I'm leaving for Paris today, where I will spend a week hanging out with Volokh the Younger. I won't be able to post from there, but I will tell you all about those wacky French people when I get back next week.
BEING "READY" FOR SEX: (Mom, you may not want to read this one.) I've been following the "hot teen sex" blog debate with interest (I'll link to InstaPundit here, since he links to everyone else). As a 21-year-old female, I think I have a better perspective on this issue than all these middle-aged men.
At some point, probably as a consequence of the sexual revolution in the 1960s, the standard sex ed line switched from "wait until you're married" to "wait until you're ready". What this elusive "readiness" is, I was never told. The best explanation I ever got was, "If you're really ready, you'll know." Great help, that, for a bunch of horny 16-year-olds. Another, even less useful, was, "If you're not embarrassed to buy condoms, you're ready for sex."
Sex ed focuses, as it must, on facts. How does one avoid pregnancy and disease? What are the risks and benefits of various forms of birth control? How does fertility work? These are all very straightforward things. But memorizing a bunch of facts does not make you "ready" for sex. "Ready" is an emotional state, which makes it very difficult to define.
I firmly believe that you cannot possibly be ready for sex until you've already had sex at least once. There is simply no preparing for the emotional effects it will have on you. They are not only indescribable, but also different for every person and for every relationship situation. This is not to say that everyone's first sexual experience will be a bad one. However, it does mean that you really can't predict whether your first sexual experience will be good or bad. There is no way to definitively determine that you are "ready".
Here's what we should be telling teenagers: "Look, sex is an intense emotional experience, and it's going to affect you in ways that nobody can predict in advance. It could be good or bad. Here's how you can try to make sure it's good. First, be sure of yourself. If you don't know who you are, and if you're not emotionally comfortable with yourself as an individual, having sex will only make the situation worse. Second, make sure you and your boyfriend truly care for one another. If you do, the bond between you will be made stronger. If not, you'll begin to hate each other, and maybe hate yourselves, too. Third, make sure your relationship is strong and that you and your boyfriend are comfortable with each other. You'll always be nervous, no matter how prepared you are. But there's a difference between the nervousness of trying something new and the nervousness of doing something you really don't want to do. Learn to tell those two apart."
Someone once told me that I pay so much attention to the emotional aspect of sex that I forget it's a physical act. But honestly, the reason people worry about teen sex is not primarily the physical dangers. Suppose your 16-year-old daughter took a fully-certified skydiving class and a fully comprehensive sex ed class. Would you be more worried about her going skydiving or having sex? I rest my case.
THOU SHALT NOT STEAL: Remember that lawsuit about the 10 Commandments posted in the courtroom, which were ordered to be covered? Well, two masked men stole the cover the other day. Police are investigating.
SEX ABUSE SCANDAL IN TEXAS: I always knew something shady was going on. Finally, the Houston Chronicle has written about the large number of sexual abuse and harrassment cases involving sports coaches and high school girls. The article is excellent - it addresses every point I thought of bringing up, leaving me with almost nothing left to say. I do have a couple of points, though.
1. Not all these girls are as innocent and victim-like as they seem. I'm sure that many or even most of them were targets of real, uninvited abuse. But I'm willing to bet that a in significant number of these incidents (and likely, an even more significant number of unreported cases) the girls initiated the sexual involvement. Coaches in Texas are indeed idolized like the article says.
2. Coaches are by no means the only problem. Many of the young women in my high school had problems with male teachers and administrators. The best defense is to be a dorky, oblivious geek like I was.
3. Sexual abuse is probably the most serious problem with the excessive power given to coaches, but it is by no means the only problem. A lot of coaches teach academic subjects as well. In the classroom, they're likely to favor the athletic students, and they are almost always terrible teachers.
4. One of the incidents in the list of non-criminal cases provided by the Houston Chronicle involves Tim Schmitt, an assistant football coach at Stratford High School, the athletic rival of the high school I attended. He resigned a month after my graduation, when he was charged with harrassing three female students. I heard nothing of this at the time, and according to the summary, he got another high school coaching job just two years later.
