Free Markets, Free People


Higher Education: Here’s a surprise

OK, I’m being facetious in the title.  Well, at least for those who’ve been paying attention.  For the rest, this may actually come as a surprise:

Political activism has drawn the University of California into an academic death spiral. Too many professors believe their job is to "advance social justice" rather than teach the subject they were hired to teach. Groupthink has replaced lively debate. Institutions that were designed to stir intellectual curiosity aren’t challenging young minds. They’re churning out "ignorance." So argues a new report, "A Crisis of Competence: The Corrupting Effect of Political Activism in the University of California," from the conservative California Association of Scholars.

My guess is, and I think this would be easily substantiated, that the U of C system is just an example of the problem, not the sole problem.  (The study is here.)

Of course the left has a ready answer for all of this:

UC Berkeley political science Professor Wendy Brown rejected that argument. (Yes, she hails from the left, she said, but she doesn’t teach left.) The reason behind the unbalance, she told me, is that conservatives don’t go to grad school to study political science. When conservatives go to graduate school, she added, they tend to study business or law.

"If the argument is that what is going on is some kind of systematic exclusion," then critics have to target "where the discouragement happens."

So, other than “stereotypes are us”, Prof. Brown has no real explanation.  Because, of course, unless all “conservatives” go to business and law and none to political science (which we know isn’t true), the problem isn’t about who does or doesn’t got into grad school, but who gets hired by universities, isn’t it?   And most people with a modicum of common sense know that most people who hire have a tendency to hire people like what?   Like them.

And anyway, it appears its not really about learning or acquiring skills such as critical thinking:

At the same time, grades have risen. "Students often report that all they must do to get a good grade is regurgitate what their activist professors believe," quoth the report.

Hardly an atmosphere (akin to a “hostile workplace”, no?)in which a “conservative” would feel comfortable and certainly not one in which a critical thinker would be welcome.

Peter Berkowitz took a look at the study and concluded that the result was much worse than imagined:

The politicization of higher education by activist professors and compliant university administrators deprives students of the opportunity to acquire knowledge and refine their minds. It also erodes the nation’s civic cohesion and its ability to preserve the institutions that undergird democracy in America.

[…]

The analysis begins from a nonpolitical fact: Numerous studies of both the UC system and of higher education nationwide demonstrate that students who graduate from college are increasingly ignorant of history and literature. They are unfamiliar with the principles of American constitutional government. And they are bereft of the skills necessary to comprehend serious books and effectively marshal evidence and argument in written work.

In other words, they’re indoctrinated and not taught to think critically.  And, per the study, they’re actually ignorant of “the institutions that undergird democracy in America”.  That would, in part, explain their ‘shock’ at the validity of the arguments against ObamaCare (so there’s your example of the point).

Granted, this is but one study, it’s by a conservative group and there may be a bit of confirmation bias concerned on my part, but I’d love to see the left really document an actual challenge to its substantive points instead of doing what they usually do – wave it away.  While it may be one study by a conservative group, it does note that which Berkowitz points out – “numerous studies” of the system demonstrate the facts listed, i.e. an increasing ignorance of history and literature, unfamiliarity with the principles of American constitutional government, lacking skills necessary to comprehend serious writing, marshal evidence and argue their point effectively.  Or, in other words, think critically.  Wait, isn’t that what universities are supposed to teach?

Start there.  Explain.

HT: Instapundit

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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57 Responses to Higher Education: Here’s a surprise

  • Erp…??? Cocoon much…???

  • No no, there IS no indoctrination, there IS no indoctrination, there IS NOOOOOOOO indoctrination!!!!!

    • @looker There have been study after study by organizations on both .. pretty much all .. sides of the political spectrum that have shown that “critical thinking” skills are often not developed to any useful degree after 4 years (most especially the first 2 years) of college. I understand that there is no fast track to wisdom, but surely out institution of higher learning can do better.

