Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Civic Doody

There is a new ranking of top universities and colleges in the news today, with Harvard on the top, Yale 4th, Virginia 6th and Penn 8th.

This could be a ranking of academic excellence, library size or endowment. Except for the No. 2 spot belongs to Grove City College. You remember that Pennsylvania hall of ivy, don't you? It is the college that refused all federal aid in 1977 rather than implement Title IX, and which pops up on every list of best Christian and conservative colleges. Third place was Washington & Lee University, traditionally a hotbed of social rest. And 7th place was Wheaton College? Wheaton College? Yes, the Oxford of the evangelical movement, which fired a professor for converting to Catholicism. And I would mention the 13th-ranked school, Rhodes College, if I ever heard of it, and no it is not where Rhodes Scholars usually come from.

This is actually a ranking of which schools got the highest scores on a 60-question test about civics and history, the stuff I was really good at. The fact that the best school, Harvard, came up with a D+ average of 69.6 percent should tell you something. What it told me was to look further when I saw the name of the report produced by the benign-sounding Intercollegiate Studies Institute: "Failing Our Students, Failing America: Holding Colleges Accountable for Teaching America’s History and Institutions." Probably not something the Antioch faculty would put out, especially since the liberal college is going out of business after 167 years, a victim of dwindling donations due to rampant political correctness.

I took the test, naturally, and did pretty well, I think, (91.6 percent) missing only five questions, all on a certain topic dear to the publisher of the rankings: economics.

Anyway, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, far from being merely a nonprofit advocate for higher education, is a right-wing organization founded at the height of the Cold War to inculcate strictly "American" values in college students. Its board of directors reads like the donor list of the Reagan administration, although I have to admit that these days, these folks seem pretty moderate. Oh, that jolly hippie-in-disguise Ed Meese!

I also have to admit it is a good test and a good idea to remind people -- as Jay Leno does routinely with his priceless "Jay Walking" routine -- how little we know about history, government and public policy. When you wind up unable to afford gasoline, health insurance or your kid's lives in foreign wars, remember that the people who score 50 percent on this test are elected to office by those who score 40.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous1:52 AM

    A 69 is a C+ in Canada. Maybe all those people could improve their grades by moving. A 91 is an A+ in Canada, but the A/A+ difference hardly seems worth moving for.

    I got a Canadian A-, which would be an American B-, but lucky for me, I've already moved. The ones I missed were all about post-constitution-writing history. The trick to the economics questions is tiny a bit of economic knowledge + some guessing based on what dumbass point they would secretly be trying to get across with the question.