William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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THE REAL COLLEGE SCANDAL:  Mediocrity, not lack of equity, is what will kill us.  From Alan Dershowitz in Newsweek: 

The decision of New York University not to renew the contract of one of the most distinguished professors of organic chemistry is a sign of the times. Academic standards in general have been consistently lowered over the past several decades. That should come as no surprise, because standards for admission to colleges and universities have been lowered as well. To the extent that meritocracy is replaced by other factors, such as identity politics, the standards will continue to diminish.

It is not surprising that universities will have to lower academic standards for performance if they lower academic standards for admission. It would be unfair to admit some students on lower academic admissions standards and then impose historic performance standards on them. That would make it difficult for them to compete against students who had to meet more rigorous standards for admission. This won't be as obvious in subjects like political science where all ideas are created equal and are judged as much by the identity of the student as by content.

But it will be obvious in courses like organic chemistry where identity politics play no role in grading. That is why some—but by no means most—of Professor Maitland Jones Jr.'s students petitioned against him, and why his contract was not renewed.

By that criteria Nobel prize winning scientists would not be hired if they demanded high performance from their students.

But what about the students who can't meet the high standards of the most accomplished teachers? Should they be prevented from being admitted to medical school by receiving B- or C+ in a hard course? Perhaps there should be two sections of organic chemistry: one that is highly demanding; and one less so. In that way the best students would not suffer from a reduction in standards, while the less qualified ones would get their B+ and A- grades. But medical schools would know which section the applicant chose and would prefer the student from the more demanding section. That is as it should be. We want doctors who have excelled by the hardest standards.

COMMENT:  Read the rest.  It's well worth it.  Dershowitz is one of our leading public intellectuals.  A liberal, he has taken substantial abuse for calling out the excesses of the left.  During his academic career he was often labeled "the smartest man at Harvard," and for good reason.

It is time for a serious national conversation about education, how we define it and what we expect from educational institutions and students.  We've had such national discussions in the past, and they've been useful.  Right now, strangled by wokeness, America's educational establishment is heading for disaster.

October 16-17, 2022