WATCH: Faith in America: Rabbi Meir Soloveitchik in Conservation with Prof. Ruth Wisse: Tikvah Fund, YouTube, Mar. 18, 2021 — Preeminent teacher and scholar Ruth Wisse serves as the Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Tikvah Fund and Professor Emerita of Yiddish Literature and Comparative Literature at Harvard University. In this fascinating conversation with Rabbi Soloveichik, Professor Wisse discusses growing up Jewish in Montreal, her relationship with Leonard Cohen, the failure of Yiddishists to preserve enduring Jewish commitment, how Harvard lost its faith in America, and what Jerusalem taught her about God.
Table of Contents:
The Future of U.S. Higher Education: A Few Stars, Many Satellites: Daniel Pipes, WSJ, Mar. 21, 2021
“… even Harvard—which, Mr. Galloway notes, has become a slightly absurd “$50,000 streaming platform”—faces a reckoning in the Zoom era.”
I strolled through Harvard University recently on what should have been a busy Friday morning. The solitude was striking, with once-lively routes deserted and nearly all libraries and classrooms shut, along with sports facilities, public halls and museums. Hardly any buildings, including dormitories, showed signs of life. Even scientific laboratories had only skeletal crews. It’s a great time to find a parking space.
Buildings are locked to the public. A university ID is required to enter. This reminded me of the time in 1984 when, on a lark, I tried to enter the high-rise that houses Moscow State University, only to be carded by Soviet apparatchiks and refused entry.
Nothing in my nearly seven decades’ knowledge of Harvard (which started with preschool in 1952) prepared me for this lonely ramble. It prompted me to ponder the four existential challenges facing universities:
The Miseducation of America’s Elites: Bari Weiss, City Journal, Mar. 9, 2021
“What he has a problem with is a movement that tells his children that America is a bad country and that they bear collective racial guilt.”
The dissidents use pseudonyms and turn off their videos when they meet for clandestine Zoom calls. They are usually coordinating soccer practices and carpools, but now they come together to strategize. They say that they could face profound repercussions if anyone knew they were talking.
But the situation of late has become too egregious for emails or complaining on conference calls. So one recent weekend, on a leafy street in West Los Angeles, they gathered in person and invited me to join.
In a backyard behind a four-bedroom home, ten people sat in a circle of plastic Adirondack chairs, eating bags of Skinny Pop. These are the rebels: well-off Los Angeles parents who send their children to Harvard-Westlake, the most prestigious private school in the city.
Mediocrity Is Now Mandatory: Andy Kessler, WSJ, Feb. 7, 2021
“Grades are only a suggestion—and SAT scores are biased, supposedly. And here you thought smart students got into good colleges. Yes, mediocrity has crept into our self-proclaimed elite colleges.”
Has an era of American mediocrity begun? In January the College Board announced it would eliminate the essay portion of the SAT, as well as all of the separate SAT subject tests. Their stated purpose was “reducing and simplifying demands on students.” Such a burden.
One high school near me just dropped freshman advanced-standing (honors) English “to combat the effects of academic ‘tracking” because it “ultimately separates students of different socioeconomic and racial backgrounds.” It turns out that middle schools from lower-income areas aren’t adequately preparing their students for high school. So rather than fix that problem, they dumbed down high school.
Are Educated People More Anti-Semitic?: Jay P. Greene, Albert Cheng, and Ian Kingsbury, Tablet, Mar. 29, 2021
“A large problem with this widely held belief—which has dominated the American Jewish community’s approach to combatting hatred since the days of Louis Brandeis—is that it depends on survey questions that probably fail to capture anti-Semitism among the well-educated.”
A foundational principle of the fight against hate in America is the belief that intolerance in general, and anti-Semitism in particular, are functions of ignorance that can be solved with education. We see evidence of this whenever concerns about intolerance or anti-Semitism become more salient. Proposed solutions frequently feature improved Holocaust education or expanded diversity, equity, and inclusion training. Profiles of anti-Semites tend to feature rural whites or urban minorities from low-educational backgrounds. Well-educated people tend to feel secure in their higher-class status and imagine that the dangers of intergroup hatred are concentrated elsewhere.
Indeed, widely cited studies of anti-Semitism support the conviction that it is associated with low levels of education. For example, the Anti-Defamation League’s Global 100 survey of anti-Semitism worldwide found that “among Christians and the non-observant, higher education levels lead to fewer anti-Semitic attitudes.”
For Further Reference:
Biden Set to Push Critical Race Theory on U.S. Schools: Stanley Kurtz, National Review, Apr. 19, 2021 — The woke revolution in the classroom is about to go federal. In an early but revelatory move, President Biden’s Department of Education has signaled its intent to impose the most radical forms of Critical Race Theory on America’s schools, very much including the 1619 Project and the so-called anti-racism of Ibram X. Kendi. (Kendi’s “anti-racism” — which advocates a massive and indefinite expansion of reverse discrimination — is more like neo-racism.)
Bias Against Conservatives Warps Academia: Christopher Dummitt and Zachary Patterson, National Post, Mar. 10, 2021 — A report released this week shows clear evidence of a significant political slant in Canadian (along with American and British) universities. The report finds that 73 per cent of Canadian social science and humanities academics identify as being on the left, compared to just four per cent who identify with the right. This makes universities substantially more politically skewed than the general population.
Georgetown’s Cultural Revolution: Lama Abu Odeh, Quillette, Apr. 9, 2021 — Sandra Sellers, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s Law Center, was forced to resign because she was caught on video saying to her colleague and co-teacher David Batson: “I hate to say this… I ended up having this, you know, angst every semester that a lot of my lower ones are blacks
Does Iran Even Need Spies In Academia?: A.J. Caschetta, The Hill, Apr. 8, 2021 — The Justice Department recently indicted professor Kaveh Afrasiabi, charging that for decades his persona as a neutral, mild-mannered scholar was a cover and that, in reality, he was an agent of the Islamic Republic of Iran. If the allegations are true and this seasoned academic (Boston University, Harvard and UC Berkeley) was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to promote Iranian interests in the New York Times, Washington Post and Boston Globe and to appear on television, it was wasted money.
Higher Ed Lost 650,000 Jobs Last Year — 13% Of The Workforce: Paul Caron, TaxProf Blog, Feb. 12, 2021 — Colleges and universities closed out 2020 with continued job losses, resulting in a 13-percent drop since last February. It was a dispiriting coda to a truly brutal year for higher ed’s labor force.