Mt. Holyoke, The Vagina Monologues, and why “The Coming College Decline” is a good thing *UPDATED WITH PERFECT POSTER*

The Vagina MonologuesRonald Brownstein, in a National Journal article entitled “The Coming College Decline,” has noticed that the college bubble is getting near bursting.  He thinks that’s a bad thing for racial reasons. According to him, the ones dropping out of college are minorities, who will be the youthful majority in a couple of decades. When that time comes, we’ll be back to a pre-baby boom society, one in which the largest share of working adults have not gone to college. To Brownstein, this demographic change is a reason to take Obama up on his offer to give people “free” community college. We know, of course, that only the moon and stars are free; for everything else, someone’s got to pay.

I have to part ways with Brownstein. I think that it would be a wonderful thing if the bubble collapsed and fewer Americans went to college. Why? Because colleges don’t teach anymore, they corrupt.

Today’s example is Mt. Holyoke, an iconic 19th century women’s college. Mt. Holyoke, like most American colleges, has made a sacrament out of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues. If you’re feeling left out that you haven’t seen the play, don’t be; be grateful instead.

The show, which consists of several women sitting on stage telling stories about their and other people’s vaginas is quite awful. It’s also incredibly creepy because it’s got a whole section devoted to lesbian pedophilia. As originally written, the gal who had her vagina thoroughly appreciated by a lesbian was 13 when it happened. When I had the misfortune to see the show, the gal had been aged to 15, but was still having lesbian sex with an adult. Even as amended, therefore, it was still selling statutory rape and pedophilia. Let’s just say that the whole show is pretty much consistent with this kind of ick factor.

Because feminists have so embraced The Vagina Monologues, it’s become a staple across America. Young women at college are so into celebrating their vaginas that, at many campuses, Valentine’s Day, once about hearts, flowers, and romance, has been turned into V Day, to celebrate . . . yes, the vagina, complete with endless re-stagings of The Vagina Monologues. Funnily enough, none of the colleges have followed this to the logical conclusion, in line with Title IX, by having a celebratory P Day so that all can ruminate about the glories of the penis.

Or even better . . . stay with me, because this is good, the colleges should have their own D-Day. Just think about the D-Day that we older folk commemorate on June 6.  It’s so chauvinistic and brutal, with its celebration of men and war.  It’s time to revitalize that sexist, violent day, by bringing it in line with Title IX’s mandate for full sexual equality on college campuses.  Henceforth, it should be a true D-Day — one on which we celebrate the male dick.

I can just see it now.  Every June 6, men could parade around campuses singing hymns to the glories of their own personal biological wonder. I mean, think about it. Not only can it enable its owners to pee standing up (something women really do envy), it has a cool switching device, like a fancy train junction, that allows it to deliver different fluids without cross-contamination. It also lets its user show his true emotions, putting the lie to all those women who say men don’t communicate their emotions well.  In the same way we admire dogs and cats because their tails, ears, and whiskers talk to us, shouldn’t we have an annual day to celebrate the amazing communication abilities of the male dick? This new D-Day even harmonizes with the original D-Day, because all those men storming the beach, seasick, frightened, often drowning because of heavy equipment, and running straight into bullets and cannons, had . . . yes, dicks!

D-Day, friends. It’s time has truly come. Or maybe not. You see, Mt. Holyoke is doing away with the play that started it all. You heard me right. They’re canceling The Vagina Monologues.

This ought to be good news, but it really isn’t. Instead, it just furthers my strong belief that America’s higher education institutions have become hopelessly corrupt swamps of radical Leftism, abandoning logic, common sense, history, and the intellectual apex of human development and, instead, rolling around in the brainless, hysterical, paranoid mud of victimization, biology denial, suicidal multiculturalism, and extreme misanthropy.

On the surface, the decision to jettison The Vagina Monologues looks good.  It turns out, however, that someone realized that the play is unfair. Hearing this, some of you might be thinking “Hey, that’s okay. It’s high time that the feminists and Leftists on American campuses realize that it is unfair to men to go around rubbing their noses in vaginas.” (Well, that came out sounding wrong, but you know what I mean.)

Vaginas and men

Except that this kind of equitable, non-sexist thinking is not what drove the Mt. Holyoke decision.  Instead, the great minds at Mt. Holyoke decided that sanctifying the play is unfair because it sidelines men who want to be women, i.e., transsexuals.  To the extent these transsexuals lack biological vaginas, The Vagina Monologues, say the powers that be at Mt. Holyoke, is a discriminatory form of microagression (or something like that):

Since the 1990s, students from Mount Holyoke College, an all-women’s school in Massachusetts, have staged an annual production of The Vagina Monologues. Not this year. The college is retiring the ritual over concerns that the play—penned by Eve Ensler in 1996 as a way to “celebrate the vagina” and women’s sexuality—is not inclusive enough.

In a school-wide email from Mount Holyoke’s student-theater board, relayed by Campus Reform, student Erin Murphy explained that “at its core, the show offers an extremely narrow perspective on what it means to be a woman … Gender is a wide and varied experience, one that cannot simply be reduced to biological or anatomical distinctions, and many of us who have participated in the show have grown increasingly uncomfortable presenting material that is inherently reductionist and exclusive.”

Students haven’t grown uncomfortable with The Vagina Monologues because it’s a creepy, masturbatory, misanthropic celebration of a body part, complete with lesbian statutory rape and pedophilia. Instead, at one of America’s most expensive and (peculiarly) prestigious education institutions, the play is out because “the show offers an extremely narrow perspective on what it means to be a woman” — not because it focuses solely on women’s vaginas, but because it doesn’t focus on men who wish they had women’s vaginas.

(Yikes!  That last clause didn’t come out right.  I don’t mean heterosexual men who like their vaginas on women (?), but transsexual men who would like women’s vaginas on them (?). Oy! it seems that my grammar, logic, and writing skills are not up to the task of dealing with fluid gender identity and self-selection.  I seem to be hopelessly heteronomative.  My humblest apologies.)

I don’t think we can wipe out the stain of America’s higher education culture fast enough. Looking at the degradation of education at these institutions, which have turned against the classic principles and knowledge of a free people, I keep being reminded of the Children of Israel trekking for 40 years through the Sinai with Moses. It wasn’t that Moses, an experienced desert-dweller, couldn’t find the Holy Land. It was that the generation that had once been slaves had to die out so that a new generation, one that had always been free, could create a new generation. Our own nation won’t be free until we see the final end of America’s toxic university culture. An economic meltdown would be a good place to start.

