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Well, another university succumbs. It was nice knowing you UNC-Chapel Hill.

American higher education today is in dire straits. 

Once a bastion of free inquiry, reason, debate, the pursuit of knowledge, the preferred destination for bright ambitious Next Gen from around the world, much of academia is now afraid of its own students, captive to irrational ideology, political correctness, restrictions on free speech, cancel culture, racist ideas parading as anti-racism, sexual progressivism, irreligion, and jingoistic anti-Americanism. 

UC Boulder is making holding the values of BLM a non-negotiable condition for enrollment. Another step in the death march of Western universities from places exalting academic freedom to places suppressing thought and speech in the name of inclusive ideology. This university, by the way, received millions in state funds.

Central Michigan University is forcing a good professor to retire because he spoke the “N-word” while reading from a court document in class. The university would rather be “woke” than defend academic freedom, common sense, and academic excellence.

Penn State is replacing binary words and pronouns in course descriptions. This will increase both quality teaching and student learning? Many other universities are wasting time and intellectual capital on the same pursuit of purist vocabulary, eliminating use of “offensive” words like “picnic” or phrases like “rule of thumb.” 

Victor David Hanson says, “Today's universities and colleges bear little if any resemblance to postwar higher education. Even during the tumultuous 1960s, when campuses were plagued by radical protests and periodic violence, there was still institutionalized free speech. An empirical college curriculum mostly survived the chaos of the '60s. But it is gone now.”

“Imagine, Hanson notes, “a place where ‘diversity’ is the professed institutional ethos, while studies reveal that liberal faculty outnumber their conservative counterparts by over 10 to 1. Imagine a liberal place where in 2021 race can still be used as a criterion in selecting and rejecting applicants, choosing prospective dorm roommates, organizing segregated dorms and restricting access to special places on campus.”

Political activism now triumphs over empirical problem-solving.

The recently late, and great, professor Walter E. Williams said, “The bottom line is that more Americans need to pay attention to the miseducation of our youth and that miseducation is not limited to higher education.” He argued equity had replaced equality of opportunity and much of higher education today is little more than leftist brain washing.

Education and critical thinking are out. Indoctrination and victimhood are in. 

It’s all-the-more disheartening because it was so preventable.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2021    

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.    

American higher and now secondary and even elementary education are being swamped by “woke” people looking for things about which to be offended, claiming victimhood based upon race, gender, or class, and seeking to install their propaganda at the expense of liberal education.

Universities like Princeton, Cornell, Rutgers, Northwestern, to name a few, are trying to outdo one another in proclaiming their racismabject apologies, and kowtowing to the new woke ideology. Their political correctness knows no limits.  Even elementary schools are being required to embrace Black Lives Matter racist propaganda.

The more woke education becomes the more it declines, turns in on itself, and implodes. Education is no longer perceived as a place of free inquiry and exchange of ideas to advance knowledge but as a political battleground where the Left vies for the minds of America’s youth.  It’s what one commentator called the “Great American Awokening.”

Leftists—not classical Liberals who actually believe in freedom—promote “wokeness,” to the point they don’t discuss but make demands, which turns them into tyrannical bullies. They attack and demean, destroy reputations, get people fired, and tear down history and tradition, offering racist solutions in the name of “anti-racism,” an ironic lack of self-awareness.

Woke education leftists are anti- intellectual. They believe misogyny, racism, and bigotry characterize all whites and American systems, which they say are ipso facto against women and non-binary people, affirm patriarchy, binary gender roles, and heteronormativity and thus further exclusivity, classism, racism.  They argue these terrible discriminations are irredeemably embedded in all structures, systems, and institutions (which themselves are setting on “stolen land,” rooted in historic colonization and white supremacy), so they cannot be changed, repaired, reformed, or saved. So they must be “burned down.”

So in the end, woke education is about little more than destruction in the interest of power.

I spent 34 years in higher education. Loved every minute of it. I hold a Ph.D. in political science and to this day appreciate the critical thinking, energetic grad school seminars discussing world issues, the joy of learning, the feeling nothing was beyond our ability to comprehend, and the great camaraderie with other academics. But alas that campus culture is mostly gone and what’s left of it is fast disappearing.

This is an harbinger of worse to come, because what happens in the university does not stay there. It turns up in a few years in society and culture. This is what we are witnessing now, 20-somethings who’ve been sold a bill of goods, who despise their heritage, reject its gifts, and offer no better alternative. And worse, none of this makes them feel better. They are in fact full of anxiety, fragile, and ill-prepared for life.

Woke education is not just ill-advised. It is threatening, dangerous, damaging, and destructive.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2020

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.

I wrote an article that was just posted this week. It's called Why America Should Revisit Civic Education. I sincerely believe we're going to pay a severe price if we do not resurrect civic education. 

