How to Destroy Higher Education

A couple of weeks ago, we reported that the University of Arizona was using taxpayer money to pay students to police the speech of their fellow students. Now comes news that also UCLA is adopting similar measures against campus freedom.

The University of California-Los Angeles is offering to pay students to serve as “Social Justice Advocates” who will “educate” their peers about “systems [of] oppression.”

The Social Justice Advocates program seeks students who want to help their classmates “navigate a world that operates on whiteness, patriarchy, and heteronormativity as the primary ideologies,” and comes with a quarterly stipend, the amount of which has yet to be determined.

In a critique at pjmedia.com, Tom Knighton summarizes the program’s objective as follows.

UCLA’s focus will be on really hammering home the “white men suck and should probably be dead” message. In case the students hadn’t heard it yet that day.

Sounds about right.

And what is the source of funding for UCLA’s version of the Red Guards?

The program is funded through the Bruin Excellence & Student Transformation Grant Program (BEST), which receives funding from the university’s Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion and from Gold Shield, Alumnae of UCLA.

Thanks, ladies!

Meanwhile, in a remarkably authoritarian piece at Time magazine, Lisa Wade, PhD, advocates banning campus fraternities.

I make no claims that it will be easy. Fraternities have dominated campuses, defied authorities and rebuffed efforts at suppression for nearly 200 years. But in that time we have ended slavery, given women the vote and put men on the moon. Of course we can get rid of fraternities. College presidents, administrators and trustees just have to muster the will to do it. As for the rest of us, we need to keep pressure on them to do so, and keep counting the bodies until they act.

Well, if feminists like Lisa Wade succeed in making college campuses inhospitable to men, then men are going to stop attending. The college experience is a good, produced and marketed by an industry, and sold to a consumer. If feminists keep ramping up the hostility to men, at some point, men are going to drop out of the market for the college experience. And if men stop attending, then straight women are not going to want to attend either. That won’t leave sufficient demand to sustain the system of higher education as we know it, and so eventually, the system will collapse.

Right now, the universities are one of the primary power bases of the political left. If the political right were smart (lolz), they would be actively seeking some way to destroy the universities. A direct political assault would meet with stiff resistance. But here’s a strategy that would work:

Step 1. Let radical feminists take over the universities.

Step 2. Wait.

Step 3. Winning.

U of Arizona Using Taxpayer Money to Employ Red Guards

The Red Guards were gangs of students empowered by Chinese authorities in the 1960s to terrorize the population by enforcing ideological orthodoxy. Fifty years later, the University of Arizona is launching its own version of the Red Guards.

Administrators at the University of Arizona are now accepting applications for “social justice advocates,” whose job it is to snitch on other students accused of bias. They’re also expected to hold educational programs about “the mosaic of diversity, multiculturalism and inclusivity” and maintain “social justice bulletin boards” in student residence halls.

The job, which officially calls (archived link) for the advocates to “report any bias incidents or claims to appropriate Residence Life staff,” pays the student workers $10 an hour. They’re expected to work 15 hours a week, which means they could be making as much as $600 a month to police their fellow students.

Reminder: The University of Arizona is a state-sponsored institution, which means the university is governed by the Bill of Rights, including the First Amendment, which protects free speech. Under the laws of the United States, therefore, it is unlawful for the University of Arizona to police the speech of its students. In fact, such an organized attempt to police speech constitutes a ‘conspiracy to interfere with civil rights,’ which under 18 U.S. Code § 241 is a federal felony. Furthermore, 42 U.S. Code § 1985 enables victims to sue for damages in federal court.

Personally, I would encourage any students whose rights are violated by the 21st century Red Guards to sue their university from here to Timbuktu.

Also, it is long overdue that the Justice Department step in to protect the rights of Americans on campus. During the Obama Administration, federal bureaucrats famously issued a Dear Colleague letter to universities regarding sexual assault. At the very least, Justice needs to start by sending a Dear Colleague letter reminding universities that suppressing free speech is a federal felony.

Or at least that’s a possible strategy if we still believe the universities are worth saving. Otherwise, an alternative would be to just leave the universities free to continue to discredit themselves until they implode. Because in the long run, parents are not going to willingly shell out tens of thousands of dollars for their children to attend Maoist indoctrination camps where they’re encouraged to play the role of Red Guards, repressing the rights of their fellow students.