The Bookworm Beat 1/12/15: Two completely random thoughts about narcissists and college

Woman writingI know a narcissist.  One of the interesting things about talking with her is that she takes very personally things that are, to non-narcissists, manifestly impersonal.

For example, while talking about clothes, I might say to my narcissistic friend something along the lines of “I’m not a big fan of these new infinity scarves.”  Unbeknownst to me, she likes infinity scarves.  At this point, a normal person would say, “I actually like infinity scarves.  I think they look pretty, they’re easy to use, and they go with pretty much everything.”  But she’s a narcissist, so what she says is, “What do you know about fashion?  Your dress is disgusting.  I can’t believe you left the house that way.”  When I protest about the vicious, personal nature of her attack, her response is “You did it first.”

[Read more...]

The pathetic case of the poor Princeton freshman with the problematic regional accent

Princeton UniversityLet me begin by saying that, whatever Princeton once was, it isn’t any longer. Any university that has both the execrable Paul Krugman and and the even more execrable Peter Singer on its roster has long ago parted ways with decency, intelligence, and data. Should we be surprised, then, when its admissions process, aided by its  — ahem — “education” process, results in people like Newby Parton, a Princeton freshman who shot to unexpected fame by complaining that he’s the victim of microagression because he pronounces “wh” as “hw”?

Parton’s article, which appears in the Daily Princetonian, is either a pitch-perfect satire of every Leftist attempt to claim victimhood, or it is an honest piece that represents the nadir of higher education in America. Either way, this is what you need to know about: Parton introduces himself as a young man who comes from a small region in America that still pronounces “wh” the old-fashioned way, as “hw.”

I actually found Parton’s discussion about this regionalism an interesting bit of linguistic history, one that could, in a sane world, have led to a light-hearted an educational look at lingering speech differences across America despite television’s homogenizing influence. Parton, though, had bigger things on his mind.

You see, poor Parton is picked on:

There is a town in that band that I call home, so I say my “wh”-words in the traditional way. I never thought twice about it before coming to New Jersey. Here, my peers make a spectacle of it. “Say Cool Whip,” they’ll tell me, in reference to the Family Guy gag in which one character pokes fun at another for his /hw/ pronunciations. I’ll say “Cool Whip.” They’ll repeat it back to me with exaggerated emphasis on the /h/. I’ve been pulled into this conversation several times now, and each time I grow a bit more self-conscious. Very few people like to have their speech mocked.

Poor Parton knew what was happening to him.  He had become a victim of microaggression.  

Micro aggression, you ask? Here’s the story: Having successfully used political correctness to stifle all overt speech that disagrees with Leftist precepts, Lefties have had to go to the next level, which is to argue that unstated anti-Leftist premises still linger in American speech and these too must be stifled.   (Daniel Hannan provides a helpful updated dictionary for those struggling to avoid microaggression in their own speech.)

Growing up, I was constantly picked on about my speech patterns, which were (and still are) a confusing amalgam of American, San Francisco, Jewish, and vaguely European.  I countered by teasing my own friends, all of whom brought an Asian touch to their English.  We all thought it was funny.  Parton, as I said, gets what was (and is) really going on when people get teased about regionalisms or other speech variations.  It’s hate.  Hate pure and simple:

A friend of mine whom I quite like had put me through the “Cool Whip” routine, so I waited awhile and texted her this: “Making fun of regional speech is a microaggression.”

But don’t cry for Parton, please. His indocrination, er education has taught him that, although he’s clearly a victim of hatred, he’s so privileged he has no right to complain.  Apparently the 21st century white man’s burden is that you’re not allowed to whine when your friends tease you:

[T]is is not very important to me. I am a male and I am white, so I get less than my fair share of discrimination. I am ashamed to say that I have complained when I have had such fortune, but I must confess that I did.

Moreover, Parton celebrates the fact that his intense emotional anguish nevertheless serves as a teaching opportunity (or do I mean a learning opportunity?) for young Parton and one, moreover, that allows him to abase himself completely before those Lefties whose cool victimhood he wishes he could emulate:

She [the friend to whom he complained] really did not understand that she had caused any offense, even after I had plainly told her so. That is fine with me, and I don’t blame her one bit. If I were her, I am afraid I would not have understood either.

I mean it when I say I am afraid. I am afraid that I have spent eighteen years not understanding when I have said something offensive. I am afraid that I have unwittingly hurt the feelings of people so accustomed to microaggression that they did not bother to speak up. I am afraid that I would not have taken those people seriously if they had made a stand. And I am afraid I will do it all again. I am afraid because microaggressions aren’t harmless — there’s research to show that they cause anxiety and binge drinking among the minority students who are targeted.

I’m sure you know that expression, “Pardon me, but I just spit up a little in my mouth.”  I find that weak.  For things such as Parton’s pathos, I really feel like going the full vomit.

Keep in mind that Parton is one of the few and the proud who makes it into America’s Ivy Leagues. After all, these universities, deservedly or not, get to troll amongst the top, top graduates of American high schools — and Parton is what they picked. Not only did the admissions office see promise in the boy, the student newspaper quite obviously felt that Parton had something worthwhile to say.  (Or alternatively, the editors hate him and saw this as the perfect opportunity to hold him up to nationwide opprobrium.)

A friend of mine, who was trained in a harsher school of life than the emotionally fragile Parton, summed up nicely what I would have said in a dozen bloviating paragraphs:

Especially like the fact he is a freshman. Self-flagellating, mewling worms with zero life experience need to stop their micro-aggressive assault on my senses. Only sissies deal in so called micro aggression. When I do it, it’s on purpose and there’s nothing micro about it. As I went to bed last night it dawned on me that our popular culture has so glamorized victimization that this poor sap had to dig deep to manufacture a way for him to be in the club with the cool kids. He has to blame someone. That would be as opposed to seeking responsibility

Yeah! What my friend said.

(Oh, and while I’m on the subject of personal responsibility, here’s a different take, and one with which I wholeheartedly agree.)

A “Letter of Solidarity” from Cal. State University, Northridge reads like a parody of Leftist anti-Americanism

Cal_State_University_NorthridgeI received in my email a copy of a “letter of solidarity” circulating amongst employees in the Masters of Social Work Department at California State University, Northridge (“CSUN”), a California taxpayer-funded institution that also receives federal tax dollars. In this solidarity letter, department members indict the entire American system for the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, as well as for the death and suffering of all other victim classes in America.

