College: Watered Down

Blogger Audacious Epigone (A. E.) has been mining data from the General Social Survey, and he uncovered a remarkable downward trend in a measure of the literacy of college graduates. GSS for decades has been administering a test called Wordsum to its survey takers. To facilitate comparison over time, the test has never changed, and consists of just ten vocabulary words. The test, available here, is not particularly hard, and most educated persons should be able to score at least nine out of ten.

Indeed, A. E. shows that, forty years ago, roughly half of college graduates between the ages of 25 and 40 did score 9 or 10 out of 10. Performance, however, has steadily deteriorated over time, so that now only about one in six can make that score.

A. E. attributes the decline to over-expansion of higher education causing a decline in the average level of student talent. Forty years ago, only a relatively more select group of academically talented people went to college. At that time, only 12% of the population had degrees. Now, 33% do. Just as an individual school cannot generally increase enrollment without lowering standards, neither can higher education as a whole.

Letting more people into college was supposed to lift them up, but instead, they have brought college down to their own level. It’s fair to say that the expanded college population has changed college more than college has changed them.

If you follow the link to the test, it really consists of words that any literate person should know. I hesitated a bit over only one of the words. The fact that five out of six college graduates gets two or more wrong is frankly appalling.

This evidence concurs with my anecdotal experience of running into young college graduates who don’t seem to have learned anything. For instance, I recently met a young lady with an art degree (not from UD) who didn’t know what a fresco was.

She also has about $100,000 in student loan debt.

All this evidence points to the fact that higher education is massively over-expanded due to government subsidies. As a result, our current system of higher education involves an incalculably huge waste of resources. Government subsidies need to be eliminated so that the whole system can be substantially scaled back.

Hunger Strike: How does it work?

At the formerly-great Yale University, graduate students are engaging in a ‘symbolic hunger strike’ over benefits.

That “collective fast” they’re embarked upon has been described as a “hunger strike.” In reality, though, it’s only a virtual or symbolic hunger strike. That is, the students stand around in front of President Salovey’s house whining, holding signs, and feeling sorry for  themselves only until they feel hungry.

Then they go eat.

You misspelled ‘ludicrous.’

The grad students are protesting the oppressed state of their existence as PhD students at a world-renowned university. Here are the meager rations that Yale provides them:

  • A full tuition waiver
  • $30,000 per year stipend
  • health insurance

Huh. When I was a PhD student a generation ago, I also got the tuition waiver, but my stipend wasn’t $30,000. Using the Social Security Administration’s wage index to covert my stipend to today’s dollars yields…$12,000. We also did not get health insurance, and in fact I went several years without health insurance. During those years, there were a couple of occasions when I incurred medical bills and needed insurance but didn’t have it. Both times I had to negotiate a payment reduction with the provider and pay the rest out of pocket.

So as a PhD student, my stipend was only 40 percent of what the Yale snowflakes are paid, and unlike them, I had no health coverage. Somehow, I never considered going on strike:  hunger, symbolic hunger, or otherwise.

This phony hunger strike is just more evidence, as if more were needed, that the leftist mind is unusually at ease with phony poses and personal hypocrisy.

But maybe, after all, there’s still hope for Yale yet.

The End of History–Not

In the wake of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Francis Fukuyama published his famous essay, “The End of History?”, which he later expanded into a best-selling book. Fukuyama essentially argued that the resolution of the Cold War pointed to the ultimate triumph of Western classical liberalism, broadly defined, as the only viable alternative for humanity.

“What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.”

Twenty years ago, Fukuyama’s thesis was the ‘hot take’ in intellectual circles, and it catapulted him to celebrity status. But this month, a referendum was held in Turkey. And the result of that referendum blows Fukuyama out of the water.

Now, when most Americans hear ‘Turkey’, what comes first to mind is a sandwich option, rather than the country. But the country is important. Turkey’s population is larger than that of Britain or France, and Turkey is very strategically located between Europe and the Middle East. And now, following the referendum this month, Turkey has officially defected from its 90-year alliance with the West and allegiance to Western values.

Well farewell then Turkey.  Or at least, farewell the Turkey of Kemal Ataturk.  It’s a shame.  Ataturk-ism nearly made its own centenary.

