Dicta

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

Top 2020 Democrats on Higher Education

Rachelle Peterson

The top Democratic presidential candidates' positions on higher education reveal they fail to grasp the fundamental questions of what college is for and why intellectual freedom matters.

Senate Republicans' Higher Ed Agenda Leaves Much to be Desired

Rachelle Peterson

The Senate’s outgoing education chairman is focusing on reforms that are worthwhile but paltry compared to the problems of politicization and trivialization in higher education.

What Groucho Marx Can Teach Us About Liberal Education

Jon D. Schaff

The world wearies of defenses of liberal education and the humanities. 

Reform by Executive Order

Thomas K. Lindsay

Congressional reform of higher education is a long shot. Can the President push reform from the bully pulpit?

The Dog that Didn’t Bark

Steve Balch

Steve Balch explains that higher education reform under President Trump has a rocky road ahead. 

Curriculum Vitae: Episode #3

NAS

Peter W. Wood sits down with KC Johnson to unpack what happened to Title IX and what should be done to fix it.

Curriculum Vitae: Podcast #2

NAS

Peter W. Wood sits down with NAS Director of Research David Randall to discuss the College Board. 

Aim Higher Act: Setting Lower Standards for Higher Ed

NAS

An analysis of the House Democrats' alternative to the PROSPER Act. 

Regulatory Discrimination: Why NAS Opposes the Gainful Employment Rule

NAS

NAS comments on the proposal to rescind the Gainful Employment Rule. 

Helping Higher Education Prosper

Rachelle Peterson

The Higher Education Act is in need of reform. What will replace it, and what can you do to help?

Texas Association of Scholars Supports the PROSPER Act

NAS

The Texas affiliate of NAS writes to Congress in support of the PROSPER Act.

How The Great Society Made a Mess of Higher Education

Spencer Kashmanian

"LBJ's federal interventions created a system in which students are the greatest losers."

Reviving the American History for Freedom Program

Steve Balch

Former NAS President Steve Balch writes on the efforts to revive and refund AHF.

Weighing the Proposed Department of Education and the Workforce

NAS

President Trump floats a possible merger of the Department of Education and Labor. NAS weighs the proposal on its merits. 

The PROSPER Act: An Updated Toolkit on the Higher Education Act

NAS

A citizen's guide to the Higher Education Reauthorization Act. 

Invitation: Inside the PROSPER Act

Rachelle Peterson

Join our conference call on Friday, June 22, to learn about the Higher Education Act reauthorization.

NAS Reform Ideas Announced in Congress

NAS

In a speech to the House of Representatives, Congresswoman Virginia Foxx quoted extensively from NAS's Rachelle Peterson on the Higher Education Act. 

Congress, Pass the PROSPER Act for Federal Student Aid Reform

Rachelle Peterson

The PROSPER Act represents the best chance for higher education reform in decades.

PROSPER Act: A Strong Start to Higher Ed Reform

A statement on proposed reforms to the Higher Education Act

Freedom to Learn: A Toolkit on the Higher Education Act

NAS

A citizen's toolkit on the Higher Education Act reauthorization and reform.

Higher Education in the Age of Trump

NAS

This AQ issue discusses how President Donald Trump will affect higher education in the United States.

Fix Accreditation to End Protectionism in Higher Education

Spencer Kashmanian

Spencer Kashmanian writes about the need to reform accreditation requirements.

Fixing our Foundation: Comments on Education Reform

NAS

Ginni Thomas interviews NAS President Peter Wood for the Daily Caller, discussing the need for higher education reform and Wood's proposal for a blue-ribbon comission on American exceptionalism.

The Case for Income Share Agreements

David Randall

An alternative to student loans, ISAs allow for private investors to pay a student's tuition for returns in future income.

Representative Grothman Addresses Pell Grant Fraud

David Randall

Congress should reform the Pell Grant program and prevent fraud. 

The Freedom to Learn Amendments 2.0

NAS

The National Association of Scholars has refined its proposed revisions to the Higher Education Act. What recommendations would you give to Congress?

The Freedom to Learn Amendments (Preliminary Draft)

NAS

The National Association of Scholars proposes revisions to the Higher Education Act. What recommendations would you give to Congress?

Photos and Videos Available from Securing Liberty

NAS

Access photos and videos from the NAS Conference on Facebook, Youtube, and Flickr.

