Dicta

The home of “things said” by the National Association of Scholars.

How Canon Change Should Happen

Carol Iannone

Carol Iannone argues for the traditional method of canon formation.

The Path to Education

Eva Marie Haine

Eva Marie Haine reflects on her education as a Princeton undergraduate and suggests ways that it could have been improved.

The University of Chicago's Flawed Support for Freedom of Expression

Peter Wood

NAS President Peter Wood criticizes Chicago's misframed statement supporting freedom of expression.

Is there any real content to "leisure studies"?

George Leef

Leisure is not a dream that universities need to model; it's a choice that people make among all the uses of their time.

Study of American History is Losing its Priority

Stan Cohen

Generations of American students may be bypassing a field of study that is the cornerstone of the American legacy.

Open Letter to Texas Board of Education on College Board’s New History Framework

Peter Wood

Peter Wood writes an open letter to the Texas Board of Education, urging action against the new AP U.S. History standards.

The Coming Wars over Curriculum: A Case Study on Politics, History, and Social Studies Standards

Kevin S. Krahenbuhl

Dr. Kevin S. Krahenbuhl, Assistant Professor of Education at North Dakota State University, discusses declining curriculum standards and the need for strong core courses.

What to do With That Major?

Jason Fertig

How often do most students work within their "fields of study," and what sorts of jobs do most students end up having?

Unpersuasive book argues that higher education should have a leftist bias

George Leef

"It reminds me of Don Quixote. Lazere wants his friends to see how gloriously he jousts with and punctures all those horrible right-wingers. But Cervantes’s novel is entertaining; the pages of this book are pointless and screechy."

Bowdoin's Double Bogey

Peter Wood

"Bowdoin has a bad conscience. It knows that it has made some wrong turns but it doesn't like hearing that from a stranger."

The World Citizen on Campus

Peter Wood

The campus Left has found a new way of fostering a soft disdain for the American civic tradition: teaching students to be “citizens of the world.”

Mary Grabar Writes About "Food Studies"

George Leef

Mary Grabar writes about the growing popularity of "progressive" Food Studies programs among colleges.

From Democritus to Disney: ACTA Charts Academic Devolution of Elite Colleges

Marilee Turscak

The ACTA's examination of America's top-ranked liberal arts colleges reveals a deemphasis on fundamental subjects. 

A Wolf at the Door of Academe

Peter Wood

With the looming presence of online alternatives and MOOCs, colleges and universities rethink their curricula. Ithaca College's president explains what he is doing to revive the education Ithaca provides.

Measuring Core Requirements

Ashley Thorne

The more expensive a college is, the less likely it is to have a strong core curriculum, finds the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA). 

Ask a Scholar: What Impact Did Horace Mann Have On American Public Education?

Sandra Stotsky

Professor Sandra Stotsky describes Mann's shaping influence in school reform.

Common Core State Standards: The Knowledge Curriculum

William H. Young

William Young discusses proposals to base K-12 education on knowledge, rather than "skills."

The Common Core: Better Than the Old Standards

Peter Machera

Peter Machera compares the Common Core State Standards to the "education standards of old."

Mansfield Cites Bowdoin Report

Tessa Carter

Harvey Mansfield analyzes the implications of What Does Bowdoin Teach? in his article “The Higher Education Scandal.”

Is Diplomatic History Dying?

Glenn Ricketts

If not dead, it's definitely on life support.

American History Bill Aims for a More Inclusive Curriculum

Thomas K. Lindsay

Thomas Lindsay offers a defense of the Texas American History Bill.

Fishy Courses: The Fake Red Snappers of Academe

Peter Wood

A lot of subjects in college catalogs have a fishy odor.

Unbiasing American History

Ashley Thorne

Ashley Thorne writes a review of Recasting History for First Things. 

“Frankly Dumb” or “Absolutely Correct”? You Decide

Crystal Plum

Read the responses to NAS's "Recasting History" report.

The Obsession with Social History

Richard Pells

Richard Pells, a historian who taught for 40 years at the University of Texas, says the report's main arguments are largely true.