But the nation that he founded, which believed broadly in progressive notions such as a separation of mosque and state, has just been formally snuffed out.  President Erdogan’s success in the referendum to award himself Caliph-like powers for life finally sees the end of Turkey’s secular and democratic experiment.

Turkey is gone.

Ataturk’s revolution was remarkable. He took a country that had been for hundreds of years Islamist and backward and hostile to the West and Western values and turned it around and made it a modern, progressive nation, allied with the West. Ataturk’s logic was essentially the same as Fukuyama’s–the only viable way forward is through classical liberalism: representative democracy, free markets, and the rule of law. Ataturk’s remarkable revolution had a good run of nearly 100 years.

But even though Fukuyama’s thesis implies that Ataturk was on the right side of history, his revolution is over. According to what everybody came to believe 20 years ago, this wasn’t supposed to happen. The Turkish referendum was an explicit rejection of The End of History.

There’s another lesson here, and that is the role of birth rates. Mark Steyn argues that Turkey steadily moved toward Islam and away from secularism due to the fact that religious and rural Turks in the East outbred secular and urban Turks in the West.

Since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, there have been two Turkeys: the Turks of Rumelia, or European Turkey, and the Turks of Anatolia, or Asia Minor. Kemal Atatürk was from Rumelia and so were most of his supporters, and they imposed the modern Turkish Republic on a somewhat relunctant Anatolia, where Atatürk’s distinction between the state and Islam was never accepted. In its 80-year history, the population has increased from 14 million in 1923 to 70 million today, but the vast bulk of that population growth has come from Anatolia, whose population has migrated from the rural hinterland to overwhelm the once solidly Kemalist cities. Atatürk’s modern secular Turkey has simply been outbred by fiercely Islamic Turkey.

Fukuyama in his book briefly and breezily dismissed Islamism as a viable alternative to Western liberalism. In response, Samuel Huntington in 1993 published “The Clash of Civilizations?” in which he argued that history had not come to an end, and that in particular, Islam would pose a formidable challenge to the West.

Huntington 1, Fukuyama 0.

Dubious Government Advice: Countries with Safe Tap-Water

In which countries in the world is it safe to drink the water? The question is important because I love traveling, but getting sick would really take the fun out of it. When I went to Mexico a couple of years ago I was frankly terrified of the water, but fortunately, I didn’t end up having any problems. I know a lot of people, however, who weren’t so lucky.

The scary thing is that avoiding the problem is not so easy as drinking only bottled water. You can get sick from even a single ice cube, or just a tiny bit of water you swallow in the shower or while brushing your teeth. It’s very easy to slip up, and so even if you’re aware, the risk is real. Given the risk, I’m frankly not keen to travel to countries with unsafe water.

So which countries have safe water? The only source I’ve found online is from the Center for Disease Control (CDC). In other words, the government. Now, based on what I think I’ve learned about how the world works, my general view is that you can’t trust advice that comes from the government. And after examining the CDC’s list, I retain my skepticism of government advice.

In short, I believe the CDC’s list is too restrictive. For instance, here are some maps based on the CDC’s list.

According to the CDC the continents of Africa and South America have the grand total of ZERO countries with safe water. Maybe that’s right, but I might have thought the ‘cone’ of South America–Chile, Argentina, Uruguay–was safe. Argentina, after all, was one hundred years ago one of the richest countries in the world. If the Argentines don’t have safe water, they’ve fallen pretty far.

The list for Asia is short and probably pretty accurate, but I take issue with the omission of Taiwan. When I visited Taiwan a number of years ago, I freely consumed the water, brushing my teeth without concern, and did so in cities spanning the island: North, South, East and West. I never had a problem. Taiwan is a developed country, and I believe that almost everywhere the water is safe. Why did CDC not include Taiwan? Could it have been to avoid offending China?

I also find the list for Europe too restrictive. Is there really no safe water east of the Danube? Hungary and Slovakia don’t have safe water? I noticed that in an online comments thread, some guy from Romania objected to his country’s omission from the list. He insisted that the water in Romania is safe. Maybe he’s biased, but I suspect he’s right, at least for the primary areas of the country.

I also find it difficult to believe that the Baltic States don’t have safe water. Estonia in particular, based on what I have heard, is very clean.

Admittedly, I’m not doing a scientific study here and just giving my impressions based on my limited experience. But that experience, and what I think I know about the world, does make me skeptical of the CDC’s list.

