Treadgold, “The University We Need”

9781594039898_FC-310x460Among the topics we discussed at last year’s Tradition Project meeting in New York was the current state of the American university. On one view, the university exists, in large part, to preserve and transmit a culture’s intellectual tradition–the best of what has been thought and written over centuries. Most American universities today, it’s fair to say, do not have that view of themselves. They think of themselves as the conquerors of tradition rather than its preservers. And this is not because American universities endorse the Enlightenment’s emphasis on rationality, at least not outside the hard sciences. Rather, it is because American universities have become Romantic. They dedicate themselves, more and more, to promoting an ideal of personal authenticity that views tradition as an existential enemy. (This is one reason why so few conservatives get jobs in universities today, by the way). Where this will end, no one knows. But how long will parents be willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars a year for their kids to find themselves? The kids could do that for a lot less money elsewhere.

A new book from Encounter Press, The University We Need: Reforming American Higher Education, offers some thoughts on the present state of American academics. The author is Warren Treadgold (St. Louis University). Seems worth a look. Here is the description from the publisher’s website:

Though many people know that American universities now offer an inadequate and incoherent education from a leftist viewpoint that excludes moderate and conservative ideas, few people understand how much this matters, how it happened, how bad it is, or what can be done about it. In The University We Need, Professor Warren Treadgold shows the crucial role of universities in American culture and politics, the causes of their decline in administrative bloat and inept academic hiring, the effects of the decline on teaching and research, and some possible ways of reversing the decline. He explains that one suggested reform, the abolition of tenure, would further increase the power of administrators, further decrease the quality of professors, and make universities even more doctrinaire and intolerant. Instead he proposes federal legislation to monitor the quality and honesty of professors and to limit spending on administration to no more than 20% of university budgets (Harvard now spends 40%). Finally, he offers a specific proposal for the founding of a new leading university that could seriously challenge the dominance of Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Stanford, and Berkeley and attract conservative and moderate faculty and students now isolated in universities and colleges that are either leftist or mediocre. While agreeing with conservative critics that universities are in severe crisis, Treadgold believes that the universities’ problems largely transcend ideology and have grown worse partly because disputants on both sides of the academic debate have misunderstood the methods and goals of higher education.

“Reexamining Academic Freedom in Religiously Affiliated Universities” (Garcia, ed.)

In October, Palgrave MacMillan will release “Reexamining Academic Freedom in Religiously Affiliated Universities,” edited by Kenneth Garcia (Notre Dame). The publisher’s description follows:

Palgrave MacMillanKenneth Garcia presents an edited collection of papers from the 2015 conference on academic freedom at religiously affiliated universities, held at the University of Notre Dame. These essays reexamine the secular principle of academic freedom and discuss how a theological understanding might build on and further develop it.

The year 2015 marked the 100th anniversary of the founding of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), the leading advocate of academic freedom in America. In October 2015, the University of Notre Dame convened a group of prominent scholars to consider how the concept and practice of academic freedom might evolve. The premise behind the conference was that the current conventional understandings of academic freedom are primarily secular and, therefore, not yet complete. The goal was to consider alternative understandings in light of theological insight. Theological insight, in this context, refers to an awareness that there is a surplus of knowledge and meaning to reality that transcends what can be known through ordinary disciplinary methods of inquiry, especially those that are quantitative or empirical. Essays in this volume discuss how, in light of the fact that findings in many fields hint at connections to a greater whole, scholars in any academic field should be free to pursue those connections. Moreover, there are religious traditions that can help inform those connections.

Drakeman, “Why We Need the Humanities”

Congratulations to CLR Board member (and CLR Forum contributor) Don 9781137497468Drakeman, whose new book, Why We Need the Humanities: Life Science, Law and the Common Good (Palgrave Macmillan) appeared last month. Here’s a description:

This lively book explains why we need the humanities. It shows how society has long relied on humanities scholarship to address important public policy issues. Donald Drakeman, an entrepreneur and educator, builds a compelling case for the practical importance of the humanities in helping governments make decisions about controversial issues affecting our lives in fields as diverse as healthcare and civil liberties.