I also don’t believe that citizens should or would willingly allow their hard earned tax dollars to be spent on employing Red Guards at $600 per month.

Call me an optimist, but I gotta believe the universities implode before they go full Maoist.

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.

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.

Confirmed: Students at Elite Colleges are Spoiled Brats

I always believed that students at exclusive colleges must disproportionately come from high-income families, but this statistic cited by Joanne Jacobs surprised me.

At 38 elite colleges, more students come from the top 1 percent of the income scale than the bottom 60 percent, according to an Equality of Opportunity Project study.

And these are the very same schools noted for campus activism, with students out protesting ‘the one percent.’ To find ‘the one percent,’ they apparently don’t need to look very far.

Jacobs offers the following analysis.

High-income achievers may turn to activism because they feel guilty about their privilege, writes Riley. Since they think they know it all, they “shut down outside speakers and demand that professors censor their lectures,” demand safe spaces and trigger warnings.

Indeed, it takes more than a little chutzpah to be 19, 20 years old, never having accomplished anything in the world of adults, and telling professors and administrators how they should be doing their jobs. At that age, I never would have presumed such a thing. But the phenomenon gets easier to understand if we keep in mind that a lot of these students are rich, and therefore believe they’re better than everybody else.

And undoubtedly a lot of what motivates campus leftists is guilt, because they know, deep down, that they are highly privileged. That’s why they talk so much about privilege: white privilege, male privilege, etc. It’s a way of expiating their own privilege.

Not a pretty picture.

In any event, if some of these snooty schools are really, as they say, interested in ‘diversity’ they can start by admitting more kids from the poor and working classes.

A Nobel Laureate’s Disappointing Policy Advice

We reported previously on the research by Nobel laureate Angus Deaton and his wife Anne Case showing that the death rate has been increasing for the white working class, the only socioeconomic group for which that is true. This finding, which some have dubbed The White Death, has become perhaps the most talked-about recent finding in all of social science.

Deaton and Case are to be commended for their statistical analysis, which appears to be solid. The White Death seems to be real. The question therefore becomes: What can be done about it?

The Washington Post’s Wonkblog wanted to know, so they published a very good interview with Deaton and Case. Their most fundamental argument is that the labor market for unskilled labor has deteriorated badly, and this development has had an adverse impact on the lives of millions of people. I agree with Deaton and Case on this basic point. But Deaton’s specific policy recommendations left me very disappointed.

First, Deaton apparently believes that we need to get more people into college.

Anne and I, I think, differ a little bit on how much education is a solution for this. But it’s certainly clear there are lots of people who are not getting BAs who are capable of it. So we need to do a much better jobs [sic] of getting these into school.

Well, as someone who has spent more than 20 years in the university classroom, I can state with confidence that the problem in higher education is more nearly the exact opposite–too many, not too few, people pursuing BAs. America must have, at Deaton says, at least a few people “not getting BAs who are capable of it.” But there are vastly more people in the opposite situation; pursuing BAs who are not really capable. Higher education is already massively subsidized and over-expanded. Rather than expanding further, higher education needs to contract. More people should consider learning a trade or going to coding school.

On education, Deaton’s wife is more sensible:

Case: But it’s also the case here that there are people who don’t want a four-year BA. We’ve been around this block many times: We do need to think about how we want to train people to enter the 21st century labor force.

Deaton also wants to expand the welfare state.

Deaton: We haven’t really talked about how none of this is happening in Europe…The obvious difference is that the safety net is enormously more generous in Europe. And lot of people in their 50s who lose their jobs can go on retirement. You get a doctor’s certificate and you get paid pretty much your salary until you die.

Wait, if you’re in your 50s and you lose your job for economic reasons, then you can just talk a doctor into saying you’re disabled and collect your check for life, and Deaton thinks that’s a good thing? Am I misreading this, or did Deaton endorse disability fraud?

Deaton and Case also seem to believe that Americans are too reluctant to accept welfare.

Case: The other thing that makes it harder in America rather than Western Europe is that there really is a difference for a large swath of the population in how they feel about receiving government transfers. We’ve all been trained up on the idea that we are individuals and we take care of our families and our neighbors take care of theirs, and that’s the way we like it. It’s very hard to give somebody something when they see it as handout that they don’t want.

