Education Issues in College
The Illinois Loop website primarily focuses on Kindergarten through high school.
However, many of the issues that are of great concern in K-12
also have been working their way up to becoming issues in colleges and
universities as well.
Colleges Try to Cope With The Failures of K-12
Dumbing Down in College
"In 100 years we have gone from teaching Latin and Greek in high school to teaching Remedial English in college."|
-- Joseph Sobran
by Victor Davis Hanson, The American, July/August 2007. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! Excerpts:
"They are blissfully uneducated. They have not
acquired a broad knowledge of language, literature, philosophy, and history."
"Is 'ho' -- the rapper slang for the slur 'whore' -- a bad word? Always,
sometimes, or just when an obnoxious white male like Don Imus says
it? But not when the equally obnoxious Snoop Dogg serially employs
Is the Iraq war, as we are often told, the 'greatest mistake' in our
Because Israel and the United States have a bomb, is it then O.K. for
theocratic Iran to have one too?
Americans increasingly cannot seem to answer questions like these
adequately because they are blissfully uneducated. They have not
acquired a broad knowledge of language, literature, philosophy, and
"Unfortunately, education is a zero-sum game in which a student has
only 120 units of classroom instruction. Not all classes are equal in
the quality of knowledge they impart. For each course on rap music or
black feminism, one on King Lear or Latin is lost.
"In the end, education is the ability to make sense of the chaotic
present through the prism of the absolute and eternal truths of the
ages. But if there are no prisms -- no absolutes, no eternals, no
truths, no ages past -- then the present will appear only as nonsense."
- "Liberal Arts"? What does that mean?
Read the article "A Liberal School" by Dr. Ken Calvert.
"As the Latin word liber means 'free,' this term might best be
rendered 'the free arts.' Properly rendered, 'liberal' defines the
arts to be mastered, not the politics of the person or persons
learning these arts. And these free arts include three elementary
fields of study: the trivium or grammar, rhetoric and logic, as well
as four higher fields of study, the quadrivium or the study of
arithmetic, geometry, astronomy (or physics) and music. The
traditional design of the liberal arts education ... provides the student with the knowledge necessary to address
any particular question. These seven arts are free of specific
application and yet are applicable to any problem or endeavor."
Our Compassless Colleges
by Peter Berkowitz, Wall Street Journal, September 5, 2007.
"At universities and colleges throughout the land, undergraduates and their
parents pay large sums of money for -- and federal and state governments
contribute sizeable tax exemptions to support -- liberal education. This
despite administrators and faculty lacking, or failing to honor, a coherent
concept of what constitutes an educated human being. ...
Indeed, many professors in the
humanities and social sciences proudly promulgate doctrines that mock the very
idea of a standard or measure defining an educated person, and so legitimate the
compassless curriculum over which they preside. In these circumstances, why
should we not conclude that universities are betraying their mission?
Many American colleges do adopt general distribution requirements. ... But this
veneer of structure provides students only superficial guidance. Or, rather, it
reinforces the lesson that our universities have little of substance to say about
the essential knowledge possessed by an educated person."
"This veneer of structure provides students only superficial guidance."
Colleges Charge Big for Worthless Curricula
by Wendy McElroy, Fox News, November 11, 2003. Excerpt:
"Before they send their children onto a college campus in North
America, parents should read two new reports. What passes for
education at many universities is not merely an intellectual
embarrassment; it is also tremendously expensive. ... The first
Death of the Liberal Arts? ... examined the
curricula of the top 10 liberal arts colleges [and] conclude[s], 'Even at the
best ... freshmen can't obtain a sound education in history,
literature and other fundamentals of civilization.'
Some of the knowledge freshmen will not find includes a course on
Shakespeare at Bowdoin, any overview of American history at Amherst
and an overview of any literary period at Swarthmore. Meanwhile,
freshmen at William College can explore such esoteric areas as an
English course on 'man's desire ... to take, order, idealize and copy
nature's bounty while humanizing, plundering and destroying the
environment' even though there is no comprehensive course in history.
Only three colleges offer students 'a course that could roughly be
termed Western Civilization.' Only three receive a 'pass': That is,
they provide a comprehensive introduction to English, history and
political science, which constitute the basics of a liberal arts
The Hollow Core: Failure of the General Education Curriculum -- A Fifty College Study (PDF),
American Council of Trustees and Alumni.
"Despite widespread lip service to the importance of a general
education, a new survey by ACTA finds that a solid core curriculum in
higher education has gone the way of the dodo. At a time when most
colleges endorse the importance of a general education -- a set of
courses required of all students -- in fact, colleges have virtually
abandoned a solid core curriculum in favor of a loose set of
distribution requirements. As a consequence, college students are
graduating without the basic knowledge that was once considered the
hallmark of a liberal education. ACTA's report, entitled The Hollow
Core: Failure of the General Education Curriculum, surveys 50
colleges and universities, including all of the Big Eight and Big Ten
universities, the Ivy League, and the Seven Sisters Colleges, plus an
additional grouping of 13 colleges to provide institutional and
geographical breadth. Each school was given a grade from A to F,
depending on the number of core subjects it required."
(ACTA evaluated two universities in Illinois. They graded Northwestern's
core curriculum as F, and University of Illinois' core curriculum as D.)
Becoming an Educated Person: Toward a Core Curriculum for College Students (PDF)
by George C. Leef, American Council of Trustees and Alumni.
"Many parents -- as well as trustees and state officials -- have asked ACTA
to define a 'core' curriculum and explain why it is important. ACTA
responded to this need, publishing Becoming an Educated Person:
Toward a Core Currciulum for College Students. The guide advocates a
strong core curriculum and gives examples of core curricula from a
number of schools (large and small, public and private) in different
parts of the country. It also provides suggestions for trustees who
would like to review and strengthen the core requirements at their
Colleges That Don't Require Core Subjects
by Herbert I. London, president, Hudson Institute, April 27, 2004.
"A recent report ... reveals that most college students can graduate without taking basic subjects
such as math, science, composition, literature, economics, government
or American history. ... This report surveyed fifty colleges and universities,
including all Big Eight and Big Ten universities, the Ivy League, the
Seven Sisters Colleges and an additional grouping of 13 colleges to
provide institutional and geographical breadth. ...
The problem at the moment is that college students know very little and don't
know what they don't know. To ask an uneducated student to select a course of
study is to suggest the blind should lead the blind. ...
We as a society are paying a hefty price to see our students in an uneducated state.
Surely it is time for change in the form of real requirements."
- If the esteemed Harvard University no longer can be trusted to provide a core of education,
what can one hope from our country's thousands of other colleges?
Here's an excerpt from a recently published book on the decline of Harvard,
Excellence Without a Soul: How a Great University Forgot Education by Harry R. Lewis:
"[T]here is absolutely nothing
that Harvard can expect students will know after they take three
science or three humanities courses freely chosen from across the
entire course catalog. The proposed general-education requirement
gives up entirely on the idea of shared knowledge, shared values,
even shared aspirations. In the absence of any pronouncement that
anything is more important than anything else for Harvard students to
know, Harvard is declaring that one can be an educated person in the
21st century without knowing anything about genomes, chromosomes, or
J. Crew U.
by Kay S. Hymowitz, City Journal, Spring 1996. Headline caption:
"Colleges' glitzy advertising brochures promise a curriculum of boundless variety.
And that's the problem: without a common body of knowledge, too many students
are getting an empty education."
Dumbing Down America's Colleges
by Alan Caruba, July 7, 2008.
"There isn't an employer in the nation who will not tell you how
increasingly difficult it is to find a new hire, straight out of
college, who is prepared to take on real world responsibilities."
What Do Students Have to Learn to Graduate From College?
by George Leef, John Locke Foundation, September 27, 2004.
"A young man I know who attends UNC-Chapel Hill recently told me, 'People
would be amazed if they knew how easy it is to get a degree from Chapel Hill
without really learning anything.' ...
The trouble is that many colleges and universities have so watered down their general
education curriculum that it no longer fulfills its function.
Students can graduate without getting a well-rounded basic education. ...
students can earn their degrees without ever taking courses that used
to be regarded as pillars of a college education. ...
College degrees are today often little more than credentials that students
want to get as cheaply as possible. Watering down the curriculum is one way
for colleges and universities to satisfy their customers."
"People would be amazed if they knew how easy it is to get a degree ...
without really learning anything."
Turning Academia into a Cafeteria: Offering students a
buffet of bogus 'choices' only undermines intellectual integrity and
corrodes academic freedom,
commentary by Russell Jacoby, Losd Angeles Times, November 23, 2005.
A Classics Dilemma, letter to the editor, Los Angeles Times, November 29, 2005:
"Russell Jacoby was right to warn of the damage to public universities from so-called
choice in the curriculum. At Cal Poly, where I have taught for 38 years, the history
department recently decided to expel the only course in Greek and Roman history
in the curriculum. At the same time, it added two new courses:
'Versions of the Past: Novels, Comics and Movies' and 'The Historical Novel
in the United States, 1960s to the Present.' I was the only person in the
university who tried prevent the elimination of Greek and Roman history
from the curriculum. I still have e-mails sent by a history faculty member
vilifying me for my efforts. -- George M. Lewis, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo"
At Top Ten Liberal Arts Colleges, Liberal Arts Is Dying,
Independent Women's Forum (IWF), October 27, 2003. "Parents who send
their children to the top ten liberal arts colleges in the country
will be surprised to learn that at most of these schools political
correctness has killed liberal arts. This is the conclusion of a new
report by the Independent Women's Forum (IWF) titled Death of the
Liberal to the Core ,
The Wall Street Journal, May 14, 2004.
"... We mean 'liberal' as in 'liberal arts.' Recently [Harvard] initiated a
review of its curriculum by asking itself what it will mean
'to be an educated woman or man in the first quarter of the 21st century.'
Judging from the recommendations that emerged from this review -- the first in three
decades -- the answer is a mishmash of more science, more choice and more study abroad.
We don't mean to pick on Harvard.
According to a
study by the
American Council of Trustees and Alumni, America's leading colleges and
universities have largely abandoned the idea that there exists some common
body of knowledge and skills that all graduates ought to master. ...
The ACTA study notes that most of the 50 universities it
surveyed -- from the Ivies and Seven Sisters to the Big 10 -- continue
to pay lip service to the idea of a liberal education. But in
practice a liberal education has come to be defined by a
'smorgasbord approach' that undercuts that mission. Cornell, it
notes, boasts that 'there is no course that students must take, and
there are nearly 2,000 from which they may choose.'
... There was a day when a liberal education was thought to be a good
inoculation against fads and fuzzy thinking. Perhaps the worst thing
we could say about these latest conclusions from Cambridge is that
Harvard seems to be jumping on a bandwagon rather than leading it."
- Full report:
The Vanishing Shakespeare (PDF), American Council of Trustees and Alumni.
From Herodotus to Hip-Hop
by Alex Beam, Columnist, Boston Globe, December 27, 2006.
"St. John's College [is] a tiny postage
stamp of higher learning clinging to the banks of College Creek in
Annapolis, Md. St. John's exists light years away from the mainstream
of academic life in America. ... I had lunch with a St. John's College sophomore, back
in Cambridge for break. I asked her what it was like to be back with
her friends from high school, all of whom were attending colleges
that had majors, final exams, and the like. It was hard, she
admitted, to talk about St. John's, which is so distinctive that it
has to be experienced to be understood.
She did mention talking to a friend from Bates, who described a
course she was planning to take, in rhetoric. For context, here is a
course description at St. John's: 'Plato's Critique of Rhetoric: The
Ion, Gorgias.' At Bates, 'they were going to be watching episodes of
Desperate Housewives and studying Eminem,' this student said. 'I
just had to laugh.'
