Sep 24, 2008
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.
Sep 23, 2008
When the National Association of Scholars’ Argus Project was announced, the usual suspects cried foul – ideological bias, “witchhunt,” another effort by that Conservative front group for God-knows-what, etc.
Tripe, tripe, tripe. I wrote this about the Project’s mission:
The idea of The Argus Project, as I understand it, is simply observation of our campuses and classrooms and the documentation of abuses on all sides of the political spectrum.
The most recent case examined by the Project is Manchester College, a private, four-year, co-ed Christian school in North Manchester, Indiana. The Project concludes that Manchester’s commitment to scholarship is weak, diluted, confusing, and faddish [and not even very good at the fads].
The case study, which I’ve pasted below, reinforces the point that a private institution is free to fulfill whatever mission it sets out – and I have no quarrel with that, either. There isn’t even One Big Thing, one trademark travesty that should cause outrage. Manchester’s curriculum is mostly unremarkable.
Consider a quote from a ’10 student on MC’s front page:
“I love being extremely active on campus because there is never a dull moment. Whether it’s watching the political returns at a professor’s house or dancing the night away in a pit full of bubbles, MC makes sure there is always something to do.”
After reading Observations at Manchester, her vague statement will make more sense. How can a student thrust in the middle of a carnival of identity politics, weak social advocacy, fringe scholarship and bizarrely-contradictory missions be expected to do any better?
I’d love to hear President Jo Young Switzer’s response to this article – and I mean a real response, not some canned, dismissive form letter typed up by a work study student. President Switzer, are you up for it?
Perhaps President Switzer could elaborate on the college’s tagline of “Find Your Place” and how it differs from their commitment to what could better be described as “Whatever.”
Observations at Manchester
September 23, 2008 By Ashley Thorne
When NAS announced the launch of our Argus project, the initiative was characterized by Inside Higher Education as a big brother operation that encouraged annoying over-the-shoulder surveillance of colleges and universities. We defended ourselves in a reply article, showing that “the Argus Project is a call for volunteers to examine publicly available sources to report and document what’s happening on college campuses,” and that we are not interested in spying or attacking individuals.
Caboose-ing the Inside Higher Ed piece was one person’s comment that we haven’t yet responded to:
“Odd that there was no mention of NAS monitoring private religious colleges where indoctrination and bias are mandatory. Shouldn’t someone be saving us from something so blatant?” – Brian
Good question Brian. Should NAS monitor private religious colleges as well as public taxpayer-funded non-sectarian ones? We did recently post a comment on Yeshiva University, a private Orthodox Jewish university. Here we take a look at a private Christian college.
Recently, an Argus volunteer, sent us text from the website of Manchester College, a four-year, private, co-educational liberal arts institution affiliated with the Church of the Brethren, located in North Manchester, IN. The volunteer highlighted wording in course descriptions, the student handbook, and the mission statement of the College which he believed indicated partiality to certain ideologies. We decided to look into the issues he raised, simply because they were pushed in front of us.
So what does NAS have to say about a college that has a sectarian purpose? We don’t have a pat answer. We can understand that the principle of academic freedom encompasses institutions as well as individuals and believe that private colleges have the right to decide the content of what they teach. And we do not object when these colleges prefer to offer education founded on traditional religious principles and creeds. But such colleges also typically seek to be part of the broader cultural conversation and we see nothing wrong with offering an assessment based on NAS’s broader interests in the evolution of academic culture.
Accordingly, we thought it might be illuminating to take a look at the kind of college that often gets overlooked in these discussions. What does the curriculum of Manchester College look like? How is religious tradition being squared with the demands of culture fashion? Let’s take a quick tour.
Our journal, Academic Questions, from time to time, has considered developments at sectarian colleges and universities. We are, however, breaking new ground in offering commentary on a particular sectarian college—and one that has nothing so out of the ordinary to vault it to a high level of scrutiny. We just think there is something to be said for examining the in-roads of political correctness in the kind of college that often gets overlooked in these discussions. What does the curriculum of Manchester College look like? Let’s take a quick tour.
Peace. Love. And Tikkun Olam.
The main program that caught our eye was the College’s Peace Studies program, the oldest one in the nation. The Church of the Brethren is one of the three original “peace” churches to come out of the Reformation–Quakers and Mennonites are the other two. Its pacifist teachings have attracted those who would tease its doctrine into something like the Social Gospel. Founded in 1948, Manchester College’s Peace Studies program declares:
Whether in our personal lives or the international arena, we search for an alternative choice of action that does not tear down, but works to build up positive relations between adversaries. We resolve not to accept injustice, but to actively oppose it without taking life or forfeiting freedom, either our own or that of others.
