VDH diagnoses the structural problems that have killed American higher education

UC-Berkeley_CampusWithout exception, all of the structural flaws VDH identifies in America’s higher education were already problems when I was at Berkeley, and they explain why I hated my experience at Berkeley so much.  The only difference is that, back in the day, when I attended lectures given by bored tenured professors reading off of their yellowed notes, and had my actual classes taught by underpaid teaching assistants, some of whom had only a glancing relationship with spoken English, I wasn’t burdening myself with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.  I left Cal with $4,600 in debt.  It was a large sum, but still proportional to what I could expect to earn with a generic liberal arts degree from a major university.

By the way, I said “killed” for a reason.  Those institutions are still standing, and hundreds of thousands of kids are applying to them, but the fact is that they’re rotting corpses that no longer educate, they indoctrinate.

Thoughts on the “terror threat” at Harvard

Sproul Hall, scene of numerous, unexecuted bomb threats

Sproul Hall, scene of numerous, unexecuted bomb threats

When I was at Cal, one of the great inconveniences was bomb threats against Sproul Hall, which was then (and I presume is now) Cal’s administrative building.  From my point of view, the scenario was unchanging:  I’d stand in an endless line in order to get or return some piece of paper that was essential to my academic career.  Sometimes I’d be waiting an hour or more.  And then, just as I got within spitting distance of the clerk’s window, the clerk would announce, “Sorry, there’s been a bomb threat.  Everyone needs to evacuate the building.”  Nobody panicked; everybody grumbled.  These bomb threats all had a “been there, done that” feeling about them.  As far as I know, no one has ever detonated a bomb at Berkeley, at least not since I first arrived there in 1979.

Not only was the bomb threat boring (although inconvenient) to me, it was to everyone else too, including the media.  These things never made  news.

Now, though, in our internet society, a bomb threat anywhere is big news everywhere.  Today’s Drudge headline is that there was a bomb scare at Harvard, and there’s a story at the WSJ about it.  While it used to take an actual explosion to make the media care, now all it takes is a phone call.

We all have the sense that we live in very scary times.  Indeed, I think that 9/11 shows that we do live in dangerous times, with determined enemies.  Islamists want to kill us, and they’ll do so with big attacks (9/11) or comparatively small ones (Fort Hood).

Having acknowledged that reality, though, it’s also necessary to acknowledge that a world-wide, 24-hour, instantly accessible media cycle means that things that we used to ignore or treat solely as local news are now presented to the public as immediate, imminent concerns in everybody’s back yard.  For once, I don’t blame the media for this.  They’re just doing their job in a reconfigured landscape.  I do wish, though, that there was some countervailing force or belief system that would quell the fear and panic we feel when we view a headline that, in the past, the media would probably have ignored.

Dems are troglodytes about women and self-defense, and they’re selling this as a virtue for the next election

Colorado State Rep. Joe Salazar’s ham-handed, even troglodyte, advice for campus women worried about rape came as no surprise to me.  My experiences at UC Berkeley thirty-odd years ago left me fully prepared for this Leftist approach to females and true self-defense, an approach that hides both misogyny and an overriding fear for the men involved in a potentially dangerous situation.

Long-ago, when I attended Cal, my economic situation  — too poor to afford on-campus housing, too middle-class to get meaningful financial aid — meant that I lived at home and commuted.  This was not an ideal way to attend college.  I spent an awful lot of time in transit and I had a hard time maintaining a social life (something made harder by the fact that I worked my way through college).

A significant chunk of my transit time was devoted to finding all-day parking and then walking to and from that parking.  The closer one got to campus, the more limited the parking options were:  there was resident-only parking, 30-minute parking, 1-hour parking, 2-hour parking, etc.  Since my job and my classes kept me on campus all day, I usually ended up parking between a mile and a mile-and-a-half away from my classes.  The walk, although time-consuming was pleasant, although less so if I had a lot of books to carry or it was raining.

In my senior year, however, things changed, because there was a rash of rapes and assaults on women near campus.  I was less than thrilled when, during winter’s early, dark afternoons, I had to walk to my car alone.

Since many women around this same time were unhappy about walking to their dorms, apartments, and cars alone, the campus police instituted an “escort service.”  With this service in place, women could go to the campus police office and an authorized man (I don’t know if they were employees or volunteers), armed with a walkie-talkie, would walk them to their destinations.

