Category Archives: Education

Support Ariel University Center of Judea and Samaria

Standard

[h/t to Engage]

In the June 11 online edition of Haaretz:

The Council of Higher Education has ruled that it will not recognize the degrees awarded by The Academic College of Judea and Samaria (ACJS), Army Radio reported Wednesday, after the college, located in the West Bank settlement of Ariel, unilaterally declared itself a “university center.”

The heads of the college said that the upgrade from “college” to “university center” represents an interim phase ahead of its evolution into a full-blown university.

However, the state has announced that in the next five years, no new universities will be established in Israel, and that is does not recognize the category “university center.”

Representatives from the Council of Higher Education emphasized that should the college rescind its unilateral decision, the degrees it issues will be recognized again, according the report. Nahum Finger, the council’s deputy chairman, called on students to rethink their future plans should the college resist the council’s orders.

Army Radio also reported that Ariel students have threatened to strike, or to turn to the High Court of Justice, should the sides fail to reach a compromise.

Boaz Toporovsky, the chairman of the National Student Union, promised that he and his colleagues “won’t leave the Council of Higher Education alone in order to prevent the students from being harmed.”

“We’re fed up that every conflict in the higher education system comes at our expense,” Army Radio quoted Toporovsky as saying. “All that interests us is that the degree of a student who studied in Ariel be recognized by every institution in Israel.”

The Council of Higher Education has warned that additional, harsher sanctions will be placed on the college should it not obey the council’s directive.

Representatives from the Student Union and the Council of Higher Education will meet on July 1 in order to discuss the fate of students who will be affected by the decision.

I read about this on Engage. Most of my readers are probably aware Engage is devoted to challenging anti-Semitism on the left, and many of the individuals affiliated with the project describe themselves as leftists. I really appreciate all the positive work they do.

However, I was disappointed to read David Hirsh’s perspective in the comments. He views Ariel as a “settler-college” and while he is a dedicated opponent of the academic boycott of Israeli educational institutions, he claims, “If the Palestinian trade unions argued for a position of boycotting Ariel, on the basis that it was illegitimate because in the occupied territories, then this would be worth listening to.” Mr. Hirsh is not alone in this perspective, but most Jews continue to view Judea and Samaria as liberated, not occupied.

I think this move by the state speaks to the need for more private universities and colleges in Israel. I noted this in a comment at Engage but my comment was never posted. Not sure if it was deleted as SPAM or what happened…

The Jewish Press reports:

The College of Judea and Samaria (CJS), located in the city of Ariel, is really quite an incredible phenomenon. Established in 1982 in Kedumim, it began by offering evening classes to area residents. The school steadily grew and in 1991 relocated to its present location in Ariel.

With more than 9,000 students, CJS is now Israel’s largest public college and its fastest growing academic institution.

READ MORE:

Israel Today: Stifling coexistence in the name of peace and Arabs studying at “settler” college

Jewish Virtual Library

Ariel: From a college to a university

Israel Democracy: From Star Wars to Medicinal Marijuana: the College of Judea and Samaria

One Jerusalem: Biggest educational experiment in Israeli history is taking off

For more information:

In Israel

The Ariel University Center of Samaria
The Office of University Center Foundations
Ariel, 40700
Tel. 972-3-937-1418
Fax. 972-3-906-7440
E-mail. lmoshe@yosh.ac.il
Web site. Moving From a College to a University

In Israel

Israeli Friends of the Ariel University Center of Samaria
The Ariel University Center of Samaria
Ariel, 40700
Tel. 972-3-937-1418
Fax. 972-3-937-1418
E-mail. lmoshe@yosh.ac.il

In the United States

American Friends of the Ariel University Center of Samaria
National Office
P.O. Box 235029
Encinitas, CA 92023-5029
Tel. 760-634-8458
Fax. 760-477-7009
E-mail. office@afcjs.org

American Friends of the Ariel University Center of Samaria
New York Regional Office
3145 Coney Island Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11235
Tel. 718-891-9102
Fax. 718-891-0062
E-mail. ny@afcjs.org

In Canada

Canadian Friends of the Ariel University Center of Samaria
4936 Yonge Street, Suite 220
Toronto, ONT M2N-6S3
Tel. 416-818-5444
E-mail. cfcjs@yosh.ac.il

In the United Kingdom

UK Friends of the Ariel University Center of Samaria
c/o Education in Israel Trust
90 Northgate, Regents Park
London, NW8-7EJ
E-mail. development@yosh.ac.il

In Europe (Continental)

European Friends of the Ariel University Center of Samaria
E-mail. dhoffer@yosh.ac.il

The New Criterion: Special Section on Education

Standard

The recent edition of The New Criterion has a special section concerning education. I’ve only had a chance to read Paquette’s article but all of them look interesting:

Introduction: What was a liberal education?

by Roger Kimball

An introduction to our special issue on education.

