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Politics: An ACTA Must-Read and a Boston University Don’t-Bother-Reading

American Council of Trustees and Alumni

From the American Council of Trustees and Alumni:

“An article from today’s New York Times considers the debate over the extent to which professorial politics influences students. While nearly everyone agrees that faculties on the whole tend be politically one-sided, many observers dispute whether this imbalance has any consequence in the classroom. Brooklyn College history professor KC Johnson says “yes,” pointing out that the problem is less political than pedagogical, with many disciplines within the humanities (such as diplomatic and military history) being pushed to the margins. ACTA’s own Anne Neal agrees, noting that the problem lies not in a simplistic “left-right” characterization, but instead to the essence of what is taught. Do professors influence students? Yes, surely, since students cannot know what is not taught. That is why ACTA advocates the need for institutions to demand a coherent core curriculum offering exposure to such central subjects as Western Civilization and American History.

ACTA has, as the Times notes, followed these issues closely, with our publications on Intellectual Diversity and the core curriculum advancing a critique of the current state of higher education, and showing ways in which trustees can help their institutions reach a solution.”

What isn’t taught is, at this point, more destructive than much of the tripe that is taught.

Ralphie, A Christmas Story

When you’re done with those links, hop on down a few rungs and read the latest plea from Boston University Dean of Students Kenn Elmore. In “It’s time to show them what we’ve got”, Elmore writes with all the flair, conviction and intellectual seriousness of A Christmas Story’s Ralphie on that ‘What I Want for Christmas’ theme:

“Plenty of naysayers doubt that individuals with the opportunity to vote for the first time will actually show up.  They also point to prior statistics that cast a doubt that you — a young voter, a student — will even show up tomorrow or have cast an absentee ballot by now.  We often hear about record numbers of young people registering to vote but are disappointed on election day.  We apparently want to be on the list but just don’t have the time to make it to the party.

Let’s show the country that its young people care and have a say in the direction of our cities, towns, states, and nation.  Your local candidates, referenda questions, and national officers in waiting need to know that you showed up and made a decision.  Get prepped and do what you’ve got to do tomorrow.  Show the nation that we’re here and ready to bring it in the future.  Show ‘em what you got!

Be safe and stay well,

Kenn Elmore

P.S. Don’t forget that there are elections held every year (not every four).”


That post script is in line with an older post in which the good Dean “bemoans” the ignorant public.

Though I’m impressed that he nailed referendum/referenda, I do wish the Deanship was an elected and not an appointed position.

Where Should College Students Vote?

tracy flick for president!

Robert VerBruggen [who went to Northwestern] of Phi Beta Cons brings up a point relevant to the Campaigning-for-Credit discussion:

“This reminds me of a scheme I saw in college (not by the administration): Fliers encouraging students from swing states to register at home instead of in Illinois. Because of the way election laws work, students who live in one state (even just in summer) and go to school in another can vote in either, making it possible for them to direct their votes to where they count most, thus increasing the power of college students.”

Questions to readers: Is this sort of thing common where you work/go to school?”

I’ve devoted a few posts to Boston University’s Dean of Students’ Blog over the last few weeks. One of the Dean’s Blog gems was a guest post by Dr. Margaret Ross, also of BU, that encouraged college students to vote where they’d have the greatest impact, a place also known as Not Massachusetts:

“My hope is that students all over America will vote.  It usually will mean registering and often will require procuring an absentee ballot.  I also hope that students will register to vote in their home states.  In general, Massachusetts votes Democrat.  There is every reason to expect this will be the case in the 2008 election.  Therefore, the votes of the many students in school throughout Massachusetts will be more significant if they are cast in the states from which these many thousands of students have journeyed.”

There ya go, Mr. VerBruggen [emphasis mine].

I find the pick’n'choose approach to be distasteful and find Ross’s suggestion to be condescending. I have always considered myself a resident of New York State no matter where I’ve been – and it would take an awfully significant change in circumstances to see that transform in the future. I didn’t vote in Boston because I considered myself a visitor, not a resident. I vote in the state whose driver’s license I carry.

But the odd part of all this is that the same people who moan about privilege-this and discrimination-that have no problem with some taking advantage of the opportunities granted to them by wealth, talent, whatever – in this case, winding up at an institution of higher education, which for a host of reasons isn’t the norm – to make their vote count for more than another’s. A 19 year old bank teller, married with a kid and who never went to college, doesn’t have the opportunity to float their vote. Yet another reason

I’d argue that the teller contributes a bit more to society than a college student at, say, Manchester College, but the activists don’t see it that way. Let’s modify that old mantra of the higher education lefties and scream it from the Ivory tower:

Privilege for me but not for thee!

… because that’s exactly what the float-your-vote advocates believe in.

Boston University Dean’s Blog: The Public is Ignorant

boston university terrier

pointy-headed, adj. slang, disparaging. Intellectual, esp. in a self-important or impractical way.

Alert: If you don’t have a graduate degree, please find a friend who does so they can help you read this post. Dean Kenn Elmore “bemoans” that the public, which likely includes you, is too dumb to proceed without a guiding light. That I wrote this post without a graduate degree is a modern miracle.

