All posts by Naomi Schaefer Riley


Sending Kids to College Unprepared (Part 2)

I just ran across this piece, which seems directly related to our earlier discussion about the abyss that lies between high-school graduation and college readiness for many students. I suggested in my last post that high schools could simply consult the community college down the street if they’re wondering whether their kids are prepared for college. Apparently, they can also consult the ACT and the College Board, which have come up with their own college-readiness standards. As Jenna Ashley Ro…


Lessons From Penn State

If you want to know the lesson from the Penn State scandal, it’s not that we should shut down college athletics (though I wouldn’t be crying if we did). It’s not that people worship college football too much (though perhaps they do). It’s not that powerful men are all evil and always take advantage of their positions. The lesson is that colleges should not be in the law enforcement business. I’ve said it on this blog before and I’ll say it again. I would not trust a single college administrator …


What Majors Are in the State’s Best Interest?

(Cross-posted from Philanthropy Daily)

The new emphasis on accountability in higher education can have its upsides but the last couple of weeks have reminded me  about the anti-intellectualism that often seems to come with such movements.

A couple of weeks ago, Rick Scott, Governor of Florida, suggested that producing degrees in anthropology was not a “vital interest” of his state. He told some editorial writers that there are only a limited number of jobs for anthropologists and wondered wh…


The Abyss Between High School and College

The disconnect between what students must do to graduate from public high school and what they must do upon entering a state university or even a community college down the street is shocking. Take freshmen at Cal State, for instance. Despite a 3.29 grade point average in high school, in 2009 nearly half needed remedial English. Almost 40 percent were placed in remedial math.

The story is the same in New York. Here’s the beginning of a story in the New York Times several days ago:

In June, Desir…


The Hoops They Jump Through

I cannot  imagine what is to be learned from a college-admissions essay. Between the idiotic prompts, the navel-gazing by 17-year-olds, and the aid of parents, teachers and professional consultants, these essays symbolize everything that is wrong with the admissions process.

Yesterday’s New York Times offered yet another installment in the essay drama. The Common Application apparently asks students for a 500-word essay. For a while it had not enforced any kind of limit on the essay, but this ye…


Upping Professors’ Teaching Loads

On the one hand, this piece about colleges asking professors to up their teaching loads as a result of budget could be a simple result of contract ambiguity. The first professor in the story claims that his department head told him when he was hired that he’d teach a single large class of 500, but has since been told he needs to teach two sections of that class as well as an additional class. And he has filed a grievance as a result.

Was the college’s promise in writing? Probably not. In my expe…


Thank You, Steve Jobs

You often read about how thanks to modern technology (and the terrible economy), college students are creating their own jobs. The freelance economy is an amazing thing to behold. I recently had occasion to attend a “hackathon” in New York. The combination of business and public service “apps” that were put together in a weekend was mind-blowing.

But even for those of us who use computers only for word processing, Web surfing, and email, Apple has been a godsend. I have been a freelancer twice i…


Universities Are Not Courts

A federal jury recently awarded a former student at Sewanee $26,500. It was to compensate him for negligence in an investigation conducted by the university into an accusation of rape by a fellow student. The names of the students were not released. The student originally sued the school for millions but the jury only ordered the school to reimburse the cost of his tuition for the year in which the hearing was conducted.

The story is instructive in at least a couple of ways. First, university di…


Deep Springs Deep-Sixes Single Sex

I have never set foot on the Deep Springs College campus, but I was a little saddened to read that its board just decided to admit women to the all-male school. The two-year college, which allows students to learn intensively while taking care of the school’s farm, always struck me as a good example of the eccentricities that can thrive in American higher education. We can have large state universities, small private liberal-arts schools, Buddhist colleges, evangelical schools for home-schooled …


The Return of Antioch

Antioch College is re-opening this fall and it remains to be seen what the college that was known for its radical leftism has learned from its fall and whether this resurrection will last. The New York Times Magazine has a story about it this week, including a useful thumbnail history. While the school was plagued with some financial problems and in conflict with the other parts of the university, its radicalism seemed to erode the school from the outside in:

The college’s students, who had al…


Mike Bloomberg’s Memorial to Secularism

The Mayor of New York decided not to include religious leaders in the ceremony at the September 11 memorial today. He told critics of the decision that he was trying not to force religion on other people. On his weekly radio show, he told New Yorkers:

“It’s a civil ceremony. There are plenty of opportunities for people to have their religious ceremonies. … Some people don’t want to go to a religious ceremony with another religion. And the number of different religions in this city are really q…


At Columbia, Race Isn’t Even the ‘Subtext’

Last week, The New York Times reported on the resignation of Michele Moody-Adams as dean of Columbia University’s undergraduate college. Moody-Adams gave a perfectly reasonable explanation for her departure:

A frank e-mail Dr. Moody-Adams sent to trustees and alumni claimed that her voice had not been “taken seriously” regarding policies that would “ultimately compromise the college’s academic quality and financial health.”

Her note focused, according to the Times, “on what she and others have p…


Does This Mean Groupon Has Jumped the Shark?

Or higher education has?

According to Slate:

National Louis University … became the first university in the country to offer one of Groupon’s daily deals in an effort to boost interest among potential students.

The deal is for a graduate-level introduction to teaching course and will go for $950. That’s almost a 60-percent discount on the usual $2,232 price tag for a three-credit course at the school.


Wanna Pray for My Soul? Go for It!

Texas Governor and presidential hopeful Rick Perry revealed his reading list today. And it includes a book called Turning the Tide by Charles Stanley. I haven’t read the book, but New York Magazine reports that that book calls on Christians to pray for the conversion of Jews and Muslims. Here are two lines that the magazine has picked out:

“Pray for God’s protection against terrorism and ask that Muslims throughout the world will come to know Jesus as their Savior.”

“Pray that Jews worldwide wil…


Outreach Will Only Get You So Far

The conceit of many selective college admissions officers (and others trying to encourage more campus diversity) is that there is no need to compromise on academic standards in order to get more black and Hispanic students on campus. But a new study suggests that there are not a lot of qualified minority candidates who are simply unaware of their educational options or who simply need a little outreach to push them into a selective school. According to a study presented at the annual meeting of …


Education Is Not the Answer

Last week, New York City announced that it would be bringing sex education back into public schools. I don’t have high hopes. That announcement came the day after the city released its standardized test scores. And here they are: 43.9 percent of New York City students met or exceeded the English proficiency standard. In math, 57.3 percent of city students were proficient.

The good news is that sex education may be simpler than math and English. In fact, it’s so simple that even teenagers in unde…


Priorities at the NAACP

At its 102nd annual convention at the end of July, the NAACP passed a resolution calling for an end to the war on drugs. Here’s the statement of president Benjamin Todd Jealous in the press release:

“These flawed drug policies that have been mostly enforced in African American communities must be stopped and replaced with evidenced-based practices that address the root causes of drug use and abuse in America.” The resolution takes aim at sentencing disparities in drug-related crimes and sugg…


What to Expect…

A friend of mine, a staunch libertarian, once admitted to me that when she was ready to leave the hospital with her first child, she completely freaked out. Her first thought was: These people at the hospital are just going to let me take this thing home? Shouldn’t there be someone checking up on me?

The question of how much “nanny state” involvement we need in raising kids will no doubt continue to be debated. But I just noted an ad on the back of The New York Times‘s front section today announ…


The King’s College Problem

King’s College opened in the late 1990′s in the Empire State Building. It was supposed to be an evangelical college with a particular emphasis on exposing its young students to the world.

When the school was having trouble gaining accreditation a number of years ago, I defended it in the New York Post. And I spent some time interviewing students and professors about the school. I have since been invited back on a couple of occasions. I was disappointed when they lost Peter Wood, who now h…