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The New Left in American Colleges

Academic Freedom or Academic Censorship?

by Dr. Larry Fedewa

Many Americans have been shocked and dismayed by the lawless behavior of students on several campuses protesting conservative speakers, harassing conservative students, and censoring student publications. What is going on? What has happened to the university as the bastion of free speech?

Two Keys

There are two keys to understanding these demonstrations:

  1. First, these student protests are flourishing in an environment fostered by the faculties at these institutions; and
  2. Second, the faculty preaches dogmas which mark a generational shift in values.

The fundamental analysis therefore must begin with the faculty. Student behavior is primarily an acting out of faculty teaching. Administrators, while generally sympathetic to the students, are caught between angry students and their Boards and other supporters demanding a stop to these outrageous demonstrations.

What is the faculty teaching and why? Keep Reading

Tense times: 1968 and 2018

        We survived 1968; we will survive 2018 !                                                

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 Recently, I have been asked whether the political tension we are experiencing today is likely to erupt into violence like it did in 1968. That year was the most dramatic and violent year America has seen in recent history. Leading up to the presidential election in November,1968, we saw increasingly numerous demonstrations against the Vietnam War, sparked by one calamity after another.
Fifty years have passed since that fateful year. Here is a list of the key events of 1968:
·        January 30-31 – the Tet Offensive is launched by the North Vietnamese and the Southern Liberation Front against the major cities of South Vietnam in a coordinated surprise attack leading to major casualties among the American forces. The Tet (“lunar New Year”) attack was to continue for six months before final victory by American forces in June 1968. The significance of the battle was that it proved that the enemy was far stronger than the American President Lyndon Johnson’s administration had led the public to believe. The serious casualties in the first days of the attack were shown on television and provoked widespread opposition to the War.
·        February 27 – Popular TV anchor Walter Cronkite announced his opposition to the War, rumored to be decisive for President Lyndon Johnson.
·        March 12 – Senator Eugene McCarthy (D-Minn.) wins second vote count and 22 of 24 uncommitted convention delegates against sitting President Johnson in New Hampshire primary.
·        March 16 – Senator Bobby Kennedy (D-NY) announces his candidacy.
·        March 31 – President Lyndon Johnson withdraws his name from nomination, leaving Vice President Hubert Humphrey as the presumptive nominee. (Humphrey declined to run in the primaries.)
·        April 4 — Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King assassinated. Weeklong riots break out across the nation in the greatest civil uprising since the Civil War, leaving 39 dead, 21,000 arrested, 2,000 injured, and $65 million in damages. Virtually every city in America saw a riot, with the two most notable being Washington DC and Chicago, Illinois where entire areas of the city were burned to the ground.
·        March-June – Democratic primary contests between McCarthy and Kennedy.
·        June 6 – Robert Kennedy assassinated after winning the California Primary.
·        August 26-29 Democratic Convention in Chicago. 10,000 anti-war protestors clash with 15,000 police and National Guardsmen while the entire spectacle. including 300 injuries from police beatings and tear gas, as well as thousands of mass arrests were watched on television by the entire nation. A night never to be forgotten.
·        November 5 – Republican Richard Nixon wins presidency over Democrat Hubert Humphrey by 7% of popular vote, less than 500,000 votes, after third party candidate, George Wallace, takes 13.5% of popular vote (nearly 10 million votes).
This review shows clearly that our present situation is nowhere near the level of division and violence which characterized 1968. It also serves to give us reassurance that America has overcome worse disruptions in the past and not only survived but flourished.
One caution, however, may indeed be in order. America does have a bloody history of assassinating prominent figures in our midst. There is a steady stream of such acts throughout our history. Assassinations, both attempted and successful, have haunted our political life
Here is a list:
1835 – Andrew Jackson (attempted)
1865 – Abraham Lincoln
1881 – James Garfield
1898 – William McKinley
1909 – William Howard Taft (attempted
1912 – Theodore Roosevelt (attempted)
1928 — Herbert Hoover (attempted)
1932 – Franklin Roosevelt (attempted)
1936 – Huey Long
1947 & 1950– Harry Truman (attempted)
1963 – John F. Kennedy
1968 – Martin Luther King
1968 – Robert F. Kennedy
 1972 – George Wallace (attempted)
1972 & 1974 – Richard Nixon (attempted)
1975 & 1975 – Gerald Ford (attempted)
1981 – Ronald Reagan (attempted)
1993 – George H.W. Bush (attempted)
1994 & 1994 &1996 — Bill Clinton (attempted)
2001 & 2005 — George W. Bush (attempted)
2009 & 2011 & 2013 – Barack Obama (attempted)
2016 – (Candidate) Donald Trump (attempted)
2017 – Steve Scalise (attempted)
This is a rather chilling list of incidents. It is not at all an overstatement that our current President, Donald J. Trump, is a prime candidate for assassination attempts, especially given the hatred towards him which has been exhibited by some of his enemies. If there is any basis for fear in America’s history of violence, it appears that assassination is at the top of the list.
Nevertheless, it is sometimes useful to recall that this Republic of ours has been through many difficult periods, contending with threats from within and without, but has survived them all and continues our march toward peace and prosperity. This too will pass.
© 2018 Richfield Press, LC (All rights reserved.)