Race, Class and Gender, Q&A with Peter Wood

The Daily Texan Editorial Board

The Daily Texan interviews Peter Wood on NAS's recent report, "Recasting History."

Recasting History: Are Race, Class, and Gender Dominating American History?

Peter Wood

A report on the politicization of required US history courses in Texas.

Florida Introduces Race-Based Education Goals

Glenn Ricketts

Florida's state Board of Education introduces a puzzling new way of setting K-12 education goals.

Strange (But Not Necessarily Bad) Majors

George Leef

Some of the America's weirdest college majors include theme park engineering, bagpiping, and poultry science.

CSU Chico Introduces Sustainability Gen Ed Track, Green Courses Include "African History"

Ashley Thorne

The university has designated over 200 courses as "green courses" and its general education program will now include a “sustainability studies" track. These two curricular developments tell us something about the expansionist strategy of the campus sustainability movement.

A Better Way to Educate Professionals

Douglas Campbell

Suggestions for how the faculty of the traditional liberal arts, the physical sciences and the management and business programs can collaborate to better educate professionals.

Epic Battles

Peter Wood

Peter Wood weighs the cost of higher education’s turn away from Western civilization survey courses.

Mandatory Social Justice at Smith College?

Glenn Ricketts

Smith College ponders an undergraduate "social justice" requirement.

Ruminations at the end of the semester

Daniel Asia

I have recently returned from a trip abroad.  In receiving my peanuts, pretzels and drink during the flight, I also received two napkins.

UCLA: Still Obsessed with Diversity

Peter Wood

The College of Letters and Science at the University of California-Los Angeles will soon vote on whether to add a required general education course called "Community and Conflict" - which simply turns out to be a new euphemism for diversity.

U Cal President Yudof Responds to CAS Report, CAS Leaders Reply

Glenn Ricketts

The recent NAS report, "A Crisis of Competence, " evoked comment from the head of the University of California system, to which the CAS authors of the report replied

Capitalism and Western Civilization: Education

William H. Young

William Young examines the state of contemporary education and finds it wanting

California Dreamin'

David Clemens

David Clemens laments the latest announcement from California's commnuity college system.

Call For Civic Learning

Glenn Ricketts

Mr. Ricketts advocates the study of civics, but his idea of such a course differs from how the a recent DoED report interprets the subject.

Students Need Curricular Structure

Oliver Rosenbloom

A student at Brown University argues that too much curricular freedom can cause students to miss out on a well-rounded education.

Sustainability News

Ashley Thorne

Researchers determine that sustainability is now a science; Occupy Wall Street's sustainability committee plays house; Harvard looks to hire someone who can "cultivate an understanding of food"; and a debate asks whether the campus sustainability movement detracts from the better purposes of higher education.

Leaf-Taking

Peter Wood

Peter Wood argues that the contemporary university should dethrone “critical thinking.”

Steve Balch on WTGD Radio: The Importance of Teaching Western Civilization

Kate Hamilton

NAS Chairman Steve Balch appeared on a local Wisconsin public radio program to discuss the reasons why classes on Western Civilization should be a required component of the undergraduate curriculum.

Civic Education and Western Civilization

William H. Young

William Young discusses the role of civic education in the Western tradition, and the consequences of its disappearance from the curriculum.

NAS Board Member Sandra Stotsky Testifies at TUSD Hearings

Ashley Thorne

Sandra Stotsky, author of Losing Our Language: How Multicultural Classroom Instruction Is Undermining Our Children

What Does Bowdoin Teach?

Peter Wood

The National Association of Scholars announces the beginning of a new project examining the curriculum, student activities, and campus values of Bowdoin College as a case study to learn what a contemporary liberal arts college education consists of.

Competency and Western Civilization

William H. Young

William Young examines the decline of the competency that is vital to a skilled workforce.

Mushrooming Syllabi

George Leef

Thomas Bertonneau discusses the reasons why course syllabi have been mushrooming over the years: students are less and less accustomed to academic work, more inclined to complain if things aren't spelled out for them in minute detail, and apt to engage in plagiarism if written assignments are not carefully crafted to militate against it.