A course listed under the peace studies program (PEAC 330 Analysis of War and Peace) makes a distinction between “negative peace, i.e., the absence of war, and positive peace, understood as the presence of life-affirming values and practices such as economic and social justice and environmental stewardship.” The course description continues to explain:
In short, the importance of moving beyond negative peace to an emphasis on positive peace suggests that it is not enough to simply be against something, i.e., war and other expressions of organized violence. To build a just and sustainable peace, we must also be for something, i.e., human well-being based on values such as justice and equality.
So Manchester College aims to produce students who advocate for social justice and environmentalism.
A note about social justice: it’s interesting to see it appear here at a private religious institution. NAS has written much about the roomy concept that has become the latest on-campus priority. In Christianity, the term “social justice” has historically referred to a religious responsibility to help the poor and the sick. The Social Gospel—the concept that the church should care for the community—began at the turn of the twentieth century and continues to influence American thought about social justice. We would have expected Manchester College, as a religious body, to take its cues on social justice from this perspective—and perhaps to some extent it does. But Manchester seems to take as much or even more from the idea of social justice current on the secular left and manifest most conspicuously in commitment to identity politics, multiculturalism, and redistribution. If Manchester College does have roots in the older Christian tradition of social justice teachings, those roots are hard to find
Every April, the College sponsors “Peace Week,” a sort of retreat for students, complete with keynote speakers (who are “peace educators”) and basketball competitions. Peace Week has also presented “classes on Gandhi and peace activism, and storytelling by a Native American.” (The last is an intriguing detail. Native American cultures were not, historically, especially known for their attachment to pacifism.)
On its Mission Statement webpage, Manchester College lists “faith” as one of its core values: “because our diverse faiths call us to make the world a kinder and better place, establish justice, build peace amid strife, and model lives of agape (selfless love), tikkun olam (repairing a broken world), and salam (peace).” These last three qualities are respectively, Greek, Hebrew, and Arabic; we suppose they represent Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.
Another core value is “diversity,” proudly demonstrated through:
· The aggressive recruitment of a diverse student body
· Strong retention efforts for students of color and international students
· Concerted and intentional efforts to diversify faculty and staff
· A comprehensive Human Diversity Committee, comprised of faculty, staff and
· Diversity training for all employees conducted through Human Resources and the
Office of Multicultural Affairs
· Ongoing celebrating human diversity workshops conducted by Dr. Gary Zimmerman
· Diversity across the curriculum through Academic Affairs
· An Intercultural Center that serves as a resource center for the different cultural
groups on campus
The Office of Multicultural Affairs, which hosts the diversity training, has on its website banner a scrolling quote from Malcolm X: “I believe in human rights for everyone, and none of us is qualified to judge each other.”
Humility and non-judgment sound well enough, but what happens when all judgment ceases? Truth is replaced by “values.” In fact, “values” is a keyword at Manchester. The College’s “Values, Ideas, and the Arts
” program series offers a number of lectures, concerts, and other events that students can take for academic credit. Many Christian colleges require chapel attendance; Manchester, on the other hand, requires VIA attendance: five events per semester in order to graduate.
Last spring, a VIA lecture by Dinesh D’Souza was the token conservative event for the semester. It was counter-balanced by a showing of Michael Moore’s film Sicko (a sarcastic exposé of the American healthcare system), as well as the documentary “For the Bible Tells Me So,” a film that denounces Christians for using the Bible to condemn homosexuality. In its official stance on homosexuality, the Church of the Brethren “upholds the biblical declaration that heterosexuality is the intention of God for creation.” Apparently doctrinal consistency isn’t a huge priority for Manchester. Rather, malleable “values” set the pace at the College, where judgment is absent and peace is paramount.
Another discrepancy occurs in Manchester’s approach to race. Its policy on discrimination (Student Handbook, page 22) says:
All persons admitted to or employed by Manchester College have the same rights and privileges. The College follows a strict policy of nondiscrimination in administering its educational policies, recruitment and admissions policies, loan and scholarship programs, employment practices, athletic and other College-sponsored programs.
Actually, all persons at Manchester College do not have the same rights and privileges. Manchester reserves its scholarship, the “Multicultural Student Leadership Award” (2008-2009 Catalog, page 153) for “students of color.” Furthermore, the College Office of Multicultural Affairs exclusively “serves African-American, Hispanic, Native American, Asian-American, and international students.” Part of the office’s mission statement is to coordinate “the human and financial assistance necessary to insure the successful development of African American, Hispanic, Native American, Asian American, and international students.” No mention of serving or ensuring successful development for non-minority students.
