical leftism. Students took over administration buildings, and in the case of the University of California, the entire campus. It took then Governor Ronald Reagan calling out the California National Guard to restore order. Such protests continued, though with less radical effects, from the 1970s until the present. Today, however, at the classroom level the problem is with students who talk in class out of turn, walk out early if they feel bored with class, use cellphones and other electronic equipment in class, or smart off at the professor in class or in an e-mail. I suppose in some colleges and universities there has been much more serious disrespect than what I have experienced, but even the relatively “minor” problems in my classes point to some fundamental problems in American society.

“Respect” can mean the respect due any human being for being human, respect for a person’s position (for example, respect for the president of the U.S.), or the respect that is earned when someone lives a good moral life or does a job well. All three forms of respect play a role in the classroom.

Students should respect the professor’s position. The professor worked hard to gain degrees in his field and is in a position of authority over students–not arbitrary or overbearing authority, but authority as someone who teaches, guides, and helps maintain decorum in the classroom. Too many students think they know more than the professor, even in the professor’s own field of study. This is highly unlikely to be the case and is most often evidence of a student’s immaturity. Pampered, spoiled students whose parents have protected them from the harsh realities of life tend to remain at the developmental level befitting someone younger than they. They still hold on to the attitude that they know everything and that older people are ignorant fogies who accept only outmoded ideas. Some students will mature out of this immaturity (especially women), but many do not. I can have a sense of humor about that form of disrespect in class, but if students do not grow out of such arrogance, it will harm them in the future. Other students rebel against any authority figure, no matter how benign. Their misbehavior is not as much personal as it is about a hatred of authority in general.

Students lack respect for human beings qua human beings when they talk in class about non-class related subjects when the teacher is giving a lecture. They are also disrespecting other class members and exhibiting a “me, me, me” attitude that damages the American social framework more than any other attitude. It has become practically difficult to discipline students for such behavior, especially for large classes. Except for test days, I do not fight over phones–if students do not listen in class, they will not do well on exams, and that will be their punishment.  It is the “I don’t care; I’ll do what I want” attitude that so exacerbates me and other professors. Of course if students talk out loud in class about last night’s ball game or about other topics having nothing to do with the lesson for the day they reveal their disrespect for not only the professor, but also for their fellow students. One of the worst behaviors I have seen is when a student walks out of school due to being bored or due to disagreement with the professor. This behavior shows disrespect for both the professor and for the educational process in general.

Then there is the respect that a professor earns for doing a conscientious and thorough job in teaching, who carefully integrates research and teaching, and who helps students to excel. Despite the fact that a conscientious professor does a good job, bad apples in the class who disrespect the professor’s work (usually out of sheer spite) can make trouble for the class and encourage otherwise good teachers to receive poor evaluations by stirring up trouble in the class. Such agitators are dangerous, and if the professor detects their handiwork, the professor can take steps to confront and discipline them.

Being a college or university professor is a tougher job than in the past–the behavior of high school students in the 1970s has become mainstream behavior on college and university campuses). I fear what the future holds for college and university professors without a restoration of the traditional family, parental discipline, and a commitment from college and university staff to affirm the importance of classroom discipline.

Keeping the Ignorant Ignorant: The Destruction of Core Curricula in American Colleges and Universities

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English: The School of Athens (detail). Fresco...

English: The School of Athens (detail). Fresco, Stanza della Segnatura, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Americans are known world-wide for their ignorance of basic history, geography, and natural science. More than half of Americans totally deny biological evolution (other than perhaps microevolution). A significant number do not believe that the earth revolves around the sun. In one classroom experiment, only about 10% of students could identify the state in which they were living while in college or university on a map. Students are abysmally ignorant of the Bible, one of the major influences on Western civilization. Many cannot tell the difference between Plato and Play Dough. Despite such ignorance, there is a major push to either eliminate or to curtail core requirements in colleges and universities. Sometimes administrators lead the push, and the majority of faculty go along with radical decreases in core requirements, including requirements in the humanities, the natural sciences, and foreign languages. Why would faculty at American universities be so ignorant as to approve the destruction of a basic liberal arts education for college and university students? There are several reasons–none of them are good.