Everybody knows how to negotiate except Trump

Especially all the reporters and commentators who have never negotiated any deal bigger than their house!

By Lawrence J. Fedewa July 27, 2018)

If you were hiring a negotiator to handle the biggest deal of your life, would you choose person who had no experience negotiating big deals or someone who had been doing it all his life? Would you choose someone like Chris Matthews  or Chris Wallace, or would you hire Donald J. Trump?

It happens that the American people hired Donald Trump. It also happens that Wallace, Matthews, Como, Blitzer and their cohorts don’t have a clue to understanding Trump’s negotiating strategy, let alone being competent to implement it. This is true, even though Trump published a detailed explanation of his bargaining process many years ago in The Art of the Deal (Ballantine, reprint 2015). There is no secret here.

Keep Reading

Radical Reforms in Higher Education

By Lawrence J.   Fedewa (July 9, 2018)

This is the story of my 1970s experimental college.  The design and experience seem to be once again relevant and may contribute to to the current debate. In a word, I developed a college based on an individual curriculum for each student.

Even though I was the second youngest member of the faculty, I was appointed Dean of the College at a small private school near Kansas City, Missouri., which was starved for money, students and ideas. In an attempt to bolster our enrollment and our finances, I took a week away from the office to write a proposal for a federal grant.

The proposal turned out to be a design for a college radically different than any of us were used to. That was challenge enough, but the real challenges began when our proposal was funded with $1.2 million a year for three years!

We began by convincing a large local company, Hallmark Cards, to donate some space for a branch campus in their new downtown office buildings, which I then took over as President of the new campus. I started out alone in a big room with a fancy title, and a big budget. I had to find furniture, equipment, some staff, and some walls, But first came the real challenge namely, the curriculum itself.

First, I threw out the “Higher Education Owners’ Manual”, i.e. the rules and customs surrounding traditional higher education. In my proposal, I had specified that the new college be aimed at older students, preferably over 25 years of age. As Dean, I had watched so many students drop out of college that I wanted college to be available for them to come back to when they were ready.

There appeared to be two vital considerations which had been overlooked in the traditional college:

1.       Learning is a personal activity and should be student-centered, not structured for the convenience of the institution.

2.      Learning is not divided into pricing units, i.e. credits, and learning experiences cannot be properly measured or evaluated with such tools.

What is a college degree?

In order to build a new curriculum model, some definitions had to be refined. First, what is a college degree? The answer was that a college degree is a public declaration by a qualified faculty that a recognizable body of knowledge and skills has been attained by an individual. It is therefore essential that the faculty have sufficient experience of the person’s capabilities to enable a considered evaluation. A corollary is that every student must be enrolled for some period of observation in the same institution which is to grant the degree – no quickies.