This apocalyptic, anti-American mindset begins with the cover letter accompanying the email:

From: Chavez, Naomi [XXXX@XXXX]
Sent: Friday, December 19, 2014 11:29 AM
To: Chavez, Naomi
Subject: IPT and Letter of Solidarity

Please reply directly to Jose Paez [XXXX@XXXX]

Attached please find the CSUN MSW Department Letter of Solidarity. Our attempt was to adequately capture the feelings of outrage, frustration, humiliation, shame and pain experienced by so many communities for so many generations without access to true justice or healing. Our letter builds from the work of Portland State University, Simmons College, and Smith College; joins the growing number of schools/departments that have made a public statement; and upholds our obligation as social workers to speak out against social injustices.

Our letter uses settler colonialism as a main lens and framework of analysis to interpret the current state of affairs within a historical context. We have addressed the historical traumas and provided evidence/examples of the intersecting oppressive forces which create the space for the persistent forms of state sanctioned violence we see today. We have created a brief yet thorough list of action items to hold us accountable.

If you have a chance, please take a moment to read this letter. We would like to gather and add as many signatures to this letter as possible. We are posting the letter to our Dept. website today–Friday (12/19). We also plan to email this document to President Harrison, as well as to our students. If you’d like your name to be added to this letter, please email José Paez (XXXX@XXXX) directly today (12/19) and he’ll add your name. If you miss the deadline, but would still like to be added, please email José and he’ll make sure you get added to the letter. Please let us know if you have any questions.

José Miguel Paez, LCSW
CSUN MSW Department
18111 Nordhoff Street
Northridge, Ca. 91330-8226
818 [XXX-XXXX]
XXXX@XXXX

That cant-filled email is just a mild prelude.  To fully appreciate how an American university can write in language that, barring 21st century updates for gays and transgenders, almost perfectly replicates anti-American tirades emanating from Moscow during the height of the Cold War, you have to read the actual “Letter of Solidarity” (click on images to enlarge):

CSUN MSW Dept Letter of Solidarity_Page_1

CSUN MSW Dept Letter of Solidarity_Page_2

Not only does the letter consist entirely of turgid, Marxist academic writing (which sees the authors expressing solidarity with “Victims of interlocking forms of oppression including racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and classism”), it refers to a factual universe unrelated to any reality outside of the fevered halls of academia.  For example, I strongly suspect that both Garner and Brown would have been surprised to find themselves lumped in with gays, women, transsexuals, and Hispanic immigrants responsible for taking jobs blacks once held. To their minds — and, no doubt, to the minds of the black communities running riot all over America — there is no comparison between black oppression and any oppression visited on all the other people on that list.  That’s especially true for those victims of sex and gender-related “isms.” American blacks are, after all, profoundly homophobic.

After this preliminary throat-clearing about all the victims of this cruel, cruel American world, the letter gets to its main point:  It is a sweeping indictment of an irreparably tainted political, social, and legal system that has its origins in white patriarchal colonialism:

We acknowledge that the above-­‐mentioned cases illustrate the evolution of our legal institutions to uphold racial, gender, class, and sexual orientation hierarchies. We recognize that our legal system was designed within the context of settler colonialism; that it continues to disempower, segregate, and eradicate specific communities and people, while retaining privilege for white, middle class, heteronormative, Christian families.

To support this scathing ideological charge against America, the letter proceeds to specifics.  These specifics sound like facts, but are in fact so twisted and perverted that they have all the reality of a fun-house mirror.  I’ve set forth each “fact,” followed by a note about inaccuracies or irrational lines of thinking:

[1] This is evidenced by the epidemics of mass incarceration and deportation [Note: It's unclear what "epidemics of mass incarcertation" exercise the letter's signatories. What's certain is that Obama's administration has tried to halt deportations despite the fact that it is obligated by law to remove people who are in the country illegally, and that deportation numbers have dropped dramatically.];

[2] the overrepresentation of youth of color and LGBTQ youth within child welfare and juvenile justice systems [Note: This is tragic and true -- and no doubt arises from the fact that children of color come disproportionately from single mother homes, with the absence of a father a clear indicator of both child poverty and criminality.  LGBTQ youth belong to a demographic that consistently rates higher in drug use and alcoholism (despite record acceptance of homosexuality amongst the peers of gay youth), two activities that often result in imprisoned young people. In other words, the high incarceration rates arise not because the criminal system is cruel but because the social systems in which these young people live are cruel.];

[3] disparate health outcomes and accessibility to healthcare [Note: As just one article from the thousands available on the internet indicates, while it's tempting to blame a discriminatory system for different health outcomes, the problems of disparate outcomes run deeper, touching upon lifestyle choices (e.g., unprotected sex, cigarette smoking, unhealthy diets due to cultural mores); employment options (e.g., more dangerous construction jobs for young Hispanic men); cultural dependence on non-effective faux-medical options; language barriers; etc.];

[4] Stop and Frisk and other policing tactics used to intimidate and harass [Note: Stop and Frisk, by stopping petty crime before it becomes major crime, has probably saved more minority lives than just about any other program in America. It is a sad truth that those getting stopped and frisked are themselves minorities, but at least they're not preying on their own community.];

[5] racial and religious profiling at borders and within communities of color [Note: Without digging up citations for this, I can state with some certainty that, at our Southern border, we're not getting a lot of blonde, blue-eyed Swedish youth trying to cross into this country illegally. Instead, those sneaking across our borders are darker-skinned Hispanics and the occasional fanatical Muslim. In the real world, as opposed to the magical Marxist world, profiling for fair-skinned Christians or Jews would be delusional, not practical.];

[6] murder of transgender people, especially those of color [Note: It appears that transgender people have a horrifically high murder rate, and this is a tragedy. People with insufficiently controlled lizard brains (you know, the primitive part of the brain that behaves atavistically) react very badly to transgender people. I'm not sure how this works as an indictment of the police or even of our government and social systems, given that our government, our social systems, and our police all work to prevent these murders, not encourage them.];

[7] heightened rates of sexual assault and racialized forms of sexual harassment perpetrated against women of color [Note: Contrary to what's implied in this clause, which lacks a subject noun, black women are not raped by those "white, middle class, heteronormative, Christian" men that the Letter's signatories hate so much. They are overwhelmingly raped by black men.];

[8] normalization of militarized police forces specifically in the lowest income neighborhoods [Note: I'm not happy with our increasingly militarized police either, since it has the tendency to create in police the mindset that, rather than being the public's servants, they are its masters. On the other hand, of late police have had good reason to go into some neighborhoods armed for battle]; and

[9] failure to indict police officers who are captured on video killing unarmed persons [Note: This is probably a reference to Garner, a morbidly obese man who was videotaped in a non-fatal headlock, as opposed to a "chokehold," and who died later because of a heart attack.  In other words, facts and hysteria do not match.].

