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Universities and Bureaucracies: Close-Minded Havens -- Are proliferating scandals the consequence?

Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA Read Comments - 14
Publish Date: 
Thu, 06/05/2014

 

“I’m not young enough to know everything,” Peter Pan’s creator J.M. Barrie observed, as if reflecting on the Great Commencement Speaker Flap of 2014. However Jimi Hendrix was young when he reputedly offered advice heeded by too few students – “knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens.”

 

Aware that wisdom comes from asking the right questions, not identifying the wrong answers, Professor Allan Bloom blasted universities in 1987 for exacerbating youthful indiscretion.

 

In his seminal book “The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today’s Student,” Bloom argued students were graduating into a complex and conflict-riddled world without the insights that come from the clash of opposing viewpoints.

 

Thirty years hence, are the controversies plaguing America the consequence?

 

Real advance, Albert Einstein revealed, requires the creative imagination to Think Again, “to raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle.” We can’t solve problems, Einstein believed, by applying the same “thinking we used when we created them.”

 

Nevertheless, “tolerance enforcers” wielding moral superiority and a heckler’s veto have transformed campuses into close-minded sanctuaries. Cocooned away, students are safe from potential insult, reflective thought, disagreement – and real life.

 

This year’s commencement castoffs -- victims of a war on accomplished and courageous women -- include: Ayaan Hirsi Ali, human rights activist; Condoleeza Rice, former U.S. Secretary of State; and Christian Lagarde, International Monetary Fund Chief.

 

Couldn’t Brandeis’ class of 2014 have learned something from Ali, a Somali feminist who overcame subjugation, genital circumcision and forced marriage to become a Dutch parliamentarian, Harvard professor, and internationally acclaimed author, while living under death threats?

 

Wasn’t it worth Rutgers graduates’ time to listen to Rice, an African-American who emerged out of the segregated south to become the most accomplished black woman in American history, whose foreign policy judgments were shared by then-senators Clinton, Biden and Kerry?

 

Wouldn’t Smith women have derived inspiration from Lagarde, the first woman to become finance minister of a G8 economy (France) and head of the IMF?

 

At last week’s Harvard commencement, Michael Bloomberg won applause denouncing the left-wing bias that censors unfashionable voices on campus asking, “Isn’t the purpose of a university to stir discussion, not silence it” in order “to teach students how (not what) to think?”

                       

That’s what I assumed while attending Tufts University where I co-founded a student newspaper deemed offensive by the thought police. They branded me -- and my vandalized car -- “fascist” for writing opinions about the nuclear freeze, Reagan’s social security reform, and Jessie Jackson’s “hymie-town” slur.

 

The problem is not just that “censorship and conformity [are] the mortal enemies of freedom,” as Bloomberg declared. It’s that when “everyone is thinking alike, then no one is thinking,” as Benjamin Franklin taught, creating a culture that breeds incompetence, indifference, greed, irresponsibility, and corruption – in essence, scandalous behavior.

 

Consider the latest scandal rocking Washington at the Veterans Administration, the federal government’s largest employer. To meet a patient caseload that’s grown 30 percent since 2003 and address persistent quality-of-care problems, the VA’s budget more than doubled over the period while full-time employees jumped 63 percent to 314,000.

 

Yet the VA still can’t match the private sector’s standard of care, which is why only 40 percent of veterans are enrolled in the government-run health care system. The just-released VA audit confirms a widespread and “systematic lack of integrity,” as employees prioritized their bonuses over sick and dying veterans.

 

It’s a story of unaccountability, fraud and potentially criminal conduct that even shocked the now-former VA head, Eric Shinseki.  Unfortunately, unlike the private sector, the Washington Way is: if you like your government job, you can keep it – except for scapegoats like Shinseki.

 

The truth is, without the disciplining and invigorating influence of an open and competitive intelectual environment, and the innovation and accountability it fosters, otherwise honorable and capable people can be rendered indecent and incompetent. It’s the eco-system -- not the people in it -- that mostly determines human behavior.

 

In the frantic circumstances of 9/11, people behaved magnificently, as is highlighted at the just-opened 9/11 Memorial Museum. Most remarkable are stories of the rescued – civilians and emergency responders – who returned to the wreckage “to do for others what had been done for us,” explained retired fireman Mickey Cross.

 

Even amid confusion and devastation, Cross noted “a real sense of caring for one another…” which “is something we should never forget and never stop doing.”

 

For those caught in the tragedy, there was no script or easy answers, only difficult questions. Yet the improbably heroic did the right thing, even under duress, which is the definition of initiative.  In a more open system, VA employees would likely do the same.

 

Think Again – We don’t need crises to bring out the best of humanity, just a better environment to produce decent, motivated and wise people.