What is meant by “student-centered?”

The next question was, What is meant by “student-centered?” I am a great believer in the value of motivation in the learning process. Thus, my logical question to the student was, “What would you like to know that you don’t know already? Since you have to be enrolled here anyway, why not use the time profitably?” This question was the first step toward the student’s academic plan, that is his or her personal curriculum. The academic plan consisted of three elements:

1.       “What is your learning goal?”

2.      “How much do you know now?” and

3.      “How can you make up the difference?”

The Portfolio Plan

Typically, each student needed some guidance in designing the academic plan. So, we assigned each to an academic counselor, or coach. We found that a good beginning was what we called the “Portfolio Plan.” The student was encouraged to construct a portfolio showing every formal learning experience he or she had had to that date. The student was required to include proof of anything that has ever been learned – including college transcripts, military courses, professional training, awards, jobs which demonstrated expertise, publications – everything. Some of the portfolios were enormous; we had to find extra storage while they were being evaluated. I am aware that “credit for experience” has become almost routine; but we were among the first to introduce this methodology. Our approach differed fundamentally from later programs in that we did not attempt to convert experience into college credits. The value of the experience was simply to validate the student’s answer to the question, “How much do you know now?” All inclusions had to be accepted by the Academic Counselor, and later by the Major Professor. In case of a dispute, the Academic Counsellor would act as the student advocate.

During the course of this exercise, many students began to discover their academic goals. They were encouraged to consider real life ambitions, and the results were unorthodox, but valid. Examples were: oral history, dance therapy, strategic (business) planning, and many others.

Academic Plans

The next step was the design of the curriculum to achieve the academic goal. At this point, a specialist in the general field of the proposed academic goal, whom we called the “Major Professor,” was introduced to the student. This was a member of the College faculty, typically a Ph.D. in the field. However, volunteers from the community were frequently necessary because of the unusual nature of the student’s chosen field of study. The Academic Advisor then took on additional duties as coordinator of the interactions between the student, the major professor and the expert mentor. Our experience was that these experts were all willing and excited to participate. As President of the new college, I personally recruited and briefed these distinguished individuals. I was never refused. Interestingly, even though we offered stipends, we never had to pay for their services. They universally found that they too were learning through this assignment.

The academic plans that evolved were very interesting. The oral historian was mentored by the Director of Oral History at the Truman Presidential Library in nearby Independence, Missouri. Dance therapy was co-invented by the student and the Chief of Psychiatry at the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas. The strategic planner was tutored by the top executive for research and planning at Hallmark Cards. These are only a few of the community experts who were enlisted to help our students.

The Thesis and Graduation

In order to ensure academic validity, the Major Professor met regularly with the student and occasionally with the outside mentor. The final product of the academic plan had to be written and documented in the manner of a thesis, based on the new expertise which had been gained through this experience. Finally, borrowing from a doctoral program, the student was required to present the thesis to a panel of senior professors, who read the thesis, and then discussed the work in open forum with the candidate. If the thesis and the interview (to ensure authorship) were satisfactory, the student was graduated with an appropriate degree. All of the graduates walked into new jobs or promotions based on their academic work.

This system was wildly successful. The very first seminar meeting for the program was designed for about 15 students. More than 100 showed up the first night. We decided to charge a flat annual fee for the program – at a rather high figure for the times. We quickly discovered that employers were happy to subsidize their employees, although I had to make a few calls in the beginning to familiarize the personnel directors with the program. After the first year or so, the question never again arose.