Bold, compelling, and accessibly written, Why We Need the Humanities sets out a fascinating case for the importance of humanities research in the modern world.

Don has already written a major book on originalism, Church, State and Original Intentwhich has drawn admiration from scholars across the world. His new work addresses a subject that could not be more timely. In fact, Don previewed the book in a post on CLR Forum a couple of months ago — which is to say, CLR Forum fans saw it here first. Now, go out and by it!

The Value of the Humanities and Heterodoxy

Readers of the CLR Forum see every day how scholarship in the humanities and social sciences directly affects the laws and policies that govern our lives. That important perspective is not shared widely enough. On that score, two items of interest appeared last week.

First, TIME reported that “[m]ore than two dozen Japanese universities … will reduce or altogether eliminate their academic programs in the humanities and social sciences, following a dictum from Tokyo to focus on disciplines that ‘better meet society’s needs.'”

In tough times, policymakers tend to think of the academic disciplines outside the sciences as a luxury good, easily abandoned in favor of more practical pursuits. But, in fact, really good scholarship across the humanities and social sciences is necessary to help us try to figure out what kind of society we want to be, and what it will take for us to figure out how to work together to get there.

One reason for society’s lack of enthusiasm for the humanities and social sciences is that it tends to be politically monotonal. The best recent studies suggest that less than 5% of academics in these fields at research universities have right-of-center social and political views. Not surprisingly, this can lead to scholarship that downplays, misunderstands, or simply overlooks views widely held among the public and policymakers.

The Heterodox Academy, recently reported in The American Interest, looks like a very important effort to bring more balance into academic scholarship. A politically diverse group of scholars is setting out to bring a greater degree of viewpoint diversity to scholarship, especially in the social sciences. This effort should not only make scholarship more useful, but it will make it more intellectually invigorating, as well.

For what it’s worth, I have much more to say on these topics in a book coming out in just a few weeks called, Why We Need the Humanities.

Campus Free Speech and Sabotage

Many CLR Forum readers will be familiar with Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, the Supreme Court’s 2010 opinion upholding the constitutionality of an “all-comers” policy at the UC-Hastings law school. The all-comers policy required student groups, including religious organizations like CLS, to open their membership to all law students, regardless of belief. By a 5-4 vote, the Court held that this policy was a reasonable, viewpoint-neutral regulation consistent with the First Amendment.

One of the arguments CLS made against the all-comers policy was that the policy made it vulnerable to sabotage by students hostile to its message. Non-Christians could join CLS precisely in order to hijack the organization and subvert its mission. The Court dismissed this concern as fanciful. There was no history of hostile takeovers of campus groups, Justice Ginsburg wrote, and one had to give law students more credit for maturity. Besides, the law school’s code of student conduct prohibited disruption of campus activities; if such things happened, the law school would surely intervene.

Justice Ginsburg’s dismissal of the possibility of student hijacking came to mind as I was reading this post on Rod Dreher’s blog. Dreher describes a recent forum on marriage organized by a student group at Columbia University. The forum was open to everyone on campus and featured speakers with traditional views, including Sherif Girgis, Lynn Wardle, and Bradford Wilcox. Even though  the forum was sold out, the room was half empty. Why? Campus Democrats had hoarded tickets, apparently in an effort to prevent people from attending and hearing the speakers. Some campus Democrats did attend briefly to hold up protest signs and walk out. Here’s one student’s view of the situation, from the Columbia student paper:

From the start, the CU Democrats seemed misinformed—if not intent on spreading misinformation—about the purpose of the forum. It was not, as some that day said, an “anti-gay marriage tirade,” but a debate on the status of the modern family. . . . [T]he issue of the future of the family is a conversation that the CU Democrats seem unwilling to allow to take place, much less to take part in, despite their physical presence.