Wood Speaks on American Family Radio

NAS

NAS President Peter Wood appears on Sandy Rios in the Morning to discuss the decline of modern education and his proposals to fix the education system.

My Counsel to President-elect Trump on American Higher Education

Peter Wood

NAS President Peter Wood offers the president-elect suggestions for the direction of higher education in the United States.

Western Civilization Isn’t Dead Yet

Editors-in-Chief of the Stanford Review, 2013-16

The Editors-in-Chief of the Stanford Review write on the lack of a proper foundation at Stanford University.

A Book on Higher Ed that Looks Dull but has Something Important to Say

George Leef

George Leef discusses an argument by two college presidents for an end to the traditional faculty role in college governance.

Is 'Get a Job' the Purpose of College?

Peter Wood

Governor Scott Walker's call for changes at the University of Wisconsin, which initially included major revisions to the school's mission statement, reveal a fundamental shift in the purpose of education. 

The New Problem of Higher Education: The Foreign-Based Institute

James A. Stever

James A. Stever, Professor Emeritus at the University of Cincinnati, discusses the potential dangers of foreign institutes such as the Confucius Institute.

Assigning Blame for the Degradation of Higher Ed

George Leef

Establishment voices blame critics and innovators for the degradation of higher ed.

Should You Avoid Ivy League Schools?

Peter Wood

Peter Wood responds to William Deresiewicz's provocative New Republic piece, "Don't Send Your Kid to the Ivy League."

On Re-Civilizing Higher Education

Peter Wood

NAS president Peter Wood spoke recently in Colorado on the crisis in American higher education.

The Trouble with Ed Schools

George Leef

Lifting licensing requirements is key to ending education schools' monopoly and ensuring teacher quality.

Pope Center Plugs NAS 100 Great Ideas

Glenn Ricketts

The Pope Center's Jay Schalin writes about our 100 Great Ideas.

A Hundred Ideas for Reforming Higher Education

Peter Wood

The status quo is so deeply entrenched that only a fantasy map will get us out of the Great Gillikin Forest to the Emerald City, from the Inferno to the Paradiso.

One Hundred Great Ideas for Higher Education

Richard Arum, Jill Biden, Andrew Delbanco, Joseph Epstein, Victor Davis Hanson, Wilfred McClay, Charles Murray, Ibn Warraq, Tom Wolfe, and many others share their ideas for reforming higher education. 

Ranking Colleges

William Casement

This chapter is an excerpt from William Casement's new book Making College Right, published by the National Association of Scholars.

Don’t Know Much About History: Colleges Teach History with Politics Left Out

Jonathan Bean

Jonathan Bean responds to NAS's recent report on Two Texas Universities' U.S. History Courses. He's not optimistic about history education.

The Youth Vote

Jason Fertig

We know why faculty lean left.  But why do students?

AQ Fall 2012 Issue: “A Crucible Moment? A Forum on the President’s Call for a New Civics”

Crystal Plum

The fall 2012 issue of NAS’s journal Academic Questions presents a forum in which scholars respond to a call for a new kind of civics education.

The "Existential" Crisis in Higher Education

Glenn Ricketts

The president of Syracuse analyzes the existentialism of higher education's current predicament.

For Its Own Sustainability, Education Needs More Diversity

Bill Roden

Higher education expert Bill Roden argues in favor of a multi-pronged approach to education, one that makes vocational training a viable option.

The Texas Model of Higher Education Reform

Thomas K. Lindsay

Texas is trying some innovative ideas for higher education, setting a good example for the rest of the country.

What's Up with California Higher Ed?

Ashley Thorne

Three organizations have just published reports with concerns about the state of higher education in California and recommendations for how to fix it.

Liberal Education Needs More Disruptive Technology

Jason Fertig

Why can’t we decouple liberal learning from college degrees?

Don’t Count on Trustees

George Leef

Are Trustees trustworthy? Not until they become CEOs.

The Virtues of a Free Market in Postsecondary Education

George Leef

A bid for eliminating federal intervention and coercion of higher education.  

The Presidential Candidates' Higher Ed Policies

Ashley Thorne

At the Pope Center, Jenna Ashley Robinson has a helpful roundup of the Republican presidential candidates' stated higher education policies. 