Laugh, or cry. Whichever comes more easily."
"they were going to be watching episodes of
Desperate Housewives and studying Eminem"
Hip-Hop University: Course Listings - A listing of courses on hip-hop themes at colleges
and universities across the country. We discover such courses as these:
English 309: The Rhetoric of Graffiti
"An introduction to the study of graffiti (typically, the unauthorized
production of text open to public view) as rhetorical (social,
symbolic) action, this course will begin with a broad, poststructural
interpretation of rhetoric as both the production and interpretation
of signification. Thus, one acts rhetorically by producing symbols
for others and by producing interpretations of the symbols of others;
meaning emerges in the transaction. Dominant interpretations of
graffiti typically surface within a matrix of political and economic
values that link authorship, authority, and private property.
Although on examination graffiti obviously create symbolic exchange,
their appearance in unauthorized space marks them within this value
matrix as simply 'crime' or 'vandalism' -- a social problem to be
managed rather than as communication and cultural production
reflective of lived social and cultural circumstances. By suspending
(not necessarily altering or decrying) dominant values that reduce
all graffiti to a singular, pejorative interpretation, English 309
will consider graffiti as purposeful text that mediates meaning
between writer and audience through categories of invention,
arrangement, and style."
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Communications 435: Commodifying Difference
"An interdisciplinary examination of how racial, ethnic, and gender
differences are negotiated through media and popular culture, and how
racial, ethnic, and gendered communities use cultural forms to
express identity and difference. Among the theroetical questions
explored in the course are the politics of respresentation,
ethnic/racial authenticity, cultural commodification, and
transnational pooular culture. Some of the cultural forms examined
are the cultural fesitval/parades, ethnic/race-based beatuy pageants,
cinematic and televisual texts and musical forms such as hip-hop and
College Students Can't Write?
by Stanley K. Ridgley, February 19, 2003.
"The Chronicle of Higher Education recently discovered something
that parents have known for at least the past 15 years -- America's
universities don't teach college kids how to write ... at least,
not how to write very well.
Hundreds of thousands of recent college graduates today cannot express
themselves with the written word.
Why? Because universities have shortchanged them,
offering strange literary theories, Marxism, feminism,
deconstruction, and other oddities in the guise of writing courses.
They've offered everything, really, but the basics of clear writing.
This higher-education failure has been an open secret among employers
and among those of us who have dealt with college writers and
their writing over the years. I witnessed this deficiency
myself as a college instructor at Duke University.
Only now has this gross failure of higher education drawn
the attention of the Chronicle.
What Fools These Mortals Be?
by Suzanne Fields, November 3, 2003.
"Just when we think the political culture can't get any more correct,
new evidence surfaces of enhanced goofiness at our most expensive
universities. ... Traditional introductory literature and history
courses, which once provided a freshman with a foundation of basic
knowledge and an overview to draw on as a point of reference for more
profound analyses in advanced courses, are mostly absent altogether.
They've been denounced, denigrated and debunked in a free fall of
reinterpretation, and put into academicspeak that would be more
appropriate for the Tower of Babel than for an ivy tower.
In place of traditional literature, these universities offer trendy,
sexy, politicized examinations of Western 'imperialism' and
'exploitation,' victim studies of gender and identity, and parochial
ethnic studies with a stultifying point of view that reduces the
breadth and depth of information.
Amherst's history department, for example, offers 'Race and Nation in
the U.S.-Mexican Borderland,' an overview of pre-1600 Japan, the
Middle East from 600 to 1800, and 'Women's History, America:
1607-1865.' But there's not a single freshman overview course to
examine the fundamental events of Western civilization. ...
Parents have homework assignments, too.
They should check out the big print in the catalogues before they
mortgage the home place to pay the tuition at a high status university
where true learning has been hijacked by cheap politics."
Jacuzzi U.? A Battle of Perks to Lure Students
by Greg Winter, New York Times, October 5, 2003.
"Ohio State University is spending $140 million to build what its
peers enviously refer to as the Taj Mahal, a 657,000-square-foot
complex featuring kayaks and canoes, indoor batting cages and ropes
courses, massages and a climbing wall big enough for 50 students to
scale simultaneously. On the drawing board at the University of
Southern Mississippi are plans for a full-fledged water park,
complete with water slides, a meandering river and something called a
wet deck -- a flat, moving sheet of water so that students can lie
back and stay cool while sunbathing."
The Modern University Has Become Obsolete
by Froma Harrop, November 25, 2005.
"...I recently strolled across the ivied campus of
Brown University, in Providence, R.I. At the time,
maintenance crews were busy removing leaves. Campus officials
were still dealing with the aftermath of an especially
drunken Saturday night. And most everyone was
excited that the football team had taken the Ivy
League championship. No doubt, some education was going on, but the question nagged:
Is this an efficient setup for improving young minds? ...
You wonder whether colleges, stripped of their
education function, wouldn't find other lives as
spas, professional-sports franchises or perhaps
lightly supervised halfway houses for post-adolescents. The
infrastructure is already in place.
Over at Kenyon College, in Ohio, the students have a
new $60 million athletic center. The highlights
include a 12,500-square-foot workout area and an
indoor track with eight lanes just for sprinting. The pool has
20 short-course and nine long-course lanes. And, like any
upscale health club, this one has a cafe.
Speaking of sports, colleges spend huge numbers of
'education dollars' on keeping their football
coaches happy. For example, the University of Texas
is giving Mack Brown a compensation package this year
totaling $3.6 million. UT's highest-paid academic, Steven Weinberg,
earns about $400,000, and he has a Nobel Prize in physics."
by Alan Caruba, February 5, 2001.
"In October of last year, my friend Jack O'Dwyer ran an article on his
website, O'Dwyer's PR Daily, concerning the problems public relations
agencies were having with the college graduates they were hiring to
begin their careers in that profession.
'About 40 per cent of college grads take no courses in English or
American literature and nearly 31 per cent have never taken a math
More than 56 per cent can't calculate the change from $3
after buying a bowl of soup for 60 cents and a sandwich for $1.95.
Many cannot read and understand a simple set of directions.'
The article referenced Beer and Circus, a book by English professor
Murray Sperber of Indiana University. The book contends that
'college kids are being fed a junk diet of alcohol, spectator sports and
Even worse news is that the college school year has shrunk from 210
days to about 160. With parents paying an average $20,000 a year and
more to send their children to college, that's an average of $125 a
By almost any measurement you can name, we have been turning out
students at the elementary, middle, high school and college levels
who are manifestly unfit to function effectively in society."
College Students Failing U.S. History, Associated Press, June 28, 2000.
"Do the words 'Give me liberty or give me death' sound
only vaguely familiar? Do you think Thomas Jefferson was the 'Father
of the Constitution'? If so, you're not alone. Nearly 80 percent of
seniors at 55 top colleges and universities -- including Harvard and
Princeton -- received a D or F on a 34-question, high-school level
American history test that contained historical references like
More than a third of the students didn't know the Constitution
established the division of power in American government, according
to the Center for Survey Research and Analysis at the University of
Connecticut, which administered the test as part of a study to
measure the teaching of American history.
Students were much more knowledgeable about popular culture. For
example, 99 percent of the seniors could identify profane adolescents
'Beavis and Butthead' as 'television cartoon characters.' But only 23
percent identified James Madison as the principal framer of the
Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat, lamented the findings.
Quoting Jefferson, he said that 'if a nation expects to be ignorant
and free it expects what never was and never will be.' 'This nation
seems well on its way to testing this proposition,' Lieberman said."
Dumb and Dumber? by Mona Charen.
"...the NAS [National Association of Scholars] keeps track
of just how ignorant a nation we are becoming. It
makes for disheartening reading. ... as the NAS demonstrates
in study after study, general education is in decline, grade
inflation is the order of the day, and in humanities departments,
rigorous requirements have gone the way of the typewriter. ...
A new report by the NAS exposes what has become of the once
noble study of English literature.
Surveying the English departments at 25 of the nation's most
selective colleges, and comparing today's offerings with those of 35 ago,
the NAS concludes that majoring in English no longer guarantees
a familiarity with the great works or traditions of
literature in the English language. ...
'We rely on our leading colleges to produce the next generation
of writers, scholars, critics and educated readers,'
NAS president Stephen Balch laments. 'If these gifted
young people aren't encouraged to absorb the richness
of the English literary tradition, our culture can't help but be diminished.'"
The Lowering Of Higher Education
by Edward C. Smith, The Washington Times, June 28, 2003.
"... there are many troubling areas of campus culture that have
surfaced over time and need to be aired and addressed, such as the enormous
expansion of student freedoms (only 11 percent of their time is spent in the
classroom), their social immaturity (the nearly complete erasure of the
concept of 'wait to the weekend' in terms of partying), their severe
emotional fragility, and perhaps most importantly -- and certainly most
alarming to me -- their rapidly declining interest in reading books.
... Most of my students (many of whom are from very privileged households)
do not know how to really read, and therefore they don't like to read."
- Why Colleges Need Great Books (PDF)
by David Mulroy,
Wisconsin Interest, 2000, Vol. 9 No. 3
The Case for the Core: Particular knowledge, not vague ideas
by Simon Chin, American Enterprise Magazine, August 19, 2002.
"... At many American universities, the liberal takeover of campuses
in the 1960s and pressure to give students more curricular choice led
to the weakening or outright elimination of once rigorous core or
general education requirements. Harvard's General Education program
instituted in the late 1940s evolved into a loose and unwieldy system
that delineated only three broad areas of study and, as Kenan
Professor of Government Harvey C. Mansfield says, had become
'corrupted through the admission of courses that professors were
ashamed to offer in their own departments.' Any semblance of a
common core of knowledge had long since been eviscerated."
52 Card Pick-up
By Prof. Henry Edmondson, February 28, 2007.
"It has to do with the movement to discard the academic disciplines
in favor of teaching students 'what they really need to know' or
introducing them to 'the real world.'
The disciplines, however imperfect they may be, provide -- well,
discipline. They bring organization and accountability to the
curriculum. A college education is not like '52 Card Pick-Up',
whereby you throw up the deck of cards and let them land where they
will. The curriculum must be organized in some reasonable fashion.
It's a practical matter. ...
But something more is going on in the attempt to reorganize the
curriculum. The first clue should be the habitual denigration of
traditional disciplines and subject matter, which is often branded
'isolated' and 'self-contained.' The disciplines, it is said, have
performed a 'major disservice' by 'dividing problems in little
pieces.' Such self-serving 'compartmentalization,' it is said, has
exacted a heavy price on society by frustrating human progress.
Removing the disciplines, however, also removes accountability. Who
is minding the store? We may not like the standards applied but at
least we know whom to blame.
But how do we assess the merit of a recent interdisciplinary program
'Sex and Sexuality in Contemporary Hip Hop'? Who are the experts?
Howard Stern? 2Pac? And from which department is assessment made?
Music? Philosophy? Dance?"
D'oh! College offers course in Simpsonology, Media Life magazine, Dec. 2001.
"As if 'The Simpsons' hasn't had enough influence on America's young,
a college in Michigan plans to offer a course based on the iconic
series, which is in its 13th season on Fox. Students at Siena Heights
University, a Catholic university in Adrian, Mich., have been signing
up for 'Animated Philosophy and Religion,' taught by Professors
Kimberly Blessing and Anthony Sciglitano. The two-credit course will
draw from texts including 'The Gospel According to the Simpsons' by
Mark Pinsky and 'The Simpsons and Philosophy: The D'oh! of Homer' by
William Irwin. The course is open to students of all faiths, be they
Christian, Jew or miscellaneous."
