The Sham of the Ivory Tower

Nothing more pointedly and poignantly describes the state of colleges in the United States today than the comment by Jen Lara in the March 16th issue of Community College Week wherein she writes "[o]ur job is to teach the students we have.  Not the ones we would like to have.  Not the one[s] we used to have.  Those we have right now… and to embrace a growth mindset and change and disrupt the status quo."   

Most teachers have accepted the need to dumb-down material, accept a lackluster student body and make believe that the diploma conferred upon most of the graduates is a meaningful document.

And thus, the expected result of 40+ years of open enrollment, affirmative action and general lowering of academic standards has colleges and universities making changes to their "assessment processes for under-prepared students."  It is why remedial classes burgeon because the reading level of some incoming college students hovers at sixth grade.  Could this dismal statistic be the result of attitudes evinced in a now discarded 1987 book entitled Language and Thinking in School: A Whole-Language Curriculum where one learns that:

Phonics, as a method of instruction, has a certain attraction to uninformed people.  There are only 26 letters and only 40 or so sounds, so it seems that once children can associate the letters with the sounds they will be reading and writing, but as we have seen, reading is making sense of print, not sounds, and language is much more than a sequence of letters or sounds.

Whole language methodology has been discredited but generations of students and teachers were once exposed to this gobbledygook with the resultant illiteracy now rampant in our schools.

In the well known 1939 film "Goodbye Mr. Chips" Mr. Chipping is reminded that the [teaching] "profession is not an easy one.  It calls for something more than a University degree.  Our business is to mold men.  It demands character and courage.  Above all, it demands the ability to exercise authority."  But the sentimental atmosphere of this film has morphed into situations that require a Faculty Resource Guide for Managing Misconduct and Disruptive Classroom Behavior where instructors are faced with "irritable, hostile, extremely rude or aggressive behavior, harassing or abusive electronic messages, sexual harassment and/or [a student possessing] a weapon or an illegal and/or dangerous substance." 

Yet diversity remains the golden mantra.  According to a college newsletter for faculty, "in order for a college to be eligible to apply for federal Title V funds as a Hispanic Serving Institution, a College needs to have at least a 25-percent Hispanic student body."  At another school the Muslim Brotherhood offshoot The Muslim Student Association has joined with the Office of Multicultural Affairs to invite students to learn how Sheikh Hussain Al-Nasheed "works with Muslim youth to empower them to be active members of their communities through media literacy and social activism and dismantle Islamophobia.  Everyone is invited."

And, of course, the left-leaning faculty would never dare to inquire about the facts of this alleged Islamophobia so deftly dissected by Dennis Prager, Brendan O'Neill, Stephen Crawford, Jeff Jacoby, Pamela Geller, Brigitte Gabriel, David Horowitz and Robert Spencer.

Heather MacDonald's video homes in on why "creating a massive diversity bureaucracy" has caused tuition to increase at unconscionable rates.  Yet there is no end to this "diversity scam" with high-sounding names such as diversity, inclusion, and equity.

Coupled with the top heavy diversity bureaucracy comes its helpful handmaiden -- the "enjoyment in working with candidates from a range of backgrounds or "How a White Historian Nurtures Diverse Ph.D.'s"

In fact, schools desirous of the Insight Into Higher Education Excellence in Diversity award must respond to the following:

What efforts do you have in place to recruit historically underrepresented and first generation minority students (African American, Latino/Hispanic, Native American, Southeast Asian, etc.)?

What strategies does your institution have in place to retain ethnically, racially, and gender diverse faculty on campus?

In what ways is your institution intentionally helping students develop cultural competence?

Does your school have any of the following student clubs/organizations? Latino/Hispanic affinity group; Asian Pacific Islander affinity group; Native American/American Indian affinity group; Disabilities affinity group; LGBTQ affinity group; Women's affinity group; Religious affiliated affinity group

If this is not enough diversity, one can join faculty and students "for a Die-In for Eric Garner and to fight Racism and police brutality" [sic] since people need justice.  "They can't breathe."  Since March was Women's History Month, the women's studies program event co-sponsored by the Africana Studies Program and the Departments of English, History, Political Science, Psychology, and Sociology dealt with "Women in the Environmental & Climate Justice Movements: Experiences of Race, Class & Ethnicity."  The aim of this presentation was to "make visible the diversity of this largely invisible women's environmental movement."

