Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

A Federal Takeover of Higher Education?

According to this dissident expert, that’s what our REPUBLICAN Secretary of Education is currently plotting. It’s time for us to do some real assessing of Margaret Spellings’ regulatory/assessment mania. Please take a look at the extremely meddlesome, schoolmarmish policies that she thinks she can impose on our college and universities pretty much on her own. But a real schoolmarm, of course, would know enough to leave those schools and professors alone.

Discussions - 13 Comments

Peter, why bother with the minion when the problem is the superior. It’s Bush, it’s all things Bush.

Bush is the millstone, Bush is the problem, it’s Bush that must be stopped cold. People need to get in Bush’s face, big time. He’s killing us, he’s killing the party. He’s utterly crushing our chances in ’08.

I heard today Medved interviewing Hewitt, {just some of it}. And Hewitt said that Romney will likely pick Jeb as his running mate. That the "Bushies," his term, not mine, are heavily backing Romney.

I don’t know about you, but it’s time for the GOP to go beyond the men of the Bush family. They’ve eviscerated enough of the platform of our party, at least for one lifetime.

And the Bush State Department is leaning on Israel big time. His entire foreign policy is being channelled through the auspices of the UN. Which has resulted in a vast transfer of power from our country to the United Nations. Every time you run a decision past the UN, you’re conferring power to them. Every single time. The first time, it’s created precedent, since then, we’ve created a custom of usage, and with Bush, we’ve created a standard operating procedure.

Did you hear Cheney’s uninspiring boilerplate at AIPAC? Same old, same old.

No vision, no imagination, no urgency. Just the same old, same old, from the same tired people.

When I read about this type of crap (the woman’s plan for higher ed) I just laugh because this is the same garbage that high schools across america have been dealing with for the better part of a decade...and did higher ed help defend us? No, they got fatty grants and published mountains of "research" on every aspect of how to educate students. The real revalation for me was when I asked one of these higher ed researchers who came to rescue my high school whether he followed his own advice. His reaction was a mix of laugher and disdain. While I totally disagree with the feds stepping in "increasing standards" in college, I view it simply as the chickens coming home to roost. (To paraphrase Malcolm X).

Peter is correct that those in the Academy should be making a great deal of noise with their congressmen and senators as well as the USDOED itself. Bush/Spellings can be derailed, but only if the heat is turned up very high. She has allows her minions to attach the American Academy for Liberal Education, the only folks concerned with the most fundamental aspects of higher education and is holding AALE to a higher standard that the regional accreditors, contending that AALE must devise benchmarks on student assessment and achievement, something that the non-vocational accreditors have never done. Abbie is utterly correct that this is was foreseeable given the K-12 reform movement of the last two decades. If professors and administrators do not get with it soon, they will lose some control of what and how they teach.

I think the assessment threat is fantastic. I fully support Spellings and what she wants to do. Why? Simple -education is now a consumer product, not an end in itself. If it is a product, it needs to be measured and assessed. Unfortunately, neither high school or college students as a group meet the needs of their consumers (employers, etc.).

Since education is a product, then it is only right to ask, "If we are pumping this much money into education, and the product is not meeting our standards, what do we need to do to improve it?" All improvement begins with measurement, and that is what Spellings is up to.

The public pays a bargeful of money to "educate" their kids. It’s not unreasonable to expect a measureable and positive return on investment. Spellings is a political appointee. Somewhere along the line, this proposal is selling well among the general population - those folks who actually pay for education.

Did colleges somewhere along the line change their purpose in order to increase their size and revenues? I suggest that yes, they did. Due to that short-sightedness, we’ve come to this impasse. Colleges can no longer suck money out of parents’ and taxpayers’ pockets without improving their educational product. Spellings’ proposal is just one of many that will come down the pipeline, will be supported by the general public, and will cement the understanding that higher education is a product, not an end.

Our Republic will be much the poorer for it.