How Universities Defend the Status Quo

George Leef

In today’s Pope Center piece, Ron Trowbridge (whose career covers jobs ranging from English prof to college VP to chief of staff for Chief Justice Burger) writes about the response that the higher education establishment in Texas has launched against ideas for making it more effective and efficient in teaching undergraduates. The reformers have been met with a full-scale counter-attack that includes a big PR firm.

The Humanities Can be Fixed

George Leef

In today's Pope Center piece, Duke Cheston writes about a recent conference at Baylor University, where scholars discussed the problems that beset the humanities and found reasons for optimism.

Why Not Combine Apprenticeship With a College Degree?

George Leef

Jay Schalin advances an alternative to the standard college experience, an experience that all too often leaves students with no more skill and knowledge than when they left high school.

Is Higher Ed on the Brink of Major Change?

George Leef

In the recent book by Clay Christensen and Henry Eyring, The Innovative University, the authors contend that many colleges and universities will be left in the dust unless they figure out how to adapt, much as companies have crumbled when innovative technologies hit their markets and they couldn't rapidly adjust to it.

What Happens to the Old Universities?

Peter Wood

Peter Wood reviews the new book, The Innovative University: Changing the DNA of Higher Education from the Inside Out.

Keep the Critique Coming: Why Teacher Preparation Deserves the Spotlight

Nicholas J. Shudak

As education associations debate how and whether it's possible to measure the efficacy of the student teaching experience, a professor of teacher education argues that Americans must always be striving for educational reform.

Madness and Civilization

Peter Wood

NAS President Peter Wood responds to the Manifesto of Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik.

A Meeting of the Minds for Higher Ed Reform

Ashley Thorne

A Pope Center event brings together a plurality of views to find common goals for higher education reform.

Not Lost, Just 'Finding Our Way'

Peter Wood

Peter Wood proposes a famously confused guide on the Oregon Trail as the archetype of today

Higher Ed Reform Calls for More than "Perestroika"

George Leef

In this week’s Pope Center Clarion Call, I review Professor Robert Zemsky’s book Making Reform Work

Hard Core

Glenn Ricketts

In the past few weeks, terms like "rigor," "core curriculum" and "traditional humanities courses" have acquired new respectibility following publication of Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa's Academically Adrift, a book which bluntly describes the dismal state of Amercan undergraduate education. There's been a great deal of dismay and hand-wringing in higher education outlets, but surprisingly few outright denials insisting that everything's really OK. 

For-Profit Colleges on the Brink

Peter Wood

Peter Wood reviews the Obama administration’s assault on for-profit colleges in the first of a series.

Boring

Peter Wood

Boredom shouldn’t be able to find an inch of space in college classrooms, but, says Peter Wood, we have welcomed it in.

10 Random Thoughts for the New Year

Jason Fertig

Ponderings and proposals for higher ed in 2011.

A Radical Proposal for Re-Structuring Higher Ed

robkoons

Pajamas Media has posted an article by "Publius Audax" proposing nineteen radical reforms. which force on us the question: is there any other way to restore teaching as the fundamental mission of the academy?

If You Criticize Higher Education, Does That Mean You're McCarthyite?

George Leef

In this excellent Minding the Campus essay, history professor KC Johnson tears apart the scurrilous effort of another historian, Ellen Schrecker, to paint those who call for serious reform in higher education as near-McCarthyites. 

"Just the Facts, Ma'am"

George Leef

That's the approach the Pope Center is taking with the release today of a piece loaded with facts about higher education in the U.S. It is not something that flatters the educational establishment. Jenna Ashley Robinson writes about her work in this week's Clarion Call.

Tuition Talks and a Voice of Reason at the SC Higher Education Summit

Christina Jeffrey

NAS board member Christina Jeffrey spoke on behalf of the NAS at the Summit. Here's her report on parents' and colleges' frustrations, the state governor's composure, and a bureaucrat's defensiveness.

A Not-So-Bold Plan

Jason Fertig

A new book by Mark Taylor, Crisis on Campus: A Bold Plan for Reforming Our Colleges and Universities, recycles some familiar ideas.

Profit vs. Proselytizing: Business Lore and Academic Practice

Herbert London

Academia can learn a lot from the business world.