The new Trivial Pursuit
by John Leo, U.S. News, August 30, 1999.
"Until recently, it wasn't really essential to look that
deeply at curriculum [in colleges]. The components of a basic college education
were well known and agreed upon. Now they aren't. Colleges are unsure
of their mission, buffeted by consumer pressures and ideological
forces, and unwilling to say what a sound education might consist of.
As a result of this confusion and drift, campuses are increasingly at
the mercy of fads and trends. Many universities offer courses on
television shows. The University of Wisconsin has one on soap operas,
and Purdue offers one called 'The Biology of ER.' Other current or
recent courses include 'Issues in Rock Music and Rock Culture'
(Columbia University), 'The Physics, History, and Technique of
Juggling' (Duke), 'Star Trek' (California State-Chico), 'Film
Noir/Hard-Boiled Detective Fiction' (Georgetown), and 'Vampires: The
Undead' (University of Pennsylvania), not to be confused with 'The
Slavic Vampire' (University of Chicago). Courses on horror movies
turn up with titles like 'The Look of the Perverse' or 'Horror and
the Historicity of Monstrosity.' Sports-minded males who are
disinclined to study can take courses on baseball and the 'Literature
How To Make an Un-Level Playing Field More Un-Level
By Larry Elder
Thursday, December 20, 2007.
"UC's Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools (BOARS) wants to
change the admission rules to their 10 schools, including lowering the
minimum high school GPA to 2.8 and removing the requirement of two SAT
Current policy makes the top 12.5 percent of each senior class -- based
on a minimum 3.0 GPA, their scores on either the SAT Reasoning Test or
the ACT with Writing, and their scores on two SAT Subject Tests --
eligible for admission to a UC school. ...
"Critics of the SAT argue that grades remain the best predictor of
success in college. Agreed, provided we take into consideration grade
inflation or watered-down standards -- precisely why most colleges,
despite no government mandate, still require that applicants take the
- No SAT required for admission:
Dumbing Down America's Colleges
by Alan Caruba, July 7, 2008.
"[Now] we have the specter of university and college presidents
eliminating one of the most respected tools for measuring a
prospective student's ability to qualify for admission. The venerable
SAT, the gold standard for measuring readiness for college for nearly
80 years, is slowly being eviscerated by colleges and universities.
... Disparaging the SATs for helping set high academic standards
ignores the fact that more than two million students take the SAT
every year and that more than 88% percent of America's colleges
require it for admission.
Those that don't require the SAT for admission often use it for
course placement and scholarship consideration. The overwhelming
majority of colleges use the SAT because it has acquired a
well-deserved reputation for its ability to aid the evaluation
The best way to prepare for college and the SAT is to work hard in
high school and take a well rounded curriculum. Cheating qualified
students who have taken the time and effort to prepare for this by
devaluing and eliminating the SAT is just wrong."
The Ivy-Covered Con Game
by Burt Prelutsky, January 1, 2007.
"The truth is, these days a liberal arts education is essentially no
education at all. It's a catch-all that can include such feel-good
curriculums as black studies, Chicano studies, and even lesbian
studies. There are classes devoted to comic books, science fiction,
burlesque, and TV shows of the 50s. After four years of goofing
around with this stuff, the young grads are prepared to do nothing
except become professors themselves and regurgitate this drivel to
the next herd of sheep.
It's bad enough that all over this country millions of kids who can't
write a coherent sentence or do simple math without using a
calculator think they're intellectually superior to their parents and
their grandparents, but the cost of this indulgence is absolutely
English 101: Prologue to Literacy or Postmodern Moonshine?
by Nan Miller, Pope Center for Higher Education, June 19, 2006.
Since freshman composition became a required course at Harvard in
1872, it has seen many changes -- but none so radical as the changes
brought about in the 1970s, when composition theory became a
specialty. Postmodern theories about teaching composition have
transformed writing programs nationwide. ...
Most striking among the changes is the disappearance of literature
and grammar from sourse content. This study exposes six
conspicuous fallacies upon which the new system is founded,
and shows how postmodern theories
and teaching writing have weakened freshman composition,
as well as contributed to a decline in the quality
of student writing overall.
Michael A. Blazey, Ph.D., Professor, Recreation and Leisure Studies (yikes!), California State University,
analyzes the video for Paul Simon's song,
"Me and Julio".
- For an interesting historical perspective:
Rev. Timothy Brosnahan, S.J.: Boston College President, 1894-1898, National Spokesman for Jesuit Liberal Education
by Charles F. Donovan S.J., Boston College. Apparently the presidents of Harvard
and Boston College were in the public eye over their debates on the dilution of
the core curriculum, a trend then known as "electivism."
Many English Majors Can Avoid Bard
by Dave Newbart, Chicago Sun-Times, April 20, 2007.
American Council of Trustees and Alumni did
a survey and found
only 15 of the nation's top 70 universities require English majors
take a course on Shakespeare ...
The report lists the University of Chicago and Northwestern among
those that do not require such a course. The University of Illinois
at Urbana-Champaign does require it. 'A degree in English without
Shakespeare is like an M.D. without a course in anatomy,' the report
Advice To College Students: Don't Major in English
by Phyllis Schlafly, October 2, 2007.
"In the decades before 'progressive' education became the vogue,
English majors were required to study Shakespeare, the pre-eminent
author of English literature. ...
What happened? ... Universities deliberately replaced
courses in the great authors of English literature with what
professors openly call 'fresh concerns,' 'under-represented
cultures,' and 'ethnic or non-Western literature.' When the classics
are assigned, they are victims of the academic fad called
deconstructionism. That means: pay no mind to what the author wrote
or meant; deconstruct him and construct your own interpretation, as
in a Vanderbilt University course called 'Shakespearean Sexuality,'
or 'Chaucer: Gender and Genre' at Hamilton College. ...
"Some English department courses are really sociology or politics.
Examples are 'Gender and Sociopolitical Activism in 20th Century
Feminist Utopias' at Macalester College; 'Of Nags, Bitches and
Shrews: Women and Animals in Western Literature' at Dartmouth
College; and 'African and Diasporic Ecological Literature' at Bates
"Of course, English professors now love to teach about sex. Examples
are: 'Shakesqueer' at American University; 'Queer Studies' at Bates
College; 'Promiscuity and the Novel' at Columbia University; and
'Sexing the Past' at Georgetown University. ...
"The classicists were cowed into silence, and it's now clear that the
multiculturalists won the canon wars. Shakespeare, Chaucer and Milton have been replaced by living authors
who toe the line of multicultural political correctness, i.e., view
everything through the lens of race, gender and class based on the
assumption that America is a discriminatory and unjust racist and
patriarchal society. The only good news is that students seldom read
books any more and use Cliffs Notes for books they might be assigned.
"A degree in English without Shakespeare is like an M.D. without a course in anatomy. It is tantamount to fraud."
"The American Council of Trustees and Alumni says 'a degree in English
without Shakespeare is like an M.D. without a course in anatomy. It
is tantamount to fraud.'
"College students: Don't waste your scarce college dollars on a major
Schools for Scribblers: Newspapers Dwindle, But Journalism Graduates Keep Coming
by Jonathan V. Last, Weekly Standard, May 26, 2006.
"In 2005, newspapers cut 2,000 jobs; this spring more people graduated from journalism schools than ever before. ...
There are now some 450 journalism and mass-communications programs
across the country, although only 100 or so are accredited. These
news-writer factories have contributed mightily to the ranks of
America's 116,000 working journalists. According to the forthcoming
book The American Journalist in the 21st Century, 36.2 percent of
journalists with college degrees were journalism majors. If you
include journalism-related "communications" majors, the percentage
jumps to 49.5. This far exceeds the percentages of the next most
common major, English (14.9 percent). History, political science,
math and physical science majors -- combined -- total only 13.7 percent.
"It would make more sense simply to teach them things.
Facts, it turns out, are useful."
"So what do aspiring journalists learn in school? Undergraduate
courses of study vary, but if you survey course catalogs, there's a
heavy emphasis on process and theory.
At Ohio State, for instance, a student majoring in journalism might [have a] large portion of
coursework ... taken up with classes such as Principles of Civic
Journalism, Topics in Public Affairs Journalism or Industry Research
Methods. An undergraduate at Missouri can take courses such as
Cross-Cultural Journalism, The Creative Process, Women and the
Media -- there's even a class on High School Journalism. ...
"The running theme is an emphasis on process and the "craft" of journalism ...
Instead of educating future journalists on the nuts and bolts of
journalism -- because let's be honest, it isn't rocket science or even
carpentry -- it would make more sense simply to teach them things.
Facts, it turns out, are useful. ...
Comparatively few people can explain, say, econometrics, or fluid
dynamics, or the history of the French Revolution. Aspiring
journalists don't need trade-craft -- they need a liberal-arts
education that gives them a base of mastery in actual academic
By Dirk Johnson, Chicago Magazine, September 2007.
"Last year, after taking over as the head of Northwestern University's
highly regarded Medill School of Journalism, John Lavine vowed to
'blow up' the curriculum, changing its emphasis to new media and
marketing. Students and alumns have responded with anger and charges
of betrayal. ...
It was a bare-knuckled accusation that seemed suited more for a
blue-collar saloon in the bungalow belt than the ivied Evanston
campus of Northwestern University. 'You lied to me!' the graduate
student angrily told ... the dean of the Medill School of
Journalism. 'I came here to learn to be a writer,' the student said,
explaining that he had chosen Northwestern -- and forked over more than
$40,000 in annual tuition -- because he wanted to hone a flair for
writing that would land him at a publication like The New York Times.
'But you're having us do all this video stuff. I didn't come here for
If postings on the Internet are any measure, plenty of students at
Medill are furious about the changes. 'How can I possibly be going to
'the best journalism school in the country' if we don't learn
writing,' reads one recent posting."
Columbia J-School's Existential Crisis
by Erica Orden, New York Magazine - Daily Intel, March 11, 2009.
"Bill Grueskin, the school¹s new dean of academic affairs, ...
wants to make multimedia skills and storytelling mandatory via the school¹s core course,
... 'Reporting and Writing 1,' which has, since its inception in the early seventies,
stuck to very traditional lessons in beat reporting and on-deadline news writing ...
But the push for modernization has also raised the ire of some professors ...
[Ari] Goldman, a former Times reporter and sixteen-year veteran RW1 professor,
described new-media training as 'playing with toys,' according to another student,
and characterized the digital movement as 'an experimentation in gadgetry.'"
Media studies? Do yourself a favour - forget it, The Guardian [UK], September 3, 2001.
"... This autumn, students around the country will enroll for undergraduate
journalism degrees, probably imagining that their three years of study will
place them in the forefront of those students seeking jobs in the media when
they graduate. ... many will face
disappointment. ... too many colleges
and universities are running courses that do not provide students, even after
three years, with the skills they need to get a job. Worse, because they need
the money the students generate, they fail to identify students who are simply
not good enough to work in journalism and warn them of their shortcomings. ...
Every editor who takes work experience students has had the same experience: a
student in the final year of a journalism degree who will never get a job. I
have seen students who, literally, could not string a sentence together. Not one
of their tutors had ever sat down with them and explained the bitter facts of
life: you can't write, can't sub, can't interview, won't ring round - you're
unemployable in journalism."
Creating Activists ...
by John Leo, September 12, 2007.
"The National Association of Scholars ... has just released a
six-month study of social work education, examining the ten largest
programs at public universities for which information was available.