———————————–

On the sadness of higher education

by Alan Charles Kors

On comparing the university life then with now.

———————————–

The world we have lost: a parable on the academy

by Robert L. Paquette

On the Alexander Hamilton Center affair at Hamilton College.

———————————–

The new learning that failed

by Victor Davis Hanson

On the value of classical learning.

———————————–

Liberalism vs. humanism

by James Piereson

On the battle between learning for the sake of learning and learning for utility.

———————————–

The age of educational romanticism

by Charles Murray

On requiring every child to be above average.

Finished grading

Standard

I finally finished grading all my papers and submitting final grades this afternoon. It takes a while when you require your students to write, rather than assigning multiple-choice exams. As always, there is at least one student who questions why they did not do as well as they thought they should. In most cases the answer is obvious, a failure to do the work at a college level.

Unfortunately, some of my students are unable to write a cohesive paragraph of sentence, let alone identify an author’s thesis or the evidence an author uses to support her thesis. I wonder how these students were even accepted. Have standards declined that much?

I am not a product of elite education. I attended public schools, community college and state college. It took me longer than four years to receive my B.A. and I worked (part-time or full-time) to support myself during my graduate studies. But throughout my higher education there was a requirement that students be able to communicate in standard written English. What happened?

Part of this is due to the societal expectation that every individual should attend college. There is also the fact that jobs which did not require college degrees in the past do require them today. There is an excellent article by “Professor X” (“In the Basement of the Ivory Tower”) in the June Atlantic (not available online yet) which addressed many of the issues I deal with on a daily basis. Here is a bit:

There seems, as is often the case in colleges, to be a huge gulf between academia and reality. No one is thinking about the larger implications, let alone the morality, of admitting so many students to classes they cannot possibly pass. The colleges and the students and I are bobbing up and down in a great wave of societal forces–social optimism on a large scale, the sense of college as both a universal right and a need, financial necessity on the part of the colleges and the students alike, the desire to maintain high academic standards while admitting marginal students–that have coalesced into a mini-tsunami of difficulty.

I’ll post a link to the article when it is available.

End of the Semester (Grading Time)

Standard

It’s that time of the semester…the end. That means loads of final papers to grade and less time for the blog. I hope to be done with all of that by May 9 and then have more time to write. I also am trying to convince someone to contribute a guest post on the American labor movement (nudge, nudge) in the next few days (weeks?).

Nobody that I tagged has responded. But Ben Neill added me to his blogroll, which was nice. Bob has a post on the books people are reading here.

Another Progressive Institution, New College of California, Closes its Doors

Standard

I was wasting time in my office hours this afternoon, checking out some of my favorite blogs and even visiting some Indymedia sites. It’s been such a long time since I posted any comments but very little has changed. Still plenty of anti-Zionist, anti-Israel, and anti-Semitic vitriol. Yawn….


But one item caught my eye. My baccalaureate alma matter, the New College of California has shut down. Now, I must admit this was not a tremendous shock. I had known about school’s financial difficulties first-hand while attending back in the early 1990s. After all, the New College is not known for the size of its endowment or wealthy benefactors.


Even more depressing, the school was shuttered by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) for more serious problems than financial woes. WASC pulled the schools accreditation for lack of proper governing structure, failure to keep proper student records, financial mismanagement, and lack of oversight by the Board. The nonprofit accrediting organization, which oversees colleges and universities in California, Hawaii and elsewhere, cited the school for having a “culture of administrative sloppiness and arbitrariness” and for violating institutional and academic integrity. The problems included irregularities in admissions, enrollment, and awarding of credit and grades, and poor documentation of student records and financial aid.


Things have changed since I attended the school. Yes, there were some questionable professors and even more dubious course titles (not quite “Underwater Basketweaving” but close). But there were excellent teachers as well. Juana Alicia, Harry Britt, Mutombo Mpanya, and Christian Parenti all come to mind. Where else would you have the opportunity to talk to Christian Parenti about the political economy of incarceration over a beer or three? Or have stimulating conversations about the influence of crack on the leadership of the Black Panther Party with the former Chief of Staff? These just aren’t the sort of discourses one encounters at Columbia or even the University of California at Berkeley.