Monopoly to Marketplace: Diversifying Higher Ed from Inside and Out

Ashley Thorne

NAS is uniquely positioned to influence higher education for the good. As a non-profit organization, we are outside academia, free of its entanglements and able to provide a detached point of view. As a membership association, we are inside the university, with thousands of our members as professors on campuses all over the nation.

Are We Stuck with the Politically Correct University?

George Leef

In this week's Pope Center Clarion Call, I review the new AEI book The Politically Correct University. I recommend the book highly. It provides an excellent analysis of the problem of ideological imbalance and politicization that besets our higher education system and the closing chapters explore the prospects for change.

Is "Good President" Redundant?

Ashley Thorne

Time magazine recently published a list of the 10 best college presidents. But what makes a president "good"? Are there good college presidents, or are they all just silly people in silly jobs?

Higher Ed Reform Ideas

George Leef

In this week's Pope Center Clarion Call, Jane Shaw discusses ideas for change in higher education that she has come across in several recent conferences. The common thread is that the ideas she likes all have a "bottom-up" character rather than "top-down." I strongly agree that good change is apt to come from the "little platoons" rather than through higher ed's generals seeing what's gone wrong and then implementing constructive ideas. The generals are for the most part too busy with a) fundraising and b) the diversity mania to do much good.

Debate: Operation U Reform

Ashley Thorne

Check out Peter Wood's response to Robert Weissberg's Minding the Campus article, "Rescuing the University."  The debate was also linked on Instapundit.

Sisyphus and Higher Education

Jonathan Bean

Those of us laboring for academic reform often feel like Sisyphus, rolling a rock up the hill only to have it come crashing down again. The gods of academe seem to have condemned higher education to inevitable decay. That thought came to me as I read about the demise of an institute (at Hamilton College) that did everything right, yet the overlords of Political Correctness purged themselves of enemies and "deviationists." I use these terms because the notion that all-is-political, enemies-must-be-destroyed is linked so strongly to communism and its close cousin national socialism. In the above unhappy story, Mark Bauerlein tries to see a silver lining by noting that the Institute survives outside the college. Students can go there and read books for which they receive no academic credit, of course. If ever there was a case study in how much the Left prizes control of higher education, this is it. The next time you are tempted to think that much of what happens is a "misunderstanding" or "good intentions gone awry," please banish the thought. When push comes to shove, there are those who would put a bullet in your head if this were a different place and time. Instead, they kill ideas by depriving them of air space on campus. No institute, no nonconformist faculty. Or, as Stalin put it: "no people, no problem." We, the few, will retire some day and then there will be nobody to speak out against the barbarians. That is our problem. Postscript: Robert Weissberg nails the problem(s) exceptionally well in this article.

Degree in a Bundle

Ashley Thorne

Thomas Edison State College, based in Trenton, New Jersey, offers online courses for adults (the average age of students is 35) and accepts credits from all regionally accredited institutions. Advisors work with each student to create a customized program plan that fits him best. Here is a video that tells more about TESC and how it provides “higher education for adults with higher expectations.” I wonder if this type of learning will be the future of higher education. What do you think?