First, Boston University’s Dean of Students Kenn Elmore bent over backwards to get students to register to vote. That’s not an altogether terrible idea, it’s just a waste of time and resources not unlike the 1,001 other tiny boondoggles that drive tuition increases.

Then Elmore saw no problem passing along an intellectually dishonest fearmongering piece as a ‘guest post.’ That it seemed to predict another American Civil War, blamed Hurricane Gustav on global warming, pronounced the last few years as “horrendous,” and, finally, implored students not to vote in Massachusetts, didn’t bother him.

Well done, Dean Elmore. Let’s talk about what this election season says about you.

“Here’s my confession – often, I read W.E.B. Dubois’ 1956 piece, Why I Won’t Vote.  I know you think I’m a big cynic, but I [sic] this 1956 piece still makes me think about our country – especially during the election season.”

Read it, folks, if you haven’t come across it before. You’ll see a few things that Elmore neglects to mention: distress that a third party, the Socialists, are overshadowed by a corrupt two-party system; that the two parties aren’t different at all; the disenfranchised reality of the “Negro”; etc. Elmore does a disservice to these details – these issues, among others, that Dubois identified as driving his hopelessness – by comparing them to today’s issues. But for the pretentious pseudo-intellectual, confessing that you’ve read a piece of philosophy is usually enough.

“As I’ve said before, I struggle with American politics.  I, like many of you, bemoan apparent public ignorance about decisions that have consequences for the country;”

Yes, we know you struggle with American politics – you’ve made that clear over the last few weeks. I’ve got no issue with that.

What’s unacceptable is the pointy-headed, smug contempt that Elmore expresses for the public. We’re not all dumb, we’re not so uninformed that we make choices blindly, and, frankly, if we needed guidance, we wouldn’t go to Elmore.

It’s bad to be pointy-headed, and it’s even worse when you stink at it.

I sense that Elmore feels a little guilt here, as he should – that’s why he tries to groom readers ["like many of you"] early on. Demagogue, demagogue, demagogue.

“[I bemoan] the money that is used to support political campaigns; opportunities for candidates that do not declare themselves Democrats or Republicans; the involvement of young people in traditional civic institutions;”

Does Elmore “bemoan” the financing for the McCain campaign that comes from the Federal government? Does he “bemoan” the money contributed to the Obama campaign, which amounts to even more? Should both campaigns instead use that money to buy us Prince CDs so we can all listen to the same inspirational music before writing?

These are tough questions. What else does Elmore bemoan?

“… tactics and procedures that are used to makes us loose [sic] our motivation to vote.”

I’d respond to this, but I haven’t a clue what Elmore means.

After a couple paragraphs of blather, Elmore concludes:

“I ask a lot of questions.  We can be at our best during a conversation.  Great conversations are about joy and the celebration of our human-ness.  A wonderful conversation is thought-provoking, inspirational, and liberates my spirit.  I feel like a human when I talk to others.  Join me at this year’s first Coffee and Conversation session – Friday, September 12, in the Howard Thurman Center from 3 – 5 p.m. This upcoming election season drops a lot of clues about who we are.  So, let’s talk about the upcoming election for leader of the world and why you should or should not vote.  Please also check out this week’s post on your vote and geography.”

Elmore is exposing who he is – and, most notably, his limits and contempt for the non-intellectuals. The mix of irony and gall that Elmore stirs in each of these blog posts will likely go unnoticed by the public. After all, they’re just too dumb and ignorant …

… though hundreds of thousands have managed to scrape together the money for Boston University tuition over the last few decades. Must’ve been dumb luck.

Intellectual Dishonesty and Fearmongering on the Boston University Dean’s Blog

ahhhhhhh! the end is nigh!

I wrote yesterday about my dissatisfaction with the Boston University Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore’s push for voter registration. It’s a poor use of resources, it’s outside the scope of the Dean’s office, and it’s reason #52,907 why higher education is prohibitively expensive. I responded to a spirited commenter on that post and explained my reasons a bit more fully.

Today, the Dean’s Blog posted a guest editorial which makes the following claims/suggestions:

  • The US is divided, unhappy, starving, and hated worldwide;
  • Global warming caused Hurricane Gustav;
  • Newspapers are full of suicide bombings;
  • All students should vote, just not in Massachusetts;
  • The last 8 years were a total disgrace.

Elmore introduces the guest post in “How Does Your Vote Really Count?”

“I often wonder if my vote is like pressing the botton [sic] on the walk signal at a street crossing — does it matter?”

Since Elmore started with a near-non sequitur, I suppose I’ll start there, too.

No, Dean Elmore, pushing those buttons probably doesn’t matter. Take New York City’s example:

“The city deactivated most of the pedestrian buttons long ago with the emergence of computer-controlled traffic signals, even as an unwitting public continued to push on, according to city Department of Transportation officials. More than 2,500 of the 3,250 walk buttons that still exist function essentially as mechanical placebos, city figures show. Any benefit from them is only imagined…

… Most of the buttons scattered through the city, mainly outside of Manhattan, are relics of the 1970′s, before computers began tightly choreographing traffic signal patterns on major arteries.”