Air Force Pilots

There was another dimension to the program as well. The home campus had a longstanding Degree Completion Program for U.S. military personnel. In conjunction with nearby Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base, where I had been privileged to serve as an adviser to the Community College of the Air Force, we offered the Portfolio Plan to Air Force personnel as well as civilian students.
Because of scheduling and other constraints, it was necessary to invent an early form of distance learning for these airmen. Computers were not available in those days, but we made extensive use of telephone, mail and after-hours conferences to maintain close communication with the Air Force students.

The most dramatic example of this new “distance learning” was the Air Force pilots, who were allowed to use their training flights to come to Richards-Gebaur and also to the college offices to have conferences with their counselors and professors. They came for all over – Alaska, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Texas and all points of the compass. Never have I seen more enthusiasm for academic work than I saw with these guys – unless it was the excitement that pervaded the entire student body. This reaction was certainly proof that motivation is a primary ingredient of successful learning.

Accreditation

After the program had graduated its first students, I arranged for the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools, the regional accreditation authority, to visit and evaluate the program. This was a two-step process. First, I paid three highly respected North Central evaluators to conduct their own investigation and to author a report. There were a couple of suggestions for minor adjustments, which we instituted immediately.

Then I invited the North Central to send an official team for an accreditation evaluation. Upon their arrival, we provided them with the report of the distinguished professors. In the end, our experiment passed accreditation with flying colors – much to the surprise even of a couple of the examiners.

After three years, circumstances drew me away from the new college. The program was relocated to the main campus and, I was told, eventually assimilated into the traditional curriculum.

But it was a heady experience for us all while it lasted!

 

© Richfield Press, Ltd. 2018 All Rights Reserved

 

 

Race in America: 2018

                                                                                       

by Lawrence J. Fedewa (May 26, 2018)

Just when white America reckoned that the election of a black President had finally signaled that racial equality in America had been achieved, it has become obvious that the distance between the races may be greater than ever, at least for large groups of both races.  There have always been two different channels of communication between the races, the “business” channel and the “personal” channel.

The business channel is used when there are people of all races present, e.g., in business settings, or in public, media, or written communications. This channel for whites traditionally ignored black sensibilities entirely. It seems justified to say that there has been improvement in this channel. As black concerns have become better known to whites, these conversations have become more “politically correct”. Certain terms, such as, “nigger”, and “whitey”, and many others are now rarely used in polite society.     Keep Reading

Response to The Federalist’s John Daniel Davidson re: Jonah Goldberg’s “Suicide of the West”

[Author’s Note: This essay is not in my usual sandbox, perhaps too philosophical for some. But I just couldn’t resist!!]

By Lawrence J. Fedewa

John Daniel Davidson’s critique of Jonah Goldberg’s “Suicide of the West” (The Federalist, May 14, 2018) is as thought-provoking as the book he is analyzing. However, there is an alternative view that undermines all the theories of liberal democratic capitalism’s life support – including those of C.S. Lewis and Patrick Deneen. The basic argument of all these theories is that liberal democratic capitalism must have an anchor to maintain its connection to reality.  The anchor might be religion, science, culture, or something else. Without a viable anchor, we are faced with contemplating what a very wise colleague of mine used to say, “The Enlightenment is an interesting experiment; I wonder how it will end.”

The possibility of its death becomes more imminent, it seems, not because of its suicide or of its self-inflicted wounds. Liberal democratic capitalism needs an anchor which is recognizable by the millions of those who are living, consciously or unconsciously, under its spell, i.e. its world view. The reason the anchors of the past do not work for the people of today is that these anchors are put forth in a language that they do not understand.

The scientific patois of the Enlightenment finds it hard to understand a God who is omnipresent but invisible, just as it stumbles when confronting all the choices we must make with no clear scientifically established criteria to rely on. The fundamental dilemma of modernity is that it has produced scientific miracles by rejecting appearances in favor of tangible evidence, but, in the process, it has also eliminated certainty. Yet some level of certainty is necessary in order for us to have confidence in our life decisions. It is here that we reach the limitations of a scientific world view. The scientific method has not produced enough reliable knowledge to guide human ethics. Keep Reading