The report, 'The Scandal of Social Work,' says these programs "have
lost sight of the difference between instruction and indoctrination
to a scandalous extent. They have, for the most part, adopted an
official ideological line, closing off debate on many questions that
serious students of public policy would admit to be open to the play
of contending viewpoints.'
Nine of the ten programs, the NAS reports, require students to accept
the ideology-saturated NASW code of ethics to get a degree in social
The Scandal of Social Work Education, National Association of Scholars, September 11, 2007.
"We became aware that social work education, even within the
ideologically colored environment of the contemporary university,
might constitute an especially advanced case of politicization, in
which dogma, tendentiousness, and coerced intellectual conformity had
become absolutely integral to the definition of the field."
Go to our full page on Schools of Education.
Less Effort Required?
- "When a student applied to Boston University in 1870, he was expected to be
conversant with great works: Milton, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Homer.
Candidates for the freshman class took examinations in Latin (on the
Aeneid), in Greek (on the Iliad), in mathematics (arithmetic,
algebra, geometry), in English (five works of literature, in that
year Othello and King John, Goldsmith's Vicar of Wakefield,
Carlisle's Essay on Scott, and The Mill on the Floss), as well as in
geography and history. ... Rigorous though these
may seem, the faculty and administration found it necessary to raise
standards higher -- quite simply, too many people could meet them, and
enrollment hit its limit. Thus, examinations were added to test the
applicants' abilities in four languages other than English."
-- Jon Westling, former president of Boston University
College Rust Out by George Leef, November 21, 2006.
"66 percent of freshmen and 64 percent of seniors say that they devote 15 or fewer hours to class preparation per week
... roughly half the amount that professors think is necessary for adequate progress. ...
The decline in the assignment of major papers seems confirmed ...
82 percent of freshmen and 48 percent of seniors say that they never have to
write papers of 20 pages or more. Shorter papers are far more common,
but more than a third report that they never or less than 5 times a year
have to write papers of 5 pages or less. What we don't know is how demanding those papers are
-- do they call for a good deal of research, or mostly personal feelings?"
The College Con by George Leef, September 07, 2006.
"A few days earlier, I had handed out copies of a chapter from a book
that I wanted the students to read and be prepared to discuss. It was
an 8-page assignment.
Once the class began and I asked some questions about the assignment,
it became evident that few (if any) of the students had done the
reading -- or if they had read it, they hadn't bothered to make sure
they understood it. After several tries at jump starting a
discussion, one student put up his hand and I eagerly called on him.
He said, 'Couldn't you, you know, just tell us the main point?'
Eventually I found out that a great many college students were (and
are) like that fellow. They don't want to trouble themselves with
intellectual challenges, but would rather just be told 'the main
point.' They have little curiosity and desire to learn and just want
a college degree served up to them with as little effort as possible,
with a big side order of fun. ...
"With a few exceptions, most colleges and universities are exceedingly
money-hungry and will recruit students who have serious academic
deficiencies. Once they have those students, they don't want to lose
them, and for that reason have relaxed academic standards to the
point where, as one student recently said to me, 'People would be
amazed if they knew how easy it is to graduate from (a major state
university) without learning anything at all.'"
"Couldn't you, you know, just tell us the main point?"
- Highly recommended:
Student Anti-Intellectualism and the Dumbing Down of the University
by Paul Trout, Ph.D., associate professor, Montana State University-Bozeman. Excerpts:
"For well over a decade, college instructors have been complaining
about students who are not only apathetic and unmotivated but who
belittle and resist efforts to educate them. Students demonstrate
this anti-intellectual mindset in a number of ways: by not reading
the assigned works; by not contributing to class discussions; by
complaining about course workloads and lobbying for fewer
assignments; by skipping class; by giving low evaluations to
instructors with high standards or tough requirements; by neglecting
to prepare for class and tests and not bothering to do extra-credit
work or take make-up exams; by not consulting material placed on
reserve or picking up class handouts; by refusing to learn any more
than is necessary to get a good grade; by boasting about how little
time is spent studying; by ridiculing high achievers; by being
impatient with deliberative analysis; by condemning intellectual
endeavors as 'boring'; by resenting academic requirements as an
intrusion on free time, etc., etc., etc. ...
"What has changed ... is the number of students who exhibit these
attitudes. Nobody can say precisely how many anti-intellectual
students now sit in college classrooms, but the number appears to be
growing and in some contexts seems to have reached a critical mass. ...
"American colleges could follow the same path as American high schools
and become warehouses of anti-intellectual and anti-educational
"The psychological tensions and moral compromises entailed by teaching
increasing numbers of anti-intellectual students are taking a toll on
professors. Confronted with more and more students who are
ill-mannered, surly, disrespectful, demanding, whinny, and apathetic,
professors are themselves disengaging from students, reallocating
their time and energies to professional endeavors that are more
fulfilling than trying to stimulate students who resist and resent
efforts to remedy their intellectual shortcomings. No wonder so many
professors in my discipline [English] now find it more fun to write about
Madonna or transgendered dwarves than to teach students who can't and
won't read even mildly challenging novels. ...
"But I do not counsel despair, because the remedies to the problem are
so obvious. Of course primary and secondary schools must be made more rigorous,
challenging and--therefore--engaging. ...
students have become anti-intellectual and
disengaged--anti-educational--because primary and secondary
classrooms have been stripped of challenging intellectual material
and rigorous standards."
College Student Devotion To Homework Debated
by Ann R. Martin, Chicago Tribune, January 4, 2004.
"Banish that image of a solitary college student huddled over a desk
laboring into the wee hours of the morning. It may be obsolete.
A national survey indicates that the majority of undergraduates are
not devoting long hours to doing their homework--at least not as many
hours as most educators seem to think they should."
Homework? What Homework?
Students seem to be spending less time studying than they used to
by Jeffrey R. Young, December 6, 2002.
"During a recent class session of "Strategies for College Success"
[students offered suggestions:]
'Say a prayer -- that's what I do,' said one student. Another
suggested eating peanut butter or other brain foods. A third said she
unwinds by listening to Enya the night before.
The tip given most consistently by professors and college officials
is that students should simply do their homework. The most commonly
prescribed amount is at least two hours of class preparation for
every hour spent in the classroom... The idea is that students should
consider college their full-time job, and that class time and
preparation should take about 40 hours each week. That's long been
the conventional wisdom.
But many students across the country say they don't come close to
following that study regimen. Results from the latest National Survey
of Student Engagement, released last month, found that only 12
percent of last year's freshmen at four-year residential colleges
reported spending 26 or more hours per week preparing for classes ...
The most striking statistic:
Nineteen percent of full-time freshmen say they spend only
1 to 5 hours per week preparing for classes."
The Six-Year Plan: How students linger on campus and universities
and stiff the taxpayer.
by Kate O'Beirne, National Review, April 22, 2002.
"The odds are that students
heading off to public colleges and universities in the fall will
spend six years earning their degrees. On average nowadays, only
about 30 percent of students at public institutions graduate in four
years. When the NCAA reports graduation rates to compare the
performance of athletes with that of other students, it now relies on
the six-year rate as the standard. Thus, 43 percent of Indiana
University's basketball players graduate in six years (versus 65
percent of all male students). "The four-year graduation rate is
scandalous," declares Eugene W. Hickok, who as undersecretary of the
Department of Education is the third-ranking official in that federal
Student Evaluations of Teachers (SET)
- Dr. Mark H. Shapiro
reviews a book and reports,
"From an analysis of the more than sixty previous studies [the author] shows that a
strong relationship exists between expected grades and SET's ...
instructors who grade more stringently are likely to have more students give
them lower SET ratings than the instructors who grade less stringently,
because they feel that it is the instructor's fault that they are earning a lower grade."
College and the Vanishing Male
Editor's note: When I attended Loyola University in the early 1970's, the ratio
of boys to girls was 2:1. Today at Loyola that ratio is 1:2.
Nationally, girls constitute 60% of college enrollment today and this number is increasing.
More and more experts are sounding alarms about what has become of the college prospects for boys,
and dissecting the possible reasons for this sea change.
For more, see our section on Fewer Boys On Campus in our page on
Gender Bias in Schools.
The Illinois Loop does not wish to take political sides, since school reform is
embraced by persons of a wide variety of political beliefs.
For more on exactly that, see our page on Politics.
Nonetheless, it is very difficult to discuss the state of colleges without at least
acknowledging that many people are highly concerned by political bias shown in
the hiring of college faculty and in the material in courses.
So, we provide the following links for those who wish more information
about this. However, please do not assume that the Illinois Loop necessarily endorses
particular views that may be expressed.
- Declaration of Principles, American Association of University Professors, 1915:
The university teacher ... should, if he is
fit for his position, be a person of a fair and judicial mind; he
should, in dealing with such subjects, set forth justly, without
suppression or innuendo, the divergent opinions of other
investigators ... and he should, above all, remember that his
business is not to provide his students with ready-made conclusions,
but to train them to think for themselves.
Thought Reform 101: The Orwellian Implications of Today's College Orientation
by Alan Charles Kors, Reason, March 1, 2000. A MUST READ: This is a thoroughly detailed
and chilling account of the pervasiveness of mandatory sessions on conforming
to "correct" ways of thinking, particularly as seen in freshman "orientation" programs.
On the Sadness of Higher Education
by Alan Charles Kors, The Wall Street Journal, May 27, 2008.
"Academia also has become a place where professors can achieve the
highest rewards, except in the protected fields, for acting out their
pathologies. ... One cannot
wholly escape these sides of universities even by majoring in the
hard sciences; at least a few humanities and social science courses
in oppression studies and demystification are generally required for
graduation. Even if students escape these phenomena in their choice
of study, though, they will meet them in freshmen orientations,
residential programming and the very rules and regulations of their
"Let colleges and universities have the courage, if they truly
believe what they say ... to put it on
page one of their catalogues, fundraising letters and appeals to the
state assembly: 'This University believes that your sons and
daughters are the racist, sexist, homophobic, Eurocentric progeny or
victims of an oppressive society from which most of them receive
unjust privilege. In return for tuition and massive taxpayer subsidy,
we shall assign rights on a compensatory basis and undertake by
coercion their moral and political enlightenment.' It won't happen."
Academe Then and Now
by Paul Greenberg, July 23, 2008.
Brainwashing 101: This is a lively 46 minute documentary on political bias in colleges
which can be viewed immediately, downloaded, or purchased as a DVD.
A Gift for the Grad: Protection from Tenured Radicals
By Mary Grabar, May 20, 2007.
"When I entered the master's program in English at Georgia State
University [I] was taken aback by the snarling, vituperation, and the
seething contempt most professors felt for the authors I eagerly
looked forward to studying. ... Most parents sending their
children off to college, while aware of a leftist bias in the college
classroom, are not aware of the extent to which most English
professors hate literature or how diligently they work to destroy the
written word. The defenders of literature remain an increasingly
small minority of professors still allowed to teach and such groups as the
American Council of Trustees and Alumni, which keeps tabs."
What Colleges Forget to Teach
Robert P. George, City Journal, Winter 2006.
"Higher education could heal itself by teaching civics -- not race, class, and gender."
The Hidden Impact Of Political Correctness
by Robert Weissberg, Professor of Political Science, Emeritus, at The University of Illinois-Urbana, September 13, 2007.
"It's easy to think of Universities as a circus for wacky professors ... Something far more significant overshadows this
ranting, namely how PC invisibly sanitizes instruction to avoid
'offending' certain easy-to-anger students. This is the dog that does
not bark ... and seldom
recognized since it concerns what is not taught, and as such deprives
students of a genuine education."
