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Friday, November 27, 2015

David Brooks, "Communities of Character": Ignoring the Decline and Fall of American Higher Education

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Communities of Character," David Brooks informs us, "All over the country there are schools and organizations trying to come up with new ways to cultivate character." Brooks illustrates his point by describing the Leaders School in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn:

"This is a school with roughly 300 students who speak between them 22 languages. Eighty-five percent are on free and reduced lunch. Last year the graduation rate was an amazing 89 percent and every single graduate went to college."

Every single graduate went to college? How marvelous! Or perhaps not.

On Wednesday, George Will provided a remarkable synopsis of the depths being plumbed by American universities in a Washington Post opinion piece entitled "America’s higher education brought low." Examples provided by Will:

"The University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, an irony-free campus, declared the phrase 'politically correct' a microaggression. The master of Yale’s Pierson College said his regrettable title reminds distressed students of slavery. Wesleyan University’s student government threatened to cut the school newspaper’s funding because it published a column critical of campus leftists. Wesleyan created a 'safe space,' a.k.a. a house, for LGBTTQQFAGPBDSM students (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transsexual, Queer, Questioning, Flexual, Asexual, Genderf---, Polyamorous, Bondage/Discipline, Dominance/Submission, Sadism/Masochism).

A Washington State University professor said she would lower the grade of any student who used the term 'illegal immigrants' when referring to immigrants here illegally. Another Washington State professor warned in his syllabus that white students who want 'to do well' in his 'Introduction to Multicultural Literature' should show their 'grasp of history and social relations' by 'deferring to the experiences of people of color.' Another Washington State teacher, in her syllabus for 'Women & Popular Culture,' warned that students risk 'failure for the semester' if they use 'derogatory/oppressive language' such as 'referring to women/men as females or males.'"

Go to college in the US and further build character, grit, leadership and intellectual curiosity? I have my doubts.

As even Roger Cohen seems to suggest, America is sickly and getting weaker. May the Lord have mercy on us!

1 comment:

  1. Meanwhile, Thabahtoona, in Jordan, provides a contrast with American students:

    "Israel references in UJ geography book cause controversy"
    By Suzanna Goussous - Nov 25,2015

    AMMAN — Students and members of the National Campaign for Defending Students’ Rights (Thabahtoona) on Tuesday criticised the University of Jordan (UJ) geography textbook for containing words that “promote normalisation” of ties with Israel.

    “We are not used to seeing a book at Jordanian universities that recognises the Zionist entity and the state of what is referred to as ‘Israel’,” Thabahtoona coordinator Fakher Daas told The Jordan Times.

    According to Daas, this is the first time any academic book has been used in Jordanian universities that includes the word “Israel” without mention of Palestine.

    Students disapproved of the first two paragraphs on page 13 in the 2015 edition of the geography book, which was written by Ziyad Makhamreh, Yusra Husban, Hamzeh Khawaldeh, Abdul Fattah Lutfi, Dalal Zureiqat, and Nazeeh Manasyeh, and edited by Makhamreh and Husban from the faculty of arts’ geography department.

    The first paragraph on page 13 states that “the economic importance of the Gulf of Aqaba increased after the occupation of Palestine, as it is considered the only port that connects Jordan to the world”.

    The second paragraph on the same page reads: “… Aqaba Gulf plays an important role in geopolitics between Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Israel, for its proximity to Arabian oil fields.”

    “Authors of the book clearly mentioned the names of Jordan’s neighbouring countries, so mentioning Palestine or the occupied lands wouldn’t have made a difference,” Daas said.

    “The book has been in bookshops for three years now and professors insist on keeping the text, which proves that what is written in the manuscript was not a mistake,” he added.

    Daas believes the phrasing used in the book is a way of encouraging young Jordanians to “normalise” ties with Israel.

    A student who is taking the geography course this semester said the page’s content was discussed with some of the book’s authors during lectures.

    “At first, we were in shock… it was the first time [‘Israel’] is identified as such in our curricula. The professors explained it to us and it makes sense, but anyone would misunderstand it when it is written like that,” said the student, who preferred to remain unnamed. ..."