Thursday, January 25, 2024

The joke is on us. . .

Harvard College, which became Harvard University, was founded in 1636 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, making it the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States.  For centuries, its graduates were counted among the elite of Massachusetts' clerical and civil ranks and, from the 19th century on, among the ranks of national and international figures.  This occurred as a dozen graduate and professional schools were formed around the undergraduate College, including schools of medicine (1782), law (1817) and business (1908) as well as the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (1890).  Since the late 19th century Harvard has become one of the most prestigious universities and graduate schools in the world, boasting a library system and financial endowment larger than those of any other.  Though begun as a Christian school, Charles W. Eliot, president 1869–1909, eliminated the favored position of Christianity from the curriculum.  During the 20th century, Harvard's international reputation grew as a burgeoning endowment and prominent professors expanded the university's scope. Explosive growth in the student population continued with the addition of new graduate schools and the expansion of the undergraduate program. Policies of exclusion were not limited to religious minorities but included sexual minorities as well -- right up into the 1950s.  Mostly, Harvard was known for its rigorous educational standards even while the progressive drift of the university continued unabated to the present day.  Now that is not the case.

Claudine Gay, a black woman, has managed to break the glass ceiling and to ascend to the presidency of perhaps the world’s most prestigious university, without ever publishing a single academic book under her own name.  In addition, her contributions to academic and professional journals and publications has over her entire lifetime been less than President Lawrence Summers (who led Harvard from 2001-2006) published in the space of one year -- 1987!  How many professors would be viewed favorably and receive tenure with so thin a resume?  It is clear that Harvard has chosen to elevate a leader not on the basis of a resume of accomplishment and achievement but because this individual fits the ideological profile the school has set for the job.  The big joke is this.  The most elite university in the world offers something less than scholarship and more about access -- connections to the powerful.  Indeed, Harvard's diploma is more about networking with the elite and commending students with the secret handshake of its persona than it is education and scholarship. Harvard is training people how to gain access to and influence within the halls of power but is not quite about giving them the best education money can buy.

According to the Harvard student newspaper, more than three-quarters of their students are taking anti-depressants.  This, given that at Yale, nearly 80% of grades are As and a similar statistic prevails at Harvard as well.  What is there to be depressed about?  Unless, perhaps, you realize that the joke is also on you?  Now lest we think that ideology drives only the Ivy League schools, consider this.  The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin system refused $800 million from the state legislature when it came with strings that would have stalled the growth of the diversity, equity, and inclusiveness agenda and asked them to stop hiring people for those positions and to give those currently in some of those positions other jobs within the university.  So there you have it.  Ideology has become the most important thing of all -- from Massachusetts to Wisconsin and probably a thousand other educational giants.  No wonder people are asking if it is worth it to go in debt for a degree that may not be worth what you paid for it!

Postscript...  The dust up over the UW at LaCrosse Chancellor who was doing porn on the side only highlights the moral vacuum on the larger university scene!

Postscript 2...  So President Gay is no longer President of Harvard.  Gay announced her resignation on January 2 after the allegations of plagiarism and her embarrassing answers about whether antisemitic comments from students would violate the school's code of conduct made it impossible for her to stay.  Except that is not quite how she has framed it. Of course, racism will be the blame and white people the instruments of her downfall.  How sad it is when people refuse to accept responsibility for their own obvious failings.

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