Sunday Night Odds and Ends

A few things online that caught my attention this week:

What does it take to publish in the William and Mary Quarterly?

The Junto Final 4 is here.  Happy to say I use 3 of the 4 in my U.S. survey course.  But Emily Conroy-Krutz wants more women’s history

“The United States seems to resemble the Evangelical vision less and less”

Is our obsession with STEM education dangerous?

Richard Brookhiser reviews Robert Middlekauff’s Washington’s Revolution

Andrew Hartman discusses his new book A War for the Soul of America: A History of the Culture Wars

Undergraduate mentoring

A recap of the Religion in Early America Symposium at the National Museum of American History

Why don’t political conservatives value the liberal arts?

Is Texas a Southern state?  A Western state?

A criticism of Obamacare backfires for a member of the House of Representatives

The end of the slave trade

Matthew Crawford‘s new book: The World Beyond Your Head

Benjamin Rush on alcoholism

“I write to find what I have to say.  I edit to figure out how to say it right

James McPherson on Lincoln and the end of slavery

Thomas Banchoff reviews Garry Wills’s The Future of the Catholic Church with Pope Francis

Teaching the Narrative of Frederick Douglass

Why Reconstruction matters

10 thoughts on “Sunday Night Odds and Ends

  1. Funny thing…..I reference the commentaries of Prof./Dr. Mike Adams at UNC-Wilmington about the shenanigans in higher education and he drops another gem this week:

    Last semester, UNC was finally caught creating fake African American courses – designed predominately for black athletes – so the university could make millions off the athletic programs without actually providing the athletes with a real education. Some faulted the African American Studies program. But not Omolulu Babatunde. Here is what he told my friends over at Campus Reform:

    “The way that the media corrupted what happened in this space was informed by the way that blackness is understood here. Society, which is reflected in the media, understands blackness in such a discredited way that it’s able to corrupt something that is much broader than one site.”

    One must take a lot of African American Studies courses to become that intellectually incoherent. But here is the translation in plain English: When white people do bad things to black people it’s because of white racism. But when black people do bad things to black people it’s also because of white racism. This includes, but is not limited to, the provision of phony classes by unqualified black professors to unqualified black student/athletes.

    You read enough of such stories, then it becomes clear why the liberal arts has gained such a low view among a large segment of the population.

    I'll note here that two of my favorite courses that I took when I was in college were both liberals arts courses. I tremendously enjoyed my Sociology class, but I didn't have to endure the kind of “intellectually incoherent”, eye-rolling nonsense like is mentioned above. I'm still fascinated by sociology and have told all my children about how much I enjoyed it when they have to consider their gen ed options, but have also warned them that there's a good chance they'll get some wacky prof like the guy above.

    It's just too bad Dr. Fea doesn't offer online courses for history credits. It would be a case of “now THIS is how a liberal arts course should be taught and why they are valuable”. 🙂

    Do I think the liberal arts get a bad wrap? Sure, they do at times, but as Sowell and Adams can tell us, some of it is warranted and is far from uncommon. Why do conservative politicians take pot shots at it? Well, because of the nonsense that pops up in so many of the courses, as noted above. Join that with the call for taxpayers to be continually put on the hook and guarantee loans for students to be indoctrinated in such stuff and it's easy to realize why anybody might wish to think twice before being taxed to fund such stuff, or that such stuff possesses a good ROI – either monetarily or as an investment to a more informed citizenry.

    I appreciate Dr. Fea's “So what can you do with a history major?” blog posts. If I had done more research and had a broader understanding of the variety of options avialable back in 1982 – other than the givens of teacher and a few others – I might have pursued a degree in history.

    So in the future when the topic of liberal arts in college – and especially history – comes up in my discussions – or some young person is considering a degree in history – I shall point them to that series of blog posts.


  2. Thomas Sowell penned a rebuttal to Scalia's column about conservatives and the liberal arts. A couple of excerpts, with the boldface emphasis being mine:

    “But it is not conservatives who trashed the liberal arts.

    Liberal professors have trashed the liberal arts, by converting so many liberal arts courses into indoctrination centers for left-wing causes and fads, instead of courses where students learn how to weigh conflicting views of the world for themselves…

    Diversity of political ideas is not to be found on most college campuses, where the range of ideas is usually from the moderate left to the extreme left, and conservatives are rare as hen's teeth among the faculty…. On many campuses, students can go through all four years of college without ever hearing a conservative vision of the world, even from a visiting speaker.

    The problem is not political, but educational. As John Stuart Mill pointed out, back in the 19th century, students must hear opposing views from people who actually believe them, not as presented by people who oppose them. In the 18th century, Edmund Burke warned against those who 'teach the humours of the professor, rather than the principles of the science.'

    The liberal arts in theory could indeed make valuable contributions to the education of the young, as our English professor claims. But the liberal arts in practice have in fact done the opposite, not just in the United States but in other countries as well.

    The history of the 20th century shows soft-subject students and their professors among the biggest supporters of extremist movements, both fascist and communist — the former in central and eastern Europe before World War II and the latter in countries around the world, both before and after that war.

    Those who want liberal arts to be what they were supposed to be will have to profoundly change them from what they have become. Doing that will undoubtedly provoke more denunciations of critics for 'trashing' the liberal arts by criticizing those who have in fact already trashed the liberal arts in practice.”

    I think the closing paragraphs pretty much sum up why the liberals arts are viewed in low regard by many conservatives. Nor do I get much comfort from Dr. Mike Adams when I read his columns about life on the campus where he teaches. The absolute silliness of what originates in liberal arts departments rightfully makes one question the value of an education in those subjects. At least he makes it fun when he writes about the tactics of the “diversity and tolerance” crowd when they determine that a conservative viewpoint can no longer be tolerated.