What Case says was true about America in the 1950s and 1960s. In those days, there was a strong conscientious aversion, as well as considerable social stigma, to accepting welfare. But I don’t think that’s true today. Half of American households receive some kind of government check, and 30 percent receive a “means tested” benefit, i.e., welfare. When I was a kid, that latter figure was only 7 percent.

Moreover, unlike Deaton and Case, I don’t believe the primary reason why working-class people are dying in America but not Europe is Europe’s somewhat more generous welfare state. Another obvious and possibly more relevant difference is that Europeans do not drink sugary Cokes in 30-ounce servings, nor do they consume Little Debbie Snack Cakes by the box. Maybe before we put millions more on the disability rolls, we should first try to get them to cut back on carbs.

There’s one other policy recommendation that I’ve been pushing. We’re spending about three trillion dollars a year on health care. And our life expectancy is going down. Whereas all these other countries are spending way less, and their life expectancy is going up. For me the implication is if we implemented single payer, we’d get rid of a lot of these costs. Not without screaming and yelling, of course, and not without goring a lot of oxen.

But the crucial thing is recognizing the extent to which these rising health care costs are responsible, at least in part, for the stagnant wages for people without a college degrees. If they’ve got an employer and they’ve got health care, their wages are getting pushed down by the employer paying for that health care. People don’t even realize this. They think it’s for free.

No doubt, the cost of health care is a huge problem, and we need reform. But single-payer is not the way to do it. Those single-payer countries that report lower costs are leaving out a lot of hidden costs. In particular, they don’t count the costs to individuals of suffering due to rationing of health care. They also don’t count the negative impact on the economy of taxes needed to fund the system.

I’m not a left-wing nut pushing for single-payer! It’s not because I like socialized medicine. It’s just because I think this is eating capitalism alive, and if we want a healthy capitalist society in America, we’ve got to get rid of this monster.

Shorter Deaton: “I’m for single-payer, but just don’t call me a left-wing nut!”

So to summarize, Deaton wants to expand higher education, make welfare more generous, and pay for nearly everybody’s health care. This amounts to a massive expansion of government. Deaton intends to help the ‘little guy,’ but as Dennis Prager likes to say, the bigger the government, the smaller the individual.

And Deaton wants all this additional spending when the federal government is already exposed to a $200 trillion fiscal gap. Where will the money come from?

As I said, Deaton’s policy advice is very disappointing.

The University as Holiday Resort: Yale Edition

The new video by We the Internet does a great job explaining the reasons for the current parlous state of free speech and inquiry at American universities. The focus is on Yale University, but Yale’s pathologies apply generally to academia as a whole.

Silence U Part 2: What Has Yale Become?

At pjmedia.com, Richard Fernandez reviews the video and concludes that

Yale is becoming a kind of jail which hands out professional credentials to those hardy enough to serve out their term. Until then its inmates should be careful not to make waves. The wardens in Miltmore’s story are college administrators who’ve created a kind of politically correct kingdom where they — not the professors — are the rulers; where conformity not inquiry, is the most highly valued virtue.

But the university seems like a jail only to libertarian or conservative heretics who reject the ruling-class orthodoxy. To non-heretics the university offers a pleasant experience filled with parties and a wide range of recreational activities. Instead of a jail, the modern university more closely resembles an extended four-year religious summer camp, where instruction in the ruling-class catechism is combined with social and outdoor activities, a kind of holiday resort or sanatorium for the next generation of the ruling class. The appropriately descriptive term used in the video is “the gilded camp.”

As the video points out, the reason the university has become a kind of resort is “the customer service mentality.” As a result, a huge bureaucracy–“the administrative squid monster”–has been installed in order to “keep the fun going.” As a former Yale professor says, “It’s not about what we expect from you [the student], it’s about what we can do for you.”

The squid monster is primarily interested in feeding itself and is “not that committed to the search for truth.” Instead of a place of open inquiry, therefore, we get the religious summer camp, where lots of fun is available for everyone who does not question orthodoxy, but those who dare to rock the boat shall be persecuted as heretics.

