Excellence in Education

Walter E. Williams, May 8, 1997

"Recruiting Trends 1994-95," a study by Michigan State University Prof. L. Patrick Sheetz, finds that not enough college graduates have the ability to write, speak and reason coherently in order to hold down a job. John Leo reports (Newsweek 4/21/97), half of college graduates cannot read a bus schedule. A recent U.S. Department of Education report said that 53 percent of college graduates could not figure out how much change they should get back after putting down $3 to pay for a 60-cent bowl of soup and a $1.95 sandwich.

There're reasons for this educational malaise. Part of it is that half-witted professors, backed by dim-witted, smooth talking administrators, are teaching our youngsters unmitigated nonsense. For example, Prof. James Sledd, of University of Texas, writes in College English that standard English is "essentially an instrument of domination." Arguing against knowledge of grammar and logic, Prof. Jay Robinson, of the University of Michigan says that "the myth of basic skills" helps sustain a rigid and evil class structures; what college students really need is reaffirmation as "members of racial, social, and linguistic minorities." The National Association of Scholars put out a devastating report about the dumbing down of college curriculum that includes courses for credit like "queer theory", the works of Pee Wee Herman, and watching Oprah or Montel Williams.

Everybody has heard of these and other horror stories about the state of higher education in America. But there are forces emerging to help combat higher education malaise. On May 21st, in the Senate Russell building, the John Templeton Foundation kicks off a new program called Templeton Honor Rolls for Education in a Free Society. Honorees will be chosen for their commitment in teaching the interdependence of political freedom, the market economy, and the moral principles that sustain a free society. The program is chaired by former U.S. Treasury Secretary William E. Simon and administered by the Wilmington, Delaware-based Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI). Some 126 awards will be given to outstanding universities, departments, scholarly books and individual professors, including a $25,000 Life time Achievement Award and $25,000 Outstanding Contemporary Book Award.

William Simon says that after searching through over 800 nominations "reports of academia's pending demise are both premature and exaggerated. . . . On every college campus in America the fortunate student can still discover brilliant, inspiring and innovative professors committed to learning, rather than indoctrination." He's right, even at the most liberal universities. But many times these professors are isolated and under siege by their colleagues and campus administrators. National recognition for their courage, as well as emergence of organizations such as the National Association of Scholars will help end their isolation.

In addition to honoring America's most distinguished educators, colleges, and departments, the Templeton Honor Rolls will provide guidance on colleges, universities and departments. For the most part, college admissions offices are simply salesmen for the college solely interested in getting tuition-paying warm bodies. They often go to considerable lengths to conceal truth about curriculum content, freshman SAT's, graduation rates, campus crime and other negative features about their institution. William Simon says, "Given the high cost of a college education and widespread concern about declining standards, it is more vital than ever to provide a guide that will direct parents and their children to the strongest colleges and universities and to the professors, departments and textbooks in the disciplines they wish to study." ISI makes that 200-page book available free for those willing to pay the postage.

Walter E. Williams
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