I’d bet the situation in Boston is similar. Now that we’ve answered one of Life’s Big Questions, let’s move along to the bulk of the post, written by Dr. Margaret Ross, Boston University’s Director of Behavioral Medicine:

“I am not a particularly politically knowledgeable person …”

Eep. Admitting a lack of knowledge about a topic as an introduction to 300 words on it? I’ll let that slide. And though Dr. Ross isn’t a “particularly politically knowledgeable person,” I am – so on with the show:

“…but this election scares me more than others have.  The country is in a very vulnerable state:  people are terribly divided and angry, scared about their survival, we have been in a prolonged recession with no sign of relief, prices for basic necessities are high, healthcare is more of a mess than ever, the weather patterns show inexorable climate change (yet another storm is ravaging the Caribbean, Cuba and will travel to the southeastern United States).”

I agree partly with Dr. Ross – I’m not scared, but I’m concerned. That said, I’m not a hyperbolic fearmonger like Dr. Ross.

We’re not all “terribly divided and angry.” I hold a very unpopular view of the political climate for my demographic, and I don’t sympathize with most of the friends I have. I’m not angry at them, and that philosophical/conceptual rift is normal when one is truly in a diverse crowd. Relax, Dr. Ross – this isn’t a civil war between Code Pink and the Westboro Baptist Church. It’s just people being people.

Also, I’m not worried that I won’t survive. Gas prices are high – it’s a serious hardship for those who don’t live in a city. Those fuel prices make food more expensive, too, but we aren’t starving. Because I’ve cut back on shrimp and clams isn’t evidence that I’m “scared about [my] survival.” It just means I eat more soup and pasta.

And this is where the Good Doctor’s hyperbole and fearmongering really comes in – recession. Things aren’t wonderful – we all know that – but Hell in a Handbasket isn’t around the corner, either. For a crash course on what a recession is, check the Wikipedia entry.

Then consider that the GDP in the second quarter grew by 3.3%, according to the Department of Commerce, that inflation is nowhere near the 12% it was in 1980, and that our civilian unemployment rate of about 6% isn’t all that bad.

It’s also news to me that “inexorable climate change” is linked directly to Hurricane Gustav. Then again, I’ve only got a BA, so she’s the expert.

“We are fighting a war that few can comprehend or believe in.”

Actually, Dr. Ross, the polls aren’t as dire as you make them out to be. About 2 in 3 Americans oppose the war in Iraq – while that’s a majority, considering 1 out of 3 to be “few” is intellectually dishonest or downright ignorant [I'll let you choose]. Feel free to look over these poll results for several questions re: the war in Iraq.

“We are not respected as the force for good that we have been in the post World War II era; quite the contrary.”

I’d dispute that assertion if it wasn’t a book-length discussion. I’ll pass.

“Newspapers are filled with suicide bombings and natural disasters and we almost have to become hardened in order to continue to function.”

I hate to sound crass, but at this point I think that Dr. Ross reads only the New York Times and never leaves Boston/Cambridge.

“So, it seems to me that this election is a turning point.  We have two strong candidates, with very different ideas about how things might be done to begin to repair the horrendous damage of the last few years.”

It should be a turning point either way. I don’t think we have two strong candidates – I think we have only one – and I don’t think that you really think there are two strong candidates, either.

“My hope is that students all over America will vote.  It usually will mean registering and often will require procuring an absentee ballot.  I also hope that students will register to vote in their home states.  In general, Massachusetts votes Democrat.  There is every reason to expect this will be the case in the 2008 election.  Therefore, the votes of the many students in school throughout Massachusetts will be more significant if they are cast in the states from which these many thousands of students have journeyed.”

Any advice for those New Yorkers at Boston University whose vote is useless, using that rational model, regardless of where they cast it?

“PLEASE register to vote, and please register in your home state.  Your vote will be crucial.  The votes of the many American students could well determine the results of what promises to be a very close election.

We have lived for many years with the results of what was a fatally flawed election in 2000.  My hope is that 2008 will bring us a new start.”

I don’t think it was “fatally flawed” at all. Oddly enough, the Supreme Court and our electoral college system both support me.

Dean Elmore takes over:

“Thanks Dr. Ross.  I’m going to take another view.

Isn’t voting in local elections more important?  Do local and state officials, and our representatives to Washington make more of a difference in the quality of our daily routines?”"

That’s an issue worth discussing.

But first, Dean Elmore might want to consider why he posted a tendentious, intellectually dishonest, ill-informed guest editorial that embarrassed his office and his University. Differing viewpoints are good and discussion is good – as long as everyone is informed, fair and honest.

Why I Don’t Give Alumni Donations

boston university terriers

Well, first, I can’t really afford it – let’s get that out of the way. I wish I could, but right now I can’t.

Aside from that limitation, I don’t give to my University’s general fund because of irresponsible, inefficient spending. I don’t want to donate money to a University when those funds are spent on frivolous projects outside the central purposes of higher education – for example, voter registration.

I’d donate my time and professional expertise, though.

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