I immediately availed myself of the service — only to discover that it wasn’t a service at all. The deal was that these escorts were not allowed to exceed a half-mile radius.  The reason given was that their walkie-talkies didn’t work outside of that radius, so it was unsafe for them to go further. You got that, right?  It was unsafe for the men to exceed a half-mile radius but presumably more safe for the women to continue on their own.

The nice escorts would stand at their little boundary to listen in case they heard your screaming.  Frankly, I really didn’t feel that this auditory aid amounted to much.  You see, the reality of this so-called “escort service” was that I was left on my own on Berkeley’s dark and unfriendly streets.

Given the program’s manifest inadequacies, I rather quickly abandoned the whole notion of applying to the campus police for aid in getting to my car.  Not only was it unhelpful, it actually increased my risk.  Since there were only a few escorts available at any given time, I had to hang around the office waiting and waiting, even as the skies grew darker and the streets scarier.

This experience at UC Berkeley was the first time I ran headlong into the Progressive’s devotion to lip service over actual service.  They made lots of noise, but they cared more about men than about women, and more about image than reality.

Those unpleasant evenings on campus, when I felt alone and defenseless, returned to me in living color when I heard about Colorado State Rep. Joe Salazar’s bizarre advice to women facing a scary campus environment:

It’s why we have call boxes, it’s why we have safe zones, it’s why we have the whistles. Because you just don’t know who you’re gonna be shooting at. And you don’t know if you feel like you’re gonna be raped, or if you feel like someone’s been following you around or if you feel like you’re in trouble when you may actually not be, that you pop out that gun and you pop … pop around at somebody.

The gloss is that “he cares.”  The reality is that this ostensible “caring” is mere lip-service.  What Salazar carelessly let slip is the misogyny that underlies so much strident feminism (perfectly realized in this amalgam of this Koran and an anti-rape rally).  The Nanny state is built upon the elite’s belief that individuals cannot care for themselves, and nowhere is this more obvious than in the claim that women are incapable of recognizing danger or acting appropriate when they do recognize it.

Moreover, rather than worrying about high-risk women being hurt, Salazar is terribly worried that low-risk men will get hurt (“you just don’t know who you’re gonna be shooting at”).  Here’s the deal Rep. Salazar:  the good guys, the men who don’t rape, don’t stalk women and they don’t interview women (“Hey, babe, can you tell me the time?  No?  Too bad.  You’re cute.  You know you’re cute, don’t you?”).  What they do is to keep a respectful distance and attitude.  Do that, and you won’t get “popped.”

In other words, Salazar is my UC experience all over again:  lip-service and misogyny, wrapped up in a package of making sure that the men are safe.

It’s not just Salazar, of course.  Looking at this much-publicized advice from University of Colorado.  Apparently awed by the abilities its bulimic students have shown over the years, the university advises women who are threatened to vomit on demand (emphasis mine):

  1. Be realistic about your ability to protect yourself.
  2. Your instinct may be to scream, go ahead! It may startle your attacker and give you an opportunity to run away.
  3. Kick off your shoes if you have time and can’t run in them.
  4. Don’t take time to look back; just get away.
  5. If your life is in danger, passive resistance may be your best defense.
  6. Tell your attacker that you have a disease or are menstruating.
  7. Vomiting or urinating may also convince the attacker to leave you alone.
  8. Yelling, hitting or biting may give you a chance to escape, do it!
  9. Understand that some actions on your part might lead to more harm.
  10. Remember, every emergency situation is different. Only you can decide which action is most appropriate.

I especially like that first one:  “Be realistic about your ability to protect yourself.”  With that advice in mind, ask yourself this:  Am I more likely to protect myself against a power-hungry predator who may be hopped up on drugs by doing this?

Or by doing this?

By the way, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that Salazar’s going to be humiliated about this one.  Although the conservative blogosphere is pointing fingers, liberals who were outraged by Todd Akin’s stupid rape quote are perfectly fine with Salazar’s stupid and demeaning advice to women.

And why not?  They agree with it.  Moreover, their agreement matters because, just as the Dems used Akin and women to give Obama that last little push he needed to get into the White House, Dems are planning that same strategy with women and guns.  They’re already starting the “women who love their communities hate guns” trope, which we can expect to get worse with time.

Long-essays like mine are great at educating women about guns and warning conservatives about future gun attacks, right?  Oh, God no!  I wish.  In a short-attention span universe, I am a poison pill.  After the first paragraph, the average voter’s eyes are rolling back into her head, she’s reaching blindly for her TiVo clicker or her smart phone, and she’s totally tuned out.

