|What Colleges Teach — and Don’t Teach|
|Education Secretary Margaret Spellings says that the Federal Government needs some accountability for the billions of dollars the taxpayers pour into university education. That’s right, we do; but her plan, to set up a national database to track students plus a system of testing like No Child Left Behind, is not the solution.
The problems Spellings identifies – students transferring to different colleges, dropouts, and the years of time it takes to graduate — are only some of what’s wrong with colleges today. Other important problems include: college tuition is unconscionably inflated, students are not getting their money’s worth yet they leave college with incredibly burdensome debt, colleges are paying high-priced professors to teach worthless courses while at the same time students find it difficult to get into basic courses they need to graduate, students are admitted who are not prepared to do college work, and a high percentage of students attend remedial courses to learn what they should have learned in high school.
Secretary Spellings could force improvements in both colleges and high schools if the Federal Government would refuse college grants and loans for remedial courses so that colleges would admit only those ready to do college-level work.
Even worse, however, is what the colleges teach — and don’t teach. In many colleges, professors teach their own leftwing biases instead of the course to which they were assigned.
The other side of the coin is what the colleges don’t teach. The Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) has just rendered a national service by releasing a comprehensive study on higher education’s failure to teach students about America’s history and institutions.
The investigation was based on the premise that today’s college students, who will be our nation’s future leaders, must have a basic understanding of American history and founding principles if they are to be informed citizens. How can they evaluate America’s relationship to the rest of the world unless they have a clear vision of America’s unique identity and how we got where we are?
The results of ISI’s multi-year study by eminent academics, who are experienced in the classroom, are depressing. That’s why the ISI report is called “The coming crisis in citizenship.”
ISI contracted with the University of Connecticut’s Department of Public Policy to undertake the largest statistically valid survey ever conducted in order to find out what colleges and universities are teaching their students about U.S. history and institutions. They surveyed 14,000 randomly selected college freshmen and seniors at 50 colleges and universities.
The students were tested with 60 multiple-choice questions to measure their knowledge in four subject areas: American history, American government, America and the world, and the market economy. Freshmen and seniors were given the same test, and here are the results.
Seniors scored only 1.5 percent higher, on average, than freshmen, and at 16 schools, seniors scored lower than freshmen. I guess that means they learned little or nothing about America in their four years of college.
If the multiple-choice test had been administered as an exam in a college course, seniors would have failed with an average score of 53.2 percent. That’s called getting an F.
Seniors at 22 of the 50 colleges scored on average below 50 percent. More than half the seniors could not identify the correct century when the first American colony was established at Jamestown, or recognize Yorktown as the battle that ended the American Revolution.
Fewer than half of college seniors recognized that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal” is from the Declaration of Independence.
Another finding of this unique investigation was that prestige doesn’t pay off when it comes to learning about America. The colleges that boast high rankings in the famous U.S. News & World Report list of top colleges ranked particularly low when it comes to American history.
At many prestigious colleges, including Yale, Brown, and Georgetown, seniors know less than freshmen about American history. Maybe the Yalies spent so much time singing with the Whiffenpoofs down at Mory’s that they forgot what they learned at the high-priced prep schools they may have attended in order to qualify for admission to an Ivy League college.
It seems to boil down to the obvious fact that students don’t learn what colleges don’t teach. If learning American history is the measure, the student can just as well attend a low-budget college.
Many of the leftwing professors are eagerly encouraging their students to participate in political action. But it won’t be a happy participation if the students rush into political action without a good grounding in U.S. history, constitution, and civics.
The ISI report takes its cue from Thomas Jefferson, who wrote: “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free . . . it expects what never was and never will be.” In other words, retaining our freedom depends on an informed citizenry.
You are invited to take the courses American History 101 and American Government 101 at www.EagleForumU.com
Sometimes the Good Guys Win
Emily had to conform to MSU’s orthodoxy in order to get her degree, which she received on May 19, 2006. However, that wasn’t the end of it. Emily sued MSU officials: the university president, the directors of the School of Social Work, and the professors — and she won a smashing victory.
Emily enrolled in MSU in September 2002 to obtain a Bachelor of Social Work degree. In the spring of 2005, she registered for SWK 209 on Social Welfare Policy taught by Professor Frank G. Kauffman, a course that is required in order to graduate with a Bachelor of Social Work. Professor Kauffman identified himself in class as a “liberal” and social work as a “liberal” profession, and he used the class to routinely engage in leftist diatribes against President Bush and the Federal Government. Emily and other students vocally questioned his statements.
As a result, Emily received a “C” grade in this course. When she approached Kauffman about her grade, he claimed it was because she was tardy and had exhibited unprofessional behavior in class. Emily appealed her “C” grade based on her superb academic performance. Kauffman replied with a harsh email denying her appeal. Emily then appealed to the Social Work Department chairperson, who granted her appeal and raised her grade to a “B.”
In the fall of 2005, Emily enrolled in SWK 409 on Social Welfare Policy, another course required for graduation, also taught by Kauffman. In this course, students were supposed to work in small groups on an advocacy project of their own choosing. Emily joined a group to do a project on homelessness.