Was Cho Taught To Hate?
by James Lewis, April 20, 2007.
"The websites of Cho's English Department at Virginia Tech [are] a
wonder world of PC weirdness. English studies at VT are a post-modern
Disney World in which nihilism, moral and sexual boundary breaking,
and fantasies of Marxist revolutionary violence are celebrated. They
show up in a lot of faculty writing. Not by all the faculty, but
probably by more than half.
Just check out their websites. ..."
Learning To Love The West
by John Zmirak, November 06, 2004.
"If you have a college bound child and you hope he will be taught
about Western civilization, be prepared to choose carefully. Only a
few universities will have what you're looking for.
At most American colleges -- including, emphatically, almost all the
elite institutions -- the curriculum from your undergraduate days has
been eviscerated by multiculturalism, careerism, and consumerism."
The author goes on to provide a basic outline of how to evaluate potential colleges,
and where to look for schools that can provide a resemblance of a traditional core curriculum.
"Do the same due diligence you'd undertake for any other investment
of $20,000-$80,000, when you determine in which atmosphere you want your child to form
the mental habits and preconceptions which he will carry through adulthood."
An Obituary for Solzhenitsyn's Writing
by Mary Grabar, Ph.D., August 14, 2008.
"Alexander Solzhenitsyn died on August 3, but if reigning English
professors and textbook editors have their way, his writing will soon
be disappeared. ... [I]n literary studies, the
propagandizing comes under the clever cover of theories that
purportedly embrace multiplicity and openness. While the most
influential professional group, the Modern Language Association, has
been the butt of jokes even by the New York Times for its annual
convention, and while many dismiss its journal PMLA (Publications of
the Modern Language Association of America) as irrelevant,
jargon-laden musings of a priestly caste of academics, we cannot
ignore the very real harm they do to intellectual life. ...
"It is this kind of sophistry that Solzhenitsyn had in mind when he
said in his commencement speech at Harvard in 1978, 'Without any
censorship, in the West fashionable trends of thought and ideas are
carefully separated from those which are not fashionable; nothing is
forbidden, but what is not fashionable will hardly ever find its way
into periodicals or books or be heard in colleges.' ...
"The college student, taught as he has been ...
has a very slim chance of fair exposure to the real import of Solzhenitsyn's work.
Solzhenitsyn suffered much in order to bring us his testimony
about the evils of communism. The communists did not succeed in killing him,
but the fashionable tenured academics quietly dispose of his work
through their own 'memory holes' of excision and distortion."
Coded on Campus: Ivory-tower decay
by Michael Barone, October 8, 2007.
"America's colleges and universities have become,
and have been for some decades, the most closed-minded and
intellectually dishonest institutions in our society. ...
Colleges and universities today almost universally have speech codes
[but] they are enforced unequally ...
This is not the only way the colleges and universities fall far short
of what were once their standards. Sometime in the 1960s, they
abandoned their role as advocates of American values -- critical
advocates who tried to advance freedom and equality further than
Americans had yet succeeded in doing -- and took on the role of
adversaries of society."
- Links to websites that explore political bias in colleges:
Intercollegiate Studies Institute
- Students for Academic Freedom
- No Indoctrination
- FIRE: Foundation for Individual Rights in Education
- FIRE reports on speech codes at colleges in Illinois:
This is a series of excellent booklets on issues of academic freedom,
including free speech, due process, student fees and funding,
religious liberty, and freshman "orientation" courses. They can be
downloaded for free as PDF files. Quality printed copies can be
requested for free by college students, or can be purchased for a few
bucks by anyone else.
- The Torch: FIRE's blog of news updates
Accuracy in Academia
Accuracy in Academia - Campus Report Online: Browse through the year-by-year archives for some truly excellent articles on
academic freedom, low-content coursework, and political bias.
Minding the Campus:
"Minding the Campus is dedicated to the revival of intellectual pluralism and the best
traditions of liberal education
at America's universities. Look here for the most current thoughts and opinions on American academic reform."
The website has numerous, literate, high quality essays and points-of-view on such juicy issues as
professors and tenure, and
quotas and preferences.
- CampusWatch: Primarily concerned with bias in treatment of Middle East issues
- Critical Mass: A blog by Erin O'Connor: "The purpose of Critical Mass is to track moments of monumental malfeasance on campus--whether administrative, pedagogical, or scholarly; practical or ideological; individual or collective--and to reflect on what they mean for the future of education, intellect, free inquiry, and philosophical diversity in the U.S."
- Collegiate Network
Academic Freedom: a useful collection of essays and news reports.
Academic Freedom in the Middle and Secondary School Classroom (PDF) by Professors Daniel E. Lee and Jack A. Garrett, July/August 2005.
This is a short, excellent presentation on how K-12 teachers can handle controversial issues in
the classroom without trampling on individual political or personal perspectives.
"At the University of Illinois, A's constitute more than 40 percent of all
grades and outnumber C's by almost three to one."
National Trends in Grade Inflation at American Colleges and Universities
GradeInflation.com: Grade Inflation at American Colleges and Universities: A rich source of information
about college-level grade inflation, including trends, rankings of schools.
Fraud in Academia, by Walter E. Williams, May 6, 2009.
"Soon college students will come home and present parents with their
grades. To avoid delusion, parents should do some serious discounting
because of rampant grade inflation. If grade inflation continues, a
college bachelor's degree will have just as much credibility as a
high school diploma. ... From 1991 to 2007, in public institutions,
the average grade point average (GPA) rose, on a four-point scale,
from 2.93 to 3.11. In private schools, the average GPA climbed from
3.09 to 3.30. Put within a historical perspective, in the 1930s, the
average GPA was 2.35 (about a C-plus); whereby now it's a B-plus.
"Academic fraud is rife at many of the nation's most prestigious and
costliest universities. At Brown University, two-thirds of all letter
grades given are A's. At Harvard, 50 percent of all grades were
either A or A- (up from 22 percent in 1966); 91 percent of seniors
graduated with honors. The Boston Globe called Harvard's grading
practices 'the laughing stock of the Ivy League.' Eighty percent of
the grades given at the University of Illinois are A's and B's. Fifty
percent of students at Columbia University are on the Dean's list. At
Stanford University, where F grades used to be banned, only 6 percent
of student grades were as low as a C."
An Interview with Stuart Rojstaczer About Grade Inflation
by Susan Walsh Veronikas and Michael F. Shaughnessy.
Where All Grades Are Above Average by Stuart Rojstaczer,
Washington Post, January 28, 2003.
"How rare is the C in college? The
data indicate that not only is C an endangered species but that B,
once the most popular grade at universities and colleges, has been
supplanted by the former symbol of perfection, the A.
For example, at Duke, which all evidence indicates is not a 'leader'
in grade inflation -- by a long shot -- C's now make up less than 10
percent of all grades. In 1969 the C was a respectable thing, given
more than one-quarter of the time. A's overcame B's to reach the top
of the charts in grade popularity in the early 1990s.
At Pomona College, C's are now less than 4 percent of all grades.
About half of all grades at Pomona, Duke, Harvard and Columbia are
in the A range. State schools are not immune to this change. At the
University of Illinois, A's constitute more than 40 percent of all
grades and outnumber C's by almost three to one. More information
on this subject can be found at
- In a review of the book
Grade Inflation: A Crisis in College Education by Valen E. Johnson,
writer Dr. Mark H. Shapiro notes,
"Johnson also raises an issue that few have considered. Namely, that
the differential grading patterns between disciplines creates
inequities for students. Those students who take more courses from
the disciplines with more stringent grading patters will achieve
lower overall GPA's than students who take more courses from the easy
grading disciplines. As a result we find that premedical students
tend to major in departments like psychology rather than in biology
or chemistry because they know that they will be at a disadvantage
when they apply for medical school if their GPA's are lower -- even
though a biology or chemistry major might provide better preparation
for medical school. Finally, Johnson makes a number of suggestions
for reducing the effects of grade inequity and grade inflation. His
most controversial suggestion, and the one least likely to be adopted
in today's academic climate, is to weight student grades by a factor
that takes into account the average grade in each of the courses that
the student takes. Thus, a student who takes mostly courses that are
graded stringently would have his or her "effective" GPA raised;
while a student who takes mostly courses that are graded easily would
see his or her effective GPA lowered."
The Phenomenon of Grade Inflation in Higher Education
by Bradford P. Wilson, Association of American Educators.
"What is the extent of grade inflation in higher education --
what Yale officially refers to as 'upward grade homogenization?'
For that matter, does it even exist? I think we all have a sense
that grading isn't what it used to be -- that in today's academy,
the fear of failing has all but disappeared, and that making the
dean's list is no longer a pipe dream for students of the meanest
I've been looking at reports on the available data and find that,
as the Independent Counsel might say, there is substantial and
credible information that grades have been inflating over
a thirty-year period at American campuses of every variety."
Grade Inflation: It's Time to Face the Facts By Harvey C. Mansfield,
professor of government at Harvard University, Chronicle of Higher Education:
"... There is something inappropriate -- almost sick -- in the spectacle of
mature adults showering young people with unbelievable praise. ..."
Just Tell Me I'm Wonderful and Give Me the A!
by Tina Blue, April 27, 2006.
"How can we teach these kids if they believe, first of all, that
we have no right to criticize them, and second of all, that they
really deserve all those A's they have been getting despite their
decidedly substandard work?"
"Hey Kids, Want Some Easy College Credits?": As reported by the Opinion Journal of the
Wall Street Journal:
"'Hey kids--want some easy college credits?' So asks, with appropriate sarcasm,
Boise State University Prof. Peter Wollheim in the Feb. 2  Boise (Idaho) Weekly.
Citing a grade-distribution report that filtered from BSU deans to faculty members,
Mr. Wollheim recommends 'enrolling in courses that grant the highest percentages of A's,
such as American Sign Language (53.4%)' or 'early childhood studies (56.3%) ... But your overall
best bets, by far, are ensemble music (89.8%), radiology (61.3%) and military science (59.7%).'
While some teachers are upset by what they call grade inflation, BSU Provost
Sona Andrews is not so sure. 'If we do our jobs, correctly, more students actually should get A's,'
Mr. Wollheim quotes her saying. 'This is really about making the students as successful as they can be.'"
Another Route to Grade Inflation
by Tina Blue, August 10, 2003
" I try to maintain standards and to hold the line against grade inflation, I really do. ...
What that means is that I can actually be caught marking C's on mediocre essays,
even though I am all too uncomfortably aware that many of my colleagues would give the same papers
B's or even A's. ...
So I checked my final rosters against my grade book. I noticed one thing immediately:
there at the end of the semester, my sections were awfully small. ...
As I compared my final rosters with the grade book, however, I
discovered who it was that had dropped my course.
Almost every student who was getting a Cin the course, or
in danger of getting a C, had dropped out. Even a few that looked as
though they were likely to get B's had dropped the course.
No wonder almost everyone who stayed through the entire
course got either an Aor a B. Nearly all the Cstudents had abandoned
Grade Inflation Rates among Different Ability Students, Controlling for Other Factors
by Stephanie McSpirit, Ph.D., and Kirk E. Jones, Ph.D., Eastern Kentucky University,
Education Policy Analysis Archives, September 20, 1999.
- Grade inflation at Harvard:
Also see the sections of this web site regarding
Colleges and Money
Going Broke by Degree: Why College Costs Too Much
by Richard Vedder. Commentary on this book in the Wall Street Journal, December 13, 2007:
"Ironically, these government handouts are creating the tuition
problem. Tuition has risen about three percentage points faster than
inflation every year for the past quarter-century. At the same time,
the feds have put more and more money behind student loans and other
financial aid. The government is slowly becoming a third-party
tuition payer, with all the price distortions one would expect.
