Durham, N. C.—In the fabled past, students in colleges and universities were penalized for giving an incorrect answer on an exam, now they risk a lower grade if they don’t.
“Memorize the wrong answer and give it back to them,” advised Trey Winslett, a junior at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill, when asked how he handled inaccuracies in textbooks and lectures that he and his classmates had to remember for tests. Winslett spoke on the student panel at a recent conference here sponsored by the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.
Kat Rodgers, also a junior at UNC-Chapel Hill, agreed with Winslett. “I’m actually dealing with that right now in a sociology class,” Rodgers said at the Pope Center’s annual conference. “I think I’ll give her the answer she wants and get it over with.”
Winslett remembered an “objective” test question he faced that really strained the boundaries of objectivity. In an Introduction to American Government class, Winslett had to answer the question, “Why is government organized by bureaucracy?” The answer: “Because it is the most efficient way.”
“At UNC-Charlotte, we had no History, English or Economics,” recent graduate Elizabeth Beck recalls. “We were taught there was no global security unless the UN will save us.”
Currently a law student at Washington and Lee University in Virginia, Beck also spoke at the conference at the Hilton. The alumna does not look back wistfully on her alma mater’s undergraduate curriculum.
“We were taught that Reagan, Bush and Nixon were the worst presidents ever,” Beck remembered. “We were taught that the CIA introduced drugs into inner city neighborhoods.”
Not too surprisingly, the fantasy-fueled lessons were frequently delivered with pop culture pizzazz. “We watched Purple Rain in Political Philosophy Class,” Beck recalled, although she still can’t figure out what the film featuring MTV musical icon Prince had to do with the subject.
Rodgers notes that the indoctrination in place of education that occurs in higher education would not be possible in most businesses. “As a consumer, am I going to go to Chick a Fil to hear someone’s political views?,” Rodgers asks. “No, I am going to go down the street to Burger King.”
So why do the student consumers put up with the shoddy service? “Students are acting in their own self-interest,” Winslett concludes. “Your GPA [Grade Point Average] is determined more by the classes you take than by who you are.”
“Soon after coming to UNC-Chapel Hill, I became aware of a site called pickaprof.com,” Winslett said. “The whole purpose of this website is to pick the easiest class.”
“Some of these classes have a large class participation grade, subjectively given by the instructor, [who is] frequently a t. a. [teaching assistant].” Thus, the teaching assistants, who are recent graduates themselves, assume great power over students who are not much younger than they are.
And these teaching assistants themselves might not be capable of even presiding over a classroom. “One instructor could read her notes perfectly but in answer to questions would frequently give the wrong answer to questions because she did not understand the question,” Winslett remembered of a lecturer who knew English as a second language.
The mania for “diversity” that has supplanted education as the raison d’etre in institutions of higher learning does not seem to serve anyone particularly well, including those that the university high command considers “diverse.” At UNC-Charlotte, “The Model UN, Black Student Groups [16 in number] and gay student groups got the lions’ share of the funding,” Beck recalls. Yet the school also had “multicultural dorms” in which students segregated themselves by race and ethnicity. Hence, we have the most ironic twist of them all: multiculturalism resulting in segregation in housing.
Malcolm A. Kline is the executive director of Accuracy in Academia.