The people who view American through this grim, factually twisted prism are utterly blind to the fact that, in principle since its founding and in practice for much of the 20th century, America has been a country predicated on individual freedom. When those freedoms have been denied, that denial has come about because of too much government control — as in the antebellum and Jim Crow south, for example, both of which represented the foul apex of American state control over individual liberties — not because of too little government control. Individuals can behave stupidly and meanly, but the real problems begin when government takes sides — and government always takes sides because, no matter the action it takes, some will benefit and some will not.

Worse than sad, though, is the fact that this unwholesome, perverse world view is internalized by and emanates from people who have significant control over young minds. After all, the signatories to this document are teachers in CSUN’s Department of Social Work. Whether they teach students who take a casual class to fulfill some sort of requirement or students who are majoring in social work, the department has at some time access to a large percentage of a student body numbering about 38,000 students annually.

Of those 38,000 students, each one who comes through the doors of the Department of Social Work is exposed to this unfiltered anti-American, anti-white, anti-male, anti-Christian doctrine. Each student’s grades is dependent upon his or her ability to remember and regurgitate this toxic Leftist ideology.  Once credentialed, these students then spread throughout America’s schools and social institutions, carrying this dark, hate-filled, self-victimized vision with them wherever they go. They are carriers of a deadly social worldview, just as surely as Typhoid Mary was a carrier of a deadly disease.

Has American higher education reached a tipping point?

College GradsFor those of us paying attention, it has been clear for some time that America’s colleges and universities have abandoned their original missions of educating young people and teaching them critical thinking skills. Instead, they have become propaganda mills that indoctrinate America’s youngsters in Marxism and victimotology. It was the false Duke lacrosse rape allegations, though, that brought to most parents some awareness about what was taking place at their children’s very expensive Leftist incubators. The problem with the Duke case, however, was that, while it briefly riveted the nation, it vanished from view as soon as the mainstream media figured out that the usual suspects were, in fact, victims, and that the “victim” was, in fact, a racist liar. It was a fascinating story countering the “higher education” narrative, but it was not a tipping point.

There’ve been other fascinating stories over the years but, before the past few weeks, they have never made the news or come close enough to each other in time to have critical mass. A short list of these stories would include the sex weeks popping up all over American campuses, a development that might shock middle class Democrat parents if it could break out of Fox News and onto the pages of the New York Times; the routine harassment of conservative speakers on American campuses; professors who regularly bad-mouth conservatives and conservativism, with one professor going so far as to assault a pro-Life teenager; Brandeis’s decision to rescind Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s campus appearance and honorary degree; and the uproar at UC Berkeley about having Leftist darling Bill Maher speak because, while he may be a Leftist, he’s remarkably clear-eyed about Islam. As I said, though, these stories haven’t broken out of the conservative news “ghetto.”  Because many of America’s college and university students come from Progressive homes and communities that wouldn’t dream of reading and watching conservative media, parents just don’t know what’s been happening.

In the last couple of weeks, however, several stories about American college life have thrust themselves on the national consciousness and it is these stories that, if not already tipping over the point themselves, might be balanced so delicately on the razor’s edge that, if just one more story comes along, they will force a national dialogue about what’s become of America’s academic institutions. The stories I’m thinking of are:

1. The Rolling Stone story about a fraternity rape at the University of Virginia. The UVA rape story caught the mainstream media’s attention because it so perfectly matched the Progressive narrative: America’s college co-eds are being violently, brutally gang raped at rates equal to those in Berlin at the end of WWII when the Russians came through. These rapes, moreover, are being committed by entitled, misogynistic, wealthy, white young men.

Every mainstream media outlet gobbled this story up and then regurgitated it for popular consumption — which made the story’s ultimate denouement so wonderful. First, the fraternity proved that there was no party that night, and there could not have been a party that night. Then the alleged rape victim’s friends said “nobody talked to us,” at which point the Rolling Stone’s reporter had to admit that, well, no, she never actually talked to anybody. All this was followed by the discovery that the alleged rape victim was a very troubled young woman who made up a boyfriend/assaulter out of whole cloth, including writing this imaginary figure mash notes that plagiarized from teen romance TV shows.

All of the above is awful, but crazy people are out there.  Three other salient points should impress themselves on American parents: (1) A magazine many parents still consider important committed gross journalistic malfeasance. (2) Without any independent investigation, the UVA president suspended not just the fraternity alleged to have hosted the brutal sexual assault, but all fraternities. Worse, when the hoax was exposed, the UVA president refused to rescind her order, basically saying that fraternities are collectively guilty for all rapes, real or imaginary. (3) An editor for the UVA student newspaper refused to accept “hoax” for an answer. Instead, a college-educated young, saturated in “fake but accurate” and “truthiness” as legitimate intellectual concepts, said that the entire rape story, although proven false, should nevertheless be treated as true because rape epidemic . . . with the fake rape being accepted as partial proof of the epidemic.

2. The Lena Dunham rape lie. There’s nothing like a little corroboration after a big story to drive the point home. Right around the time the UVA rape story was collapsing, a little digging established that Lena Dunham had lied when she wrote in her autobiography that she had been raped by Oberlin’s lone, and well-known, Republican named Barry. Normally, when a 28-year-old who’s not named Obama writes an autobiography, no one pays attention. Dunham, however, comes from New York’s artsy intelligentsia class and has made a name for herself writing and acting in a nihilistic show about the sex and emotional lives of a cohort of young, college-educated women. For that reason, when she alleged rape — rape by a Republican, yet! — people paid attention.

When John Nolte proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Dunham was lying, forcing Random House to amend the book and kind of apologize, check-writing parents who, though Progressive, nevertheless think that their kids ought to learn basic logic and critical thinking at university, should have absorbed the fact is that the same outlets that touted Dunham’s rape story (NPR, Huffington Post, etc.), once again fell back on the whole “truthiness” and “fake but accurate” trope. Some Progressives went so far as to accuse Nolte of being “creepy” for having dared to investigate and expose Dunham’s lies — lies that were rapidly destroying the life of an innocent man.