Every time tuition rises, the government makes up the difference;
colleges thus cheerfully raise tuition (and budgets), knowing the
government will step in. As a result, 'colleges have little
incentive to cut costs,' says economist Richard Vedder, the author
of Going Broke by Degree: Why College Costs Too Much. Mr. Vedder
explains that there are now twice as many university administrators
per student as there were in the 1970s. Faculty members are paid
more to teach fewer hours, and colleges have turned their campuses
into 'country clubs.' ...
"Our financial-aid system also hurts middle-class applicants.
Parents who have saved money for their child's tuition quickly find
that, by the strange calculus of financial aid, they are charged
more for college tuition than if they had blown their savings on a
bigger house. Mr. Vedder wonders why universities should get to ask
the income of their students before telling them how much they'll be
charged. That sounds like price discrimination: If a car dealer
tried to make you fill out the form students have to fill out for
financial aid, he notes, 'you'd run to a consumer protection
A Fortune in Tuition: Why Does College Cost So Darn Much?
by Richard Vedder, National Review, October 11, 2004.
"Rising tuition and enrollments have meant surging college revenues.
Real per-student spending rose about 70 percent over the past 20 years.
How have the universities used this extra money? Financial data provided
to the federal government suggest that remarkably little of the higher
spending has gone toward instruction: perhaps 21 cents for each new dollar
per student since 1976. Teaching and learning are becoming almost secondary
activities at some universities."
College Tuition Inflaters
by Neal McCluskey, American Spectator, February 8, 2008.
"There are many cost-driving excesses in higher education --
luxurious dorms, unused classroom space, growing bureaucracies,
expensive academic journals, and the list goes on -- that are
intermediate causes of the college cost problem. They are all,
however, undergirded by a single reality: ...
"The growth in federal student aid makes this clear. According to
data from the College Board, real federal aid -- including grants,
loans, and tax credits -- ballooned from $48.7 billion in the 1996-97
academic year to almost $86.3 billion in 2006-07, a 77 percent leap.
On a per-pupil basis, aid per full-time equivalent student -- most of
which came through Washington -- rose from $6,627 to $9,499, a 43
percent increase. Meanwhile, the per-pupil cost of tuition, fees,
room and board rose 29 percent at private four-year schools, from
$25,031 to $32,307, and 41 percent at public four-year institutions,
from $9,657 to $13,589. In other words, college prices kept rising
because aid made sure they could."
College Tuitions Rise While Endowments Simply Swell
by Lynne Munson, USA Today, October 18, 2007.
"Despite the needy profiles they project, colleges and universities
are our nation's wealthiest institutions. The top 25 higher education
endowments bank at least $11 billion more than their equivalently
ranked private foundations. Today, at least 62 schools have
endowments of more than $1 billion. ... 26 states boast institutions with billion dollar-plus
endowments; one-third of those are at public institutions. ... For
too long, the government response to skyrocketing tuition has been to
increase the size and number of loans. But making it possible for
students and parents to go further into debt only encourages
endowment hoarding and runaway tuition. Now the Senate is considering
at least one solution that might address the rising tuition problem. ... Most
other non-profit foundations are required to pay out at least 5%
every year. There is no reason that our colleges and universities
cannot do the same to lower tuitions."
Tuition Rising: Why College Costs So Much
by Ronald G. Ehrenberg. The Library Journal says this book
"examines the factors influencing the spiraling tuition costs of the
past decade: the need to spend money to have the best facilities,
faculties, and learning tools in order to attract the best and
brightest students, the need to spend for athletics and other
programs to keep alumni support strong, the self-governing nature of
university faculty, and the increasing pressure to spend in order to
increase ratings in external publications."
Meet the Pattersons
by Newt Gingrich, August 28, 2006.
"The price of a public four-year college education increased by more
then 500% from 1981 to 2003. Five hundred percent! All other consumer
prices rose by 140% in that same time period. ... The fact is, we now
have a system in which colleges and universities aren't accountable
for the high prices they charge, and so they have little incentive to
keep costs down."
By "Higher Education," They Mean the Price
by Burt Prelutsky, June 11, 2007.
"Countless American families are mortgaging their homes and future
solvency so that their kids can attend college.
Frankly, I'm not certain just when it became so darn imperative for
every 18-year-old to traipse off to some ivy-walled ivory tower. ...
I have long-wondered why it costs so much dough to be a student in
the humanities. After all, it's not as if novels and books of poetry
are terribly pricey items. It's not as if they were cyclotrons or
chemistry labs. ...
I honestly feel sorry for all those dutiful and loving parents
who feel they must hock the silverware in order to finance junior's
liberal arts education. Guilt being as ingrained in some people as it
is, I know that even if I started screaming from a rooftop that
they'd all be better off if they gave the kids $10,000 and a library
card my words would fall on deaf ears. ...
Seriously, I have no idea why there isn't more of an outcry over
this issue. Millions of Americans will go ballistic if the price of
gasoline goes up 10 cents-a-gallon, but they barely make a peep over
the fact that it can easily run them well over $100,000 to buy their
kid a college degree."
Fat Cat Universities Don't Need Any More Money
by Jason Mattera, January 4, 2007.
"Colleges charge outrageous prices knowing that Washington always
deflects cost. Consider that qualified students are eligible to
receive $4,050 in Pell Grants per year and up to $23,000 per
undergrad degree in Stafford Loans (the two main sources of federal
student aid). That means there is at least $16,200 in Pell Grants and
$23,000 in federal loans currently set aside to offset costs. That's
a whole lot of green college administrators can play with -- $39,200 to
be exact -- when calculating the sticker price. ... The government's
'helping hand' gives colleges a perverse market incentive to inflate
... At least the extra aid goes toward instruction, right? Wrong!
... From 1977 to 2000 only twenty-one cents out of each increased dollar spent
per student actually covered teaching."
$500,000 Common Pay For College Chiefs,
Chicago Sun-Times, November 20, 2006.
"Some 112 of the 853 public and private university presidents
surveyed said they had pay and benefits packages of more than half a
million dollars, according to an annual report being published today
in The Chronicle of Higher Education.
The jump was more prominent among public university presidents,
rising from 23 last year to 42. The median pay package for those
leaders is now $374,846. ...
In the Chicago area, the University of Chicago's Don Randel earned
$630,000 in total compensation, Northwestern's Henry Bienen earned
$774,000, and the University of Illinois at Chicago's Sylvia Manning
earned $345,000. The heads of Loyola and DePaul were unpaid."
If College Is a Good Investment, Why Should the Government Subsidize It?
by Jacob Sullum, January 18, 2007.
"Basic economic theory tells us that boosting the demand for a
product or service, which is what government loans and grants
effectively do, tends to raise its price. ... there is a
good deal of evidence suggesting that federal financial assistance
has the unintended consequence of increasing tuition for all
students. ... One study found public and private four-year colleges
increased net tuition (taking internal aid into account) by 68 cents
and 60 cents, respectively, for each additional dollar in Pell
Grants. Another study found private colleges raised net tuition by 72
cents for each additional dollar of federal loan aid. ...
To the extent that rising subsidies since the 1970s have encouraged
people to enter college who otherwise would not have, that is not
necessarily a good thing. Citing low completion rates, [economist Richard] Vedder argues
that 'we probably have over-invested in higher education,' attracting
marginal students who never graduate."
Over Invested and Over Priced: American Higher Education Today (PDF),
Center for Affordability and Productivity, November 19, 2007.
"We are over invested in universities, ... too many students attend school, ... much of our invest-
ment is wasted. Moreover, the rise in costs -- to society, to taxpayers, and especially to consumers -- is
excessive, and has been made more so by well meaning but inappropriate public policies. The law of
unintended consequences looms large in any discussion of America's colleges and universities."
Why Must College Be So Costly?
by Chester E. Finn, Jr.
Uncle Sam's Tuition Bill: Breaking the culture of dependency on campus
by Brendan Miniter, Wall Street Journal, July 26, 2005. Excerpts:
"... The federal government has now become the co-signer on nearly
every student loan, even paying the loan's interest while the student
is in school, and guaranteeing to lenders at least 98% of their
principal should the student default. ... This year the federal
government will make more than $70 billion in financial aid available
by guaranteeing loans, lending money directly to students, or handing
out grants. ...
Moreover, the pressure to keep upping the ante is unrelenting from
Democrats and Republicans alike, who never tire as posing as the
protectors of children against the scourge of rapacious tuition
Unfortunately, by footing these bills and turning higher education
into an entitlement, Congress itself is primarily responsible for
isolating academia from normal consumer pressure by shielding most
students (and their parents) from the true cost of higher education.
That's why schools can keep ratcheting up tuitions beyond what any
middle class family can reasonably afford to pay--because they know
taxpayers stand ready to take up the slack."
Making College More Expensive: The Unintended Consequences of Federal Tuition Aid
by Gary Wolfram, Professor of Political Economy at Hillsdale College, January 25, 2005.
"One result of the
federal government's student financial aid programs is higher tuition
costs at our nation's colleges and universities. Basic economic
theory suggests that the increased demand for higher education
generated by [reauthorization of the Higher Education Act] will have the effect of increasing tuitions."
Colleges Choking On Cash
by Malcolm A. Kline, October 01, 2004.
"Although the academic community continually cries poor, especially
when, alternatively, raising tuitions or seeking government
subsidies, some dissident professors point out that the Ivory Tower
is not under- but over-funded."
In New Twist on Tuition Game, Popularity Rises With the Price
by Jonathan D. Glater and Alan Finder, New York Times, December 12, 2006, page A1.
"John Strassburger, the president of Ursinus College, ...
vividly remembers the day that the chairman of the board of trustees
told him the college was losing applicants because of its tuition. It was too low.
So early in 2000 the board voted to raise tuition and fees 17.6 percent, to $23,460 ...
Then it waited to see what would happen.
Ursinus received nearly 200 more applications than the year before.
Within four years the size of the freshman class had risen 35
percent, to 454 students.
Applicants had apparently concluded that if the college cost more, it must be better.
'It's bizarre and it's embarrassing, but it's probably true,' Dr. Strassburger said."
Beer and Circus: How Big-Time College Sports Is Crippling Undergraduate Education
by Murray Sperber.
Book description from Publishers Weekly:
"A stunning outline of the contemporary educational landscape,
Sperber's book provides a stark analysis of academia's abandonment of
its undergraduate students. Alluding to the ancient Roman practice of
placating people with cheap bread and ostentatious spectacles,
Sperber argues that an ever-growing number of state universities lure
undergraduates to their schools with halcyon images of booze-filled
parties and prominent sports programs while abandoning their
commitment to the students' education. Administrators use the
students' sorely needed tuition dollars to fund sports, build
research facilities and hire world-class faculty members, who give
the school prestige but scarcely give their legions of undergraduate
charges the time of day."
Exacting Donors Reshape College Giving
by Susan Kinzie, Washington Post, September 4, 2007.
"Alumni now are far more likely to give to specific projects rather than the operating funds that keep universities running and to expect detailed reports on how the money is spent."
The College Experience Today
The Idea of a University
by Roger Scruton, Smerican Spectator, September 2010.
"In the university, according to [Cardinal John Henry] Newman, the pursuit of truth and the active discussion of
its meaning are integrated into a wider culture, in which the ideal of the gentleman is
acknowledged as the standard. The gentleman does not merely know things; he is receptive
to the tone, the meaning, the lived reality of what he knows. ... The university of
Newman's day was a place in which men (and it was then an institution for men only) lived
for scholarship, and arranged their lives around the sacrifice that scholarship requires. ...