Learning about one’s country and what makes it a distinctive nation, learning about this nation’s ideals and achievements past should be a key part of an American youth’s upbringing. And it used to be, but not so much anymore. Yet learning to act like a citizen does not just happen.

Survey after survey demonstrate that each generation of American citizens understand less of what it means to be a citizen, as opposed to simply a subject. We no longer grasp the essentials of republican government, we can’t list president’s names, let alone explain who did what and why it was important. Worse, as a culture we no longer have a clear sense of what it means to be an American, which creates problems for us at home—for example, the immigration issue—and abroad—for example, knowing who and who not to befriend.

Civic education that once played a prominent role in elementary and secondary education needs a transfusion of support and passion. We need to help our youth rediscover the beauty of America’s founding ideals. We need to help them reinvigorate the hope that it is possible to design a government in which free and thinking people can decide what is best and pursue it.

Without this effort, at risk is a nation of, by, and for the people. Without meaningful civic education, at risk long-term is life, liberty, freedom of worship, and the pursuit of happiness.

To me these ideals are too rare and too precious to risk them further. We must teach America’s wonderful heritage. This is not civil religion. It’s civic education for the good of all.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2012

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

Tenure is a sacred word in higher education. But its long-standing dominance in academia may be coming to an end, in part due to mounting financial pressures facing college and university administrators across the country. Actually, it’s more than that: tenure will eventually come under review because municipal and state budgets are upside-down and must be cut to re-establish some kind of financial sanity—education is a part of the pie.

Boards of trustees, school boards, and legislators are reconsidering the wisdom of continuing to create an administratively untouchable class of employees whose compensation acts as a “negative endowment” upon the institution, especially when these personnel retire. Citizens are wondering why individuals employed to serve the public good are granted greater benefits, higher average salaries, extended time off, and contracts for life while the rest of us have to work for a living.

Tenure may be earned by fulltime faculty members, usually after they’ve taught five or six years, when they demonstrate knowledge of their discipline, ability to write and publish research, and one would hope, positive student feedback, and teaching competency. Assuming this is so, faculty peers who consider evaluated colleagues worthy of a long-term commitment may recommend them to the institution for tenure.

Tenured faculty members can pretty much consider themselves employed for life or good behavior. Tenure is a legally defined “property right” that once extended can only be retracted through due process. While it’s possible to release a tenured faculty member for cause, the process is fraught with emotional and legal hurdles, so it is rare indeed.

Tenure originated in the Middle Ages as a means of protecting teachers from arbitrary professional harm. It’s called “academic freedom,” the idea a professor can pursue a line of inquiry or propound views that may not be considered acceptable by others, who may be in a position to suppress the ideas or fire the professor for holding to “wrong views.” In some notable examples the idea has worked.

Meanwhile, about two-thirds of faculty members nationally do not hold tenure. As non-tenure track adjuncts they teach heavy loads, are compensated less, and yet for the most part serve students well and otherwise perform admirably. They do not enjoy the protections of the special one-third.

I should note that tenured faculty members are not a recently discovered new “enemy,” or at least they shouldn’t be considered such. Tenured faculty members in general are not the problem. And among the two-thirds non-tenured professors many are cultivating notable careers. It’s the few among them who abuse the system who are the problem, and even more, it’s the system itself that’s become unnecessary and financially unsustainable.

Tenure is now more about job security than academic freedom. I say this because there is so much case law and other precedent protecting freedom of speech or expression that faculty members are well protected as citizens of these United States. Tenure acts more often as a protection of position than ideas.

Tenure reduces accountability and undermines competitive incentives—faculty peer reviews can come under great pressure to overlook problems and endorse a suspect colleague. When this happens, the system helps perpetuate poor professors, thus robbing students of the high caliber their high education costs should give them the right to expect.

Tenure creates highly inflexible financial and operational commitments for institutions that can no longer maintain them. If an institution needs to reposition its workforce for better productivity or if an institution needs to reduce the size of its workforce, tenure gets in the way. In fact, tenure protects the highest paid teachers, which translates to lower paid teachers taking the brunt of cuts even if at least some of them may be better in-classroom instructors. Tenure protects teachers in disciplines supporting majors students may no longer want, so schools are left with faculty/student ratios that can’t support the program but can’t be changed.

Tenure isolates faculty and reinforces disciplinary values rather than institutional values. So if they’re so inclined, faculty can teach the way they wish and no longer respond to administrative influence, much less directives, to improve pedagogy or increase excellence. They can focus more on advancing within their professional disciplines than upon teaching.

Tenure is an impediment to academic excellence. Even if it must be phased out via new hires, I’d argue public or private secondary schools and low endowed postsecondary institutions interested in surviving should eliminate tenure, which no longer protects academic freedom. It just protects poor teaching and poor teachers.