The reality is that, in short-attention span America, we do not need long essays like mine.  I’m a pre-programmed essayist, though, and, sadly, I can’t seem to help myself.

What I’d love is to be more visual, so that I could create pithy posters or punchy videos that could easily be circulated on Twitter and Facebook, all of which drill home the same point:  guns make women safer, not less safe.

If you have photoshopped a poster that puts together gun statistics (such as these) in a clever, easy-to-see way, or you’ve created a video that does the same, let me know, and I’ll do my best to promote it.  Dems are already planning for the next election, so we need to as well.

A matched set, this time about young women, birth control, and sex

The American Academy of Pediatrics has a plan.  To protect your daughter from . . . you, it wants all girls who could be sexually active (that means every girl 10 or older) to have her own personal stash of “Plan B,” aka “the morning after pill:

During Thanksgiving week the American Academy of Pediatrics announced its recommendation that “morning after” prescriptions be issued to adolescent girls as a matter of course, allowing them the false security of what has long been described by advocates as a “fire extinguisher” in their purse to counter at least some of the consequences of risky behavior. “There’s no good reason” why there should not be follow-through on the recommendation, the San Francisco Chronicle asserts.

This is a heinous idea at so many levels.  I freely concede that there are young women out there who have the profound misfortune to be the daughters of abusive or unloving parents.  But I’m willing to bet that most young women have parents who love them.  The AAP is taking a problem for a minority of young women and trying to create a disaster for the majority of young women.  This is a plan that alienates young women from those who care for them most deeply — their parents:

“Girls often need support in order to avoid coercive early sexual activity, and the support of parents and medical providers is critical to enabling them to make healthy decisions,” [Anna] Halpine [founder of the World Youth Alliance and CEO of the FEMM (Fertility Education and Medical Management) Foundation] observes. “Girls want to be loved, not just used, and being affirmed in their pursuit of education and long-term dreams is a necessary part of the empowerment of any girl. Happiness is not an illusion; there are concrete things that can be done to achieve it, and explaining that to our girls is our responsibility and obligation. As the hookup culture grows ever more pervasive, it is matched by rising rates of female depression. We need to take these indicators of our young women’s development seriously, and make sure that we provide them with clear messages that help them fulfill their potential and achieve their dreams.”

Yes.  Yes, and more yes.  The government doesn’t care about my daughter, but I do.  The government cares about masses and batches of people, and the more dependent on the government they are, the better.

The government doesn’t only have no interest in young people when it comes to their emotional needs, it also doesn’t care about their physical needs.  Hormones are powerful medicines.  Every woman knows that the pill can interfere with the basic biologic function of pregnancy.  Most women know that the pill can bloat them and make them moody.  A significant number of women know that the pill can make them vomit uncontrollably.  The pill is also a not-so-rare factor in blood clots and strokes.  This is powerful stuff.  Girls who need parental permission to get their ears pierced or their bodies tanned are going to be handed hormones in sufficient doses to mess with their body’s natural functions.  Why aren’t more people outraged?

I’m not done yet, though, because I promised you a matched set.  Here’s the match:

The elite University of California, Berkeley has seen a blow to its uber-serious reputation with a controversial article from a student boasting about her marathon campus sex sessions.

Nadia Cho’s detailed account was part of her weekly column in The Daily Californian, Berkeley’s independent, student-run newspaper.

Cho writes that she and an unnamed male student started their romp in Berkeley’s library, Main Stacks, the day before Thanksgiving, when the campus was ‘marvellously empty’.

[snip]

But other students were in the library studying while the two performed and more than one student walked by them in mid-act, Cho writes.

She and her partner then moved into one of Berkeley’s classrooms, as she graphically describes.

‘Sex isn’t always about c****** and having orgasms. Sometimes it’s for s**** and giggles,’ she writes.

It’s impossible to imagine Cho’s attitude in a world where parents preach a loving, caring morality and birth control pills and abortifacients aren’t handed out like candy.  Again, I know that not all parents are loving, caring or even moral, and I know that many young women have sex without birth control or rely on things other than the pill, but the fact is that Cho is the product of a society that’s saturated in sex untethered to love, morality, family, or even plain old decency.

