A Defense of the “Ungrading” Movement

In his April piece for the Martin Center, Adam Ellwanger critiqued “contract grading” as a symptom of “the war against academic excellence” and the broader societal movement toward “some fetishized notion of social justice.” I agree with the diagnosis my colleague offers regarding the pervasiveness of “Lake Wobegon” syndrome, wherein everyone is above average, trophies … Continue reading “A Defense of the “Ungrading” Movement”


The Post-Truth Classroom

Veritas. Lux et veritas. Veritas vos liberabit.  Truth. Light and truth. Truth will set you free. These are the official mottos for Harvard, Yale, and Johns Hopkins. They reflect a conception of the university in which the dissemination and discovery of truth is the school’s main purpose. In the past, these institutions largely lived up … Continue reading “The Post-Truth Classroom”


Reading: Feeding the Mind and Soul

Imagine a room full of fresh-faced humanities graduate students tasked with answering this timeless question: “Why read literature?” These eager youths race to the white board, markers in hand, scribbling their answers before a timer beeps the exercise complete. You Are What You Read, by Robert DiYanni, is like the product of that exercise, replete … Continue reading “Reading: Feeding the Mind and Soul”


Letter to the Editor: How prospective students can choose a major

To the editor: The article on “How Higher Education is Going to Change” talks about the increasing importance of consumer input to the mix of what is offered. But how do prospective students/consumers know what they prefer in their education? In many or most cases, they are clueless. The typical entering student has no idea … Continue reading “Letter to the Editor: How prospective students can choose a major”


How Higher Education is Going to Change

Predictions that American higher education is on the verge of great change have been heard for quite a few years, but so far the system doesn’t look much different than it did twenty years ago. Perhaps the prognostications were wrong. I have never doubted that higher education was on an unsustainable path and after reading … Continue reading “How Higher Education is Going to Change”


A Perennial Question: What Makes a Good College Teacher?

Each generation returns the same complaints: college teachers drone, college teachers lack creativity and spark, nay, they often lack even rudimentary pedagogical awareness. And since the ascendance of what William James coined the “PhD Octopus” of credentialism and narrowed specialization, far too many see their work with students as an impediment to their research. Look … Continue reading “A Perennial Question: What Makes a Good College Teacher?”


Derek Bok’s Higher Expectations – Our Colleges Should Accomplish More

Former Harvard president Derek Bok has long lamented that our institutions of higher education largely underperform in their missions. He has now written another book making that argument. His Higher Expectations is a coolly rational analysis of what needs to be done to improve American undergraduate education. He uses as his frame a study by … Continue reading “Derek Bok’s Higher Expectations – Our Colleges Should Accomplish More”


How Can Professors Inspire Students to Want to Learn?

COVID-19 has revolutionized how we think about online college teaching. Until last spring, two perspectives predominated. One argued that massively enrolled online classes presented by impressive teachers or prestigious universities would increase efficiency while preserving quality. The other worried about the quality of online classes, and that the gap between those able to afford in-person … Continue reading “How Can Professors Inspire Students to Want to Learn?”


True Learning Starts With Real Mentorship

There’s a chasm between the purpose of a liberal arts education and how many colleges and universities actually operate. Throughout academia, excessive value is placed on efficiency, research publications, and prestige—things that are, at best, ancillary to a liberal education’s central purpose of growing in wisdom and pursuing truth. Consequently, instead of focusing on nurturing … Continue reading “True Learning Starts With Real Mentorship”


The Case Against the Cult of Critical Thinking

To speak against critical thinking in today’s academy is comparable to denying the divinity of Jesus in the medieval church—it’s heterodox. Not only does it rail against the values of contemporary scholarship, it may even be foolish in light of today’s students. Isn’t the lack of critical thinking the problem in modern society? Here’s how … Continue reading “The Case Against the Cult of Critical Thinking”