In lieu of tenure, institutions can put in place longer contracts, sometimes called “term tenure,” of up to five years. They can tie professor advancement and salaries to actual in-class teaching excellence, not solely advanced degrees and most of all, not simply seniority. They can reward excellence and achievement in a multitude of other ways short of granting employment for life.

Tenure isn’t evil. It’s just a system that’s seen its day and should be set aside. Like cutting taxes, an act that first seems to produce less will in a short time produce more—competitive excellence and financially sound institutions. Most of the rest of the workforce outside teaching does quite nicely without tenure. Education can too.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

In a recent book entitled Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses lead author Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa claim nearly half of American undergraduates evidence no significant academic gains in their first two years of college.

The researchers also noted students spend 50% less time studying than students a few decades ago. Some 50% said they never took a class wherein they wrote 20 or more pages.

Arum and his co-author's research results are discouraging but not surprising. In fact, I find it interesting Arum described the results as “really kind of shocking.” If he means he’s appalled, than I understand. If he means he and other researchers or faculty members in general were unaware of this trend, than I think he must live in an academic bubble. People in higher education have watched these trends for years, but like the growing national debt, not much has been done about them—at least not the things most likely to turn trends in a productive direction.

Higher education has become a huge bureaucracy with its own rhythms, power structures, and focus on means over ends. There’s still much good, but there’s even more that’s not so good. After more than thirty-four years “in the biz,” I’d offer three critiques of American higher education generally:

--Public and private institutions without commitment to Christian or religious worldviews have become “multi-versities” with no coherent over-arching paradigm. There’s no “uni” left. Faculties dispense information as facts but do not provide students with a philosophic overview or set of wisdom principles by which to organize, evaluate, and apply the information/facts.

--A significant majority of faculty members in most institutions have earned tenure and, while it’s not true of all, many if not most professors teach what and the way they will and no longer respond to administrative influence, much less directives, to improve pedagogy or increase excellence. They focus more on advancing within their professional disciplines, which requires research and writing, than upon teaching. Yes, there’s a lot of noise about excellence (every institution of higher learning claims to be excellent) and committees sometimes spend months on the subject, but in the end, most professors do their thing much like they always have. Tenure shields them from accountability, robs them of incentive, and reinforces mediocrity.

Both of these higher education characteristics undermine learning. But declines in student learning are not solely the responsibility of academia. These declines are rooted in American culture too.

--We no longer demand or expect a strong work ethic or excellent work. From family room to courtroom, we’ve established innumerable obstacles for academic authorities to negotiate even if they want to place higher demands upon students. Students are, therefore, protected within a zone of laxity. At home, we don’t teach students restraint, a sense of personal limits, respect for authority, or accountability, so schools and schoolwork that used to benefit from these cultural characteristics are now no longer reinforced.

The result of all this is that generations are coming to adulthood without maturity—some don’t even know what maturity is—and worse, with a sense the world owes them rather than they owe the world.

If higher education is to produce greater returns on students’ first two years of investment, several reforms must be implemented:

--In colleges and universities, resurrect and implement cohesive “meta-narrative” approaches to education—even if not specifically Christian or religious, schools should define themselves and expect faculty members to support their school’s philosophy of education. Tie state disbursements to whether this gets done, gets implemented, and is owned and applied by school faculty.

--Even if it must be phased out via new hires, eliminate tenure—at secondary and postsecondary level—which no longer protects academic freedom. It just protects poor teaching and poor teachers. Tenure is an impediment to academic excellence. Tie professor advancement and salaries to actual in-class teaching excellence, not solely advanced degrees and most of all, not simply seniority.

--Put political pressure on governors to make education excellence and achievement, at every level, top priority in their states. No other public policy would reap as high a return on investment as could be accomplished via developing truly better schools.

--Reposition elementary and secondary education with family and local support, focusing upon teaching and learning, achievement, and accountability. Sounds like pie in the sky, that maybe we’ve gone too far and it couldn’t be done. But with dynamic leadership it has already been accomplished in some districts, and it can be done in others.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

This academic year marks my 30th year in Christian education and my 25th anniversary year in Christian higher education.  It's difficult to believe, but time does indeed go by quickly.

God is good, as we know, but he's demonstrated his unfailing love to me many times over, including this past week.  I like to dream and at times I like to "think big, think bigger"--or at least I imagine that's what I'm doing.  But on several occasions God has blessed me and he has blessed Cornerstone University in ways that I did not have the sense to pray for, dream about, or bring to pass.  "God Is, and He Is Not Silent," as Dr. Francis Schaeffer reminded us many years ago.

This is my 19th year in upper level leadership.  Again, God is good.  What more is there to say?

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2007

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.