3. The collective Ivy League backbone collapse. Parents all over America probably nodded understandingly when their coddled children took to the streets to protest the Grand Jury’s decision not to indict Darren Wilson following Michael Brown’s death (never mind that the physical evidence and much of the testimony corroborated Wilson’s story that Brown was trying to grab his gun, which usually ends with a dead police officer) and the decision not to criminalize the death of Eric Garner following a vigorous arrest (never mind that he was resisting arrest, was still manifestly alive after the infamous choke hold, and had a host of physical ailments that inevitably put him at risk when resisting arrest). After all, since the 1960s, college students are expected to protest. It’s a rite of passage.

What seemed to shock a lot of parents, though, if my Facebook is anything to go by, is the fact that, beginning with Ivy League law students, and then filtering down to other renowned schools, these busy little bee protesters contended that the emotional trauma they experienced just thinking about Garner and Brown was so terrible that they couldn’t be expected to take final exams. This was an especially intriguing excuse coming from Ivy League law students whom the public believes are tough and scrappy. It turns out that, rather than being tough and scrappy, these top 2% special snowflakes are utterly gelatinous, especially in the spinal region. More people than usual are now thinking, “By the time these kids get the law degrees that will have cost their parents, or the public, or the banks some $400,000 dollars, all we’ll have to show for the money are kids so emotionally weak and high strung that they can’t sit finals because of headlines? Oy!”

4. Jonathan Gruber. The mainstream media has worked hard to hide Jonathan Gruber from the public, but he’s starting to leak out here and there. And what’s leaking is really ugly. This is an MIT economics professor who freely admits to lying to the American people on behalf of the federal government, adding that it’s easy to do thanks to the Peoples’ collective “stupidity.” Worse, for his work finagling the stupid American people, Gruber hauled in millions of dollars from both federal and state governments. When forced to appear before Congress, since he was unwilling to admit to collaborating in a vast fraud against the American people, all the Professor Gruber had to say for himself was that, despite his academic stature, he was (and is) an arrogant little man desperate to elevate himself by denigrating others. Hey, Mr. and Mrs. Parent, and all you taxpayers: Your money is being used to pay Gruber’s salary — and he’s probably not the only awful Ivy League professor.

5. Ben Edelman. And right on time, speaking of awful Ivy League professors, there comes Harvard Business School Professor (and Harvard Law Grad and Harvard undergrad) Ben Edelman. When this Ivy League darling discovered a $4.00 discrepancy between the online price at a Chinese restaurant and what he ended up paying, he was mad. Really mad. First he wrote the restaurant, which offered a refund. Not good enough. Then he wrote the restaurant again, and the restaurant promised to update its website. Then he wrote the restaurant again, demanding $12, explaining that the multiplier was to punish the restaurant and to compensate him for his consumer angst.

Edelman quickly became a laughing stock across America’s social media. He tried to sell himself as a consumer crusader, but Americans know an a-hole when they see one. And for Americans, his a-holeness was exacerbated by his overwhelming Ivy League credentials. This is a guy born with a silver spoon in his mouth, who somehow managed the amazing feat of having that same spoon migrate up his derriere.

6. BDS hits the Ivies. Harvard Law School’s food service division allowed itself to reveal its antisemitism and, in the spirit of “BDS” (the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction aimed at bankrupting Israel), banned all Soda Stream products from the hallowed dining halls. Soda Stream, as you know, is an Israeli company which — horrors! — employs Palestinians, who work alongside Israelis, with all of them receiving a living wage. Can’t have that in academe. Across the social networks, middle class Jewish parents, most of whom believe Harvard can do no wrong, were up in arms. Harvard’s president, recognizing bad press when he sees it, quickly reversed the Soda Stream ban. One hopes, though, that Jewish parents, who have been assiduous in rejecting any claims that America’s elite colleges are probably more antisemitic than they were 100 years ago, might realize that there’s a cancer in the Ivy League.

For those of us paying attention to sites such as Campus Watch, Campus Reform, and FIRE, stories about feminist misanthropy, about the banishment of truth and free speech, about “microaggressions,” about the anti-white narrative, about hardcore Leftism, and about antisemitism are same old, same old. However, with these six stories hitting the news virtually simultaneously, perhaps a new cohort will figure out that there’s something very rotten in the state of America’s over-priced institutions of higher education.

The Bookworm Beat 12/8/14 — Monday evening wrap-up and open thread

Woman writingNo time for an intro. I’ll just head straight for snark and links:
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The so-called “campus rape epidemic” reveals that our best and brightest are dumb and immoral

Rolling Stones rape storyMany bytes and pixels have been generated to discuss the veracity of Rolling Stone’s article about an alleged gang rape that University of Virginia fraternity members committed against a freshman two years ago.  I don’t think much needs to be said anymore about the truth of the specific allegations.  To those of us used to assessing evidence, it was clear from the beginning that the story couldn’t hold water.  Once the fraternity alleged to be behind the rape proved conclusively, with actual facts, that there was no party on the night alleged and could not have been a party on the night alleged, the whole story fell apart like a cheap paper plate at a barbecue.

What interests me today are a couple of defenses mounted by peers of “Jackie,” the alleged rape victim.  Both of these defenses show an intellectual mushiness that’s very disturbing to anyone who cherishes a last, faint hope that America’s institutions of higher learning are teaching young people the art of thinking.  Both of them, in fact, show the art of non-thinking — of being carried away on a tide of emotion and assumption — and a complete absence of moral decency.

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The Bookworm Beat (11/22/14) — Sad Saturday edition (and Open Thread)

Woman writingWhy is it a sad Saturday? Because I read an analysis of 2016 electoral prospects arguing that, while Republicans can definitely win Congress and state houses, the combination of huge Democrat-voting urban areas and the electoral college makes it impossible for Republicans to take the White House. I think that’s true. Unless voters in urban areas turn on the Democrats, what we’ll have as of 2015 — a Democrat president and slight-majority Congress — will be the status quo for a long time.

That makes me sad because it will mean that Barack Obama’s presidential legacy, both domestic and international, rather than being reversed and lost in history’s backwater, will last far into my, my children’s, and even my grandchildren’s future.  It’s not good for America and it’s not good for our traditional friends abroad.

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An utterly shattering video about the moral depravity of students at UC Berkeley

Israeli flagCal is my alma mater, something that I find to be a perpetual embarrassment.  It was bad in the 1970s and 1980s.  It’s infinitely worse in the second decade of the 20th century.  Watch what happens when a man waves an ISIS flag on campus and then compare it with the reactions when he waves the Israeli flag.