WELCOME to all my visitors linking in from their own bookmark lists! It's customary in the blogosphere to welcome large numbers of visitors linking in from a big press mention or a coveted InstaPundit link, but I value the direct hits much more than the link-throughs. Direct hits mean that people are remembering my site and visiting of their own accord, not just when a link reminds them of my existence. I've been seeing more and more direct hits on my stats page lately. So welcome, thanks for visiting, and I'm glad you like my blog!
EVIL VS. BUREAUCRACY: Uber-Geek and cool philosophical blogger Bruce Baugh contests my Star Wars theory. I have only this left to say: Han Solo is no yes-sir, get-in-line, dependable soldier. And yet he saves the day again and again.
Virginia Postrel posted a reader comment about the number of well-educated, busy people who don't follow the news. This is especially true among college students. When you're at college, you're in an enclosed, safe environment, usually in a state or city which you don't consider to be your own. Most students don't read the papers even if they are made available for free. (Bryn Mawr offers The New York Times, USA Today, and The Philadelphia Inquirer for free in the dining halls.) Even the "student activists" are often not informed about news stories outside their chosen cause.
To combat this tendency, I corner my friends at dinner once a week or so, and feed them a rundown of recent news. They seem to appreciate it as long as I don't bother them with it too often.
MORE THINGS TO FEAR IN FRANCE: A fire destroyed the Israeli Embassy building in Paris last night. As scary as that sounds, police say it was probably due to a short-circuit in the electrical wiring, not terrorism or anti-Semitic violence.
Since I've been taking French lessons, I managed to read about this in both French and English. (Thanks to InstaPundit to alerting me about this story in the first place.)
"[Jews] will always feel like outsiders, no matter how much approval society offers. It is impossible to grow up in a society where between 97 and 98 percent of the population has a different [religion] than you do without feeling alienated. This would be true, even if no one ever said a discouraging word about [Judaism]. Because of this inevitable alienation, [Jews] will always be disproportionately rebellious on [religious/cultural] issues. The paradoxical pull between the desire to belong and the desire to rebel, of which Sullivan himself speaks, is perennial."
Change Jews to homosexuals and religion to sexuality, but the rest is a direct quote from Kurtz.
Now, most Jews I know (including myself) would say that they are a little bit different from mainstream Christian America, but certainly not alienated or rebellious. That's because Jews are pretty well accepted these days in American society, even down in Texas where I grew up.
Kurtz is arguing that gays by their very nature will feel alienated and rebellious, whether he realizes it or not. But Andrew Sullivan is right - the psychological problems of gay men come largely from the fact that they are abused by society (scroll down to May 21).
Jonathan Last's article in praise of the Empire in the Star Wars universe has been much discussed in the blogosphere for the past week. Today in NRO, Ed Hudgins has written a separate discussion of Star Wars and falling republics. I have not yet seen Attack of the Clones, but I think both writers have good points: Lucas is ambivalent about republics, and the Empire does in fact bring law and order. However, I think all three of them (Last, Hudgins, and Lucas) are confused because they haven't made the crucial distinction between orderliness and moral value.
The best place I have seen this distinction illustrated is in the roleplaying game Dungeons and Dragons. For all you non-geeks (and geeks of the non-rpg variety) out there: When you create a character for D&D, you specify the character's alignment, which basically describes how the character behaves. Alignment is described with two variables. One is the "orderliness" variable, which can be lawful, neutral, or chaotic. The other is the "moral" variable, which can be good, neutral, or evil. An individual character would be described as lawful/good (a paladin), or neutral/good (perhaps a warrior or a townsperson), or chaotic/evil (hideous monster who wants to destroy the universe).
The real flexibility of the system comes from the fact that any type in the first category can be matched with any type in the second category. You can have a chaotic/good character (like Robin Hood), or a lawful/evil character (like the Emperor in Star Wars). Any bad guy who wants to overthrow a regime and replace it with his own evil system is lawful/evil.
Capitalism is a chaotic/good system of social organization. There are very few rules - just the basics of property rights and non-coersion - and the system is left to organize itself for the betterment of all. Most often in the real world, we see the chaotic/good of capitalism in conflict with the lawful/good of socialism. People think they can make things even better by specifying in advance the way it is going to work, and by creating more rules and regulations.