 

The horrors of a Leftist English teacher

The other day, Zombie put up a post that resonated with me on more levels than you can imagine.  It turns out that Zombie deciding to drop in on a lecture at UC Berkeley (my alma mater) to hear a lecture by an English as a Second Language, or ESL, professor (my father’s job), which was given in execrable English (my complaint about my children’s English teachers), and had as its point the moral necessity of using education to advance Leftist causes (my bête noire as a parent, a Berkeley grad, and a conservative in America).

You have to read Zombie’s post to believe it and, even after reading it, you might find it hard to believe. I’ll just say that my father, who worshiped the beauty of the English language and who believed that his job was to have his students speaking English, is probably rolling in his grave right about now.

Memories of life at UC Berkeley

Sproul Hall houses UC Berkeley’s administration.  Back in pre-computer days, when you wanted to get anything done (i.e., enroll in classes or get forms or whatever), you had to go to Sproul.  The lines at Sproul were always ridiculously long and slow.  Way too often, after I’d stood in line seemingly forever, just as I got to the window, the clerk would announce “We got a bomb threat and the building needs to be evacuated.”  Disconsolate, I’d drag my sorry self out of the building, knowing that I’d have to stand in line all over again (and that I probably wouldn’t get my first choice in classes).

I haven’t thought about those irritating little episodes in my life for a long time, but they suddenly flashed into my brain when I read about a recent rather unsuccessful effort to revive Sproul’s glory days:

Fourteen protesters who forced a lockdown at UC Berkeley’s Sproul Hall Friday afternoon to demand that Cal enroll more black and Latino students left on their own after three hours.

I so don’t miss Berkeley.

Just a quick thought about the UC tuition hike

The UC regents voted for a steep increase in tuition.   Some have pointed to the unedifying spectacle of whining middle class students taking to the streets to protest the tuition increase, since they prefer to have California’s working class, most of whom will not attend the school, bear the financial burden.  Although I agree in principle about California’s spoiled brats, I’m not sure that’s the right argument for the UC problem.  The point of public education is that everyone pays so that some may benefit — on the theory that those who benefit will contribute to society for the benefit of all.  Of course, what we actually have in California is a punitive tax system that means that those who actually benefit, if they’re smart, promptly leave the state, taking their skills, education and tax dollars with them.  But still, the theory is that the tax payers get a secondary benefit from having an educated class within their midst.

The real problem, I think, is the UC system itself.  I’ll freely admit that I last attended a UC college more than two decades ago, but I’m assuming the situation then has gotten worse, not better.  With the exception of three hugely talented teachers who brought their subjects alive, my Berkeley professors could easily be lumped into a single descriptive class:  Except for the three mentioned, none could teach worth a damn — that is, those who bothered teaching at all, as opposed to handing the task off to grossly underpaid graduate students, many of whom had only a limited grasp of the English language.  The professors would read from yellowed notes, or waffle on in monotones, sucking the life out of everything.  Despite their manifest limitations, because they published (remember:  publish or perish), they were tenured, and their pathetic inability to teach was irrelevant.

The beauty of tenure was that they were paid sooooo well.  Professors didn’t live middle class lives — they lived upper middle class lives.  They had houses in the Berkeley hills with expansive views of the San Francisco Bay.  Their kitchens were cleaned by the Hispanic help and their gardens groomed by the Japanese.  The fact that so many of these professors were Marxists was irrelevant to these delightful living arrangements.

If one queried the lavish way in which these state employees lived, one was told that Berkeley, to keep its world standing, needed to compete with such private facilities as Harvard or Yale.  I don’t know about that, but I do know that many professors at City College in San Francisco were doing a much better job teaching.  At the same time I took a mind-numbing art history class at Berkeley, my mom took the identical class (at least in terms of subject matter) at City College.  My teacher was a mumbling, boring drag.  Her teacher was a dynamo, who brought the class to life.  Whenever I had time, I’d go to his class, not my own.  He wasn’t at a world class institution, but he was a world class teacher — and there were so many like him.  Unburdened by the cachet of Berkeley, and the “publish or perish” imperative, these people simply got down to the job of actually teaching.

Another problem with Berkeley and tuition is the absolute garbage being taught.  Should anybody be paid to teach, on the taxpayer’s dime, the politically correct effluvia that flows from the Gender Women’s Studies department:

The Department of Gender and Women’s Studies offers interdisciplinary perspectives on the formation of gender and its intersections with other relations of power, such as sexuality, race, class, nationality, religion, and age. Questions are addressed within the context of a transnational world and from perspectives as diverse as history, sociology, literary and cultural studies, postcolonial theory, science, new technology, and art.