      • @Neo_ learning by rote versus thinking….I can still recite prayers they drummed into my head 45 years ago without blinking an eye, and can give you the same sing song inflection that every other ‘non-believer’ dared to imitate when we discussed it years later. Rote works really well, thinking….ah….thinking is HARD man.

    • @looker There have been study after study by organizations on both .. pretty much all .. sides of the political spectrum that have shown that “critical thinking” skills are often not developed to any useful degree after 4 years (most especially the first 2 years) of college. I understand that there is no fast track to wisdom, but surely our institution of higher learning can do better.

  • “Students often report that all they must do to get a good grade is regurgitate what their activist professors believe,” Hey I went to grad school and that is all we did as well… granted it is hard to convince a professor that that “conservation” of energy is just not liberal enough, or that all this talk of “fundamental forces” is just an example of the patriarchy oppressing the womyn, or that most quantum mechanics is just “old white man” thinking, or that stable matter has to be “colorless”, or that a “Theory of Everything” is just plain arrogance. But then again, our professors had very little interest in what we did outside the faculty walls…

    • @DocD This aren’t the science guys … it’s the arts folks. It’s really too bad that it’s called “political science” when it is really “political arts.” They don’t award BS degrees but rather BA-s. They couldn’t handle a real BS program if their lives depended on it … and these are the same folks who keep telling us that global warming is bad when they can’t even attempt to read the peer-reviewed papers.

      • @Neo_ I know, I was being facetious keeping in mind the usual attitude of pomo profs and their disciples. Who was it who once claimed Newton’s Principia was a “rape manual”… Dworkin or some similar waste of oxygen?

  • “And they are bereft of the skills necessary to comprehend serious books and effectively marshal evidence and argument in written work.” Well it is hardly fair in this Twittery age of Facebookytube, if they put The Simpsons and Buffy in book format then how would the kidz comprehend the meaty goodness of modern political science?

    • @DocD Thank God for brilliant entertainment like Scooby Doo movies.

      • @looker They really don’t want and critical thinking in regard to courses like “gender studies” because if they actually listened to anything critical, they would seek out a new major.

        • @Neo_ My girlfriend (later to be wife) once enrolled in a Women’s Studies course because it fit her timetable and needed the credit. I was a PhD student at the time and sat in on one lecture with her, in which they showed a film about some mousey little man doing something or other. It was sadly pathetic a film, and the course was so brilliant she dropped it a couple of weeks later in favor of something less… demeaning to the intellect.

        • @Neo_ I disagree. People who go into gender studies are more than likely the loud shouting, thinking with their emotions types you need to perpetuate and expand the size of your non-thinking sheep population.

  • “When conservatives go to graduate school, she added, they tend to study business or law.” … more likely there go into STEM related fields where they are challenged mentally and paid well after they graduate.
    Unfortunately, graduate schools in these fields are filled with Asians (and I don’t mean Asian-Americans). I can remember a course I took where 40% were Chinese, 40% were Indian, about 15% white and 5% black. Of course, after watching the 60 Minutes piece on the demise of the space industry in Florida last night, I can understand why.

    • @Neo_ I’d say the problem is that “conservatives” at grad school, or university/college in general, are just in bulk not fricking interested in politics and identity games. So they generally don’t respond to silly questionnaires about politics, don’t go on political rallies, avoid cliques based on their identity needs etc. In short, at least in my experience, they just want to study and get out.

      • @DocD When I went to college, they would hand out these census cards from HEW to indicate what race we were. We would claim … well not what we were.

    • Actually, it was an overly full room with 3 white guys, a black guy and the rest split between the Chinese and Indians.

  • I have to wonder what are your credentials for being able to evaluate a ‘study’. To call this report a legitimate study seems far fetched. In the first place, I don’t see anywhere that is was peer reviewed. Peer review is used to determine whether the method and the facts warrant the conclusion. It is conducted by scientists who have demonstrated relevant expertise in the field at hand.