Majoring in Images

Peter Wood

Peter Wood reviews a popular recent novel. He finds some very funny cultural satire as well as themes that resonate in the contemporary academic landscape.

The Real Purpose of Education

David Clemens

Good teaching should result “in a lighting of those lamps in the mind and in the heart that shall eventually show the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”

"The Investigation of Potential Opposition"

George Leef

In one of the best Chronicle Review pieces I have read in a long time, Professor John Swallow argues in favor of a simple (but often forgotten) principle: "A necessary part of making an argument is the investigation of potential opposition." (It's a subscribers only piece, sorry to say.) Bravo! Far too often, professors are happy to have students regurgitate the conclusions they like. As an example, today I came across a book entitled Organizing the Curriculum: Perspectives on Teaching the US Labor Movement. It's clear that the editors want educators to "teach the labor movement" in a way that makes students think well of unions, not by taking an academically detached look at the totality of costs and benefits. Colleges so often talk about how they teach "critical thinking" to their students, but rarely do students hear an admonition to investigate potential opposition to their ideas. That's where critical thinking really begins.

Metamorphosis, or Why We Should Study the West

Steve Balch

NAS board chairman Steve Balch argues that generations detached from their culture's legacy will be less likely to defend it now, or in the future.

Vanishing Act

Peter Wood

Peter Wood discusses NAS's new research report on what has happened to Western-history survey courses in the last half-century.

Budget Cuts Loom for "Frivolous" Language Programs

Ashley Thorne

Will reduced federal funding for Title VI foreign language study hurt national competence or help cut academic waste?

The Vacancy in the Heart of Higher Education

Peter Wood

At the Chronicle of Higher Education's Innovations blog, NAS president Peter Wood shares some insights about what has been lost in higher education:

I refer to the slow disappearance of the sense that higher education has anything genuinely “higher” about it. The notion that the academy should distinguish most important knowledge from the vast realm of knowable stuff somehow began to flicker out—when? The fifties? The sixties? As we lost the confidence to make that distinction, the college curriculum lost its essential shape. In a way, everything became an elective, even if some of the courses were still required.

Nomenclatura

Will Fitzhugh

Educational special interest agents can be effective only if they focus on the actual academic work of our students, argues Will Fitzhugh.

How Do North Carolina Schools Do on General Education?

George Leef

That's the subject of today's Pope Center piece by Jenna Robinson. Most are rather weak when it comes to requiring a broad education.

"Interdisciplinary Studies" -- It Shouldn't Be a Joke, But Is

George Leef

In today’s Pope Center piece, Troy Camplin discusses that strange campus phenomenon known as “Interdisciplinary Studies.” He argues that this could and indeed should be a serious field of study, pointing to a book making a strong case for it. Unfortunately, colleges and universities don’t take it seriously.

Western Culture By Bits And Pieces

Glenn Ricketts

If the general education requirements at your school slight the traditional aspects of western culture, why not use your own courses to compensate?

"How to Win a Beauty Pageant" - No Comment

Glenn Ricketts

New history course at Oberlin College.

Sustainability News: December 2010

Ashley Thorne

“If the early 21st century could be said to have a secular religion, it would be the mantra of sustainability,” writes Warren Meyer on Forbes.com. In this religion, American colleges and universities are fanatics.

The Sustainability Inquisition

Ashley Thorne

Colleges and universities are now assessing faculty members' work in and commitment to sustainability.

What's the Metric, Kenneth?

David Clemens

Clare Cavanagh was in town last week for our colloquium on “Imaginative Freedom and Political Freedom.”  A celebrated translator, Clare is also the author of Lyric Poetry and Modern Politics (2010) in which she analyzes how the lyric poem served as a form of resistance and subversion in communist Eastern Europe.  She stresses how the lyric presumes that each of us has a solitary, private, and unique inner being which determinist, mechanist, and collectivist communism cannot tolerate since that unitary self lies beyond the reach of the state. The same week, the Wall Street Journal (10/22) published an article about quantifying the worth of professors (from the same folks who brought you the Skinnerian snake oil of SLOs).  In this latest move, professorial value reduces to profit produced for the college with no notice of anything that can’t be immediately observed, measured, or counted.  But the real value of a professor can’t be observed, much less measured, because it happens for the student in Cavanagh’s internal and private self, sometimes years later. Last week I got two emails from former students, the first on Robert Hutchins’ The Great Conversation:

I opened that book and I felt like Hutchins spoke to me personally across the decades, saying that `…reading these books will make you a better companion to yourself.’”