Manchester’s “values” system—seeing the world through the lens of multiculturalism and the potential for social change—continues to permeate the College throughout the curriculum. Fortunately, our fearless Argus volunteer has done the daunting task of wading through publicly available information on Manchester to find the politicized material in the courses there. He’s saved us from having to plod through all of it, but let’s sample a few recurring themes.
Among the course descriptions is a heavy flavoring of race, class, gender, and sexuality teaching. At least seventeen courses specifically identify themselves as looking at a topic from the perspective of race, class, gender, or sexuality.
An introduction to differences in economic outcomes as a result of group (race/gender/class) membership. Economic inequality from an environment of unequal power, participation rules, and access to resources is explored. Topics include pre-market discrimination, leisure-labor and household decisions, market discrimination, forms of oppression, race/gender/class bias (past and present), social change and public policy.
In 342 British Literature II: The Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, reading materials are “selected to represent the varied perspectives of gender, race, and class.” A sociology course called 333 Sexuality and Gender in Society gives “special emphases on sexual identity, sexual orientation and gender,” and a religion /philosophy course called 225 Feminist and Womanist Theologies explores “the critique and vision brought to contemporary theology by women’s perspectives represented in texts by feminist and womanist theologians and in women’s fiction and essays.”
Another hot topic in the curriculum is “civic activism” or social justice/change. At least ten courses emphasize social change, and the Sociology and Social Work departments are dedicated almost exclusively to social justice. Prominent keywords in this category are, as usual, “oppression,” “power,” “social inequality,” “class structure,” and “distributive justice.”
In addition to these two main themes is a sprinkling of other emphases, such as the benefit of association with Islamic culture, the Western guilt of colonialism/imperialism, and the idea that self, gender, and reality are all social constructions. (In light of the thought of gender as a social construction, United Sexualities, a student group at Manchester, puts on an annual drag show for students and faculty members, in which “dozens of participants dress as the opposite sex to test the boundaries of gender and audience comfort.”)
We’ve reached the end of our “quick tour.” What are we to make of Manchester College? As we said before, we respect the right of private sectarian colleges to offer teaching based on religious beliefs. That’s within the scope of their academic freedom.
We are struck, however, by the degree to which Manchester’s specific theology has been fused to the ideology of the secular left as it is found at any number of colleges and universities that have no connection to the Church of the Brethren or any other Christian church. Perhaps this sits well with the Church of the Brethren—and that is none of our affair. But if we may venture a little way in the direction of cultural criticism, we wonder whether the displacement of an ideal of “truth” by the amorphous concept of “values” is a constructive step in the education of students who will presumably need to find their way in the world. We wonder too whether the embrace of “diversity” as an orchestrating principle of the community and the curriculum can withstand reasoned criticism. That an idea that is, at its outer reaches about thirty years old, appears so central to the College suggests a certain vagueness about the College’s commitment to bedrock standards of higher education. Manchester College seems rather insouciant in its embrace of various academic fads—as though it is a follower of the world’s ways, not set apart, as one might imagine in a college that is explicitly “grounded in the values and traditions of the Church of the Brethren.”
Manchester College, like any college, plays out its values and beliefs actually in its curriculum and its programs. The most striking feature of those is how similar the College looks to those that claim no religious affiliation at all. As for the success of our exercise in answering “Brian’s” challenge, we will wait to hear what others think. It does seem to us within the bounds of our own enterprise to ask whether a college—any college—upholds the standard of academic integrity, free from self-contradiction and identity politics. In the case of Manchester College, we see cause for concern.
Sep 9, 2008
There’s a lot going around re: the 21st century global economy – part myth, part truth, part sense, part insanity. I’ve written several times on the film Two Million Minutes and responded to a few articles about education and the global economy.
The Teaching Company just sent the following bulletin which offers a free video lecture about China, India and the 21st century economy. My experience with TTC has been excellent, and their free lectures are top quality. I’d recommend them to anyone.
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Economists predict that China and India are set to dominate the 21st-century global economy and become the new engines that drive economic growth. But how will this transition affect the standing of the United States within the global economy? What are some of the challenges that the United States will face in adjusting to the rise of these Asian economies? What are the opportunities for American growth and prosperity in this situation?
View this free video lecture between now and September 29, 2008, to discover what startling effects the rapid growth of these two countries may have on the economic future of the United States.
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Feel free to send the link to this free video lecture to family or friends who might enjoy it—it is free for them as well.