To be sure, hoarding tickets to a one-day conference is not the same thing as taking over a group. And, depending on your view of things, you might think of what the Columbia Democrats did as a harmless stunt or even a brave gesture for equality. Still, the campus Democrats used an all-comers policy to disrupt an event sponsored by another student group and limit that group’s message from reaching its intended audience. To me, this suggests that the possibility of hostile takeovers is not as far-fetched as the Martinez Court believed.

Muslim Students at Catholic Universities

Here is an interesting story about how many Muslim female students prefer university life on Catholic campuses.  Though the story somehow still manages to snicker at Catholic higher education — would it be so intolerably wrong, one wonders, to require a single course in Catholic thought or history at a Catholic university? — it conveys the comfort of devout Muslim students within a Catholic university.  Though the story does not mention it, President John Garvey of Catholic University once made similar statements about the religious life of Muslim students at Catholic University in response to a cooked-up, and subsequently discredited, controversy.

Horwitz, “First Amendment Institutions”

This November, Harvard University Press will publish First Amendment Institutions by Paul Horwitz (University of Alabama School of Law). The publisher’s description follows.

Addressing a host of hot-button issues, from the barring of Christian student groups and military recruiters from law schools and universities to churches’ immunity from civil rights legislation in hiring and firing ministers, Paul Horwitz proposes a radical reformation of First Amendment law. Arguing that rigidly doctrinal approaches can’t account for messy, real-world situations, he suggests that the courts loosen their reins and let those institutions with a stake in First Amendment freedoms do more of the work of enforcing them. Continue reading

Controversy About Secularism Class at Georgetown

A fight is developing between First Things blogger Matthew Cantirino and Georgetown Professor Jacques Berlinerblau over a description of Berlinerblau’s new class on secularism. Last Friday, the Washington Post profiled Berlinerblau’s class, which the Post described as an engaging, fair, but perhaps tendentious freshman seminar that had as its central theme the need for separating religion and public life. The Post used the class as an example of the burgeoning field of Secular Studies  in American universities, a development some liken to the creation of Women’s Studies departments a couple of generations ago. Yesterday, Cantirino discussed the Post article, including  its suggestion that courses like Berlinerblau’s might be an occasion for “academic indoctrination” (Cantirino’s words). This morning, on the Chronicle of Higher Education’s website, Berlinerblau demanded an apology. I’ll let Cantirino respond for himself, but maybe Berlinerblau should demand an apology from the Post reporter, since the article Cantirino was discussing says that over the course of the semester Berlinerblau had “managed to change the minds of most of his students,” including at least one who came into the class suspicious of secularism. That’s not indicative of indoctrination, of course, but it does suggest that Berlinerblau was trying to convince students of a particular point of view, and that seems to be the sense in which Cantirino was using the phrase. Read the exchange for yourself.

Lasson on Anti-Semitism on University Campuses

Kenneth Lasson (University of Baltimore School of Law) has posted Antisemitism in the Academic Voice: Confronting Bigotry Under the First Amendment. The abstract follows. –YAH

The romanticized vision of life in the Ivory Tower – a peaceful haven where learned professors ponder higher thoughts and where students roam orderly quadrangles in quest of truth and other pleasures – has long been relegated to yesteryear. While universities like to nurture the perception that they are protectors of reasoned discourse, and indeed often perceive themselves as sacrosanct places of culture in a chaotic world, the modern campus, of course, is not quite so wonderful.

The academic enterprise in America was besmirched by racism early on: until the latter part of the Twentieth Century, segregation and ethnic quotas were the norm, not the exception. But what was once accepted prejudicial policy has now given way to an aberrational form of political correctness, which still vividly illustrates failures of scholarly rigor – the abandonment of reliance on facts, common sense, and logic in the pursuit of narrow political agendas – and which are all too often presented in the academic voice. Continue reading

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