Wishful Thinking

Peter Wood

Over on Phi Beta Cons, Fred Schwartz ("20 Reasons Why Campus Learning Is Better Than Online") cites my predictions about a “Great Transition” in which higher education will move from in-person campus-based institutions to mostly online instruction in the coming decades.  He dislikes the prospect and disagrees with how likely it is.  I don’t especially like the prospect either, but that’s neither here nor there.  The important question is whether something like the “Great Transition” could happen.  My answer is yes, it could.  That’s because, though our current institutional basis of higher education looks robust, it is highly vulnerable to small shifts in public esteem.   My article, The Shape of (Academic) Things to Come, wore its satirical colors openly.  I described people, places, and events twenty years into the future and attributed my detailed foresight to scientifically-enhanced precognition.  It says something about the level of fear that online education strikes in today’s academics that a fair number wrote to me to protest this leap of imagination, as if, like Prospero, I could conjure it out of thin air.   Don’t blame me.  If something like the Great Transition were to happen, it won’t be because I set it in motion.  Nor do I think that my fellow seer, Jane Shaw, can be blamed.  Fred Schwartz provides 20 reasons why campus learning is (or “can be”) better than online college education.  Most of his reasons sound right to me.  He starts out, “Not every subject lends itself to online learning.”  Entirely true, at least with current technology.  Looking at the last twenty years, I wouldn’t exactly rule out the possibility of dramatic improvements in the years ahead, but the more important point is that the subjects Fred cites as better learnt in person—“those that require laboratory work, clinical practice, studio learning, musical instruction, live performance, agricultural work, etc.”— do not require a university.  Historically, each of them was taught in a non-university setting.  Music conservatories and independent art schools still thrive.  Science grew up outside the university and has a vigorous life in independent institutes to this day.  Moreover, the decoupling of undergraduate education from more advanced studies already has models such as the Rockefeller University.  I won’t go through all twenty of Fred’s reasons, but most of them fall into this pattern.  He makes a valid point about the attraction of or benefit to be had from residential colleges, but the point has no real bearing on the larger economic and social forces at work.  Yes, it is nice to retire to a college town (point 3), but are we going to keep colleges going in order to provide enhanced retirement options?  It seems unlikely.  At the end of his post Fred allows that “most of these problems are surmountable,” but sees no positive reason why American society would want to surmount them.  In his view, “the college campus is not an expensive anachronism.” I wish that were true, and, even if it isn’t, I wish Americans would continue to believe it true.  But as my article suggested, it is a fragile hope.  For some fifty years, Americans have had drilled into them that higher education is mainly about getting the credentials to get a well-paying job.  If a technology comes along that offers much the same thing at a fraction of the cost, many people will choose that option (there’s “our friend the free market” for you). Online education is that technology, and it is late in the game for higher education to turn around and say, “Residential education is worth a premium price because college, after all, is really about the intangible aspects of shared culture, access to civilization, moral elevation, personal associations, and the richness of life.”   I think such claims happen to be true, but I don’t expect them to outweigh career ambition for the great majority of students or their parents.  To the contrary, the American public has drunk in the utilitarian calculus that college is a launching pad for lucrative careers.  And that public has also grown canny about the undergraduate degree becoming a merely intermediary step on the path to the credentials that really count.  To this we have to add the widespread recognition that in-person higher education is an enormously expensive and vainglorious enterprise that frequently produces meager results. This adds up to vulnerability.  Fred believes the risk is an illusion.  He cites (point #10) earlier claims that “printing, the telephone, sound recording, radio, movies, television, and various generations of computers,” would “revolutionize education and make all our schools and universities obsolete!”   That’s a pretty misleading “and.”  Most would say that printing, at least, did revolutionize higher education.  The other technologies on the list have had considerable consequences for higher education too.  It might be useful to think of online education as the synthesis of all of them, perhaps as the gasoline-powered automobile combined and synthesized a host of technologies that had already been invented, and spurred the invention of still more.  We can visit Lancaster, Pennsylvania for reassurance that automotive technology did not render horse-powered agriculture and transportation “obsolete,” but the equine economy isn’t what it once was.  I repeat, I am not eager for the rise of an online dominated form of higher education.  The cultural losses would include some that matter to me profoundly.  But I have yet to see a solid argument why the Great Transition won’t happen.  “I’d regret it” isn’t an argument.

Campus Reform

Ashley Thorne

NAS welcomes a new web-based effort to reform higher education, CampusReform.org:

Historically, conservatives have favored the ways of the past—which is why they sometimes fall behind the left in using technology to get organized. But Campus Reform breaks out of the mold to help give this generation’s conservatives a forward-thinking cause. NAS, "Campus Reform Looks Forward"

Campus Reform Looks Forward

Ashley Thorne

NAS welcomes a new web-based effort to reform higher education.

How Charter Colleges Can Rekindle Innovation

Michael Block

Recalling a vision for freedom in higher education.

Dis-honoring Yeshiva

Peter Wood

Yeshiva ousted James Otteson, who had just been hired to found and direct the university's academic honors program. Rumor has it that his pseudonymous blog was what turned the Yeshiva administration against him, but we don

Disruption: Advising the Next President

Peter Wood

Experts predict global trends of the future and academics give advice to the future U.S. president, but what will become of higher education?

Can Social Workers Be Competent? And Other Conundrums Arising from Charles Murray's Call for Replacing College Degrees with Competency Exams

Peter Wood

Charles Murray asserts that the degree should be replaced by the CPA-like certification. NAS executive director Peter Wood comments on Murray's suggestion and indicates possible flaws in the scheme.

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.