And this:

Almost a year and a half after taking your class (Summer 2009), I'm still finding all sorts of references to the materials we read/watched and love that I have a broader perspective on the topics they address.”

I think my students found my classes worthwhile but darned if I know what metric can quantify my value.

NYT Debate: Do Colleges Need French Departments?

Ashley Thorne

In light of SUNY-Albany's cuts to its foreign language programs, the New York Times asked eight higher ed experts, "Do colleges need French departments?" Heres a takeaway sentence from each one. (See also this SUNY-Albany professor's remarks on the language cuts, posted at NAS.org.) Martha Nussbaum, author of Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities: "Even if a nation’s only goal were economic prosperity, the humanities supply essential ingredients for a healthy business culture." Louis Menand, author of The Marketplace of Ideas: "The loss of any department is a loss to every department at that institution." John McWhorter, author of Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold Story of English: "I believe we should reconsider having vocational tracks like those in European educational systems." Mark Bauerlein, English professor at Emory University: "Lose [the humanities] and the college produces a half-educated graduate." Ellen Schrecker, author of The Lost Soul of Higher Education: "Languages, literature, philosophy, history – by exposing students to a wide range of new and old ideas and allowing them to articulate their own responses to those ideas – can create the reflective and self-aware citizens our nation needs." Gaye Tuchman, sociology professor at the University of Connecticut: "No one put a price tag on either the appeal or utility of Latin, of reading Racine or Confucius, or of learning the structure of a symphony." Richard Vedder, director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity: "As resources tighten and that luxury no longer is available, universities need to do what businesses routinely do – reinvent what they do to meet the changing needs of society." Anne E. McCall, professor of French at the University of Denver: "That said, the attraction of particular subjects does shift, and universities need to adjust offerings that make sense for their mission, size, geographical location, and budgets."

Texas Blazes the Transparency Trail

Candace de Russy

Texan professors who thrive on taxpayer funding are irate about a state law that requires them to make course content clear to students before the latter are, as Accuracy in Academia labels it, "trapped" in the classroom. To whom do we owe this salutary development? One, to University of Texas (Austin) junior Taurie Randermann, who lamented to her boss that her course titled "Communication and Religion" was actually about trendy cults such as Wiccans and Heaven’s Gate; and, two, to her boss, Texas Republican State Representative Lois Kolkhorst, who put forth a bill requiring public, online access to course information. The state chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), among other status quo academic groups, has protested this new law. As AIA notes, "They usually like to exercise their academic freedom behind closed doors where they can deny everyone else’s." Kudos to Randermann and Kolkhorst, and may Texas' victory for transparency a trend make.

Newsflash: MSN Cites "Weird" College Courses

Glenn Ricketts

This just in from the MSN homepage, where there's a piece advising parents of prospective college students to check out what their hefty tuition buys them these days. The "weird" offerings include courses on dancing in laundromats (I'm not laughing - that really helped when my kids were young), the Philosophy of UFOlogy and the History of Furniture. Can you imagine that? Since I have a recollection that we may have run similar stories at this blog site, I thought I'd pass it along. I was unable to determine if any of them were freshman comp. courses, but I'll try to find out in light of George Leef's previous post on that fascinating subject.

"I Regret Taking Gender Studies Courses"...No Comment

Ashley Thorne

An NYU gender studies grad wishes she'd taken politics, history, and literature courses, and learned "more about the world in general, rather than one tiny little sliver of the world." She now realizes, "There

A Course on Zombie Literature

George Leef

No, this isn't from The Onion -- a college course on zombie literature.

