UNC schools promise strong general education, but do they deliver?

Suppose that you have dropped your son or daughter off at one of the campuses of the University of North Carolina system. You have plenty to worry about: housing, roommates, clothing, money, and so forth. It’s quite a load.

At the risk of further depressing you, there’s one more thing that you should be worrying about, but probably aren’t. That is the college curriculum.


Another Dud for UNC’s Summer Reading Program

Last year, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s summer reading program managed to stir up controversy and even litigation by choosing Michael Sells’ book Approaching the Qur’an as the book incoming freshmen were expected to read. The problem with that book, which overlooks Islam’s propensities toward intolerance and violence, was not that it was promoting religion, but that it was a waste of the students’ time. This year’s choice is no better, and arguably it’s worse. Incoming freshmen are assigned to read Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America.


Race-based admissions policies must go

The litigation over race-based admissions policies is probably the most important case the Supreme Court will decide in its current term. Those who think that it’s somehow progress for government institutions to treat classes of individuals differently because of their ancestry are pulling out all the stops to defend race-based admissions policies, including an intellectually dishonest argument that diversity enhances education and cries that the sky will fall if schools like the University of Michigan can’t stack the deck in favor of applicants in certain groups. Here are a few thoughts on this momentous case.


The problem of credential inflation

Every so often, you come across an article that leaves you thinking, “Gosh — I can’t believe he actually said that!” A recent essay that appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education (Sept. 27, 2002) had that effect on me. It was written by a sociology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Randall Collins. Collins entitled his piece, “The Dirty Little Secret of Credential Inflation” and what made it so remarkable was his audacity in speaking a truth so contrary to his professional interest.




Campus intellectual intolerance is back

In 1976, I was a student at Duke Law School. One of the campus speakers that year was Milton Friedman, who had recently received the Nobel Prize in economics. Prior to his talk, leftist student groups posted signs around the campus protesting Friedman’s appearance on the grounds that since he had once given some economic advice to Pinochet’s government in Chile, he was therefore complicit in that regime’s repression.


Inquiry #13: The Higher Education Bonds: Hindsight and Foresight

The campaign for the higher education bonds in 2000 told North Carolina voters that the bonds were the best way to handle the University of North Carolina system’s deteriorating facilities and its pressing needs for new buildings to accommodate an expected surge in enrollment. Bond supporters were adamant and explicit in promising voters that the bonds wouldn’t raise their taxes. Now two years after passage, taxes have already risen and the deepening state budget crisis threatens to see them increase again, UNC is favoring new construction over supposedly critical repairs, there has been no sign of a massive surge in enrollment, and UNC is unnecessarily and openly pursuing contracting procedures that are possibly illegal and likely more costly. A moratorium on the bond sales, allowed by the legislation approving the bonds, appears to be the most responsible way to navigate the state’s fiscal crisis and UNC’s crisis of credibility with N.C. voters.



Report on teacher certification riles education establishment

“Teacher Certification: Stumbling for Quality” is the title of a major report released in October by the Abell Foundation that has vexed the vociferous education establishment. The report, by Kate Walsh, tackles the assumptions that undergird the regulatory policies that all states have implemented, mandating teacher certification as the way to ensure good teachers.