Berkeley Officials in Conspiracy to Violate Civil Rights?

A lot of people have been wondering why Berkeley police haven’t done more to contain rioting, both in February and earlier this month.

The February rioting in particular involved a suppression of free speech–a Civil Rights violation–as an appearance at UC by Milo Yiannopolous had to be canceled. We’ve noted previously that conspiring to violate people’s Constitutional Rights is a federal felony under 18 U.S. Code § 241. Now evidence suggests that, in Berkeley, the criminal conspiracy may have gone all the way to the top.

Berkley [sic] Mayor Jesse Arreguin was revealed to be a member of the anti-fascist group, By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), on Facebook. BAMN orchestrated the violence that shut down a scheduled lecture at UC Berkeley featuring Milo Yiannopoulos in early 2017. Arreguin is allegedly also friends with BAMN leader, Yvette Felarca, on Facebook.

Attorney General Sessions, please call your office.

Aside from criminal prosecution, federal law also allows victims of civil rights violations to sue for damages.

[I]n any case of conspiracy set forth in this section, if one or more persons engaged therein do, or cause to be done, any act in furtherance of the object of such conspiracy, whereby another is injured in his person or property, or deprived of having and exercising any right or privilege of a citizen of the United States, the party so injured or deprived may have an action for the recovery of damages occasioned by such injury or deprivation, against any one or more of the conspirators.

I’m not a lawyer, but it seems to me that Milo Yiannopolous might have a case against Berkeley officials. At the very least, the discovery process would be quite interesting.

If some of the Big Money men on the political right really want to strike a blow for freedom, they should stop funding loser pols like Jeb Bush and Little Marco Rubio and start bankrolling some civil rights lawsuits.

Earth Day: Be Very Afraid

Today is Earth Day, an annual event during which scammers traditionally attempt to frighten people into giving up their money and freedom. Our friend Mark Perry offers an amusing list of 18 scaremongering predictions made around the time of the first Earth Day in 1970. For the full list, go to Mark’s site, but here are my favorites.

6. [Paul] Ehrlich sketched out his most alarmist scenario for the 1970 Earth Day issue of The Progressive, assuring readers that between 1980 and 1989, some 4 billion people, including 65 million Americans, would perish in the “Great Die-Off.”

9. In January 1970, Life reported, “Scientists have solid experimental and theoretical evidence to support…the following predictions: In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution…by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half….”

13. Paul Ehrlich warned in the May 1970 issue of Audubon that DDT and other chlorinated hydrocarbons “may have substantially reduced the life expectancy of people born since 1945.” Ehrlich warned that Americans born since 1946…now had a life expectancy of only 49 years, and he predicted that if current patterns continued this expectancy would reach 42 years by 1980, when it might level out. (Note: According to the most recent CDC report, life expectancy in the US is 78.8 years).

14. Ecologist Kenneth Watt declared, “By the year 2000, if present trends continue, we will be using up crude oil at such a rate…that there won’t be any more crude oil. You’ll drive up to the pump and say, `Fill ‘er up, buddy,’ and he’ll say, `I am very sorry, there isn’t any.’”

15. Harrison Brown, a scientist at the National Academy of Sciences, published a chart in Scientific American that looked at metal reserves and estimated the humanity would totally run out of copper shortly after 2000. Lead, zinc, tin, gold, and silver would be gone before 1990.

16. Sen. Gaylord Nelson wrote in Look that, “Dr. S. Dillon Ripley, secretary of the Smithsonian Institute, believes that in 25 years, somewhere between 75 and 80 percent of all the species of living animals will be extinct.”

Nelson, by the way, was one of the principal organizers of the first Earth Day.

18. Kenneth Watt warned about a pending Ice Age in a speech. “The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years,” he declared. “If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age.”

Mark, however, somehow missed this one from Ehrlich.

On the first Earth Day in 1970, he warned that “[i]n ten years all important animal life in the sea will be extinct. Large areas of coastline will have to be evacuated because of the stench of dead fish.”

Personally, I’m far less afraid of environmental degradation than I am of environmentalists.

Reminder: Campus Violence that Suppresses Speech is a Federal Crime

A New York Post editorial offers a good roundup of prominent speakers who have recently been prevented from giving speeches by what Ace calls the “feral humanoids” who infest university campuses.