    You suggest in your article that the producers of this study—the National Association of Scholars—might be a little biased. “The National Association of Scholars (NAS) is a non-profit organization in the United States that opposes multiculturalism and affirmative action and seeks to counter what it considers a “liberal bias” in academia.[1][2]”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Association_of_Scholars
    This association sounds somewhat akin to the John Birch Society to me; whose report on anything would be colored by their purpose—especially without the benefit of ‘peer review’ (which does not mean by review by ones peers in the sense of people who believe likewise).

    The conservative idea of proving something involves an unending barrage of like-minded statements which supports the fore-gone conclusion of the supporter; but which the critical reader finds somewhat cumbersome. It’s like writer of the book championed by the author of this website which proposed that not all the deaths by Pol Pot were the results of genocide—of course, even though a number of studies have concentrated of the genocide factor, all agree the it wasn’t the only factor.

    But conservatives continue to spin their own web of explanation through this type of documentation. In the Cambodian example, I took it to mean that academic liberals were trying to shift our concentration from the communist political explanation to the genocide issue. In the current example of the study of the adverse effects of increase in the proliferation of liberalism in the university system—especially the University of California system.

    • @tadcf “Peer review is used to determine whether the method and the facts warrant the conclusion.” Nope… peer review merely determines if the paper is written well enough for general publication AND THEN assessed by the broader audience involved in the topic. It should not make an conclusions about the validity of the work. This idea that peer review is somehow an authoritative stamp of approval is a weird modern perversion and is really no more than a logical fallacy. If you follow your line of reasoning you end up where climate science is, with a small group perverting editorial boards of journals and actively keeping out research that undermines their own gravy train. There is no point finger-wagging at “conservatives” in this, “liberals” are just as bad or worse in that regard. It is the debate that FOLLOWS publication that determines the final acceptance of the research, not the limited and sometimes heavily biased peer review.

    • @tadcf Stupid is as stupid does. Tell us something new. The point of mentioning the National Association of Scholars in the piece was an attempt, obvious lost on you, that we should get past the messenger and look at the message. But if ad hominem attacks are all you can muster .. so be it.

    • @tadcf Stupid is as stupid does. Tell us something new. The point of mentioning the National Association of Scholars in the piece was an attempt, obviously lost on you, that we should get past the messenger and look at the message. But if ad hominem attacks are all you can muster .. so be it.

    • @tadcf “The conservative idea of proving something involves an unending barrage of like-minded statements which supports the fore-gone conclusion of the supporter.”
      ————————————————————————————————–
      Heh! That neatly explains the gob-smackedness surrounding the Supreme Court arguments last week. (To name but a single example out of dozens.) The Collectivist just tell us it is true, and then instruct the media to STFU about the issue. See…???

      • @Ragspierre Well, and call us deniers and claim we’re virtually the same as NAZI’s and holocausting the world because we keep asking for proof that can be evaluated.
        ========================================================
        The Irony of saying “an unending barrage of like-minded statements which supports the fore-gone conclusion of the supporter” is quite comic.
        ====================================================
        “Global Warming”, and “Appointed, not Elected” being two of my all time favorites.

    • @tadcf “UC Berkeley political science Professor Wendy Brown rejected that argument. (Yes, she hails from the left, she said, but she doesn’t teach left.) The reason behind the unbalance, she told me, is that conservatives don’t go to grad school to study political science. When conservatives go to graduate school, she added, they tend to study business or law.”
      She didn’t disagree because of the source of the study…..she agreed there WAS an unbalance, and proceeds to EXPLAIN IT. Care to explain that?.
      =======================================================
      Ah, guilt by association – Group sounds like John Birch to you does it? Well, based on your posts here, you sound like a member of the Soviet communist party to me. How’s that credibility by association game thing working for you?

    • @tadcf “I have to wonder what are your credentials for being able to evaluate a ‘study’.”
      ——————————————————————————————————————
      WHOA, dude…!!! Elitist prig much…???? I got your “credentials” hangin’…

    • @tadcf “(which does not mean by review by ones peers in the sense of people who believe likewise).”——–Duuuuh. Thank yew fer esplainin’ that too me.—————- Putz.

