Obama the university administrator; and spotlighting higher education

In case you missed it, historian and author Victor Davis Hanson penned an excellent column for National Review a few days ago outlining the best explanation of Barack Obama’s behavior that I’ve seen yet.

Barack Obama, College Administrator

Here is how he opens the piece:

“If you are confused by the first nine months of the Obama administration, take solace that there is at least a pattern. The president, you see, thinks America is a university and that he is our campus president. Keep that in mind, and almost everything else makes sense.”

Not having spent enough time outside of the university setting, Hanson writes of Obama:

“Note how baffled the administration is by sinking polls, tea parties, town halls, and, in general, ‘them’ – the vast middle class, which, as we learned during the campaign, clings to guns and Bibles, and which has now been written off as blinkered, racist, and xenophobic. The earlier characterization of rural Pennsylvania has been expanded to include all of Middle America.

For many in the academic community who have not worked with their hands, run businesses, or ventured far off campus, Middle America is an exotic place inhabited by aborigines who bowl, don’t eat arugula, and need to be reminded to inflate their tires.”

One more paragraph:

“Obama has simply emulated the worldview and style of a college administrator. So he thinks that reframing the same old empty banalities with new rhetorical flourishes and signs of fresh commitment and empathy will automatically result in new faculty converts. There is no there there in health-care reform, but opponents can be either bullied, shamed, or mesmerized into thinking there is.”

Hanson is a long time veteran of the academic setting so he knows what he’s talking about. The article is worth your time. Read it in full at National Review here.

Speaking of higher ed – we often hear about America’s universities being the best in the universe (blah blah blah). Having had the opportunity to spend time on various campuses as a student and an employee, as well as the chance to learn more about how they spend – and waste – untold amounts of taxpayer and tuition dollars, I’m not as big a fan as many people are.

On that topic – for a number of months now I’ve been receiving email updates from the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy. Their website is www.popecenter.org. Here is the description of the North Carolina based organization’s work from their “About Us” page (with emphasis added):

“The university system in the United States has accomplished a great deal of good, but we believe that higher education in the United States, including North Carolina, has strayed from its chief goals of scholarly inquiry and responsible teaching.

All too often, universities allow teaching to become shallow and trendy, failing to challenge students intellectually and disparaging traditional principles of justice, ethics, and liberal education. Students know little about the history of their country or the institutions that led to this nation’s prosperity and liberty. Students can get by without taking rigorous courses, and non-academic activities overshadow scholarship. As a result, many college graduates have poor skills in computation, communication, and logical analysis. Faculty are allowed excessive latitude in what they teach and often get away with little teaching at all, because research is emphasized. Taxpayers as well as students and their families pay hefty prices to support a system that often appears to provide little educational value.

To address these and other problems, the Pope Center conducts studies in areas such as governance, curriculum, financing, access, accountability, faculty research, and administrative policies. We explore ways to increase the accountability of trustees, administrators, faculty, and students. And we engage in the broader dialogue about how to improve higher education around the nation.

In these endeavors, we are motivated by the principles that have traditionally guided public policy in the United States: limits on government; freedom to pursue goals through voluntary means, both for-profit and nonprofit; accountability through private property rights; and the belief that competition is an excellent regulating force.”

Anyone wishing to learn the truth about “the world’s greatest colleges and universities” should spend a lot of time at their website and support their work.

Last point – one of my favorite writers, Thomas Sowell, weighed in this week with a column titled “Choosing the right college.” As with all of Sowell’s work, it’s worth your time.

©2009 John Francis Biver