With race an overarching theme in English readers, students are exposed to Roy Peter Clark's essay entitled "Why it Worked: A Rhetorical Analysis of Obama's Speech on Race."  The editor of the anthology asks students to respond to the following: "Clark argues that 'Obama's patriotic lexicon is meant to comfort white ears and soothe white fears.'"  Do you agree with this assessment?  Why or why not?"  Which white ears is he referring to?  Is it those belonging to the white voters who put Obama in office?

In The Anthology of Latino Literature, students are told that the "work of Latino and Latina authors should contain characteristics that are unique to the Latino experience.  Some of these include an attention to family, a concern for home, an interest in historical formulations, and a focus on cultural components such as music, food, and religion.  Above all, many of the works contain issues that pertain to identity formation, appropriation and determination."

As if Latino and Latina people have a monopoly on such characteristics as family, home, history, music, food and religion!  And what is "identity appropriation" anyway?

Lest any groups be inadvertently disregarded, students are exposed to the ideas of Susie Orbach who writes that "Fat is a Feminist Issue."  Orbach "is chair of the Relational School in the United Kingdom and is involved with Anybody, an organization that 'campaigns for body diversity.'"

Yet, ironically with all this diversity, one student wrote the following in response to a final exam question "what topic made an impact on you."  

The last topic I think worth mentioning is how no one knew who Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman were.  They were both abolitionists who fought to destroy slavery in our country.  Now I don't want to bring race into this, but for the sake of making a point I have to.  Maybe, and I hope, because it was an early class at 7:00 a.m. and no one wanted to participate, but not a single African

American student spoke about or knew who these two were.  Everyone knows who Martin Luther King Jr. is, but no one knows who these abolitionists are.  Not one student explained who they were, what they did, and how their actions affected slavery.  I have nothing against black people in any way, but I do have a problem when people don't acknowledge those who saved the citizens of the present, a lot of pain and misery.

For those students in a four-year university who may have trouble understanding how to navigate the library, pamphlets have been printed in Spanish so these students can "Explora el mundo de la informacion durante tu carrera universitaria haciendo de la Biblioteca de la Universidad el lugar de prioridad."

Nonetheless, while "millennials may be the most educated generation in U.S. history, they consistently rank lower in literacy, numeracy, and problem solving in comparison to their counterparts in other countries."  Furthermore, "four in 10 U.S. college students graduate without the complex reasoning skills to manage white-collar work."

Perhaps this difficulty with complex reasoning is related to the classes which are "sustainability related, meaning that they incorporate sustainability as a distinct course component or module or concentrate on a single sustainability principle or issue.  Sustainability here includes affordability, diversity, living wage, globalization, energy, as well as environmental issues." 

But since "educational diversity is really quotas for Asians in one statistic" as exposed by Daniel Greenfield, Asian Americans have finally had enough of the affirmative action that ignores their academic proficiency.

Additionally, as of January 2014, college "graduates owe an aggregate of $1 trillion in student debt." A corollary of this out-of-control financial situation is explained by Bruce Chapman who maintains that ". . . increased government inducements to take out student loans for college are traps that keep graduates from becoming financially independent, starting families and otherwise embracing full adulthood. What started modestly as scholarship aid is now a trillion dollar loan program that perversely gives colleges and universities incentives to continue raising spending and tuition rates, thereby promoting the still further government expansion of student loans."

And when students "attend college with the help of federal aid, the government should have a way to get its money back when those students withdraw."  Yet, the federal regulation governing the return of funds under Title IV has "morphed into an arcane mess that takes up 128 pages of the . . . Federal Student Aid Handbook."  Generally when students leave college, they don't announce it.  They just stop going to class.  The detective work needed to "track down the students often totals more than 700 hours or more than four months' worth of one person's time."  Consequently, "community colleges and for-profit institutions are particularly hard hit by the regulations because they tend to have large numbers of students receiving federal aid as well as large numbers of students who withdraw."  Thus, "college student loans are not being repaid on time."  And as Mark Schneider and Jorge Kor de Alva explain in their 2011 article "Cheap for Whom"  "tuition at both public and private for-profit and not-for-profit US higher education institutions is increasing, but taxpayers are also bearing significant hidden costs."  Furthermore, "high dropout and low graduation rates drive up taxpayer costs."

As Abraham Lincoln said " [t]he philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next."  Is it any wonder that America is floundering in so many ways?

Eileen can be reached at