      ++++= “The conservative idea of proving something involves….”———–Yeah, no bias there, eh?

    • @tadcf ” I have to wonder what are your credentials for being able to evaluate a ‘study’”————–Perhaps a natural ability to think critically supported by a pretty decent, broad, education and training in analytic skills (including a fair amount of ‘liberal arts’), lots of experience, and a well-developed BS detector.

    • Blah blah blah, So what? You are trying to say that the whole study is worthless because you might not like the bias of the people who produced it. But you have no similar disdain for the likely bias of the universities. It might not be a vigorous scientific study, but such studies are created all the time in order to point out possible problems that require more study. If you are not even willing to admit that it might indicate a problem with left wing bias in higher education then you are being dishonest. @tadcf

  • Stick to engineering or other real subjects and this will not be a problem.

  • ” Or, in other words, think critically. Wait, isn’t that what universities are supposed to teach?”———————I question the ‘critical thinking’ mantra of the left and the education-industrial complex (redundant, I know). It is used to excuse the lack of actual learning taking place in schools, from elementary school through graduate school. In my opinion critical thinkiing is more personality than intellect. It can be developed to an extent, but it has to be present before it can be developed, and it is pretty useless without rote-memorized data (which includes processes, algorithms, concepts, etc.) to work with.

  • “So, other than “stereotypes are us”, Prof. Brown has no real explanation. Because, of course, unless all “conservatives” go to business and law and none to political science (which we know isn’t true), the problem isn’t about who does or doesn’t got into grad school, but who gets hired by universities, isn’t it?”_________ Prove it. Prove that PoliSci grad school graduates aren’t hired by universities because they are conservative. And if you can’t, then why should anyone listen to you? Or the study submitted by a conservative group you admit may be biased itself?

    • @PogueMahone Don’t have to prove it … my conjecture is at least as valid as her conjecture and I’d further assert, given my experience with and observing how hiring is done, probably more valid. Prove me wrong.

      • @McQandO ….. Which makes both conjectures worthless.

        • @PogueMahone NO, dummy. It makes them both conjecture. Which can be entirely valid…or not. Or partly valid…or not. Or entirely invalid…or not. As opposed to your LIE, which was a LIE. (See the period?)

        • @Ragspierre … So now you’re arguing the validity of conjecture, which is, by definition, an opinion without evidence. Yeah, you go with that.

        • @PogueMahone conjecture
          [kuhn-jek-cher]   Origin
          con·jec·ture
             [kuhn-jek-cher] Show IPA noun, verb, -tured, -tur·ing.
          noun
          1.
          the formation or expression of an opinion or theory without sufficient evidence for proof.
          2.
          an opinion or theory so formed or expressed; guess; speculation.
          3.
          Obsolete . the interpretation of signs or omens.
          verb (used with object)
          4.
          to conclude or suppose from grounds or evidence insufficient to ensure reliability.

          You COULD substitute “conjecture” with “hypothesis”. Idiot. NOW, your apology?

        • @PogueMahone You mean like yours?
          As for validity, I leave that up to the reader. If you choose to find it worthless, who cares?

          This is a blog on which I comment. You know, a commentary? I make assertions based on experience, evidence, logic, etc. that’s how it works. If you don’t like it, if all you want to do is whine about it, go elsewhere for heaven sake.

        • @McQandO ….. It is much easier to preach to an audience of “like minded” folks, isn’t it? Hell, you’d feel right at home with Prof. Brown, wouldn’t you? If anyone “whines” to you and asks for you to support your opinion with facts, it is definitely soooooo annoying.

        • @PogueMahone How about when someone calls you out for a downright lie you told?

        • @PogueMahone I don’t choose who reads what I write. And I don’t keep anyone from expressing themselves in the comments. Whining is whining. You are great at it. Congrats.
          You can ask anything you want. I get to decide whether it’s worth doing. 99% of the stuff you ask isn’t worth doing. I write commentary. If you don’t like it, I really don’t care.