UC-Berkeley this week canceled an April 27 Ann Coulter speech, fearing riots….

Masked, rock-throwing thugs prevented a February speech by Milo Yiannopoulos….

Berkeley’s move follows the Black Lives Matter disruption of a UCLA speech by the Manhattan Institute’s Heather Mac Donald, and efforts to muzzle her the next night at Claremont-Pomona College….

Last month, goons stopped American Enterprise Institute scholar Charles Murray from delivering a moderately conservative talk at Middlebury College, with Professor Allison Stanger hospitalized by the violence.

Of course, only speakers on the political right are muzzled; the commandant of a North Korean gulag could probably speak unimpeded, as did Iran’s Ahmadinejad at Columbia a few years ago. And the excuse given by university officials is always the same: safety. Here, for instance, is Berkeley’s statement on nixing Coulter.

“We have been unable to find a safe and suitable venue,” said the letter from Vice Chancellor Scott Biddy and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Stephen Sutton. “Given current active security threats, it is not possible to assure that the event could be held successfully.”

“Active security threats,” you say? And where might those threats be coming from? ISIS? North Korea? Why no, the threat of violence is coming from Berkeley’s own students and employees. So what the Berkeley Vice Chancellors are saying is that they cannot maintain order among their own people. This is a huge admission of failure on the part of the university administration.

The primary mission of the university is to maintain an environment of free intellectual inquiry. But instead of fulfilling that mission, the university administrators prefer to run their institutions as left-wing indoctrination camps. The administrators probably have it within their power to maintain order. The universities (scandalously) even have their own armed police forces. They could arrest, and subsequently suspend or expel students who engage in disorderly conduct. As Thomas Lifson points out,

There are plenty of law enforcement resources available to the University of California if it wished to preserve the tradition of open inquiry upon which the many public (i.e., taxpayer) subsidies and privileges available to U.C. are premised. When Governor Ronald Reagan faced a campus insurrection at Berkeley, he called in the National Guard and tear-gassed the protesters in Sproul Plaza – the very place the anti-Milo rioters used to destroy property and threaten lives.

If they took action, Berkeley officials could insure freedom of speech and assembly. But they choose not to. They willingly allow the Heckler’s Veto to censor speech, because they agree with the hecklers.

Unless these universities restore free speech and inquiry, they are not worthy of continued support from the public. Maybe a few lefties are willing to pay tuition and taxes to support far-left camps posing as institutions of intellectual inquiry, but most people are not. It is high time that taxpayers and their elected representatives insist that universities clean up their act. When administrators like Berkeley’s Scott Biddy and Stephen Sutton claim that they cannot allow speech–because safety–the state legislature should respond by asking for their resignations. Or as the New York Post put it,

Increasingly, US campuses are the exact opposite of the bastions of free thought and debate they’re supposed to be. If the schools can’t save themselves, society has every right to demand new management.
[Emphasis added.]

Not only should people lose their jobs, but the civil rights division of the Justice Department would be justified in launching a criminal investigation, particularly in the case of Berkeley. Many of these schools including Berkeley are state-run institutions, which means they must abide by the First Amendment. Back in February, Berkeley city and university officials let rioters run wild, making no arrests, even though they were beating people and causing over $500,000 in damages.

Moreover, complicity in violence and intimidation that prevents people from exercising their Constitutional rights is a crime under 18 U.S. Code § 241.

If two or more persons conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same;…They shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years…

Every time campus leftists organize to use intimidation to shut down conservative speakers, they haven’t just been rude or unsporting, they have committed a federal crime. It is a crime, and long overdue that the Justice Department start treating it as such.

I also agree with Professor Glenn Reynolds that President Trump would be justified in sending in the National Guard to protect campus speakers, as Eisenhower did in Little Rock to allow black students to safely attend high school. Both cases involve not just public safety, but also an essential issue of Civil Rights.

Coming Soon: Drug Test Nation?

Over the ages, classical liberal thinkers have produced a lot of dense prose attempting to explain that socialism is incompatible with freedom. In order to truly appreciate the point, however, most people require vivid examples. To that end, consider the proposal of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to force a wide range of recipients of government assistance to submit to drug tests.