Higher Education? - A Devastating Critique of American Higher Ed

George Leef

In this week's Pope Center Clarion Call, I review Higher Education? by Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus. The book has been getting a great deal of attention -- and deserves it. To put the authors' case in a nutshell, college and university education in the U.S. (with a few exceptions) costs much more than it needs to and delivers much less education than it should. It's a splendid deal for administrators and tenured professors, but bad for the rest of us who foot the bills and especially the students who get little education of lasting value. Do we have the beginnings of a left-right convergence here? The critique Hacker and Dreifus give echoes themes familiar to those who have read Charles Murray and Thomas Sowell. (In fact, Sowell blasts Hacker's book Money in his Intellectuals and  Society, but they're in agreement on the waste and folly of our higher ed system.)

Ben Wildavsky's Book on the Globalization of Higher Ed

George Leef

 That's the subject of my Clarion Call today. I like some aspects of the book. Best of all is Wildavsky's argument that we should abandon educational mercantilism -- the notion that nations have to compete to be tops in educational "investment," university prestige, and similar distractions. Because knowledge is not constrained by national boundaries, we should stop worrying about musty old "us versus them" ideas. Also, Wildavsky doesn't go for the tendency to bash for-profit higher ed, showing that it fills some important niches. What I didn't care for so much was the author's enthusiasm for the trend toward globalized universities, with lots of American universities setting up campuses in places such as Abu Dhabi. I see that as mostly glitz and conspicuous consumption rather than true educational advance.

Eight Students Provide a Glimpse Inside Real Campus Life

Ashley Thorne

How does traditional American culture and Western civilization fare on your campus? What are some of the obstacles or difficulties a traditionalist, conservative, or libertarian might find on your campus? What can you tell us about the aesthetics of everyday life on your campus, from dating and sex, to dress and tastes, to behavior and mores? NAS asked 8 undergraduate college students these questions for a student symposium in the forthcoming "Student Culture " issue of Academic Questions (vol. 23, no. 2). We left it up to each respondent to choose which question to answer and how to answer it. The students' essays are the following: Beneath the Rungs: Locating the Liberal Arts at Harvard by Brian Bolduc From Raging to Engaging at Vanderbilt by Mary Frances Boyle Catholic or Bust? The Spirit of Inclusion at Notre Dame by Mary K. Daly Generation A at Fordham by Amanda Fiscina Debate Denied: Conservatives Stifled at Stanford by Gregory Hirshman Intolerant Tolerance at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill by Nash Keune Conservatives and Libertarians Face Challenges at the University of Michigan by Adam Pascarella Pursuing Truth and Virtue: The Great Tradition at Hillsdale College by Julie Robison

Center for the Study of American Ideals and Culture

Daniel Asia

A project I have been imaging for a long time is now actually a reality. The Center for the Study of American Ideals and Culture has received its first funding, from the new Apgar Foundation. With this first seed money, we can now get this enterprise off the ground. I must admit I am quite proud, as they said that of the forty or so applications they requested, ours was the best. Here is the mission statement: The Center for the Study of American Ideals and Culture at the University of Arizona will provide the leaders of the future with an ennobling vision, a sense of a larger purpose and a higher calling, through an understanding of the theoretical foundations of American institutions and culture. With the management and direction of a new undergraduate major, the development of curricular and pedagogical innovation, research, performance, and public outreach, the Center will restore balance in the dialogue over the value of the heritage of Western civilization, the development of the American polity, and the expression of the American soul through the arts. Founded and directed by composer Daniel Asia, the new program will combat the rising ignorance of the American intellectual experience, especially of the philosophical principles of the founding of America, science and religion and its interaction with social policy, and of high culture, especially the rich legacy of high art and music." Comments, as well as million dollar gifts, are appreciated.