In Star Wars, though, chaotic/good is at war with lawful/evil. The Empire is clearly mean and nasty, but at least the trains run on time. But the real good guys are a rag-tag bunch of freedom fighters. Lucas probably leans more toward the lawful/good himself, and so he's uncomfortable with the creative chaos of freedom. This is showing through in the early episodes of Star Wars, and I think it's a big part of the reason that the movies are so much worse than the clear-cut good vs. evil of the original three movies.
NORTH AND SOUTH: In an article that's not really about the aftermath of September 11, John Shelton Reed writes, "Houstonians, for some reason, don't have as bad a case of what the Australians call 'cultural cringe': On the rare occasions when they think of New Yorkers at all, they're likely to feel sorry for them because they're not Texans."
My family moved to Houston when I was two years old, and I didn't move out until I came to college. My parents are transplanted Arizonans who would much rather live in California, and now I'm a northeasterner of the Philadelphia variety. My parents hate Texas - the heat, the politics and culture, the distinct non-Californianess of it all. Unlike most Texans, I grew up thinking of myself as an American first and foremost. I viewed the proud Texans as provincial, uneducated folk.
But the longer I spend away from Texas, the more nostalgic I get. For an idea of Texas culture, check out the FAQ on concealed handgun permits maintained by the Department of Public Safety.
The thing I miss the most, though, is the open space. Things aren't crowded there, like they are in northeastern cities. Most parking lots are bigger than the stores they serve. Parallel parking is not required to pass a driving test. The roads are wide, regular, and go in both directions. Half the cars are SUV's or pickup trucks. Houses are huge, too, since land is so cheap. My family's house is probably twice the size of one you could buy for the same price in a Philadelphia suburb. Sure, things are so spread out that you have to drive everywhere, but there's so much open green space all around that it makes up for it. The air smells better in Houston, regardless of the level of polution, because you don't have to walk past everyone's garbage piles.
I'd better stop. I can feel a trace of southern accent sneaking up on me.
A lovely post in Beauty of Gray compares blogs to 18th century coffeehouses. I've been in love with the 18th century (especially in France) since taking classes at University of Pennsylvania with Alan Kors, a feat which requires an arduous 45-minute commute by train and walking from Bryn Mawr.
Blogging is a particularly fun elite clique because it's so easy to join the fringes of it, and so easy to work your way deep into the fray. And the topics are relevant to the real world, most of the time. And it lets you feel like a good citizen, actively engaged in political dialogue with your fellow citizens.
Since I talked about e-mail response rates a few days ago, I've gotten a flurry of messages from readers. There's nothing like complaining to change the world, I suppose.
Reader Charles Hill, who mentioned his own blog but neglected to provide me with a link, points out that my idea of in-text blog advertising is already being done! A free service called blogsnob puts links to your blog in other people's blogs, and links to other people's blogs in your own. No word yet on this being used for commercial purposes, though.
UPDATE: Charles Hill sends word that his blog is here.
WITH A BREATH MINT: Volokh the Elder has some very interesting things to say about the tendency not to speak. But I think he is wrong to put self-censorship from politeness and self-censorship from fear into the same category, especially since he advocates doing the one and not the other.
First of all, rude and foolish people are the ones least likely to hold their tongues. Whether this is because rude and foolish people like to talk, or because constantly speaking your mind is one of the ways you become rude and foolish, is not very important. Rude and foolish people are by definition unlikely to hold back anything they want to say. Decent and intelligent people are the ones most likely to stay silent and consider carefully what they are saying. It is true that decent and intelligent people sometimes say rude and foolish things, but their tendency to choose their words and their battles wisely makes it more likely that they will hide good opinions than give voice to stupid ones.
Second, the emotional feelings that accompany politeness are completely different from the ones that accompany fear of speaking. Anyone can tell the difference between "I shouldn't say that, it will hurt his feelings" and "I shouldn't say that, she will call me a Nazi."
It takes a bit of bravery to stand up and say something unpopular, knowing that you're going to be misunderstood, mischaracterized, and possibly discriminated against. You don't have to be in peril of your life in order to feel incentives against speaking. And I do understand that fighting the PC crowd is not the best thing for everyone to do. Many people are much happier to remain silent - they're at college to study, not to change the world; or they fear the wrath of a professor who will later read their thesis; or the emotional strain of being called a terrible creature would bring them to collapse. Sometimes it really is better to stay silent out of fear. This particular battle may not be one of the important ones in your life.