After I graduated, the emphasis of the institution shifted away from education and towards activism. There was always an underlying tension between these two goals at the school among both students and faculty. Some wanted the school to occupy a more public position in the local progressive movement, others felt the school was isolated from the low-income community it was located in (the Mission District) and saw outreach to the local Latino residents as paramount. Teachers and staff, as always, wanted more power and pay. None of these problems went away after I graduated.

The school changed its B.A. program from a more general liberal arts/humanities orientation to one even more focused on social activism. They also expanded their graduate programs offering master’s degrees in dubious subjects like “Activism and Social Change,” “Culture, Ecology and Sustainable Community,” and “Women’s Spirituality.”


While the President, the Board, and their supporters thought this would bring more students to the school, the reverse proved true. As naive as college students are, most realize you cannot get a job with a degree in Activism and Social Change, even if you want to be an activist! Having more progressive events at the school did not increase enrollment either and many of the best teachers left.


The demise of the school got me thinking, especially after reading comments at alum blogs and boards. Why does the progressive movement have such a difficult time establishing long-lasting progressive institutions? During my days on the radical left I would have reduced this problem to one factor, lack of capital. But with Soros and other left philanthropists on the scene I don’t think that is an adequate excuse. Instead, the progressive left is plagued by factionalism and a tendency towards behavior that can only be termed cultish.


In the case of New College, a clique of followers gathered around the school’s president, Peter Gabel. I witnessed this myself when Gabel brought Michael Lerner (among others) to discuss their vacuous “politics of meaning.” I can remember thinking at the time (and I was in my early 20s) that this supposed politics was devoid of any political content. It was feel-good 1960s catharsis.


But people fawned all over Mr. Gabel and presented him as some sort of intellectual, of all things. He brought in a coterie of incompetent buffoons heading sundry “interdisciplinary” programs while these teachers lacked the basic domain knowledge to even begin to make connections within a discipline, let alone across them. But Gabel was smart in knowing they would be loyal to him when things eventually went bad. Others have identified this as Founder’s Syndrome “in which charismatic leaders think they can run complex community service organizations by force of personality, rather than via plans, processes, and rules.” Whatever you want to call it, this sort of organizational style seems quite common on the radical left. The question is, why?

Spring Semester has begun

Standard

The spring semester has started so I have not had as much time to blog as usual. It’s always a bit crazed the first couple of weeks, whether you are a student or instructor. I’m teaching four classes this semester, three sections of 20th Century U.S. History and one section of 20th Century World History with emphasis placed on decolonization and independence movements in the developing world.

The Augean Stables: Moral Equivalence

Standard

Bob from Brockley brought this excellent post on moral equivalence at The Augean Stables to my attention. If you have not read it you should do so immediately. I also added Augean Stables to my blogroll. Here is the intro:

MORAL EQUIVALENCE

The “we are just as bad as… or worse than them” mentality

A pervasive argument appearing in the post-colonial paradigm is that of “Moral Equivalence.” In the case of Islamic terrorism the dynamics of moral equivalence can be seen among some figures of the western intelligentsia in their vociferous moral indignation at the behavior of Western nations that, they allege, led to acts of terror, and their understanding attitude towards the terrorist acts themselves (HRC). Even if they do not intentionally excuse terrorism, such writers produce the unhappy consequence of explaining Islamic terrorism in terms of “Western misdeeds and faults,” and of framing the debate in terms of “what the West did to deserve such attacks” and, therefore, reverse the moral equation. The West’s “wrongs” come to be seen as more reprehensible than the “reaction” (however “harsh” and “inexcusable”) by terrorists. The easy moral challenge is: “Are we not hypocrites, when we do the same thing?”

At some level, this is a pathology of self-criticism (MOS) – it is all our fault, and if we were better, then we could fix everything. Meanwhile, while we demand the highest standards of ourselves, we treat the terrorists as morally challenged, who can’t even understand the questions of intention and cannot be expected to self-criticize. We become incapable of making the distinction between victims and perpetrators, and end up blaming the victim.

[continue reading]

Fieldtrip to the International Center for Photography

Standard

I took my students to the International Center for Photography in Manhattan this morning to have a look at the Robert Capa exhibition “This is War! Robert Capa at Work.”