The undergraduate program is designed to introduce students to women’s studies, focusing on gender as a category of analysis and on the workings of power in social and historical life. The department offers an introduction to feminist theory as well as more advanced courses that seek to expand capacities for critical reflection and analysis and to engage students with varied approaches to feminist scholarship. The curriculum draws students into interdisciplinary analysis of specific gender practices in areas such as feminism in a transnational world, the politics of representation, feminist science studies, women and work, women and film, gender and health, and the politics of childhood.

The department offers an undergraduate major and minor. It also houses an undergraduate minor in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender studies, a program whose courses overlap productively with feminist and gender studies. Faculty in the department collaborate with an extensive group of extended faculty through the Designated Emphasis in Women, Gender and Sexuality, which provides graduate students across campus with a site for transdisciplinary learning and teaching. The department is now in the process of developing a Ph.D. Program in Transnational Studies of Women and Gender, which will involve faculty from a range of departments. The department fosters connections with scholars in feminist and sexuality studies throughout the campus by cross-listing courses, collaborating in research, and participating in the Gender Consortium, which links research and teaching units that focus on gender.

African Studies is equally bogus, functioning, not as a way for African-Americans to learn about their culture, but as an umbrella for Marxist theory. You don’t have to believe me.  You can convince yourself with a visit to the UC Berkeley African-Studies Events link.  Scroll down and click on “Robert Allen Celebrated: A 40th Anniversary Tribute to Black Awakening in Capitalist America.” I optimistically thought this would be a program about the benefits of capitalism for African-Americans (because I believe capitalism benefits all people, just as a rising tide lifts all boats). Silly me. At that link, you can hear audio files from the celebration. I know you’re hungering to hear about:

“Malcolm X and Robert Allen on Domestic (Neo-)Colonialism and Revolutionary Nationalism, and Black Awakenings as a seminal bridge between the ‘organic’ and ‘traditional’ intellectual traditions of activist-scholarship.”

or perhaps

“Colony Over-the-Rhine: Gentrification and Econocide.”

or even

“Social Justice and state crisis: Lessons for the future from the 1960s Black Liberation movement.”

This scholarship isn’t about enabling blacks, at taxpayer’s expense I might add, to advance in American society. Instead, it’s firmly intended s to keep blacks locked in the perpetual victim servitude of identity politics.

This kind of “academic material,” if I can dignify it with that title, is for hobbyists and obsessives, not for people nominally being educated for the benefit of (and at the expense of) the people of the State of California.  It’s equally easy to attack the other “politically correct” departments that populate the school, all providing the “mick” classes (i.e., Mickey Mouse or easy classes) that people with a high tolerance for BS will take, and that have absolutely nothing to do with a classical education of great thought, science, languages, history and, perhaps, world culture.

Students and taxpayers alike would benefit substantially if the UC system, rather than repeatedly imposing an ever greater burden on students and taxpayers alike, would actually examine its own flaws.  It should purge those who can’t teach (or at least stop pretending they’re teachers), and it should peel away the politically correct classes that weigh down the curriculum (at great expense) and focus on core education that benefits, not just the students, but the long-suffering people of California.

Here’s the way I would do it:  I would create a two tier UC system.  The bottom tier, primarily funded by taxpayers, would offer the same core curriculum that existed before the free speech movement, before Marxism and before political correctness ate away like a canker at the heart of the system.  This tier would focus on science, mathematics, history, languages, etc.  It would pretty much resurrect the 1958 (or thereabouts) catalog.  In this way, the state would still get the benefit of an educated class that, in theory, would then raise the whole tone of the state.

All other classes at UC would be a la carte, with students interested in them paying extra for the privilege of learning something outside of the core curriculum.  Those who want a basic education would get it.  Those who want more, would pay, either out of their parents pockets or, if they approached college as I did, by getting a job.  This approach would bring the marketplace into the mix, and allow the Regents, the state and the taxpayers see just how many people are actually willing to dig into their own pocket for “womyn’s studies” and Afro-centric Marxist victim classes.

Somehow, though, I think both taxpayers and students are going to be gouged in perpetuity in order to fund a significantly large group of Marxist professors intent on teaching identity politics papulum to our poor, vulnerable youth.