The Issue at a Glance

Twenty Years in the Vineyards of Higher Education Reform

Stephen H. Balch, National Association of Scholars

In pausing to reflect on twenty years service tending the fragile vineyards of higher education reform as president and one of the founders of the National Association of Scholars, Stephen H. Balch stops to toast his hardy fellow vintners. Dr. Balch raises a weary but wiser glass to those who across the years and in many states have braved harsh academic climes and hostile intellectual winds to safeguard the tender fruits of reform. The vines remain tenuous and the atmosphere continues to prove largely forbidding, leaving reformers much more often with the bitter taste of vinegar than wine. Dr. Balch shares a cautionary cup. But through the sturdy dedication of vintners like the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, the Center for Equal Opportunity, and the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, who can say what worthy wine the press of the next twenty years will yield?

Homicides in Higher Education: Some Reflections on the Moral Mission of the University

Peter Wood, National Association of Scholars

This essay on the ethical mission of the university explores extremes of anti-social behavior, visiting numerous crime scenes before concluding that contemporary higher education has lost the capacity—and even the language—for taking character development seriously. In his attempt to determine whether coincidently traditional-liberationist-diversiphilic-apathetic colleges can morally improve their charges, Peter Wood collects a wrenching compendium of violent academic mayhem.

Judicial Splits: The Supreme Court’s New Message for Education

George R. La Noue, University of Maryland

When the Supreme Court pronounces on race and education it makes headlines. On 28 June 2007 the Supreme Court revealed its long-anticipated decisions on Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1 and Meredith v. Jefferson County, proving that maneuvering the minefield of America’s race relations is just as difficult and divisive as it has ever been. In this carefully constructed essay, George R. La Noue examines the details of these cases and the implications of their decisions on K–12 and higher education. The future role of race in admissions, scholarships, hiring, classes, housing, recruiting, and contracting are all discussed. Facts may be stubborn things, but for some justices constitutional law seems to be infinitely malleable. Divisions in the Supreme Court place increased importance on state constitutional initiatives. Professor La Noue warns that from a political standpoint, Americans need to reaffirm our core value that individuals have the right not be discriminated on the basis of race.

“Coming Out” in a Feminist Classroom

Ethan Campbell, The King’s College

Ideological differences in a writing class evoke the passion of political sensitivities. A graduate student tells of “coming out” as a pro-life advocate in an essay before his feminist classmates and professor. The exchange created instant and irreconcilable enemies, but he also found some unexpected support from a hesitant voice within that classroom.

From Christian Gentleman to Bewildered Seeker: The Transformation of American Higher Education

Russell K. Nieli, Princeton University

In this carefully documented essay, Russell K. Nieli outlines the major transformation in American higher education that began at the end of the nineteenth century. Today’s research- and vocation-driven private universities began as Christian institutions founded by zealous evangelizers, while public colleges embraced a watered-down version of the earnest and forward-thinking Protestant gentleman’s worldview, which saw no conflict between theological and secular knowledge. Science and religion remained friendly until the advent of the industrial revolution brought the model of the German research university to the attention of American academic reformers. Unity of knowledge was eventually supplanted by a secular, elective system. While the great “multiversity” had arrived, critics mourned the loss of educational coherence and abandonment of the civilizing mission to which moral and classical training were essential. In the 1920s, the Great Books approach was reborn, despite the seemingly unstoppable march of progress, science, and the subdiscipline. Vietnam-era upheavals led to the American academy’s transformation into a politically correct multicultural smorgasbord seasoned to please the modern student palate. When today’s students demand to be entertained and scholars continue to narrowly train, is there still room on the plate for the best that has been said, thought, and written about the human experience?

Retooling Education: Testing and the Liberal Arts

Robert L. Jackson, The King’s College

The motivation and methodology for measuring intelligence have changed repeatedly in the modern history of large-scale student testing. Test makers have always sought to identify raw aptitude for cultivation, but they have never figured out how to promote excellence while preserving equality. They’ve settled for egalitarianism, which gives rise to “culturally fair” tests that substitute vagaries for knowledge, deprive students of any real appreciation for language, and trivialize education. Robert Jackson yearns for traditional oratorical approaches to schooling that venerate and imitate essential, time-tested masters. Unfortunately, he writes, such an education defies measurement with today’s multiple-choice instruments.

A Roof without Walls: Benjamin Bloom’s Taxonomy and the Misdirection of American Education

Michael J. Booker, Jefferson College

Plato wrote that higher order thinking could not start until the student had mastered conventional wisdom. The American educational establishment has turned Plato on his head with the help of a dubious approach to teaching developed by one Benjamin Bloom. Bloom’s taxonomy was intended for higher education, but its misappropriation has resulted in a serious distortion of the purpose of the K–12 years. Michael Booker attributes the inability of American children to compete internationally to a great extent to our reliance on Bloom in expecting critical and advanced thinking from kids who have been trained to regard facts and substantive knowledge as unimportant.

SYMPOSIUM: Governing Boards: Raising Consciousness

Castles Unguarded

Candace de Russy, State University of New York

A Regent’s Responsibility

Thomas J. Lucero, Jr., University of Colorado

“What Works in Higher Education Reform: A Report from the Front,” the twelfth annual national conference of the National Association of Scholars, took place November 17–19, 2006, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. One panel, “Governing Boards: Raising Consciousness,” examined the role governing boards do and can play in raising awareness on campus and among the public of the critical issues facing the academy today. Panelist Thomas J. Lucero discusses the lessons he’s learned as a regent of the University of Colorado about his responsibility to ensure the quality and value of the education of students, forge relationships with faculty, and make informed, effective budgetary and curricular decisions. Candace de Russy, a trustee of the State University of New York, examines the options governing boards have in addressing the critical decay in academic standards and disintegration of institutional financial discipline.

Remarks Made During “Dialogue on Intellectual Diversity,” a Forum Held 11 October 2007 at the University of Missouri – St. Louis

J. Martin Rochester, University of Missouri – St. Louis

In 2006, a bill was submitted in the Missouri Legislature designed to address issues raised during a lawsuit by a Missouri State University social work student contesting requirements that Missouri public colleges and universities take steps to insure tolerance of diverse perspectives in the classroom and on campus. Although the legislation did not pass, it motivated university administrators among other measures to sponsor a forum on “intellectual diversity,” held on 11 October 2007 on the University of Missouri – St. Louis campus. In his remarks as a faculty panelist, J. Martin Rochester makes five distinct points about the realities and pitfalls of regulating tolerance and the true meaning of diversity on a college campus.

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