Politeness is a tool. It helps you get your point across. It helps you seem like a sane, rational human being. Sometimes it can help you make your opponent look like a fool. But politeness is not another form of repression or censorship.
And remember, most people love to tell their opinions on every subject to anyone who will listen, when they don't think they will be punished for doing so. That's why blogging is such a popular hobby, isn't it?
OVERREPRESENTED MINORITIES: Vanderbilt University is recruiting Jews. Michael Schoenfeld, vice chancellor of public affairs at the school, says, "What we're doing with Jewish students is the same we're doing with a whole host of underrepresented individuals on campus." Jews, who are 2% of the U.S. population, make up 4% of the student body at Vanderbilt, compared with around 20% at many other top schools. So much for a campus that "looks like America". (link via Eugene)
LIFE AND ANIMALS: CNN reports that Germany is well on its way to granting constitutional rights to animals. The provision reads: "The state takes responsibility for protecting the natural foundations of life and animals in the interest of future generations."
Is this a bad translation from German? I can't figure out what it means. On the one hand it could be read to treat "life" and "animals" as two different things, indicating that animals are not life. Looking at it another way, you can see "the natural foundations of life" and "animals" as two separate things to protect, meaning that they don't have any reason to respect the natural foundations of animals. And who are these "future generations" they are talking about? Are they protecting the interest of future generations of humans, or of animals?
And most importantly, will mice get the right to vote?
US (REPUBLICANS) VS. THEM (DEMOCRATS): Peggy Noonan complains that Democrats win on TV because Republicans are polite, respectful, and defend difficult positions. Those nasty Democrats, in contrast, are rude, childish, and ruthless.
Some Democrats are rude. Some Republicans are rude, too. And some of each party are polite and considerate of one another. But this does not make good invective.
ONE IN FOUR HUNDRED: Thank you all for visiting! Due to a link from InstaPundit, I had a huge traffic spike today. It was an order of magnitude larger than any previous traffic spikes, including ones caused by previous InstaPundit links. And it helped me to formulate a theory:
I've been very sad about the lack of e-mails I get from visitors to this site. InstaPundit and the assorted Volokhs always have interesting reader comments to post, whereas I'm lucky if I get two e-mails from readers in a week. But today, I have found myself receiving one e-mail for every 400 hits to the site, which corresponds rather well to my regular rate of feedback.
So, all you other bloggers out there, is this similar to the rate of e-mail you get from readers as well? Or is the feedback rate higher for more popular bloggers. I mean, if you're Glenn Reynolds, people probably bother you all the time, just trying to get quoted and linked.
Matt Welch asks whether people are ever truly afraid to speak their mind when they disagree with the majority. Yes, absolutely they are.
I've alluded to Unpopular Opinions before, but I don't think I've ever explained it here in my blog. I go to Bryn Mawr College, and sometime this past semester I got fed up with the lack of different voices on campus. Sure, you could hear plenty from feminists, vegans, environmentalists, multiculturalists, and free-Mumia activists. But there were no clubs that promoted opposite points of view, or anything libertarian or conservative at all. So I decided to start my own newspaper. A friend and I printed fliers in support of the moral right to eat meat, and we posted them in the dining halls.
Immediately, we had an overwhelming positive response. I got e-mails from people I'd never met, who told me they were glad someone had the courage to speak out against the majority of campus. One person even wrote "Thank you" across the top of one of our fliers. (We did get a negative response from one campus club, but that is a much longer story.)
We followed up our pro-meat campaign with fliers in support of the war in Afghanistan. There were even more positive e-mails. The campus newspaper wrote an editorial in support of our efforts to widen the scope of debate on campus. Walking to a friend's dorm room one day, I found that a Muslim student had pinned a copy of the flier to her door to show her support.
A few weeks later, we published the first issue of our newspaper, in a four-page xeroxed newsletter format. Next year, we plan to put out an issue every month.
I've never been afraid to say what I think. But the students who greeted Unpopular Opinions with such warmth had been afraid. They couldn't stand up for their own opinions because they didn't want to be mocked by professors, shunned by students, and subjected to heated denunciations from the more organized, politically-correct groups on campus. It only takes a few brave people standing up for their ideas, though, to give them a little confidence.