You know that expression “I spit up a little bit in my mouth,” which people use to give a graphic image of their disgust? I didn’t do that. After seeing this video, I wanted to do the full vomit:

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CERT — Bureaucratic teaching

CERT-LogoYesterday I completed the first half of my Community Emergency Response Team (“CERT”) training. CERT is a FEMA program that’s intended to give ordinary people some basic crisis management skills in the event of a natural or terrorist disaster. I ended up learning a fair amount, but it wasn’t thanks to the way the program was created or — with all due respect to the firefighters who taught it — the pedagogy.

Regarding the last, let me just say that it’s a reminder, as if I needed one, that most people aren’t very good teachers. A good teacher is an informed, logical thinker who is able to communicate his knowledge in an understandable and, if the students are lucky, interesting manner. The firefighters who taught our course clearly knew their stuff, and it was obvious that they were prepared for this teaching gig, but they simply weren’t born teachers. That’s okay. I don’t hold it against them. They were good people making their best efforts and for that I was grateful.

What I found distressing was the course’s structure and for this I blame the bureaucratic brains at FEMA. The class got wrong-footed instantly because it didn’t start with a course overview, explaining to the diverse group of citizens assembled in the room precisely what they would and would not learn.

A slight digression here: By diverse, I don’t mean that we had a carefully calibrated ratio of different skin colors, sexes, and sexual orientations, as if we were a class in any university in America. Instead, I mean that we were a self-selected group of people with different ages, backgrounds, socio-economic status, education, experience, and intelligence. That in itself was a good thing for me, because my neighborhood has a little bit of Lake Woebegone about it, insofar as all of the families are “above average” — people who don’t have an edge can’t afford to live in our community. It’s too easy living in my neighborhood to remember that not everyone communicates as well as we do or grasps concepts as quickly as we do. And now back to my main point.

If I had created this CERT program, I would have started with an introduction making the following points:

In most communities, professional responders are easily able to handle every day crises, ranging from heart attacks to freeway pileups. Occasionally, however, a community is hit by a mass disaster. These disasters can range from hurricanes to earthquakes to terrorist strikes. By definition, a mass disaster is one in which there are more injured than there are professional first responders and time is of the essence for locating and treating the injured and for neutralizing potential future injuries from downed power-lines, fires, more bombs, etc.

Human nature being what it is, when a mass disaster strikes, volunteers inevitably come forward to help within their own community. Studies of mass disasters have shown, however, that when these volunteers are untrained, they’re not as useful as they could be and, worse, they are often killed or injured themselves.

The purpose of this course is to teach you — people who plan to step forward to help yourself, your family, and others in your community in the event of a mass disaster — how to organize volunteers after a disaster; how to identify ongoing danger spots, put out fires, and isolate downed power lines and other ongoing hazards until emergency services can show up; how to locate and provide basic care for injured people; and how to perform triage (i.e., classify victims by the severity of their injuries) so that, when professional first responders are able to appear, they are immediately able to treat the injured and clear the community of further hazards.

That’s what you’ll learn during this 18 hour class. What you will not learn is first aid, including CPR. Additionally, this class will not organize your neighborhood for you. We encourage you to take a first aid class and to connect with others in your neighborhood so that you can get an emergency infrastructure in place, but that’s not what will happen here.

Instead of this overview, the class started by talking about CERT’s history.  This lesson was completely irrelevant, because it wasn’t framed so as to explain the scope of the class. The curriculum then muddled its way through various vague subjects that I can’t even remember now.  What was clear from the questions people asked throughout the class was that, without an introduction, the assembled students were often confused. Because none of the attendees knew the class’s boundaries, they wasted an enormous amount of time asking questions outside the scope of the class.  Meanwhile the firefighters teaching the class had a hard time answering these questions, because they didn’t know how to address the fact that the questions exceeded the seminar’s limitations.

This “overview” failure continued throughout the class. Later in the day,, the instructors plunged into a lesson about the all important Incident Command System without first explaining to people what it was and how it worked. Again, before teaching the module, I would have taken a couple of minutes to give an intro and, by doing so, no doubt would have saved at least a half-hour dealing with subsequent student confusion.  My intro would have gone along these lines:

In a crisis, being organized can sometimes be the difference between life and death. Over the years, first responders and the military have created and refined an organizational system called the “Incident Command System” or ICS. It’s basically a pyramid system with one leader at the top of the heap. Beneath him are teams that have responsibility for specific tasks. These teams, in turn, can be broken down into more specific sub-teams.

With the exception of the team leader, which is usually a solo position, each team is made of between 3-7 people, with 5 being the perfect number. In order to keep confusing chatter down, and to prevent conflicting decisions and the spread of misinformation, communications go strictly up and down the pyramid. The ICS leader will talk to the team leaders immediately below him; those team leaders will talk to the leaders of the sub-teams and so on, all the way down. Ultimately, information flows up to the ICS leader, and assignments flow down from him.

We’ll show you how, in a mass emergency, CERT volunteers can immediately create an ICS that harnesses the knowledge of other CERT volunteers, as well as the abilities and efforts of other, untrained volunteers. The best thing that can happen after this class is for you to return to your neighborhood and begin creating an ICS structure now, so that it’s in place in the event of a mass emergency. However, as you’ll see, you can instantly create one of these systems at the scene of an emergency.

I’m writing this on the fly, and after first learning about the ICS system only yesterday, so forgive my mistakes. My point, though, is that you cannot intelligently teach volunteers about the ICS approach to crisis management without explaining its purpose or giving an overview of its function. Because the CERT program (foolishly, in my opinion), instantly plunges into details, half the room was very confused.

I use the word “half” with precision. A voluntary gathering such as a CERT training class is a reminder that an IQ of 100 is average, with half the people in a random crowd having, on average, only a two-digit IQ. I don’t say this to be arrogant. IQ is only one type of intelligence. I happen to function well in an environment that demands a high IQ, but I’d fail miserably in a setting that demands a high emotional intelligence, mechanical intelligence, artistic intelligence, athletic intelligence, or any other type of mental skill set other than dealing with abstract ideas. When you’re dealing with people whose strength isn’t abstract ideas, you must make a special effort to be clear and organized in your presentation.  Drifting into myriad incomprehensible details makes things unreasonably difficult.

The program bogged down again when it came to triage. It quickly turned out that the people assembled in the classroom thought that they were responsible for first aid as a subset of triage. Everyone was ready to dive in with CPR and goodness knows what else. That, too, should have had a quick overview:

One of the most important services CERT volunteers can perform during a mass emergency is to (a) try to stabilize people who are unable to breathe, are bleeding out, or are going into shock and (b) to classify the injured so that, when the professional first responders finally arrive, they can immediately treat the most seriously injured people first without having to do the sorting process themselves.