It took me to the end of your comment before I realized you weren’t altogether supporting the way in which the market is swallowing our cultural inheritance.

As payor for public Higher Education (taxes and tuition) and who has taught in a university setting, I can agree with SOMEONE setting some standards for the finished product. Having said that, I am against the federal government being that someone. Universities have brought this on themselves by not policing themselves. I learned a long time ago, if you accept money from someone, they expect some input on how it is spent (I believe it was my Dad who taught me that).

Another example is physicians and hospitals who did not do a good job of policing themselves and now they have many different organizations trying to do it for them.

Well, if you’re planning to turn the heat on the Bush administration, hopeful of getting them to alter course, you had better get a blowtorch ready, for nothing less will suffice.

The administration is staffed by blockheads, hammerheads. They’re not real quick on the uptake.

and will cement the understanding that higher education is a product, not an end.

How in the H*LL is education an end. Steven seems to be arguing against product/market outlook on education, which may be a good argument, but education cannot and should not ever be an end in itself in any moral, religious or commons sense understanding.


Since the ancients, liberal (as opposed to professional or vocational) education has been understood to be good for its own sake, with the cultivated and/or cultured intelligence being understood as an ornament (the full flowering of our humanity), rather than as a mere means to some external end, like money-making.


I know that is going to be the liberal education response, but I don’t think that it is right. Isn’t the end of an education happiness--even for the ancients. Even for those of us (I would generally count myself w/you and Steven) who espouse a liberal education, we should not call it an end. It is still a means toward our happiness, and I might add our just actions. Christians are not just called to sit around and think or educate themselves on what is right, but also to do.

Hence I would argue that considering/calling education an end is not morally correct. Liberal education is still preparation, just for a different, and I think higher end (happiness/justice rather than money). Your answer is extremely Platonic--justice (education) is good for only its own sake. I don’t think that all ancients (Aristotle perhaps) would agree that education, or an understanding of justice, so detatched from all worldly circumstances is wise.


To the extent that happiness depends upon wisdom, and to the extent that we’re only ever becoming wise, education and happiness are pretty closely identified. No one I know says that you stop learning, or becoming liberally educated, when you graduate. We hope to cultivate habits of reading and thinking that will persist and will persistently contribute to happiness, from which they can’t be untangled. Happiness isn’t something that you achieve or become apart from your learning, but it’s, as I said, almost identical with the learning that continues all your life.

Yes, my answer is more Platonic than Aristotelian, but even Aristotle, I think, ultimately regarded intellectual virtue as more closely identified with happiness than moral virtue.

Of course, one could say, with Augustine, that this is all a kind of vanity, but I don’t think that even he would instrumentalize education.

well said, Joe; I think we agree that education is closely identified to happiness, and that to the extent that they differ, something else must be pushing us toward happiness too.

We gotta tell the truth: The price to be paid for universal higher education is instrumentalization. And the whole modern view is that if you get wealthy, powerful, and free happiness will take care of itself. (Now Locke thought the pursuit of happiness--not happiness itself--was the defining human feature. And Jefferson thought that happiness was found either in following our social instincts [which could only be screwed up by too much book learning] or in the Epicurean serenity that comes with living beyond hope and fear (which could only be for a very few). Allan Bloom only seems to update Jefferson by saying that without the pleasure of philosophic insight [which is available to a very few], the truth about our contingency and our mortality would be unbearable.) And if 92% of our professors agree on anything today, it’s that it’s not their job to tell students what virtue and happiness are, and influenced by Marx and/or Nietzsche they’re inclined to think human happiness is an oxymoron (at least until after the revolution or the invention of reliable psychotropic drugs that will stabilize our Rortian private fantasies). I exempt those who, God knows why, still believe in a personal God. When it comes to non-technical education, we’re confused beyond belief, and government regulation will only make this situation worse. Secretary Spellings and her edu-crats don’t seem so happy or virtuous to me.

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