If any of you want more information about Unpopular Opinions, send me an e-mail with your mailing address and I will send you a copy of the newspaper.
HOW TO MAKE MONEY OFF BLOGS (and other websites): Forget corporate sponsorship. Forget user memberships and click-fees. These things will never be useful for more than a tiny number of the most popular websites. And especially forget increasingly obnoxious flashy advertising designed to catch a reader's eye. If something is flashing or brightly-colored while I'm searching the web, my first instinct is to ignore it. It's obviously not the thing I'm interested in. I'm interested in the text - especially on a blog.
Instead of anger-inducing ads that scroll out to cover up the text you're reading, flashing monkeys that try to distract your attention, popups, and ad pages between sections of an article, advertisers should be trying to catch the reader's attention by looking like what the reader wants to see. That means text-only ads. No flashing, no bold words, maybe a completely standard link or two.
The best advertising possible on a blog would be a one-sentence item, perhaps with a link to the advertiser's website, that looks exactly like a blog post and is positioned right in the main section of a blog:
By the time you realize it's an ad, you're done reading it. It gets the message across and doesn't annoy the reader. Google, always ahead of the curve, has been doing something similar for quite a while.
Slavery and the Liberty Bell - The National Park Service is constructing a new home for the Liberty Bell, but they're also changing the content of the tour in order to "acknowledge the nation's complex and contradictory roots in freedom and slavery." There aren't any details yet, but I fear an anti-American, self-hatred slant.
But perhaps they will decide to be sane, and we will end up with something that reflects America's continual progress toward freedom in progressive giant leaps forward. Why isn't it enough that the founders secured more liberty for more people than had ever existed before in recorded history? Why do people expect them to have created a perfect world, when that was beyond the power of any human being? We don't blame Christopher Colombus for not sailing to the moon and back.
When lefitsts and conservatives meet head-on, as happened at the Haverford lecture, they are quite likely not going to understand each other. Their disagreements are at a pretty fundamental level ("capitalism is bad" "capitalism is good"), and when they discuss anything beyond that level, they are not going to understand why the other person is saying what they are. Thus, Christina Hoff Summers comes across as an "unwomyn" and Clarence Thomas is called "a traitor to his race". The ultra-liberals either cannot see or have not considered that Summers believes she is helping women, and Thomas thinks he is helping blacks, from the standpoint of their own philosophies.
But by no means does the blindness fall entirely on the side of the liberals. Conservatives get all worked up about environmentalists who "love trees more than people" and neo-Marxists who want to turn the whole world into the Soviet Union. Now, perhaps there are a few wackos who want to see the entire human race starve to death. But most of the people who advocate socialism, environmentalism, and radical feminism really and truly believe that these things are good. They are not deceiving themseleves, they just haven't come across anything they consider to be a better alternative to the position they are advocating.
Gewirtz claims I am comparing apples to oranges when I show my friends Ruth and Chelsea as representatives of "a broad group of leftists." And indeed, I cannot imagine either of them shouting rude questions at a conservative lecturer. But I think that even the student I mentioned in my first post, the one who got so angry at Summers, was not simply trying to cause a scene. She was angry because Summers called into question her entire field of study, and then built her speech on that foundation. Summers was effectively saying to her, "Everything you have ever learned is wrong. But I'm not going to talk about that now. I'm going to talk about other things." It would be as if some famous philosopher were to give a speech at my college and begin by saying, "The fundamental truth of philosophy is that we are having frogs for dinner. So, I am going to speak this afternoon about sliced checkbooks being mailed through the phone."
I'm not expressing myself very well on this issue, and I'm sorry. I'll try to write more clearly about it later. But what I really want to say right now is this: If you find yourself in a massive disagreement with someone, and they sound like they're completely crazy, you still have to give them the benefit of the doubt. You have to look for where your actual disagreement lies, not some other question twenty levels up. And when you get down to that fundamental level, you will almost certainly find that the person is actually not crazy, but has made a very reasonable error or perfectly valid choice. So, I don't think it's useful to look at an entire group of very intelligent college students and say, "Oh, they're just crazy young people who don't think about things." Because they are not crazy, and they do think about things.
Eugene Volokh has a good OpinionJournal article today, in which he defends Ashcroft's interpretation of the Second Amendment. However, I fear his irony will be lost on some people. ("See? Even this crazy Volokh guy says Ashcroft and Olson are dangerous radicals!")