Triage is not the same as first aid. One of the most significant differences is that you will not learn here CPR and you are not expected to perform it at the scene of a disaster. When casualties are lining up, it’s much more important to sort people, and to treat for bleeding, shock, or airway blockage than it is to attempt to give one person CPR. Sadly, doing the greatest good for the greatest number of people sometimes means turning your back on a single heart attack victim so that you can said (and save) several more people.

In this segment of the class you will learn how to identify and provide basic care for the three most common causes of death in a mass disaster: airway blockage, excessive bleeding, and shock. You will also learn how to classify the injured as walking wounded (who are able to care for themselves or even care for others); those who need delayed care (while they cannot care for themselves or others, their lives are not at risk); and those who need immediate care (those whose injuries are so severe that they are at risk of death or permanent, grave injury if a medical professional cannot see them). You’ll also learn how to recognize when someone has died for triage purposes (which is different from the standard used in a hospital during ordinary care), and how to handle the fact of that person’s death.

And with that introduction, the teachers would have been able to cut at least 30 minutes off of confusing instruction time.

Ultimately, the triage lesson proved to be very interesting, as we learned out to deal with shock, airway obstruction, and bleeding, as well as practicing basic carries.  Next week we learn how to search a structure safely and how to put out fires, among other things.  I expect to enjoy myself and come away with a great deal of useful information.  But I also expect to come away frustrated at the inefficient way in which this information is conveyed.  And as the title of my post suggests, I can’t help but think that the problem with this muddled, vague teaching system is that it’s the product of a bureaucratic committee, rather than a gifted educator.

American universities do their best to spread Lena Dunham’s sexually perverse childhood culture

film critics association arrivals 160111I think it’s safe to say that Lena Dunham, who drops her clothes at every opportunity, falls dead center into the dictionary definition of someone with compulsive exhibitionism: “Psychiatry. a disorder characterized especially by a compulsion to exhibit the genitals in public.”  Given her predilection for letting it all hanging out physically, it’s hard to imagine that Lena was plagued by any doubts that she might be revealing too much information.  So Lena spilled, and spilled, and spilled some more.

What Lena didn’t realize is that her comfort with exhibitionism — both physical and mental — is a product of the bubble in which she lives.  Kevin Williamson, having read her autobiography, summarizes that bubble with savage accuracy:

Lena Dunham is fond of lists. Here is a list of things in Lena Dunham’s life that do not strike Lena Dunham as being unusual: growing up in a $6.25 million Tribeca apartment; attending a selection of elite private schools; renting a home in Hollywood Hills well before having anything quite resembling a job and complaining that the home is insufficiently “chic”; the habitual education of the men in her family at Andover; the services of a string of foreign nannies; being referred to a homework therapist when she refused to do her homework and being referred to a relationship therapist when she fought with her mother; constant visits to homeopathic doctors, and visits to child psychologists three times a week; having a summer home on a lake in Connecticut, and complaining about it; writing a “voice of her generation” memoir in which ordinary life events among members of her generation, such as making student-loan payments or worrying about the rent or health insurance, never come up; making casual trips to Malibu; her grandparents’ having taken seven-week trips to Europe during her mother’s childhood; spending a summer at a camp at which the costs can total almost as much as the median American family’s annual rent; being histrionically miserable at said camp and demanding to be brought home early; demanding to be sent back to the same expensive camp the next year.

In this bubble, sexual obsessions and acting out are normative, not unusual. Comfortably ensconced in her elitist bubble, Lena felt entirely comfortable describing her childhood sexuality. In her world, that prepubescent sexual experimentation and curiosity extended far beyond the “you show me yours and I’ll show you mine” curiosity that most little kids display. Instead, Lena aggressively used her much younger sister as her own private sex toy. Again, Williamson explains:

And they [her parents] were, in their daughter’s telling, enablers of some very disturbing behavior that would be considered child abuse in many jurisdictions — Lena Dunham’s sexual abuse, specifically, of her younger sister, Grace, the sort of thing that gets children taken away from non-millionaire families without Andover pedigrees and Manhattanite social connections. Dunham writes of casually masturbating while in bed next to her younger sister, of bribing her with “three pieces of candy if I could kiss her on the lips for five seconds . . . anything a sexual predator might do to woo a small suburban girl I was trying.” At one point, when her sister is a toddler, Lena Dunham pries open her vagina — “my curiosity got the best of me,” she offers, as though that were an explanation. “This was within the spectrum of things I did.”

Dunham describes herself as an “unreliable narrator,” which in the context of a memoir or another work of purported nonfiction means “liar,” strictly construed. Dunham writes of incorporating stories from other people’s lives and telling them as though they were her own, and of fabricating details. The episode with her sister’s vaginal pebbles seems to be especially suspicious. When Dunham inspects her sister’s business, she shrieks at what she sees: “Grace had stuffed six or seven pebbles in there. . . . Grace cackled, thrilled that her prank had been such a success.” Dunham’s writing often is unclear (willfully so, it seems), but the context here — Grace has overheard her older sister asking whether her baby sister has a uterus — and Grace’s satisfaction with her prank suggest that Grace was expecting her older sister to go poking around in her genitals and inserted the pebbles in expectation of it. Grace is around one year old at the time of these events. There is no non-horrific interpretation of this episode. As for stroking her mother’s vagina, having mistaken it for her hairless cat . . .

About those parents. . . . Williamson describes Carroll Dunham, Lena’s father, as “a painter noted for his primitive brand of highbrow pornography, his canvases anchored by puffy neon-pink labia.” Those words, while blunt, don’t do justice to the profound ugliness of Dunham’s work. Let me try to put that ugliness in context.  Back in the 1930s and 1940s, pin-up artist Alberto Vargas definitely objectified women.  He drew hundreds of pin-up images for American men — especially American troops, during WWII — to enjoy.  Significantly, he created these images with a true reverence for feminine beauty. His manifest admiration for the female form seems not just old-fashioned, but wholesome when compared to Dunham’s work.

If Vargas had raised a daughter, she would have grown up knowing that her father felt this way about women:

Alberto Vargas woman in swimsuit

As it was, poor Lena grew up knowing that her father feels this way about women (as seen by a screen grab of Dunham’s own website):

Carroll Dunham website screen grab

As a woman, I feel traumatized just looking at those images. Indeed, if Dunham were anything but a card-carrying New York Progressive, it would be very tempting to characterize those crude drawings as part of a sick rape culture that objectifies women.