A few weeks into the course, Kauffman brought to class a guest from PROMO, an organization of advocates of homosexual behavior, and Kauffman suggested that the groups change their focus and work on advocating homosexual foster homes and adoptions. In the next class, Kauffman stated that the class had to attend a town hall meeting on homosexual adoption, and then write a letter to Missouri legislators advocating homosexual adoption, and that the letter must be on MSU letterhead and signed by each student. Emily participated in everything else he requested, but did not want to sign a letter promoting homosexual foster homes and adoption.
Emily was notified by phone that she had violated the School of Social Work’s Standards of Essential Functioning. She was accused of a Level 3 Grievance. The Grievance hearing, which lasted two and a half hours, violated a dozen elements of due process as well as subjecting her to personally invasive questions criticizing her Christian beliefs. The faculty demanded that Emily write a paper declaring that she would “lessen the gap” between her personal beliefs and professional obligations as to the ethics code.
Emily sued with the help of Alliance Defense Fund and local lawyer Dee Wampler, and she won when MSU signed an out-of-court agreement. Her academic record was cleared, MSU will pay her tuition for two years of graduate school, her attorneys were paid, and Professor Kauffman was put on non-classroom duties for the rest of the semester.
A similar sequence of events took place this year at Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIUC).
Christine Mize, a Christian graduate student in social work, was writing an assignment to create an eight-week therapy program based on a topic of her own choosing and supported by independent research. She chose to write on a therapy plan for women suffering from post-abortion syndrome. However, her professor, Dr. Laura Dreuth Zeman, told Christine that her paper would be downgraded if she included a faith-based section in the recovery plan.
Christine obediently turned in her paper without the faith-based section, but she also provided the professor with legal information on her constitutional right to include religion in her assignments when it is appropriate to the topic. Dr. Dreuth Zeman then refused to grade the paper, giving Christine an “incomplete” and putting her graduation in jeopardy.
After repeated unsuccessful appeals to college administrators, Christine turned to the Alliance Defense Fund for assistance, which immediately wrote to SIU Carbondale explaining Christine’s constitutional rights. SIUC backed down, gave Christine her grade, and allowed her to complete the course and graduate.
These examples tell us a lot about political correctness and intolerance on university campuses. Christian students should stand up for their rights of free speech. As Emily and Christine proved, Christian students can win.
News from College Campuses
COLLEGE OF WILLIAM AND MARY, Williamsburg, VA. Responding to months of harsh criticism from alumni for removing a cross from Wren Chapel, William and Mary is trying a compromise. College president Gene R. Nichol had secretly removed the cross in an attempt to make the chapel “equally open and welcoming to all.” The Faculty Assembly and Student Senate stood with him in the controversy, but nearly 18,000 people signed an online petition calling for the return of the cross. At least 25 alumni threatened to withhold donations, including one benefactor who withdrew a $12 million pledge. The 18-inch brass cross will now be returned for permanent display in the chapel in a glass case (like a museum display), but not on the altar. A new plaque will explain the 313-year-old school’s Anglican heritage and connection to Williamsburg’s historic Bruton Parish.
UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS, Champaign, IL. The University of Illinois dropped its 81-year-old American Indian mascot, Chief Illiniwek, on Feb. 21. The NCAA had ruled that Illiniwek — portrayed by buckskin-clad students who dance at home football and basketball games and other athletic events — was an offensive use of American Indian imagery. The NCAA forbade the university to host athletic events unless it got rid of Illiniwek. The columnist Bob Novak, a U of I alumnus, wrote eloquently about his and other students’ admiration for Chief Illiniwek, which had been the symbol of his alma mater for 81 years. Novak wrote: “The accusation that Illinois and other schools degrade Native Americans is absurd. These schools picked Indian symbols in admiration of their valor, ferociousness and indomitable spirit in the face of overwhelming odds. . . . Chief Illiniwek finally was done in by politicians jumping on the NCAA’s political correctness bandwagon.”
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, Berkeley, CA. The scandal of using professors and teaching assistants (TAs) who can’t speak English finally made the front page of the New York Times, which described the plight of students. According to the Times, the issue is particularly acute in subjects like engineering, where 50% of graduate students are foreign born, and math and the physical sciences where 41% of graduate students are foreign born. Legislation has been introduced in 22 states requiring universities to make sure that teachers are proficient in spoken English, but it’s not clear that this has had any impact on the eagerness of the universities to admit and then hire foreign students as TAs.
OHIO UNIVERSITY, Athens, OH. An underreported aspect of the plagiarism scandal that plagued Ohio University last year is that it involved mostly foreign students. The university took action against 39 mechanical engineering graduates, 36 of them students who came from China, India, Sri Lanka, Saudi Arabia, Thailand or South Korea. The U.S. admits hundreds of thousands of foreign students on visas every year, which the universities like because most of them are wealthy enough to pay full tuition. They are clustered in engineering, math and science classes, and many end up being TAs who are a terrible handicap to English-speaking students in those fields. Foreign students received 43% of the master’s degrees in engineering awarded in the United States in 2005, and 59% of doctoral degrees, according to the American Society for Engineering Education.
GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY, Washington, DC. GW acknowledges having the highest tuition in the country, and the board of trustees just voted to raise it again. Tuition for next year’s freshmen will be more than $39,000 — that’s before they pay for housing and food.
UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA, Tucson, AZ. According to David Horowitz, author of a new book called Indoctrination U: The Left’s War Against Academic Freedom, here is the official course description of a course taught at the University of Arizona, called “Feminist Political Theory 433” by a full professor of political science: “Because gender is socially constructed, it is instructive to study how gender ideologies — which profoundly shape today’s intellectual inquiries and political realities — have been articulated in the form of political theory.” Obviously the premise of this course must be accepted by students even though the statement asserts an unscientific claim, and in fact is scientifically contradicted. Nevertheless, students are required to believe this feminist nonsense in order to get their academic grade.
KANSAS STATE UNIVERSITY, Manhattan, KS. David Horowitz also discovered a statement in the Kansas State University catalogue: “To qualify for a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science in Women’s Studies at Kansas State University, students will have demonstrated their familiarity with key Women’s Studies concepts such as the social construction of gender, oppression of and violence against women, heterosexism, racism, classism, and global inequality.” In other words, Horowitz explains, a student cannot graduate from the Kansas State Women’s Studies program unless that student believes in and demonstrates belief in, the feminist ideology that makes up its core of women’s studies courses. The premise is scientifically ridiculous. Indoctrination in dogmatic creeds such as gender feminism was once alien to the very idea of a modern university, but now it has become orthodoxy.
SOUTHERN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY, Carbondale, IL. A federal appeals court issued a preliminary injunction requiring SIU’s School of Law to grant a Christian student group the same rights as secular student groups on its campus. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which had filed an amicus brief in this case, said, “This is a crucial victory for the principles of religious liberty and freedom of association.” Law School Dean Peter Alexander had revoked official recognition of SIU’s chapter of the Christian Legal Society, asserting that the group’s sexual morality requirements violated SIU’s nondiscrimination policy. CLS policies ban voting members and leaders from engaging in or approving of premarital sex, adultery, or homosexual sex, although anyone may attend the group’s meetings and activities.
REGENT UNIVERSITY, Virginia Beach, VA. A panel of speakers addressed the way America’s Founding Fathers championed a prominent public role for religion in politics that contrasts sharply with the secular impulses dominating contemporary society. Daniel Dreisbach, a professor in the school of public affairs at American University, said that George Washington “audaciously challenged the patriotism of those in society who sought to undermine religion or its public role.” Dreisbach reminded his audience that Washington’s acknowledgements of God and divine intervention in national affairs were not merely spoken in private conversation or written in obscure messages, but rather were central to his most important public addresses such as his “Circular Letter” of 1783 announcing his resignation as commander in chief, and his Farewell Address in 1796, which Dreisbach said contained “pretty stunning language” that seems to be “coming close to saying that if you’re undermining the public role of religion, you can’t call yourself a patriot.” Jean Bethke Elshtain, a professor at the University of Chicago and another forum participant, said that Thomas Jefferson would be viewed today as someone with strong religious convictions. Other speakers included Hadley Arkes, an Amherst College professor, who discussed the influence of natural law on America’s founding.
BOISE STATE UNIVERSITY, Boise, ID. A coalition of conservative students accused Boise State University of bringing in too many liberal speakers and demanded that they be balanced with viewpoints from other speakers. In the past four years, Boise State’s list of speakers included Al Gore, Jesse Jackson, Gloria Steinem, Sen. George McGovern, and Ralph Nader. The conservative students claimed that Boise State-affiliated groups spent almost $300,000 for liberal speakers and no money at all for conservative speakers.
UNIVERSITY OF PHOENIX, Phoenix, AZ. The nation’s largest private university, with 300,000 students on campuses in 39 states, gets more federal student financial aid than any other: $1.8 billion in federal student aid in 2004-5. The university’s annual tuition and fees are $9,630, about half the average at private four-year colleges, and twice that of four-year public colleges.
YOUNG AMERICA’S FOUNDATION’S ‘DIRTY DOZEN.’ Every year, Young America’s Foundation releases a list of what it calls the Dirty Dozen of courses offered at major universities — courses that any reasonable person would consider bizarre or trivial or a waste of a student’s education dollar. One reason why college tuition is so high is that they pay high-priced professors to teach worthless courses. Here are a few from this year’s list: Occidental College offers “The Phallus,” a course on the relation “between the phallus and the penis.” The University of California-Los Angeles offers a course in “Queer Musicology” on how “sexual difference and complex gender identities in music incited productive consternation.” Amherst College offers a course called “Taking Karl Marx Seriously.” The University of Pennsylvania offers a course called “Adultery Novel” which supplements books about adultery with “several adultery films.” The University of Michigan offers a course in “Native American Feminism.” Cornell offers a course in “Cyberfeminism.” Hollins University offers a course called “Drag: Theories of Transgenderism and Performance.” The University of Colorado-Boulder offers “Introduction to Lesbian, Bisexual, and Gay Literature.”