“Follow the money.” As majors in technical fields proliferate and as the hours required to fulfill such majors increase, students often spend more than four years in college. Since many students realize they cannot afford to stay more than four years, they avoid the so-called four-year degrees and go either to community college or technical school or try to get a job when they graduate from high school. In an increasingly competitive academic environment, colleges and universities seek students like mosquitoes seek blood. Students are much of the financial food for American colleges and universities, especially those without state support or without large endowments. Any policy that discourages students from attending college or staying there the full-time alloted for a degree is questioned, no matter how sensible that policy might be. Some students complain that they do not like liberal arts courses–they are difficult for students because they demand study and reading in areas in which the students are either not interested or do not believe will give them “job skills.” The fact that good communication skills and critical thinking as well as basic knowledge of the world around them is essential for jobs is lost on them. College administrators and sympathetic teachers, especially in such departments as Business and Education, support eliminating liberal arts courses to allow more hours for their major field courses without overburdening the “customers” that furnish a ready source of income for the college.

A second factor in gutting core curricula is accreditation agencies and their allies in the social sciences. accrediting agency staff, often holding weak Ed.D. degrees or degrees in the social sciences, prefer a strictly quantitative and utilitarian approach to core curricula. They push the idea of a “common core” across all degrees, which sounds good on the surface but in practice encourages a sparse core. The emphasis on outcomes-based education combined with a purely quantitative approach to evaluation is not friendly to the wisdom one can gain from a good liberal arts education, a wisdom that goes beyond the mere quantitative. Plato and Aristotle both recognized that qualitative knowledge is essential. Accrediting agencies do not deny this, of course, but they insist on quantitative measurability for qualitative criteria, a narrow approach fitting sciences such as psychology which remain stuck in a Newtonian mechanistic framework long surpassed by the natural sciences.

A third factor is the increasing role of corporate models in American institutions. Corporate models have already taken over hospitals, even non-profit hospitals, to the detriment of the fundamental ends of medicine to help sick persons in need. Business tends toward a utilitarian approach to reality in which the bottom line and “customer satisfaction” are what is most important. Considering college and university students to be “customers” is a major category mistake. If we are wanting “customer satisfaction,” why not eliminate the liberal arts all together and offer students only the courses they want to take. Those few students interested in a traditional liberal arts education can have their “consumer needs” satisfied at a college that focuses on the liberal arts. For the other customers there is a token core so college administrators and sympathetic professors can deceive themselves and pretend that their college offers a liberal arts education when it is doing no such thing.

Citizens who are woefully ignorant of history are not the kind of citizens needed in the limited democracy in the United States. Such citizens cannot place decisions of national import in historical context. They do not know enough basic economics to say anything coherent about the budget crisis. They are like the ancient barbarians who destroyed the Western Roman Empire–ignorant and uncouth, as monks struggled to keep the dregs of civilization from burning out. The saddest thing in American colleges and universities is that the barbarians–in the form of college administrators, accrediting agency staff, and many college professors–are within higher education. With the roots so rotten, the tree will inevitably die.

“Diversity” and “Multiculturalism” Divide People from One Another

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Multiculturalism-blurred-people

Multiculturalism-blurred-people (Photo credit: openDemocracy)

Recently I heard of an incident at an American university. A student walked into a library conference room. A group of black women were in the room, and they began to stare at this student. Then the student noticed the sign that said, “Do not enter. African-American Women’s Group.” The student apologized, stating that she was sorry she interrupted their meeting. Silence. Stares. The student could not say anything else given the situation, so the student walked out of the conference room and found another room in which to study.

Besides being another lesson in today’s rudeness, is it really coincidental that the group meeting in the room was sponsored by the university’s diversity office? The office is committed to “identity” as the main factor influencing one’s behavior. “Identity” is a code word for “culture,” and usually it is a code word that means “black.” Such offices, influenced by Neo-Marxist thought and identity politics, may begin by sponsoring meetings with students from outside the United States. Later, however, they tend to degenerate into offices that divide black students from white students, and if there are sufficient numbers of Hispanic students, Hispanic students from the rest of students. Western culture is the enemy. “Eurocentrism” is the enemy. Grievances are magnified with people of European descent being labeled as cruel oppressors. No wonder the students were silent in the conference room and did not respond to a sincere apology. They were facing their mortal enemy.