"[Today's] middle-class father, preparing to meet tuition fees of $40,000 or more, and
board and lodging on top of that, will naturally dwell on all the ways in which this
represents a good investment. But when his daughter emerges three or four years later with
a degree in Women's Studies, the main outward sign of which is a well-honed grievance
against men in general and the last one in particular, he is likely to question the wisdom
of throwing away a third of a million dollars on such an outcome. Finding that his
daughter's ignorance of the classics is as great on leaving university as it was on
entering it, that she has graduated from her teenage pop idols only to immerse herself in
more 'advanced' forms of rock and heavy metal, and that her attitude to career, marriage,
childbearing, and all the other things that he had hoped for her is entirely negative,
such a father is sure to regret the use of his money. ...
"The problem with that argument is that, outside the natural sciences and a few solid
humanities like philosophy and Egyptology, academic freedom is a thing of the past. What
is expected of the student in many courses in the humanities and social sciences is
ideological conformity, rather than critical appraisal, and censorship has become accepted
as a legitimate part of the academic way of life. 'No platform' policies, forbidding
people of unorthodox or offensive views from addressing audiences on campus, or speech
codes that condemn unorthodox statements as 'hate speech' are now widely accepted."
Beloit College Mindset List:
Every year, Beloit College assembles observations that help to identify the experiences that have
shaped the lives‹and formed the mindset‹of students starting their post-secondary education that fall.
The Mindset List is not a chronological listing of things that happened in the year they were born.
It is instead an effort to identify the worldview of 18 year-olds entering college.
The Myth of College
by Dave Barry
Survival of the Fittest
by John Merrow, New York Times, April 24, 2005. Here's the Fordham Foundation's
description of this article:
"The New York Times travels to State U and finds mega-sized classes,
disengaged and anonymous students floating through their four (or
increasingly four-and-a-half, or five, years of college), and an
environment where books and studying have been replaced with beer
bongs and "power hours" (a shot of beer every minute for an hour).
The Times profiles five students and their experiences at the
University of Arizona (one describes passing out on the floor of a
vacant fraternity house--although he drinks four nights a week and
never attends class, he has still made the dean's list). Professors
and students exist in a kind of mutual non-aggression pact:
professors offer light material and grade easily, and students don't
kick up a fuss. Universities blame a culture of apathy, limited state
funding, and poor secondary preparation by high schools. A few states
want to stem the astonishingly high dropout rate at big public
universities by tying funding to such measures as retention, but this
could perversely incentivize colleges to lower standards even
further. In the end, the spiraling cost of tuition--even at state
schools--might be the only thing that sparks reform. Eventually,
parents are going to wonder why a college that costs tens of
thousands of dollars per year nets the proud graduate little but
overstuffed lecture halls, a degree of questionable value, and a
Advice to the Class of 2003 by Ross Douthat, a sophomore at Harvard, August
"Modern American collegiate life is a surreal experience, completely
unlike either the high school years that precede it or the adult
world for which it ostensibly offers preparation. It resembles a
sociological experiment gone wildly awry, in which young people of
both sexes are crammed together in small rooms, relieved of adult
supervision, and told that this is, somehow, an academic experience.
These 'students' inhabit a world of bizarre schedules, peculiar
relationships, and frequent drinking, disturbed only by the
occasional exam and the looming specter of a senior-year job search."
College Drinking: Changing the Culture - a government site that emphasizes
informational presentations and making "choices".
This Is Their Brains on Drugs
by Tina Blue, December 25, 2002.
"Well, it's been another frustrating semester of trying to herd cats. ...
in our discussions of why a lot of students seem less focused and in
so many ways less competent and responsible than students we remember
from, say, twenty years ago, we sometimes overlook a significant
factor: the impact of heavy drug and alcohol use.
Drinking is so widespread and so heavy among
undergraduates these days that for partying purposes, many of them
think of Thursday evening as the beginning of the weekend. When I
walk into my classes on Friday morning, I can actually smell the beer
so many of them were sucking down Thursday night. We know a lot of
our students drink heavily on weekends, and that many do so even
during the week. Why should we be surprised that so many of them
can't make it to their morning classes, or that when they do, they
can't stay awake."
Survival Message for College Students
by Phyllis Schlafly, August 29, 2001.
"Students starting college this fall need survival instructions to enable
them to understand the jargon and prepare for the challenge of strange
encounters. The prevailing environment on most college campuses is
Political Correctness (P.C.) - in faculty bias, course content,
visiting speakers, and organizations and events funded by student fees.
Here are the principal tenets of the campus dogma known as Political Correctness ..."
First, Do Harm: How Campus Therapists Sabotage Their Patients
by Sally Satel, Weekly Standard, February 5, 2007.
"According to a 2004 survey ... nearly half of all college students report having felt so
depressed at school that they have had trouble functioning. ... nine percent of all students
sought help at their college mental health center. ...
[But one] psychiatrist who works in the mental health clinic of a large university ...
argues that the culture on campus -- and in her profession -- is so
steeped in political correctness that it hamstrings the ability of
therapists to help college students. The doctor's frustration steams
off every page: 'We ask about child abuse, but not last week's
hook-ups,' she laments. 'We want to know how many cigarettes and
coffees she's had each day, but not how many abortions in her past.
We consider the stress caused by parental expectations and rising
tuition, but neglect the anguish of herpes, the hazards of
promiscuity, and the looming fertility issues for women who put their
career first.' ...
[She] does a graphic job of showing how the campus environment can be a parent's worst nightmare. ...
In training workshops [she] would like to see less focus on sexual experimentation
and social oppression in the counseling of young people and more consideration of
meaning, hope, and purpose. 'Many would benefit from being less self-absorbed, not more,' she says."
"The campus environment can be a parent's worst nightmare"
Is Promiscuity Obligatory?
By Mark Earley, January 10, 2006
Heretical Thoughts About Higher Education (PDF)
by Thomas C. Reeves,
Wisconsin Interest, 2004, Vol. 13 No. 1
The Killing of History: Why Relativism Is Wrong
- See our page on gender issues for information and links regarding the
growing gender imbalance in colleges.
Independent Women's Forum -- On Campus
Independent Women's Forum -- Special Reports
Are Colleges Training Rapists?
by Judith Reisman, December 20, 2005
What's Up, Doc? The Prestige of Honorary Degrees Falls to Record Lows
by Joseph Epstein, Weekly Standard, May 26, 2008.
"A cultural historian may one day be able to measure the fall from seriousness of American universities by
tracking the people to whom they chose to award honorary degrees. The first step in this descent I noted
was the awarding of such degrees to television journalists ...
From there these degrees went to movie stars and television comedians."
Making the Most of College
College: More than Just a Four-Year Party
by Jenna Ashley Robinson, June 22, 2009.
"To take advantage of the opportunities that await you, you should
have two goals in mind while in college. Yes, you should prepare
yourself for future employment ... by getting good grades, working in your field, and
learning specific skills for employment.
But you should also strive to become an educated person, with an
understanding of literature, history, and the sciences. College
should fulfill your curiosity and satisfy your need for intellectual
stimulation. Avoid the temptation to just 'get by' with easy A's in
fluff courses. ... Here are a few guidelines to help you achieve both job and personal
College For All?
What's Wrong With Vocational School?
Too Many Americans Are Going To College
by Charles Murray, Wall Street Journal, January 17, 2007.
The Costs of Failure Factories in American Higher Education
by Mark Schneider, American Enterprise Institute, October 30, 2008.
"American higher education absorbs a larger share of GDP than that of
other countries, but it has not produced a particularly high
proportion of college graduates. College graduation rates are
actually worse than the very low benchmark of high school graduation
The bulk of the article provides extensive insight and analysis on college graduation rates.
Is it Fair to Call Them "Failure Factories"?
A higher education leader has harsh words for many colleges
by George Leef, The John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, November 19, 2008. Excerpts:
"It's surprising to learn that overall our colleges and universities
have a lower graduation rate than our high schools do. About
three-fourths of high school freshmen graduate, while barely more
than half of college freshmen do. ...
"Since the quality of students
admitted at many schools is very poor, a low graduation rate is
exactly what we should expect. ...
"Many young Americans now only go
to college to obtain their education credentials. ... employers are
widely using the possession of a college degree merely as a rough
screening device, a substitute for general aptitude testing (which
federal statutes and court decisions have made legally perilous). ...
"A startling fact about the labor market is the large number of people
who have college degrees but are working at jobs that don't even
remotely call for advanced academic preparation, such as airline
flight attendant and aerobics instructor.
"The problem with American higher education is not that too few
students graduate, but rather than so many of weak ability are
pressured into college in the first place. ... many guidance
counselors push college attendance on almost every student,
apparently fearing that they'll be seen as failures if they have a
low rate of students enrolling in college.
"We don't need to worry about our college graduation rates, but if
they went up because fewer students who have little academic ability
or interest enrolled, that would be good."
America's Most Overrated Product: Higher Education
by Marty Nemko, Ph.D.
"How much do college students actually learn? Colleges are quick to
argue that a college education is more about enlightenment than
employment. That may be the biggest deception of all. Often, there is
a Grand Canyon of difference between the reality and what
institutions of higher education, especially research-centric ones,
tout in their viewbooks and websites. ... A 2006 study funded by the
Pew Charitable Trusts found that 50 percent of college seniors failed
a test that required them to do such basic tasks as interpret a table
about exercise and blood pressure, understand the arguments of
newspaper editorials, or compare credit card offers. Almost 20
percent of seniors had only basic quantitative skills. ...
Unbelievably, ... things are getting even worse ... the percentage of
college graduates deemed proficient in prose literacy has actually
declined from 40 to 31 percent in the past decade."
The remainder of this article offers very specific and juicy recommendations under the headings,
"What must be done to improve undergraduate education?" and "What should parents and guardians of prospective students do?"
Is College Worth It?
by Walter E. Williams, August 27, 2008
"As parents pack their youngsters off to college, they might ask
themselves whether it's worth both the money they will spend and
their children's time.
"While colleges have strong financial motives to admit unsuccessful
students, for failing students the experience can be devastating.
They often leave with their families, or themselves, having piled up
thousands of dollars in debt. There is possibly trauma and poor
self-esteem for having failed, and perhaps embarrassment for their
says that worst of all is that few of these
former college students, having spent thousands of dollars, wind up
in a job that required a college education. It's not uncommon to find
them driving a taxi, working at a restaurant or department store,
performing some other job that they could have had as a high school
graduate or dropout."
The College Con by George Leef, September 07, 2006.
"Won't most jobs in
the future require a college degree, though? The answer is, again,
no. Most of the work in the economy in the future will be the same as
in the past, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The need
for workers to do things like drive trucks, hang drywall, and prepare
food will continue to grow. In fact, the BLS predicts that most of
the work areas that will grow the most over the next decade are ones
that only call for on-the-job training."
The Overselling of Higher Education (PDF)
by George Leef, September 05, 2006
Choosing a College
- Click for info on the SAT,
on our page covering tests and assessments.
Before Sending Your Child to a College, Ask these Questions
by Dennis Prager, March 4, 2008.
"Why so many Americans go into debt paying so much money to such
failed institutions is one of the riddles of the universe.
It is time to demand that universities teach. Forcing them to answer
the above seven questions is a good way to begin. Because granting a
Bachelor of Arts degree on someone who never heard of Cain and Abel
and never heard a Haydn symphony is a fraud."
Choosing a College
by Thomas Sowell, September 16, 2004.