With vintage prints, contact sheets, caption sheets, handwritten observations, personal letters and original magazine layouts, the stories are brought to life and give us a look at how Capa worked. The Falling Soldier, 1936; The Battle of Rio Segre, 1938; and Refugees from Barcelona, 1939, trace his reportage of The Spanish Civil War. China, 1938, document his six-month stay during the Sino-Japanese War. D-Day, 1944, and the Liberation of Leipzig, 1945, present his photographs of World War II.

american-soldier-killed-by-german-snipers.jpg

[American soldier killed by German snipers]

We discussed the Spanish Civil War, including political cleavages in the Republican camp and the internecine rivalries between socialists, anarchists and communists.

Upstairs there are two other exhibitions. One includes some fantastic shots taken by Gerda Taro.

taro_popup2.jpg

[Spanish militiawoman by Gerda Taro]

There is also a nice selection of posters and other propaganda.

ow_popup3.jpg

Downstairs, in an alcove, one finds the work of Spanish photographer Francesc Torres. Torres documented a dig of a mass grave in Spain in a project titled “Dark is the Room Where we Sleep.”

In 2004, Barcelona-based artist Francesc Torres joined forces with a forensic anthropology team as they uncovered the mass grave. Torres photographed the work of forensics team, as well as the participation of local townspeople who became involved in the project. Torres has created an installation of black-and-white photographs from this documentation that poignantly and forcefully examines the relationships between war, violence, memory, and photography.

torres_image.jpg

There are photos of the skeletons in the dirt and the artifacts that have not rotted away. One photo focuses on the hands of a dead man, a wedding ring around his boney finger. Other photos displayed the living relatives of the victims, wives, sons, daughters. In the years immediately after Franco’s death, many Spaniards preferred to ignore the painful past in order to move forward. They are slowly beginning to excavate these historical memories and address what happened in the past. As with any civil war, this conflict not only split the country around ideological concerns, it divided cities, towns, villages and families. And these divisions are not relegated to the past. The pope recently beatified close to 500 priests, nuns and monks killed during the conflict (follow the link for a post on this topic by Martin in the Margins).

defender-of-china.jpg

While my interest was focused on the Spanish Civil War, my students were visibly more interested in the photos Capa took in China (many of my students are Chinese Americans) while working as part of a crew for the film “The 400 Million.” One the most heartbreaking images is captioned “Young boy killed while trying to protect his chicken and rabbit.” One can’t help but think “why?” when you see this sort of thing.

Study Finds U.S. Primary and Secondary Teachers Lean Right

Standard

David Horowitz and other conservative critics of the U.S. public school system find a liberal bias in pedagogy and curricula from the primary and secondary levels to the university. In the case of higher education, I think the evidence is on their side (See Daniel Klein and Charlotta Stern, “Social Scientists and their Politics: the Policy Views of Social Scientists” in Critical Review (2005) Vol. 17, Nos. 3-4).

Yet in the case of educators in America’s primary and secondary schools, a recent study by Professor Robert Slater, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, finds these teachers more conservative compared to Americans with similar education levels. Here is a bit from The New York Sun:

Compared to non-teachers with college degrees, primary and secondary schoolteachers are more likely to oppose homosexuality and legalized abortion and less likely to support values such as free speech and economic equality…They are also much more likely to go to church.

You can read the full paper, “American Teachers: What do the Believe?,” in Education Next, a publication of the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace.

Students Know Less After 4 College Years

Standard

[From The New York Sun]

By Annie Karni

Students at many of the country’s most prestigious colleges and universities are graduating with less knowledge of American history, government, and economics than they had as incoming freshmen, with Harvard University seniors scoring a “D+” average on a 60-question multiple-choice exam about civic literacy.

According to a report released yesterday by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, the average college senior at the 50 colleges and universities polled did not earn a passing grade.

“At the most expensive colleges, they actually graduate knowing less,” the executive director of the Jack Miller Center at the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, Michael Ratliff, said. “Colleges and universities are not directing students to the courses that would educate them. We want to know whether after getting $300 billion to do their work, universities are actually educating their students.”

At universities such as Princeton, Yale, Cornell, Duke, and Berkeley, seniors scored lower on the test, available here, than freshmen, living proof of the broadening relevancy of the old Harvard adage that the university is a storehouse of knowledge because “the freshmen bring so much and the seniors take away so little.”

The average foreign student studying in an American college learned nothing about the country’s history and its civic institutions, according to the study.

[continue reading]