Diversity training” and multiculturalism are not about uniting people. They divide groups from one another. Instead of recognizing the universal human propensity for evil, they focus only on the sins of Europeans and people of European descent. The special groups who are, by definition, oppressed, can do no wrong since anything they do that seems to be wrong is only due to the oppression of others. Special groups do not have to take responsibility for their actions. They do not have to repent of their sins. They have no sin.

Only in academia could such a worldview survive. Students trained under this model will alienate potential friends and potential employers. If they do not make friends of another race or culture, they will not blame themselves—it is the oppressing “other” that is at fault. If they are not hired or are fired because of a negative and hostile attitude toward their boss and co-workers, the failure to hire or firing is due to the oppressing class acting wrongly against them. Nothing is ever the responsibility of the Holy Ones; it is all the evil Eurocentric Devil that is at fault.

Given the cesspool of contemporary “diversity training,” the federal government should stop forcing schools to focus on so-called “diversity.” Schools should have the courage to fight setting up a multicultural office or a diversity office. The only things that will result from such an office will be increased racial tension, increased isolation of groups, setting up “special studies programs” with low academic standards for the Holy Ones to take, and a breakdown of civic discourse. Multiculturalism, based on flawed Marxist ideology, cannot support true diversity—it can only push its own elitism on those who do not fit into its special groups. Liberal university administrations are not doing their students a favor when they set up a diversity or multicultural program, however well-meaning they will be. It will only end in disaster and pain.

The Plight of the Ph.D.

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English: A display of the academic regalia of ...

English: A display of the academic regalia of Harvard University. Top left: Harvard Law School professional doctorate; bottom left: Harvard Divinity School masters degree; right: Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Ph.D. degree (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At http://dollarcollapse.com/welcome-to-the-third-world/welcome-to-the-third-world-part-8-a-phd-is-now-a-path-to-poverty/ is a fine article by John Rubino on the Ph.D. as a “path to poverty.” In this article, he notes that 67% of American professors are adjuncts, part-time professors who receive a set stipend per course and no benefits. American colleges and universities continue to pour out Ph.D.s. They find graduate students valuable because they teach courses themselves and do not cost the university much money. For all its alleged ideals, the contemporary college or university enjoys its pool of cheap labor, whether from graduate students or adjunct professors. In any other profession, such a situation would be criminal.

Adjunct professors have been around for many years, but in the past they were primarily used to teach evening college courses that full-time faculty did not want to teach. In those days, adjuncts were usually either retired professors or people with graduate degrees working outside a university setting who wanted to teach. The motives were either to make a little extra money or a strong desire to teach. People in those categories still work as adjuncts, especially in the evening college (and sometimes in summer school). I am proud to say that at my university, adjuncts are used primarily in the evening sessions and are used in day classes only when there is a temporary need due to, for example, a faculty member going on sabbatical. The university has also made efforts to make sure that more courses, including some outside the fall and spring semester day classes, are taught by full-time faculty.

Other colleges and universities do not necessarily have that level of integrity concerning adjuncts. State universities, increasingly strapped for cash when states are going broke, are hiring more adjuncts to teach day classes. Private schools whose endowments have dropped due to the current economic downturn have, in some cases, hired more adjuncts to save money. However, there are also schools who are doing fine financially who hire adjuncts as the most efficient economic way to teach courses. Economic efficiency and saving money rises above finding the best qualified candidate for a full time job. Now many adjuncts are as good as some full-time faculty. I was at a meeting at the American Philosophical Association in which I heard stories of candidates for full time positions who had four or five academic books published as well as multiple articles in peer-reviewed journals. Often these candidates did not find full time work and either had to remain as adjuncts or leave teaching all together. When a school can afford full-time faculty and hires adjuncts in the name of economic efficiency, this is when economic exploitation takes place. The adjuncts are treated as means to an end and not as ends in themselves, as tools to a businesslike, economically lean, “mean” college or university. This is a grossly unethical way to treat workers–and this in a world that gives lip service to helping people in need. As Rubino points out, much of contemporary academia is run like a medieval feudal system in which adjunct faculty serve as serfs and overpaid administrators function as nobles.