    Nor is it uncommon to regularly hear of conservative speakers being invited by some group to a speak on campus and then for the “diversity” and “tolerance” crowd to shout them down, throw around all sorts of pejorative labels around, make threats and/or cause such an uproar that the speaker gets uninvited or withdraws.

    In a great many places, the last place one should go to debate great ideas in this country is an institution of “higher education”. Ironic, isn't it?


  3. Mere negation or relativism is not rebuttal, nor is it “critical thinking.”

    As for the “European route,” presently they can only afford to educate the elite. That is the core point of the Economist article, that expanding the pool of students and spending more public money may be a complete waste of limited resources.

    Reading the whole article is instructive. The university system works quite well for the top half; not so much for the bottom.

    As for college athletics, I rather agree, although football and basketball tend to run in the black–sometimes to the tune of millions to the college's bottom line–and even NCAA women's basketball looks good, with an avg attendance of some 1500.

    But men's baseball or women's field hockey, not so much. And somehow, I'd think a college could survive without a golf team.


  4. Critical Thinking is part of the value of college. It has no quantifiable measurements. I think if we went the European route we could control college costs better. There are plenty of things to cut here as well, but I'm sure the screams would be loud if the athletics department was cut.


  5. Ratings and rankings are subject to a lot of factors which make them subject to manipulation

    Yes, overturning the epistemological chessboard is where these things always end.

    It always comes down to individual choice on the value versus the cost

    And relativism.

    Some people want their answers in a nice tidy set of numbers and the problem is those numbers do not tell the story

    And whatever you want to call that.

    I've had my say–and so have Marco Rubio, Ron Wyden, Barack Obama, and The Economist. Critical thinking.

    Peace, out.


  6. Ratings and rankings are subject to a lot of factors which make them subject to manipulation. One of the major problems we have right now is that the wrong questions and wrong research methodology is being used to establish value versus cost.

    Quantitative methods are nice for providing statistical answers for questions involving measurement. However, most questions cannot be answered solely through that research methodology. It takes qualitative research methodology to answer such a complex question.

    There are a lot of studies out there on the value versus cost of higher education. None of them are the same and they have a lot of different answers. As more data is developed, more patterns and themes emerge. One of the main themes to emerge is the lack of ability to measure value of higher education.

    It always comes down to individual choice on the value versus the cost. Some people want their answers in a nice tidy set of numbers and the problem is those numbers do not tell the story.

    This article illustrates some of these issues:

    As for standardized tests, far too much reliance is placed on them. They are pretty easy to manipulate. They also cannot measure many things that come with a college degree.


  7. Universities
    The world is going to university

    More and more money is being spent on higher education. Too little is known about whether it is worth it
    Mar 28th 2015 | From the print edition

    America’s early and lasting enthusiasm for higher education has given it the biggest and best-funded system in the world. Hardly surprising, then, that other countries are emulating its model as they send ever more of their school-leavers to get a university education. But, as our special report argues, just as America’s system is spreading, there are growing concerns about whether it is really worth the vast sums spent on it.

    The world is moving in the American direction. More universities in more countries are charging students tuition fees. And as politicians realise that the “knowledge economy” requires top-flight research, public resources are being focused on a few privileged institutions and the competition to create world-class universities is intensifying.

    In some ways, that is excellent. The best universities are responsible for many of the discoveries that have made the world a safer, richer and more interesting place. But costs are rising. OECD countries spend 1.6% of GDP on higher education, compared with 1.3% in 2000. If the American model continues to spread, that share will rise further. America spends 2.7% of its GDP on higher education.

    If America were getting its money’s worth from higher education, that would be fine. On the research side, it probably is. In 2014, 19 of the 20 universities in the world that produced the most highly cited research papers were American. But on the educational side, the picture is less clear. American graduates score poorly in international numeracy and literacy rankings, and are slipping. In a recent study of academic achievement, 45% of American students made no gains in their first two years of university. Meanwhile, tuition fees have nearly doubled, in real terms, in 20 years. Student debt, at nearly $1.2 trillion, has surpassed credit-card debt and car loans.


  8. Why don't political conservatives value the liberal arts?

    Actually, conservatives object to the scandal of our kids going into half a lifetime of debt to be pumped full of useless “Grievance Studies” and questionable “critical theory.”

    As for Marco Rubio's statement in the WSJ op-ed, as mentioned in the article below, his point was a lot more, um, nuanced than “not valuing the liberal arts.”

    Rubio recognizes that our federal student financial assistance program has enabled colleges to raise fees: “these hiked tuition rates….form a free subsidy for colleges…which use the funds to finance a myriad of non-academic pursuits.”

    But Rubio then makes four specific proposals. First, dramatically improve information students receive about the likely costs and benefits of various majors at different colleges. He and Senator Ron Wyden [a Democrat—TVD]proposed this a year ago, but nothing has happened. Why not? President Obama proposed something similar several years ago. Why shouldn’t college graduates be given information such as “the average earnings of a graduate of the University of Illinois majoring in sociology is $41,000 five years after graduation, but those earnings average $74,000 for electrical engineering majors” (I made up those numbers for illustrative purposes).

    The cruel joke of the ill-paid and ill-used adjunct professor is now well-known in academic circles but perhaps not to the poor sucks who are about to be ground up by the system.

    So if that is “not valuing the liberal arts,” true, conservatives don't.


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