Alert reader Sharon Rose sends the following song lyrics in response to my query:
Mortal City (1996)
The Pointless, Yet Poignant, Crisis Of A Co-Ed
I'm not a leader, i'm not a left-wing rhetoric mobilizing force of one,
But there was a time way back, many years ago in college, don't laugh,
But I thought I was a radical, I ran the hemp Liberation Group with my boyfriend,
It was true love, with a common cause, and besides that, he was a Sagittarius.
We used to say that our love was like hemp rope, three times as strong as the rope that you buy domestically,
And we would bond in the face of oppression from big business and the deans,
But I knew there was a problem, every time the group would meet everyone would light up,
That made it difficult to discuss glaucoma and human rights, not to mention chemotherapy.
Well sometimes, life gives us lessons sent in ridiculous packaging,
And so I found him in the arms of a Student Against the Treacherous use of Fur,
And he gave no apology, he just turned to me, stoned out to the edge of oblivion,
He didn't pull up the sheets and I think he even smiled as he said to me,
'Well, I guess our dreams went up in smoke.'
And I said, No, our dreams went up in dreams, you stupid pothead,
And another thing, what kind of a name is Students Against the Treacherous Use of Fur?
Fur is already dead, and besides, a name like that doesn't make a good acronym.
I am older now, I know the rise and gradual fall of a daily victory.
And I still write to my senators, saying they should legalize cannabis,
And I should know, cause I am a horticulturist, I have a husband and two children out in Lexington, Mass.
And my ex-boyfriend can't tell me I've sold out,
Because he's in a cult. And he's not allowed to talk to me.
Perennial Fan Jonathan Gewirtz sent an e-mail in answer to my post about the Christina Hoff Summers lecture. I asked what could be done about the problem of students who have such fundamentally different interpretations of the world that libertarian concepts make no sense to them whatsoever. Gewirts writes:
"You can't do anything. The ones who are capable of reason will eventually see the errors of their position and grow out of it. The rest are hopless. (And the reasonable ones won't listen to you until they're ready to, anyway.) Meanwhile laugh at their foolishness, and take comfort in the knowledge that they are a small minority and many of them will eventually wise up. It's no accident that there are so few middle-aged commies in American society."
I don't think this is true. These students weren't born with the belief that the world is oppressed by the patriarchy. They didn't spontaneously create the idea that capitalism is a tool of the ruling class. They learned these somewhere, and they are perfectly capable of learning true things as well.
In the normal course of things, a student radical will grow up, realize her ideas don't work in the real world, and then become a resigned, guilty, non-intellectual moderate. Is this what is called "wising up"? Remember, these are intelligent people. They managed to get into schools like Harvard and Bryn Mawr. These are the people who run the country. I'll agree with you that a nation run by guilt-ridden moderates is better than one run by blind radicals, but I still don't think it's a good solution.
People who will not consider new ideas are rare. But most people will not seriously consider new ideas that are shouted at them by people they don't know. Real changes of opinion happen in conversations among friends. Since most people on college campuses either don't know much about politics or are liberals, most of the "conversion" that goes on at college is towards the liberal direction. You come to college as someone who doesn't care much about politics, you become friends with a group of people who are all more liberal than you, and you find yourself agreeing with the group more and more often, simply because you never hear an alternative point of view.
But this can work in the opposite direction just as well. My friend Ruth, whose LiveJournal entry I linked in my previous post on this subject, was brought up as an honest socialist. She's very intelligent and is one of the most reasonable, thoughtful people I know. Yet, I don't think she would ever have considered the idea that capitalism can be good unless she had become friends with someone like me. Up-close, personal evidence that not all supporters of capitalism are evil is sometimes the only thing that can pull someone out of the mindset that capitalists are "the enemy" and are somehow "other than me". This is why I think it's a bad idea to ignore your ideological opponents and let them go their own way. Of course, my encounters with Ruth (and also with my good friend Chelsea) also forced me to recognize that not all socialists are intellectually dishonest.
So, I think the worst thing that libertarian students can do is to ignore the radical liberal element on campus. It is incredibly important to get alternative ideas out into the discussion. Publishing in student newspapers is good, but I think that having discussions with friends is even better. You might not get as many people to think about things this way, but you'll get them to think about it more seriously.