What can be done? First, colleges and universities who can afford to hire full-time faculty should not hire adjuncts in order to be “efficient.” Second, accreditation agencies could demand that a condition for accreditation or re-accreditation is a 90+% rate of full-time faculty during the day school. Third, schools who are financially strapped need to stop “biting off more than they can chew” economically. Fourth, adjuncts need to organize and call for an end to exploitative wages. They should demand higher stipends per course and at least the opportunity to consider health insurance plans through the university. Graduate schools should limit the number of students accepted to reflect the actual need for people with graduate degrees in a particular discipline. More full-time faculty should teach introductory courses on their own to lessen the need for more graduate teaching assistants. Schools should avoid building facilities that will significantly increase the school’s expenses.

Most people in the humanities, the area I know best, go into university teaching because of a fascination with their chosen field. They are driven to get a Ph.D. for the learning experience. I know of few Ph.D.s who would take back that experience of learning, even if they are unemployed. With the new emphasis on efficiency, potential graduate students may focus on a field that helps them to get an academic job rather than focusing on the field they love the most. That is a sad and unjust situation. A Ph.D. costs a great deal of money and time. It is a shame that some Ph.D.s in the United States are below the poverty level and receive food stamps and other welfare assistance. This unjust system must be reformed.

On “Diversity Training”

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Marxism's last stand?

Many public and private schools, colleges, universities, and businesses have mandatory classes in “Diversity Training,” usually taught by a diversity or multicultural officer. Some of this trend may be due to federal requirements (and in some states, state government requirements).

Now teaching employees about religious and cultural customs when they have co-workers from different cultural backgrounds can be useful. For example, the Nashville, Tennessee area has a large number of Iraqis, including Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds. If a company hires people from more than one of these three groups, it is useful to educate employees on how to avoid conflicts or diminish conflict between people of different backgrounds.

The vast majority of diversity training is politically motivated and has been from the beginning. “Diversity training” to some multicultural officers focuses only on “traditionally underrepresented groups,” and creates a culture of entitlement and resentment in members of those groups. “People of color” and “Hispanics” are emphasized, while different religious faiths (other than Islam) and Asians are de-emphasized in such courses. The white male is considered the most evil entity in society, and they are automatically grouped into the class of the “oppressors.” In some classes white students have been asked to “confess” their racism, sexism or “homophobia.” Failure to confess such can lead to negative consequences, such as an unsatisfactory mark that could result in a student expelled from a college or university. Women, minorities, and homosexuals are always labeled as “the victims.” “The victims” can never be racist or sexist–only white males are in that class. The lesson of the splendid movie, “Crash,” that people of all backgrounds have their prejudices, is lost on many diversity trainers.

Multicultural officers sometimes say (and I have heard one state this) that they are concerned with “social justice.” Translate the term “social justice” as “socialism,” and you will get the meaning. “Social justice” is interpreted in Marxist categories of oppressed and oppressor. White males become the new bourgeois, and every other group becomes the new proletariat. The proletariat must transvalue the values of the bourgeois, and this means abrogating freedom of speech. One is only allowed to speak the narrative of the diversity trainer. Any deviation from the Puritanical norm of the politically correct will result in punishment which can be being thrown out of school as a student, a professor being dismissed, or someone who has worked faithfully for years at a business being fired. The rules of the politically correct multiculturalist are as follows:

1. Western civilization is evil and oppressive.

2. Only males can be sexist.

3. Only whites can be racist.

4. Social justice = the social platform of the Democratic party.

5. Believing that practicing homosexuality is morally wrong is homophobia and hate.

6. Refusing to acknowledge one’s hidden racism and sexism is a sign of moral turpitude.

7. Saying anything negative about feminism is a sign of moral turpitude.

8. Bringing up crime statistics regarding race automatically makes a person a racist.

9. If you do not believe that the majority of women in colleges and universities have been raped at least once in their lives, you hate women.