UNC's "Economic and Social Justice" Minor

George Leef

In today's Pope Center Clarion Call, Jay Schalin writes about the "Economic and Social Justice" minor offered at UNC-Chapel Hill. Unfortunately, the minor is the brainchild of a far-left professor who wants to turn out students who are dedicated to increasing government domination of society and the elimination of what she thinks is "capitalism." Students do not need to take a course on the principles of economics in order to earn this minor; nor will they encounter the devastating counter-attack on the very concept of "social justice" by F. A. Hayek in his book The Mirage of Social Justice. In one of the courses the students may take (Philosophy 273), however, they at least get a taste of Robert Nozick's criticism of the mega-state. This minor is far more agitprop than education.

Why Texas Should Revive Western Civ Study

Steve Balch

NAS Chairman Steve Balch urged the Texas House Higher Education Committee to take the lead in reviving the study of Western civilization.

Letter to Stanford Committee: Vote Against Sustainability in Gen Ed Requirement

Peter Wood

Today NAS president Peter Wood sent a letter to the Stanford University Committee on Undergraduate Standards and Policy, which is voting on a proposal to make sustainability education part of a requirement for graduation.

Swamped: Florida's Earth Charter U

Ashley Thorne

Florida Gulf Coast University centers its curriculum on sustainability and the UN document the Earth Charter.

A National Curriculum

David Clemens

A common fear about the accountability movement is that edu-babble such as “alignment,” “assessment,” and “best practices” will erect an authoritarian, standardized, dumbed-down national curriculum which could mandate that on March 12, every high school student in the United States be on page 27 of To Kill a Mockingbird and that the following week, a computerized test may measure student reading comprehension by asking “Was the main character a Mockingbird or a Finch?” But haven’t advocacy teaching and the liberal preponderance among educators already produced a de facto national curriculum?  Having sat on many hiring and evaluation committees, I can testify that applicants for English positions always find ways to confess their faith in the liberal sacred texts.  One says, “I always assign Brent Staples’s `Black Men and Public Space,’” while another recites “I use Fast Food Nation and Nickel and Dimed” as if chanting a mantra.  They screen Outfoxed, An Inconvenient Truth, Jesus Camp, and Baraka.  And everyone assigns a paper analyzing an advertisement so that students will learn that [gasp] ads are just trying to sell you something and that “big corporations” are trying to make money.  Social justice, multiculturalism, health and wellness, sustainability, what the New York Times reported that morning and what they just heard on NPR provide each day’s lesson plan. An officer of my bank recently whispered that she had been required to read Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States “in several different classes” at a nearby state university.  Zinn’s Marxist polemic is also required by the entire history department of a local community college.  With such uniformity, we needn’t fear a future national curriculum—we already have one.

Seven Imaginary Curricula

Peter Wood

Most colleges don't seize the opportunity to do something original. We suggest they try a new approach, such as the labyrinth curriculum.

What's Critical about Critical Globalization Studies?

Peter Wood

This year a UC Santa Barbara professor sent an email to his class, comparing Israeli actions to those of the Nazis. But where did this professor's academic field, "critical globalization studies" actually come from, and should it exist in the university in the first place?

Marching Forward

Ashley Thorne

An update on the military and higher education.

Critical Thoughtlessness

Peter Wood

Stephen Zelnick refutes the cult of "critical thinking" now used as a substitute for a real curriculum.

Extra-Curricular Updike

Peter Wood

Should college students read novels by contemporary author John Updike?

Observations at Manchester

Ashley Thorne

What does NAS have to say about a private Christian college? NAS takes a tour through Manchester.

Are Students Customers? No

Peter Wood

NAS Executive Director Peter Wood replies to Ed Cutting with an opposing view, that "the 'customer service' model of higher education is an illusory path to real academic reform."

Georgia Halts Curricular Overhaul: University System Will Reconsider Protested Core Changes

Ashley Thorne

After 400+ faculty and staff members signed a petition against USG's proposed core curriculum models, the University System of Georgia just announced that it will stop its push to revise the curriculum at 35 state colleges.

Harder Core: UGA Nixes Regional Proposals; Opts for Rigorous Curriculum

Ashley Thorne

Rather than adopt proposals for a curriculum based on globalism and sustainability, the University of Georgia has made changes in favor of more academic rigor.

Getting at the Core

Peter Wood

Georgia may be headed for a new "core" curriculum.