"Colleges used to say that their job was to teach the student how to
think, not what to think. Today, most colleges are in the business of
teaching the student what to think or 'feel.'
Many colleges -- even many of the most prestigious -- lack any real
curriculum, but they seldom lack an ideological agenda. ...
As for education, students can go through many colleges selecting
courses cafeteria-style, and graduate in complete ignorance of
history, science, economics, and many other subjects, even while
clutching a costly diploma with a big name on it."
Choosing the Right College: The Whole Truth about America's Top Schools.
This excellent book goes way beyond surface descriptions.
If you're looking for a college that still offers a broad and substantive liberal arts
education taught in an atmosphere of political openness, this is the book for you.
Asking the Right Questions in Choosing a College; A Guide for Students and Parents
by Winfield J. C. Myers.
Taking a campus tour? Prepare for your visit with insights that go beyond the admissions literature.
Unlike most "college guides," this book goes into detail about the academic and
social life to be found on each campus, the degree to which it is encouraged,
discouraged or even possible to put together a solid liberal arts course of study,
and the presence or absence of political bias among faculty and in the classrooms.
The Student's Guides to the Major Disciplines:
Get an overview of fields of interest before choosing and starting a college!
These small books are reader-friendly introductions to the most important
fields of knowledge in the liberal arts.
Each title (only about $6) offers an historical overview of the discipline,
explains the central ideas of each subject, and evaluates the works of thinkers
whose ideas have shaped our world. Titles include:
These guides will aid students seeking to make better decisions about their course
of study as well as general readers who wish to supplement their education.
- A Student's Guide to Liberal Learning
- A Student's Guide to the Core Curriculum
- A Student's Guide to Philosophy
- A Student's Guide to Literature
- A Student's Guide to Economics
- A Student's Guide to Classics
- A Student's Guide to the Study of History
- A Student's Guide to U.S. History
- A Student's Guide to Political Philosophy
- A Student's Guide to Psychology
Online College Guides
U-CAN Network: Developed by an association of colleges and universities,
this site provides topline details about colleges, with a unique added twist: many topics regarding academics,
student life, the surrounding community, housing, sports and so on link directly to the appropriate pages
on the college's own websites, sparing the reader from having to master the navigation quirks of each one.
Naviance: Use the "guest entrance" for extensive information
about all U.S. colleges. Families at subscribing high schools can access additional juicy info such as
acceptance and enrollment statistics and extremely useful scatterplots of acceptance rates broken out by test scores and GPAs.
- Have you been Delphi'ed?
The following community college districts in Illinois have used professional PR firm UNICOM-ARC for
public relations efforts:
To learn more about UNICOM-ARC, and how districts have been employing slick PR tactics,
read these pages on our website:
- College of DuPage
- Danville Area Community College
- Highland Community College - Freeport
- Kaskaskia College
- Lake Land College - Mattoon
- Morraine Valley Community College
- Prairie State College
- Richland Community College - Decatur
- William A. Rainey Harper College (IL)
Quotes on Colleges, Knowledge and Thinking
From our extensive page on education quotations,
here are the entries on
"In 100 years we have gone from teaching Latin and Greek in
high school to teaching Remedial English in college."
-- Joseph Sobran
"The college model is broken. It costs too much. It promises too much.
It is content to let people graduate with a degree in
grievance studies and a minor in ferret husbandry."
-- James Lileks
"We are lending money we don't have to kids who can't pay it back
to train them for jobs that no longer exist. That's nuts."
"Those who talk as if more people going to college is automatically a Good Thing seldom show much interest in what actually goes on at college -- including far less time spent by students studying than in the past, and a proliferation of courses promoting a sense of grievance, entitlement, or advanced navel-gazing and breast-beating.
-- Thomas Sowell, Ph.D.
"The problem at the moment is that college students know very little
and don't know what they don't know. To ask an uneducated student
to select a course of study is to suggest the blind should lead the blind."
-- Herbert I. London, Ph.D., president, Hudson Institute
"The sad fact is that because students are not college-ready,
colleges are dumbing down their curriculums to be student-ready."
-- Charles Ormsby, professor, Department of Mathematical Sciences, University of Massachusetts Lowell.
"Seriousness is stupidity sent to college."
-- P. J. O'Rourke
"No account of the present condition of college students would be complete
without mention of the extraordinary dearth of factual knowledge they bring to
college. Horror stories on this topic abound--and they are probably all true. ...
Indeed, one can't assume that college students know anything anymore. ..."
-- Daniel J. Singal, "The Other Crisis in American Education," Atlantic Monthly, November 1991
"Alan Heimert, a veteran member of the Harvard English department, encounters the
same mushy grasp of historical knowledge and blames it on the 'trendy
social-studies curriculum' now taught in most high schools which covers broad
thematic topics rather than history. 'They are aware that someone oppressed
someone else,' he says with only slight exaggeration, 'but they aren't sure
exactly what took place and they have no idea of the order in which it
-- Daniel J. Singal, "The Other Crisis in American Education," Atlantic Monthly, November 1991
"Students headed for college used to get a solid grasp of both American and
European history at the high school level. Now, as most people are aware, they
pass through an array of social-studies courses designed to impress upon them the
central values of the sixties, including concern for the natural environment,
respect for people of different racial and ethnic groups, and women's rights.
These values are important and should certainly be included in the curriculum.
But teaching them in such a superficial manner, devoid of any historical context,
simply doesn't work."
-- Daniel J. Singal, "The Other Crisis in American Education," Atlantic Monthly, November 1991No matter how fascinating or valuable a new detail might be, a person finds it almost impossible to hold in memory and have available for retrieval unless it can be placed in some kind of larger context. Providing that basic intellectual scaffolding used to be a major function of a good high school education. Year-long survey courses in history and literature, covering the United States, Europe, and the world, were designed to ensure that college-bound students would have the necessary background to make sense of the new subject matter they would encounter in college. Yet few high schools today teach that kind of curriculum.No matter how fascinating or valuable a new detail might be, a person finds it almost impossible to hold in memory and have available for retrieval unless it can be placed in some kind of larger context. Providing that basic intellectual scaffolding used to be a major function of a good high school education. Year-long survey courses in history and literature, covering the United States, Europe, and the world, were designed to ensure that college-bound students would have the necessary background to make sense of the new subject matter they would encounter in college. Yet few high schools today teach that kind of curriculum.
"During the past thirty years the ideal of the unity of learning, bequeathed
to us by the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, has been largely abandoned.
With rare exceptions American colleges and universities have dissolved their
curricula into a slurry of minor disciplines and specialized courses.
While the average number of undergraduate courses per institution has doubled,
the percentage of mandatory courses in general education has dropped by more
than half. Science was sequestered at the same time; as I write, only a
third of colleges and universities require students to take at least one
course in the natural sciences."
-- Edward O. Wilson, Research Professor and Honorary Curator in Entomology at Harvard University,
"Back From Chaos," The Atlantic Monthly, March 1998
"Many [college professors] will candidly say that a high percentage of
today's high school graduates are 'disengaged.' They read and write poorly
and have no interest in challenging academic work. They are used to education
that is easy and entertaining, and rebel against rigorous standards and
criticism. The 'award winning' public schools that parents keep hearing about
are in fact producing hordes of young people who may be very pleased with
themselves, but are almost unteachable. Perhaps most Americans are satisfied
with the public schools, but they shouldn't be."
-- George C. Leef, director
of the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in Raleigh, NC
"The language skills of people from elite institutions frequently are
not what they should be for the types of degrees they've
accumulated, ... The old emphasis on the basics has gotten lost in the shuffle."
-- Thomas Duesterberg, chief executive of the
Manufacturers Alliance/MAPI, a business policy group in Arlington, Virginia
"Far too many of today's college students have difficulty writing a simple
declarative sentence let alone a coherent paragraph. ... In [the classes I teach]
perhaps a third of the students can write decent prose. Another third
can write sentences that can be understood with a little imagination on the part
of the reader. However, a good third of the students write so poorly that it is
difficult to understand what, if anything, they have on their minds."
-- Dr. Mark H. Shapiro
"I find the English language skills, reading ability and mathematics
ability of most people who have gone to reputable schools to be
atrocious. What's worse, they're ignorant about their ignorance."
-- Edward Studzinski, a Chicago portfolio manager, in discussing his
worries about the quality of college
graduates taking the reins in corporate America
"Many of our freshmen arrive at college, after 12 years of school
(presumably in the 'college track'), knowing nothing of the
pre-Plymouth past, including the Bible. All too frequently, they have
not heard of Aristotle, Aquinas, Luther, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke,
Montesquieu, Burke, or Marx. They often know nothing of the
deterioration of Athens and Rome, of Czarist Russia and Weimar
Germany, and next to nothing of the history of science, technology,
industry, of capitalism and socialism, of fascism and Stalinism, of
how we found ourselves in two world wars, or even in Vietnam. They
have been asked to read very little and to reflect hardly at all. At
18 or 19, they are unarmed for public discourse, their great energy
and idealism at the mercy of pop politics and the seven o'clock news."
-- Paul Gagnon, professor, University of Massachusetts
"Students learn almost nothing about civic matters while they are in
college ... Our students neither enter
nor exit their universities with a level of civic literacy that even
approaches a satisfactory level."
-- Josiah Bunting, chairman of the Intercollegiate Studies
Institute's National Civic Literacy Board
"The decline of our once-proud colleges and universities ... is the bitter fruit of our ever-more
ineffective K-12 education."
-- E. D. Hirsch, Jr.
"... unless we fix the leaks in the K-12 education pipeline, no higher education policy
can possibly improve minority opportunities to attend college."
-- Jay P. Greene and Greg Forster, Wasington Post, Jan. 7, 2004
"... American colleges are so incompetent and vicious that, in any really
civilized country, they would be closed by the police... Everywhere they
tend to become, not centers of enlightenment, but simply reservoirs of
idiocy. ... The childish mumbo-jumbo that passes for technique among them
scarcely goes beyond the capacities of a moron. To take a Ph.D. in
education in most American seminaries, is an enterprise that requires no
more real acumen or information than taking a degree in window
dressing. ... Most pedagogues ... are simply dull persons who have found it
easy to get along by dancing to whatever tune happens to be lined out. At
this dancing they have trained themselves to swallow any imaginable fad or
folly, and always with enthusiasm. The schools reek with this puerile
nonsense. Their programs of study sound like the fantastic inventions of
comedians gone insane. The teaching of the elements is abandoned for a
dreadful mass of useless fol-de-rols... Or examine a dozen or so of the
dissertations ... turned out by candidates for the doctorate at any eminent
penitentiary for pedagogues, say Teachers College, Columbia. What you will
find is a state of mind that will shock you. It is so feeble that it is
scarcely a state of mind at all."
-- H. L. Mencken (quoted from "The War on Intelligence," December
31, 1928, published in "A Second Mencken Chrestomathy," Vintage, 1994)
"One of the effects of the rapid spread of higher education has been to
equip people to criticise and question almost everything.
Some of them seem to have stopped there instead of going on to the next stage
which is to arrive at new beliefs or to reaffirm old ones."
-- Margaret Thatcher, October 11, 1968
"Apparently, your brain doesn't
work out all of its kinks until you're around 25 -- a fact that seems to have eluded
everyone in history except our Founding Fathers and the people who run car-rental
-- Jonah Goldberg, "U. Topia", National Review, October 18, 2010
"Universities cherish diversity in everything except where it counts most: ideas."
-- David Rubinstein, professor of sociology, University of Illinois at Chicago
"Yes, the lectures are optional. Graduation is also optional."
-- Prof. Brian Quinn
Also see our full page on education quotations.