10. If you are opposed to abortion, you hate women.

11. If you do not believe in Great Society programs, you are a racist and a hater.

12. If you oppose affirmative action, you are a racist and a hater.

13. If you defend teaching Western Civilization over World Civilization, you are a racist, a sexist, an ethnocentrist, and a hater.

14. If you are politically conservative, you are a hater.

15. If you criticize President Obama’s policies, then you are a racist.

16. If you criticize Michelle Obama, then you are a racist and a sexist.

Those are only the ones I can think of at the moment. There are many more rules, and it is difficult for anyone to know he has violated one (oops, I just violated one — if anyone uses “he” to refer to both males and females, he/she/it is a racist and a hater).

Diversity training is liberal propaganda. Multiculturalism is anti-Western propaganda. It is past time to halt such training or reformulate it to include teaching about the customs of actual cultures to avoid offense (for example, do not remove an icon from an Eastern Orthodox Christian’s room). Higher education is particularly suspect to such madness given its strong left-wing bias. There are schools who have not bowed to Baal, but they are fewer, and given government policy, under attack. The best route for those schools is to aggressively raise private funds and refuse to participate in the federal student grant and loan programs. A school that rejects federal aid entirely (such as Hillsdale College) can have the independence to be able to avoid the b..l…t of Marxist diversity programs.

Sadness Regarding Academia

July 22, 2012

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English: Old Well at the University of North C...

English: Old Well at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have been out of town in Tennessee, my home state, and am back in North Carolina–only to discover that my library books checked out from UNC Libraries could not be renewed because of fines. I drove to Chapel Hill, paid the fines, returned some books, and renewed and checked out more. As I walked the sparsely populated summer school campus, I felt a twinge of sadness at the current state of the academy. Academia is my job and my vocation. I enjoy working in an academic setting, teaching, reading, writing, wandering through libraries, walking around lovely campuses. At its best, the academy teaches the great traditions of Western Civilization as well as introducing students to other civilizations after they better understand out own. Great philosophy, literature, and art are introduced to students. They can also learn science, mathematics, and various technical skills. Ideally, a college or university campus should be a Mecca of learning, free-spirited discussion, and developing the wisdom to use learned knowledge in a prudent way.

Ideals are never actuality, especially in a fallen world. I remember the summer after my senior year in high school, naively thinking that college would be an intellectual community with students like those who used to appear on the GE College Bowl. Alas, that was not the case for the most part. There were serious students, but most were wanting a degree and that was it. They were not interested in learning about the high points of civilized life. It is no surprise to me, looking back to those days in the early 1980s, that the children of those students now have similar attitudes–or worse. Yet there are students who, in spite of themselves, learn something, and that is a joy to any teacher.

The saddest aspect of the current academy is its radicalization by left wing, Neo-Marxist ideas. Along with such comes speech codes, an anti-Christian bias, and a refusal to entertain alternative points of view.. What used to be a venue for knowledge has become, in most places, a soapbox for left wing propaganda. The days when the Agrarians could survive in the academy are long gone. Robert Penn Warren and John Crowe Ransom would probably pass muster–perhaps even Allen Tate. I doubt that Andrew Lytle or Donald Davidson would be hired. I do not think any of them would be hired today at Vanderbilt University where they once wielded such influence. I could name other academic conservatives from the past who would have difficulty in today’s academy, but that would be superfluous–and it is a pathetic fact that such would be superfluous. For once I would like to see a college or university that believes in teaching the classic works of Western Civilization. St. Thomas Aquinas College in California does, but it is by far a rare exception to the rule.

I hope in the future that there will be good alternatives to the academy–private tutorials in Greek and/or Latin classics or in great works in philosophy, for example. That is most likely a pipe dream. I hope that one day academics wake up that their current course often does more harm that good, creating clones instead of wise thinkers.

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