The End of Sanity

Over the holidays, I had a chance to read Martin L. Gross' new book, "The End of Sanity", with the appropriate subtitle: "Social and Cultural Madness in America." Generation Xers, who don't have a standard of comparison, might wonder what's wrong with Gross but the forty-and-over have to be shocked by some the book's revelations. How about a few?

In California, parents of a disruptive child who had threatened to kill fellow students sued when the child was suspended. A court awarded them $20,000 for private school tuition and $360,000 in legal fees. If you're a school principal, what are you to do when a kid threatens to kill?

If that doesn't make sense, imagine you're the captain of the USS Eisenhower, a nuclear aircraft carrier, about to set sail for the Adriatic Sea, with a crew of 4,919 sailors, to patrol the no-fly zone over Bosnia. You're about to pull up anchor but find you have to get replacements for 24 pregnant sailors. Then when you get on station you find 15 more sailors in a family way that have to be removed. Then despite no-fraternization rules you discover a married male and female sailor (each married to someone else back home) had their acrobatic sex videotaped and proudly shown to fellow sailors. While all of this reduces crew morale and battle worthiness of USS Eisenhower, it's not as bad as the USS Arcadia, dubbed the "Love Boat" as one-tenth of all female personnel were returning from Desert Storm pregnant.

By a wide margin, institutions of higher learning lead the attack on honesty, sanity and plain decency. Gross reports that 383 colleges have some form of speech codes, a totalitarian concept controlling what students can and cannot say. According to a survey of Wellesley students, 30 percent of a woman's study group feared stating their true opinions in class. College administrators at some of our most prestigious colleges do nothing to campus thugs who steal an entire school newspaper run because they disagree with its contents.

Even worse is what's happening to education quality at many campuses. Parents, taxpayers and generous contributors fork over billions of dollars to the nation's colleges. At most colleges, there are few standards of student proficiency as a condition for graduation. Some course offerings defy sanity. At Stanford University, a student can take "Feminist Studies 295" subtitled "How Tasty Were My French Sisters", at Harvard there's "Sports as a Metaphor for Life", and at Bowdoin "The Souls of Animals." Of course, faculty must be hired to teach this nonsense. A New York University sought a faculty member to teach "Gendered Performance." The advertisement read: "Encouraging applications from women and members of minority groups." The duties were described as "drag, transvestite performance, queer theories."

Coupled with this and other kinds of academic travesty is gross dishonesty about student accomplishment. We all know that SAT scores have been in full retreat since the 60s. No sweat. At Cornell 36 percent of all grades are As; at Princeton, it's 42 percent. At one Harvard graduation, 84 percent of the class graduated with honors - either magna cum laude or cum laude. What to do? Administrators defend these practices and turn a deaf ear to demands for quality education but I guarantee you their ears will perk up and their closed minds will open at the sounds of pocketbooks being snapped shut.

Martin Gross opens his book with a quotation from Euripides: "Those whom the Gods wish to destroy they first make mad." I'm wondering how long decent Americans will tolerate the elite-sponsored madness overtaking us all.

Walter E. Williams

January 3, 1997

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