Under the proposal, the state’s Medicaid program, called BadgerCare, would require beneficiaries to be assessed for substance abuse and undergo a drug test “if indicated.” People would not become ineligible for Medicaid if they tested positive for drugs, but would be referred to a treatment program or otherwise have benefits delayed for six months. Anyone who refuses testing or assessment would not be eligible to receive Medicaid.

A drug test is a pretty intrusive invasion of personal privacy, but this is the sort of rollback of freedom that normies and standard-issue conservatives love because it applies only to welfare recipients, people whom conservatives resent. A true lover of freedom, however, cares about everyone’s freedom, not just the freedom of those of whom we approve.

Furthermore, if drug testing Medicaid recipients becomes the norm, a lot of people outside the stereotypical welfare class are going to end up getting tested. That’s because most states (though not Wisconsin) under Obamacare have expanded Medicaid to include many people in the working class and lower middle-class.

Governor Walker has also proposed testing people other than those receiving Medicaid.

Walker recently has also proposed drug testing able-bodied adults who are on food assistance and people who receive unemployment benefits.

Unemployment compensation is not even a welfare program. What’s next, testing student loan recipients? Oh wait, that was already proposed at least as far back as the Clinton Administration.

So, everybody on Medicaid, expanded Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment compensation, student loans…that’s a helluva lot of people potentially getting drug tested.

You may not think drug testing is intrusive, but if the government tried to mandate it for everyone, the courts would almost certainly strike down the policy. But if the government limits the testing to recipients of government benefits, then it’s considered acceptable because government can set conditions on giving out money. He who pays the piper, calls the tune.

But what happens when the government is paying for nearly everybody? A lot of people believe that ‘single-payer’ or ‘Medicare for all’ health insurance is inevitable in America. Once the government is paying for nearly everybody, will everybody have to take a drug test?

That’s something people who love liberty should be worried about, but sad to say, it won’t worry too many suburban normies. Governor Walker is already a hero to many conservatives and libertarians for taking on the labor unions, and his drug policies, unfortunately, won’t cost him much support.

The End of Men Means the End of Marriage

For decades now, the labor market has trended away from male-dominated jobs in manufacturing and agriculture and toward female-dominated jobs such as education and health care. As we noted previously, an adverse consequence of the disappearance of traditionally male jobs is an impedance of marriage and family formation.

Lowering the economic status of males relative to females makes males less marriageable. In marriage, pretty much the only value a man can bring to the table is as an economic provider. Taking away a man’s advantage in providing economic resources leaves him without leverage in the marriage market.

Now a new report predicts that the labor market will continue to trend against men and towards women.

Overall, occupations that are more than 80% female are projected to grow at nearly twice the rate of jobs that are at least 60% male between 2014 and 2024, according to research out this week from the jobs site Indeed and its chief economist, Jed Kolko. The site researched Bureau of Labor Statistics and found that many are jobs that are traditionally dominated by women — including occupational therapy assistants, physical therapy assistants and nurse practitioners — are growing at the fastest rate. They will grow at about a 40% rate, compared to an overall rate of 6.5% for all jobs.

Meanwhile, the male-dominated jobs are expected to contract.

[M]anufacturing and agriculture, which have traditionally employed more men than women, are projected to lose jobs in the next decade.

This article does not even mention that, over perhaps a bit longer horizon, huge numbers of driving jobs done my men are under threat from self-driving vehicles.

Anyone who values the traditional family unit as an important social institution should be very concerned with the increasing economic irrelevance of men. So should anyone concerned with low and declining birth rates. The way things are going, the only economically viable men are going to be the cognitive elite who work in science and technology. The rest of the men, however, are going to have generally poor marriage prospects. The women gainfully employed in health care are not going to want to marry unemployable men just so they can stay home and play Mr. Mom. That sort of traditional role-reversal might sound appealing in the abstract, but as a practical matter it won’t play out in the real world.

Historically, about 10 percent of 35-year-old women were unmarried, and a fair number of those would have been widows. Now, about 40 percent of 35-year-old American women are unmarried. Look for this figure to just keep increasing.

I’m not sure what we can do to solve or alleviate this problem. The default response from government seems to be to make the problem even worse by subsidizing single motherhood with various benefits such as subsidized day care. Another way that government exacerbates the problem is by making women beneficiaries of ‘affirmative action.’ Such policies, at the very least, need to be resisted.