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Thank you Melanie _ have been

Thank you Melanie _ have been shocked at the manipulation to silence any message except the socialist approved topic by socialist approved list of speakers --they would take Al Sharpton over Condi Rice any day

Just think of Condi as a person apart from her political and academic achievements and leadership at Stanford: a concert pianist, ice skater, speaks several languages plus speaks and reads Russian fluently, lifts weights, dresses with style, has sense of humor, a Christian believer (daughter of a minister), passionate speaker, expert on football and loves all sports, served on board of Chevron - has an oil tanker named after her - her childhood was in the segregated South where she wasn't allowed to try on shoes in a store that sold to whites - her pastor father moved the family to Colorado and encouraged her

-- if only such things could be said about Hillary - she'd be up for sainthood as well as presidential nominee.

Too often we give our

Too often we give our children answers to remember rather than problems to solve.

I thought Joel Kotkin also

I thought Joel Kotkin also nailed the reason in his Daily Beast column yesterday:

"The modern Clerisy’s homogeneity springs from their social conditioning. Educated along similar ideological lines at major universities, they tend to be geographically concentrated in wealthy, “progressive” places, where few dissent from the prevailing worldview.

As such they breathe, as analyst Walter Russell Mead suggests, “within a cocoon.” Inside their urban cocoons they operate from a thoroughly internalized set of progressive tropes on such issues as the environment, urbanism, gender and race.

In practical terms, such as in their support of President Obama and the Democratic Party, they are both broadly allied with centers of power and influence, much as the clergy was in Medieval and early modern times."

i found your remarks on the

i found your remarks on the paper you founded at tufts and damage to your car interesting. easier to sit back, isn't it.

Brandeis' behavior was a huge disappointment. i remember when it opened. It was originally Middlesex Medical School and taken over by a group with such high hopes.

My gilrfriend (from jr hi) went there. I visited there one weekend. So many bright students from all over. (Roberta went on to Harvard Law and was one of seven women in her class). Always very selective

My husband noted that in a blog he receives from John Brown, Ph.d. of State dept, he writes of Condi Rice, ph.d (?). He wondered what the question mark was for next to Rice's name. Like her degree was make
believe? John always points out his degree is from Princeton. i explained patiently that any black who has a conservative leaning is not to be believed.

I find it ironic in this day and age where we are supposed to be so sensitive and not use certain words, we are more narrow minded than ever and definitely more profane
........and careless about dressing.

When your voter base is a

When your voter base is a bunch of intellectually lazy you are going to get incompetent leadership. This is the foundation of my belief that the movie "Idiocracy" is more of a documentary than a comedy.

Our nation is becoming a dystopian society full of extremely stupid people. If you don't believe it than how do some many shallow democrats get elected to high office. Why is Honey Boo Boo or the Kardashians so popular?

These Americans have no clue abut the scandals except when John Stewart's writers sober up for 5 minutes to write a joke about one.

The closed minded pigs that

The closed minded pigs that run our education system at all levels are trying to destroy whole generations of American students through propaganda and brainwashing.

We should do everything we can to end the radical NEA and teachers unions.

I find your essays pertinent

I find your essays pertinent and pithy. The crisp, clear copy flows smoothly regardless of the diverse subjects you cover. What a talent you have and how lucky I am to be receiving your articles and to be attending your seminars via the posts.

I wonder if today's

I wonder if today's university students have any knowledge of the
accomplishments of the three women denied the opportunity to speak at
their schools.

Perhaps they were told they were right-wing republicans and knew nothing
more?

I believe that UCLA has Jane Fonda speaking; I don't object
despite her lack of any significant accomplishment in her life and
despite her anti-American deeds in Vietnam. Unfortunately the pendulum
is stuck on the left side of the middle.

Shockingly Brandeis, of all places, refused to allow Ali
to speak. I believe that Tufts recently joined the cadre of anti-Israel
universities.......our dear mascot Jumbo has been drinking spoiled water, alas.

Are some people not paying

Are some people not paying attention. The reason there are more scandals are easily summed in in three little words.

Barack Hussein Obama.

Scandals. Its what he does. Scandals R Us. Nobody does more scandals than does Barry. When the VA scandal gets too hot, you create the Bergdahl scandal.

This has been the game plan for hundreds of scandals since Jan of 2009.

Scandal.
Lather.
Rinse.
Repeat.

Another way of looking at it,

Another way of looking at it, is that we now have a very small adversarial media, Fox News, Rush, Mark Levin, Breitbart, (to name a few) that point out corruption the democrats do. In the past, the corrupt media would only highlight corruption from Republicans and ignore democrats who killed, maimed, molested or raped.

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