          You’re like a lot of people that show up in the comment sections of blogs. You come in insulting everyone and their brother and then get steamed when they don’t try to engage you in a discussion.

          Like most intelligent people, they can spot a troll the first time out and they usually treat them as they deserve to be treated. You’ve finally managed to attain that status. Congrats again.

        • @Ragspierre That’s you’re conjecture

        • @PogueMahone “which is, by definition, an opinion without evidence”———–Wrong. ————————-

          “A conjecture is a proposition that is unproven but is thought to be true and has not been disproven……………..Famous conjectures;—————–Beal’s conjecture
          The Poincaré theorem (proven by Grigori Perelman)
          Goldbach’s conjecture
          The Riemann hypothesis
          The Collatz conjecture
          ………………………Sometimes a conjecture is called a hypothesis when it is used frequently and repeatedly as an assumption in proofs of other results. For example, the Riemann hypothesis is a conjecture from number theory that (amongst other things) makes predictions about the distribution of prime numbers. Few number theorists doubt that the Riemann hypothesis is true”

          +++++++++http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conjecture

          _______Some things just are not amenable to formal proof, for various reasons, even if they are true.

    • @PogueMahone Hey, Poque, you owe me an apology for your LIE about me jumping to conclusions about the Martin/Zimmerman issue. Now would be a good time

    • @PogueMahone Prof Brown proved it… ” conservatives don’t go to grad school to study political science”. It is rather hard to become a professor in polsci without going to grad school to do polsci. If conservatives don’t do polsci at grad school, they cannot be hired as professors in polsci. Qed.

      • @DocD … Well, then, you’re supporting Brown’s conjecture, not McQ’s.

        • @PogueMahone You are assuming the conjectures are mutually exclusive. I don’t see that they are.

        • @DocD … Uh, yeah they are mutually exclusive. If Cons don’t go to PoliSci grad school, then they can’t be hired to be PoliSci profs. McQ’s argument is that they do go to grad school, but that they aren’t hired to be university profs. Something he cannot prove, nor has any desire to… because, it fits his viewpoint – so why bother. Especially when he preaches to a waiting choir more than willing to believe that the reason why college grads don’t come out raving conservatives is because they’ve been brainwashed by an academic industry who couldn’t make it in the private sector. ——— This is conservative classic rock. It never gets old. At least for you guys.

        • @PogueMahone I think you need to go back and read what Brown said, what McQ said and then consider what has likely happened in the system as it has evolved over time. Then remove your knee from that jerk it seems stuck in. And then maybe follow the advice of your own nickname.

    • I am sure you could “prove” that discrimination has occurred in some cases, I remember reading about a few, Whether it is widespread or not I cannot say. But to say that the entire argument is invalid if one can not immediately whip out a study to prove it is at best just silly. @PogueMahone

      • @kyle8 ___ “But to say that the entire argument is invalid if one can not immediately whip out a study to prove it is at best just silly.” …. Which, unintentionally I’m sure, sums up McQ’s post.

    • @PogueMahone So you don’t want to argue the premise that poli-sci teachers are by nature prone to be progressive/liberal and that their teachings of political science will likely be biased in favor of progressive/liberal thinking, which will tend to be about ‘advancing social justice’ and creating groupthink rather than educating? You’d rather conclude the balance is a process of natural personal selection and that groupthink and advancing social justice in college (UC) is more important than educating and this situation is okay?

    • @PogueMahone You know, I think many here would agree with the steretype you’re suggesting….that poli-sci professors are progressive liberals doing exactly what you’re saying they do…Groupthinking. I’m not sure how your argument that conservatives are discouraged from going into poli-sci is all that great a position to be in. But it is the ball you tossed on the field, and it is a logical goalpost to run through.

  • So why do so few women go into STEM related fields ? … they pay well and most employers will hire most women who can spell STEM.

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