I'd like to hear other people's thoughts and experiences on this issue. Please write to me!
Traffic Watch: Yesterday, for the first time ever, this site got more hits than the front page of my journal. Yet the journal gets mostly direct hits, while the blog gets mostly people linking in from InstaPundit, Eugene and Sasha, and Diana.
He's too polite to name me, but I'm not afraid to take responsibility for my mistakes. That's my amendment that Eugene Volokh quoted and then tore apart in his blog last night. And I must say, I largely agree with his analysis. I'd forgotten about the incestuousness of the political world. Though, I did take the disturbing possibility of 5-4 decisions into account in my analysis.
Wendy McElroy is advocating taking your children out of public school, a sentiment I strongly support. But I don't understand why she's stressing the "Christian family values" aspect of the issue. It seems out of character, to say the least.
I was at the lecture Christina Hoff Summers discusses at the beginning of this article (thanks to Eugene for the link). It was really quite a terrible experience. A Women's Studies major in the row behind me, among others, was spouting the most hostile questions you can imagine. I thought Summers was being too polite, so I turned around and shouted at the student that yes, some people do believe that more valuable work should be rewarded with more money.
Summers brought with her a bunch of free brochures and posters from AEI, including posters reading "I love capitalism!" These were instantly snatched up by students who intended to cross out "capitalism" and replace it with "communism".
The worst part is that most students didn't see her views as reasonable, or even as being a threat. They saw her as a joke - a right-wing lunatic who should be either ignored or made fun of. In truth, I think they couldn't even understand what she was saying. Their differences with her worldview are at a much more fundamental level than the issue she was discussing. To them, she really must have sounded like a lunatic.
I don't know what to do about this problem. Sit them down for a lecture series on epistemological theory, followed by a good survey course on ethics and then a history of political theory? Or simply wait for them to grow up? Or hand them a copy of Atlas Shrugged and let them go through their own thought processes?
Reader Robert Campbell, a psychology professor at Clemson University, sends the following e-mail about rising tuition costs:
(1) At state universities, fewer tax dollars are being appropriated by state legislatures, so tuition is being raised to compensate. Clemson raised tuition 42% last year, after a decade of keeping a lid on tuition in the hopes that the SC legislature would be so grateful for the political favor that they'd shower us with money in return. In fact, the SC Legislature's only strongly expressed interest in higher-ed funding for the past 5 years has been building up scholarships--so the universities in the state are raising tuition to capture more of that scholarship money. (By the way, I don't consider this a bad trend.)
(2) Administrators want to spend more on administration; no administrator wants to cut administration, even when money gets tight. Clemson may finally shed some administrators this year, but only because the state will be slashing funding for the sadly obsolete Agricultural Extension system for the second year in a row. (There are so few farmers in SC, no one is left to lobby for the Extension system any more.) Even so, none of the top-level administration in Agriculture is slated for cuts, and while many Ag faculty have been pushed into early retirement (approximately 1/8 of the Clemson faculty will be retiring this year), no one from the bloated upper administration of the College of Ag has been.
One good thing about rising tuition--it may lead parents to pay more attention where their money is going. (Over the next few years, this is likely to prove a shock to Clemson administrators, who want to push whatever funds aren't paying for administration into those disciplines that do a lot of grant-funded research projects!) Vigilance slackens when someone else is footing most of the bill.
Remember, most colleges and universities have little incentive to contain costs; except for a tiny percentage in the for-profit sector, all are run by largely unaccountable administrators whom no one expects to issue meaningful financial reports.
Oh, and last year, the average faculty salary increase nationwide was above the rate of inflation. In most years since 1970, it hasn't been.
Why This Blogger is Ignoring Fukuyama: InstaPundit answers here and links to some interesting comments on the article. My answer is that (a) it was so obviously silly that I didn't want to waste my time on it, and (b) it was so obviously wrong that I figured other bloggers would be all over it. My general policy is not to add my useless drivel to the same subjects everyone else is talking about. I much prefer spewing my useless drivel on things that are less drowned in commentary.
I'd like to see an article explaining why college costs are rising so fast. Are colleges just charging this much because there's such high demand for a college education, or is the cost of educating a student rising this fast for the schools as well?