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The Teaching Company
Mar 4, 2008
25 years ago, Ball State University [Muncie, Indiana] created an Entrepreneurship major with a final exam worthy of the label “high-stakes.” The New Venture Creation course – the capstone of BSU’s Entrepreneurship major and the only one of its kind – draws upon 4 years of study in the liberal arts and business. The course’s premise is simple; students create a business plan through the semester and present it to a panel of businessmen at the end.
Pitch your plan successfully and you pass. But drop the ball and you not only fail the course, but you don’t graduate from BSU with a degree in entrepreneurship [though the ~25% who fail are welcome to try again next semester].
And as exciting and unique as a ‘winner-takes-all’ philosophy is in higher education, it might not even be the most compelling aspect of BSU’s ambitious entrepreneurship project.
The program, a division of BSU’s Miller College of Business, started in 1983. It has always been about purposeful innovation, says Dr. Larry Cox, Director of the Entrepreneurship Center. “We try to be unique – we try to do what no one else is doing or we try to find new ways to do it.”
Consider the Nascent 500 Business Plan Challenge that the Center began last year. Most business plan competitions are roughly the same; teams submit proposals that are judged on their merits or their relevance to the competition’s mission. But the Nascent 500 builds on that model and embodies the commitment to the entrepreneurial spirit that Cox and the Center tout:
- 500-word abstracts accompany a business plan submitted for evaluation; 12 undergraduate teams move on to qualifying at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway;
- $500 is awarded to each member of the 12 qualifying teams;
- Teams have 500 words to pitch their plan to investors in the back of a limousine as it makes a lap around the Speedway.
“We took the standard business plan competition model and changed the experience. We attract a good, competitive group and we have a lot of fun.”
Four teams advance to compete for $18,000 in prizes. The winning team takes home $10,000 and, of course, a quart of milk to gulp after their victory lap [click here to watch last year's highlights].
In short, BSU practices exactly the entrepreneurship that they preach.
In his 3-year tenure at the Center, Cox has continued the innovation that has made Ball State a nationally-recognized name in entrepreneurship education. Traditionally, Cox explains, schools focus on the implementation of business plans, raising capital, etc. BSU focuses not just on those standards, but also on creating and developing ideas.
“We’ve built [the Center] around the idea that entrepreneurship, at its core, is creative problem-solving. The search for the idea is the search for a problem that’s worth solving,” Cox says. “First, we teach them how to find a problem.”
The Entrepreneurship major consists of nine courses; electives, other majors/minors and required liberal arts courses are often the inspiration for projects in and out of school. “We start with passion. Our students bring some content to the table from personal and professional interests,” Cox explains.
And that marriage between process and content – mixing prior knowledge, academic studies and problem-solving – is what makes BSU’s Entrepreneurship major such an impressive undergraduate track. Students leave the program with practical, relevant knowledge and experience with the processes in which it operates. They enter the job market ready to contribute – and Entrepreneur Magazine, US News and Princeton Review and others notice year after year.
Graduating seniors get a unique opportunity to meet and network with successful entrepreneurs through The Ascent Awards, given annually by the Entrepreneurship Center to those who not only impress with their business success, but also with the “energy, grit and determination of the undertaking.” Ten businesspeople are listed for the students; they choose 3 who they want to emulate.
The idea, Cox says, is “to reach out nationally and find people who have not quite hit the radar screen or who are unique in some way.” Then Ball State students talk with the three finalists and ask them about the challenges they faced – and especially how they dealt with them – on the way to their entrepreneurial success. A dinner caps the festivities, at which the three finalists are honored and a winner is announced [click here for a recap video of the 2007 Ascent Awards].
Studying entrepreneurship isn’t a license to pretend that you’re a high-profile venture capitalist through 4 years of college. The academic rigor and professional experience provided by Ball State University’s Entrepreneurship major inspire 40% of its graduates to start a business after leaving the University. “If you think about entrepreneurship and economic development,” Cox says, “it’s central to our economic well-being. When [students] come in, we don’t define their career path. We ask them, ‘What’s your dream? What are you excited about?’”
Ball State University’s Entrepreneurship Center teaches them how to evaluate what they’re passionate about and make it into a business. Cox sums up the program and says what every department head in the country would like to say with sincerity about his graduates: “They go on and implement what they’ve learned.”
Aug 23, 2007
One of the sites I look most forward to reading is Florida School Boss – the FSB gives honest, straightforward commentary on the issues with which a school leader contends on a daily basis.
FSB’s most recent post takes issue with an article on History is Elementary – tied with KitchenTableMath as my favorite curricular blog – about the role of state and local history in our schools. While HiE sees state history as an important element of a young student’s curriculum, the Boss finds it trivial compared to more relevant and therefore important national history:
Think of a name of a Florida county. Many are named after historical figures of Florida note. Broward. Duval. Brevard.