The video tellingly contrasts the Yale of today with the Yale of 1974 which produced the famous Woodward Report in defense of free speech. A primary goal of today’s campus agitators is to ban ‘hate speech,’ but more than forty years ago the Woodward Report explicitly considered that argument and rejected it.

Shock, hurt, and anger are not consequences to be weighed lightly. No member of the community with a decent respect for others should use, or encourage others to use, slurs and epithets intended to discredit another’s race, ethnic group, religion, or sex. It may sometimes be necessary in a university for civility and mutual respect to be superseded by the need to guarantee free expression. The values superseded are nevertheless important, and every member of the university community should consider them in exercising the fundamental right to free expression.

We have considered the opposing argument that behavior which violates these social and ethical considerations should be made subject to formal sanctions, and the argument that such behavior entitles others to prevent speech they might regard as offensive. Our conviction that the central purpose of the university is to foster the free access of knowledge compels us to reject both of these arguments. They assert a right to prevent free expression. They rest upon the assumption that speech can be suppressed by anyone who deems it false or offensive. They deny what Justice Holmes termed ”freedom for the thought that we hate.” They make the majority, or any willful minority, the arbiters of truth for all. If expression may be prevented, censored or punished, because of its content or because of the motives attributed to those who promote it, then it is no longer free. It will be subordinated to other values that we believe to be of lower priority in a university.

As the video documents, however, today’s Yale has effectively dropped its defense of speech. When some professors tried to defend free expression, they came under withering assault from students and some faculty, and the administration did not defend them.

Rather than the Woodward Report, today’s Yale is more accurately summarized by the exclamations of ‘screeching girl.’

It is not about creating an intellectual space! It is not! Do you understand that? It’s about creating a home here!

OK! Now that’s settled, we can get back to roasting heretics marshmallows over the (gilded) campfire.

Anti-Lincoln University

At Lincoln University in the UK, a conservative student group made a post to social media highlighting the university’s low rating on free speech. In response, the university’s student union took action to…wait for it…censor the conservative students.

A student union has banned a university Conservative society from using its social media accounts – because they challenged its position on free speech.

Lincoln University’s Conservative Society has been censored by its student union after it posted an image online showing that the university had been ranked “very intolerant” on free speech in a recent survey.

In response, the Students’ Union swiftly suspended the society’s social media accounts, on the grounds that highlighting the university’s ranking had brought it into disrepute.

In this case, it’s not the Conservative Society that is bringing the university into “disrepute.”

This episode reminds me of the time that George Costanza attended the meeting of ‘Rageaholics.’

Seinfeld- George Rageaholics

Confirmed: Schools Holding Back Bright Kids

Schools are supposed to be educating the next generation of doctors, scientists, inventors, and engineers who will create our bright future of technological wonders. In every age, however, human progress has always been driven by a tiny minority of brilliant thinkers and risk-takers. Our goal, therefore, should be to nurture and encourage our best and brightest students. Instead, however, the schools do the exact opposite. The schools simply do not challenge the brightest to fulfill their potential. They hold back the brightest and encourage mediocrity.

[A] new study out of Johns Hopkins University suggests that…children really are capable of learning far more than the schools are teaching them.

Drawing on statewide test scores from Wisconsin, Florida, California, the study examined more widespread examinations such as those from The Nation’s Report Card. Much to their surprise, researchers discovered that large percentages of students in elementary and middle school were scoring at least one grade level above the grade they were enrolled in…

In summarizing the data from all of the tests, the researchers declared:

“[W]e estimate that 20-40% of elementary and middle school students perform at least one grade level above their current grade in reading, with 11-30% scoring at least one grade level above in math.”
Such startling findings lead the Johns Hopkins team to wonder if the U.S. needs to reconsider its age-segregated education system.

Precisely. Students should be segregated by ability, not by age. Even if only the low end of the estimated math range is true, 11% of students are above grade. The vast majority of those students are probably also above grade in reading as well. Hence at the very least, roughly 10% of students are above grade in both math and reading. These students can and should get bumped up. People spend way too much time in school, and anyone capable of graduating high school at, say, age 15 should be given every opportunity to do so.

But pending that outcome, the results of the Johns Hopkins study are yet another very good argument in favor of home schooling.