Can you imagine how you’d feel being the daughter of the man who uses and sees women in that way?  Add to this the fact that Dunham’s mother liked to have nude shots of her own crotch displayed on the condominium walls, and you get the feeling that poor Lena had a childhood that, while gilded, was probably just as distorted sexually as that of a little girl raised in a whore house.  In both settings, women are certainly central and celebrated, but it’s for all the wrong reasons.

For a child, of course, the familiar is normal, so it’s not at all strange that Dunham embraced her parents’ sexual obsessions when she lived in their house.  What’s tragic, though, is that Dunham was never able to escape them.  Ordinarily, one would think that, when she left home to go to college, she would learn that this is type of explicit, all-encompassing, predatory sexuality is not the norm.  Instead, though, Dunham went off to a university system that has embraced her natal culture and is working hard to bring it to every American home.

The phenomenon known as campus sex week seeks to convince those American college students who did not grow up in homes that had pictures of Mom’s crotch and Dad’s misogyny on the wall that the most extreme examples of non-traditional sex ought to move to the center of American culture rather than being hidden at the fringes.  And so it that Harvard University — a place that once churned out people who,even if not very educated, had a certain degree of class — now offers seminars in anal sex.  To my way of thinking, if Mommy and Daddy feel that their child’s education isn’t complete without learning about the final details of anal sex, they can probably download that information for free from the internet to give to junior, rather than spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in tuition for a four year indoctrination in Marxism and non-mainstream sexual practices.

These same kids, once released from college, take up the sexual proselytizing with a vengeance.  They head to the big Blue cities, and happily participate in, observe, or applaud slut walks, topless dykes on bikes, nude street fairs, and all sorts of other genitalia displays in American popular culture.  In other words, just as Dunham’s bubble remained intact going from home to college, it’s kept its integrity going from college to her professional life as a writer, actress, and activist, all within bluest of blue Hollywood.

No wonder, then, that Dunham became extremely upset when both Kevin Williamson and Truth Revolt looked at her narrative, and instead of viewing her as hip and edgy, which was the reaction she’d been schooled to expect (pun intended), instead offered their own descriptions for her childhood conduct:  predatory and abnormal.  Up until she revealed her sexual upbringing to the larger public, Lena had managed to live for 24 years being celebrated for her sexual adventures.  It must have been a terrible shock to her to realize that, even as Mummy and Daddy and her college were all encouraging her sexual experimentation, large swathes of America would look at her conduct and say “If you lived in a trailer on the wrong side of the tracks, your parents would have been in prison and you would have been sent into the juvenile justice system.”  Suddenly, Lena’s bubble has burst.

One other thing, which doesn’t quite fit into the essay above, but that is related to Lena’s description of her relentless sexual attacks against her much younger sister:  Although no one wants to do these studies anymore, because they’re very politically incorrect, studies in the 1980s and 1990s strongly indicated a correlation between childhood sexual abuse and becoming homosexual.  In this context, it’s probably meaningless, but nevertheless interesting, that Dunham’s sister, the one on whom Dunham sexually experimented with predatory zeal, is lesbian.

The American college application process reveals a bias against paid work

Harold Lloyd in the Freshman

We’ve come a long way since Harold Lloyd, in 1925, starred in “The Freshman”

The college application process is at the forefront of my brain because one of the little Bookworms is applying to college. It’s been a very laborious process, because Mr. Bookworm is more motivated than the Little Bookworm is.

Both Mr. Bookworm and Little Bookworm want to see Little Bookworm head to a good college. Their preparation styles for the process, though, are so wildly different that they clash into each other, effectively neutralizing each other. Mr. Bookworm pushes constant focus on the process, so Little Bookworm recoils. Little Bookworm demands help, so Mr. Bookworm backs off. Yet, even as they engage in a complex action and reaction pattern, each has the same goal. And so it goes, while the deadline draws ever nearer.

I’m kind of staying out of this, partly because I know that my interference will turn me into a scapegoat for both of them, should things go badly. More than that, though, I think that, if Little Bookworm can’t get through the application in a timely fashion, Little Bookworm probably isn’t ready for college. The way I see it, taking a year or two off to work, earn money, and grow up would be a better alternative than stumbling at great expense into the wilderness of America’s college system, unprepared and immature. The eventual college would benefit too, since a more mature, responsible, self-sufficient student must be an asset to any educational institution.

Except that it turns out I’m all wrong. A young relative of mine who has a business aiding kids with their college applications (and who has been helping us out, God bless her) told me that, while colleges are increasingly accepting of a “gap year” (or two) between high school and college, they do not view as an advantage a year spent working, learning responsibility, earning money, seeing how the real world functions, and maturing.  Instead, to the colleges, a productive year in the real world is considered a weird from of slackerism. If you want to take a year off and maintain your college prospects, you’d do well to pack a backpack and hitchhike randomly through Europe or to go to some small village in nowhere Latin America or (until Ebola) nowhere Africa, to foist your useless, entitled, immature self on self-respecting indigenous people, telling them how to live their lives.

Is it just me, or does this sound like our educational institutions have a bass ackwards sense of values?

Here’s the one other thing I find interesting about the application process. Let me begin by explaining that a huge number of American universities accept applications through something called “The Common Application” or “the Common App.” The Common App is an online form that students fill out with data about grades, class ranking, honors and AP classes, extracurricular activities, awards, volunteer work, sports accomplishments, and job history. This part of the Common App doesn’t ask for the applicant’s racial or religious information.

The Common App also has five essay prompts, from which the student picks one, all aimed at helping the university see what kind of person the student is outside of test scores and grades. This year’s prompts are as follows:

Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?

Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?

Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?

Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

Although all students can respond to the first prompt, I view it as carefully phrased invitation to students who are not white, heterosexual, and male to identify their particular victim category. Or maybe I’m just paranoid and cynical when I read so much into the question But I’m pretty sure I’m not being paranoid or cynical at all when I see in the list of additional questions one university asks (and all universities are allowed to require applicants to write “supplemental” questions) a question asking the applicants to explain their names. The girl named “Jane” won’t have a lot of explaining to do. However, the girl named “Latik’shanw’a” probably will, as will the boy named “Juan Carlos” or the transgendered person who explains “I was Michael, but now I’m Michelle.” And yes, I’ve gotten very cynical, but I know that universities are doing anything they can to get around voter imposed restrictions on affirmative action.

At this point, I know all of you are thinking Hillsdale, Hillsdale, Hillsdale, but for a long list of reasons, that’s not going to happen.  I will say, though, that Little Bookworm’s top choice is one of the less crazy American institutions of higher education.