Do you know, or really care, who these people were?
OK, so we know about Flagler… he was rich and built a neat train line between his resorts. And Osceola of course.
But do Indiana children, or Ohio children, or Montana children need to know about Flagler and Osceola?
If not, I say it’s not really that important.
I left the following comment on his site explaining my views on the subject. I decided to republish it here with embedded links for everyone’s benefit.
I have had your site in my RSS reader for some time now. I think a great deal of it and regret that the first comment I leave will be a negative one.
The premise of your argument is that history education should be based on relevance. That is partially true, but one encounters the seemingly irrelevant at every turn in one’s future – and one must be equipped to handle that.
As a preface, I was born and educated in Cooperstown, New York, an area of our country not just seminal to our nation’s history, but also a stage on which current cultural history – mainly baseball – performs year round.
I can tell you about the history of the French river trading and the towns that sprouted from the activity; I can do this because I learned about how natural waterways like the Susquehanna River played an important role in the development of the Northeast, as well as how the Erie Canal changed the Western frontier of our state in the early 19th century.
I can tell you about Anthony Wayne’s military service and his legacy – stretching from Fort Wayne to Wayne County, New York, I should add – because of the skills I learned while studying the life and career of Nicholas Herkimer, the Battle of Oriskany and the legacy of both.
I have perspective on Indiana’s automotive and manufacturing industry – including that industry relative to the rest of the automotive manufacturing belt – because I studied Remington Arms’ role in manufacturing firearms over many generations and how arms manufacturing in New York related to centres in nearby states such as Springfield, MA and Enfield, CT.
I think of Indiana High School basketball and the 1954 Milan/Muncie game that inspires every David facing every Goliath each time I wonder whether class-based athletics is a detriment to high school competition. When I attend a Cooperstown sporting event, I lament that there will never be a Bobby Plump in high school sports – let alone from Cooperstown – in my lifetime.
I understand the role of corn and soybeans in Indiana’s agricultural history because I can relate it to the farming economy in the Finger Lakes region of New York, an area whose fruits quite literally become fine world-renowned wine.
I’m familiar with “On the Banks of the Wabash,” and other songs that reference Indiana because I learned them after mastering New York canal music. “Wabash Cannonball” was one of the first songs that I learned on the banjo, but I learned it after New York State’s “Low Bridge.”
Understanding New York State history as a student in its public schools prepared me for precisely the irrelevance that you seem to deride. I’m not a young schoolboy anymore, but throughout my adult life – during college and beyond – when I encounter unfamiliar history, I have a very easy time grasping it quickly because I can perform comparative analysis. Though I have never spent any time in Indiana, I suspect that I could have profitable, enjoyable conversations with its residents – or, in your case, a former resident.
State and especially local history gives students a chance to understand the people, places and things around them with which they’re already familiar. They know the place names and relative geography when talking about small, seemingly-insignificant battles; they realize that the name of the local community college pays homage to a person whose marked impact on the region has been remembered for several generations. This everyday connection to history, something one has more trouble fostering when talking about distant places and unfamiliar names long dead, is important to the intellectual and moral development of our students.
From a curricular standpoint, the study of state and local history provides transferable skills and frames of reference that will apply to the further study and appreciation of history. One simply cannot fully appreciate the place in which one is without being able to compare it to the place in which one has been. That appreciation is history in action.
Put bluntly – and I do apologize for this frankness – your decision to take local/state education out of your school’s curriculum was misguided, ill-considered and harmful to your students. The majority of your students will grow up and take root in Florida and know less about what’s around them than previous generations. And that pattern will continue; like making a photocopy of a photocopy several times over, quality is lost in each generation. Unfortunately, history isn’t something that you can re-introduce easily once it is lost [and we can see in the Middle East the terrible distortions that synthetic reintroduction of cultural history create].
But most importantly, you have deprived those who will take flight and land elsewhere of a significant part of their identity and you have impacted for the worse the intellectual diversity of the communities of which they’ll be a part. Consider their freshman year of college, a 101-level American History class at any insitution in America: we’re discussing as a group the history of Native American/government relations. The class with your students will likely be able to cite Sitting Bull and Geronimo with little else and likely without any context. A class would need just two students who know their local history – we’ll use one from your school and one from Cooperstown – to contrast and compare Osceola’s war with the United States government to Joseph Brant’s cooperation with the British during the American Revolution. These are two very different conversations in terms of richness, academic/intellectual and social value.
Please reconsider your stance on this issue – our current identity and the social/intellectual fertility of our future depend on it.
Matthew K. Tabor