Chapman University, Yale Law School, Wall Street Journal discussed on Science Salon
Thanks for coming on the podcast. New book is the assault on american excellence and i i came across this in your work in that <hes> up ed you did for the wall street journal that was in that saturday review section one of my favorites to read every week <hes> because they do excerpts and this is one way i find out about a nonfiction books my specialty my beat here whereas non nonfiction books that are that are new mostly science books so i have to say. I really enjoyed reading your book. It's not a science book and and and most of the science books i read are not that literary a few are like by richard dawkins and steve pinker. They're they're very stylistic in the writing but most are cutting cut and dried died meat potatoes kinda get just the facts ma'am your writing is very heavily influenced by your your humanist i think training and tradition in in <hes> in not just the law but in all of history and so on i really appreciated that and also in in i had to do a quick reek because i didn't get this till saturday okay so in my opening lecturer in my freshman sorry first year students at chapman university re. We can't use that phrase freshman anymore. Either as you mentioned in your book <hes> i teach them how to read a book which is of course they read but how to read a book strategically you just turn to the first basis reading and in a you you start with the cover and i always appreciate nice covers your covers very striking the red with the you know the the shatter kind of greek greek pillar there of representing excellence and so forth and there's no subtitle your years one of the few books i've come across in many years without a subtitle so my rule is all books should either have descriptive title or subtitle one way or the other you've done it in one so congratulations on that and then i always say so you you start with title or subtitle and who who is this person well says right there on the cover the dean of yale law school okay no fooling around here. We got the head guy and then of course you read about the bio. Who is this person so you know we're person's coming from and then you look at the table of contents excellent speech diversity memory four chapters. That's it okay so you've really broken down into four categories which will do when we go through this book and and then and then then i always do the kind of the first and last paragraph of each of the chapters chapters in i skim through and look for any graphs or charts or pull quotes. Sir denis quotes that stand out just to kind of get an idea of where you're going and then you start reading. That's kind of my my quick and dirty guide. You missed one critical step so if you're an author yourself after you oh yes yes a little a little bit about the the author of the book you look at this. You look at the the footnotes in the index. Yeah i was in the unfortunately i'm not you missed my federal the laura lark by one book. I wrote that kind of touches on. Although actually i wrote the moral arc just i'd finished researching the moral arc right when the problem started though i missed that the problem problem being <hes> that you're addressing that also jonathan height and greg lukiana addressing their recent book the coddling of the american mind heather mcdonald is addressed and in others that i it really appeared to have started. Maybe twenty fourteen thirteen two thousand fourteen a win. There was this shift in students attitudes attitudes about free speech diversity or free speech political correctness that sort of thing so i thought we might start with what i did when i had jonathan on the podcast asked. Is there really a problem if there is what is the problem and and by way of background. I mean like i teach at chapman university. If you walk around campus it's its bucolic in in peaceful and nice and kids are just hold up in their dorms reading or at the starbucks or whatever i've been on yale campus a couple of times. You don't see protests. You don't see you know big. Disruptions in a mostly college seems like it was when i was in college yet cumulate enough of these incidences that have happened and you have have to do is watch fox news and and tucker carlson has his weekly campus craziness segment. It seems like to an outsider who would walk on campus. Yep is like it's insane. Students have completely lost their minds if you're walking campus. You don't see any of this. The question is what what really is the problem. I'm that you're addressing in your book that we should all be concerned about yup. Well you know there there are from time to time visible notable disruptive corruptive moments episodes of speaker shouted off the stage students marched around declaim were proclaimed as that which for the most part campus life is as you describing things go on as they have from day-to-day in their quiet ordinary way in what is really different today from a decade ago is is a change in the culture in the atmospherics atmospherics of academic life which i feel in faculty meetings were discussing <hes> perspective appointments to the faculty in the classroom when i'm studying attacks with by my students in casual conversations around the campus <hes> with students and faculty there is a a settling fork of of <hes> of of i would describe it as of discouragment of <hes> <hes> of some a <hes> of <unk> of suppression of ideas and speech which doesn't manifest itself often certainly not regularly in the sorts of explosives explosives. Events were so dramatically prominent on our campuses in the nineteen sixties. It's quieter. It's more pervasive but but i think in many ways it's more damaging because it strikes at the very hard of the academic enterprise of inquiry truth seeking free free expression testing ideas measuring strength with your own ideas in the back and forth with faculty and students and that enterprise has been compromised it has been <hes> <hes> <hes> it has its it sits in a shadow now of censorship and self-censorship which i think is very damaging to the culture of academic life. That's that's the problem and what i wanted to do in the book. Of course you know a lot has been written about free. Speech issues was on campus and the debates about renaming memorials. We had a big debate that kind of yale a few years back and then finally about diversity and inclusion. What does this mean. What does it require. What are its effects. The cultural lot of discussion these incidents separately and a lot of complaints about the especially on the conservative side of the political spectrum spectrums <hes> there've been lots of commentators and pundits who have wag to fix finger of disapproval and said this is ridiculous it shameful shameful and so on and sober i wanted in my book to dig a little deeper and see if i could identify a common root from which these various areas phenomena all spring which they all exhibit or manifested one way or another and what i propose in the book is he's very briefly this and i'll just stated and then we can continue the conversation <hes> our colleges and universities <music> shake should do the very best job they can of making sure they admit the most talented and qualified lied applicants regardless of their background and if some kids are coming from backgrounds disadvantage maybe they should be given is a leg up in the process an extra look at a minimum. Maybe even up a preference of some kind or other. I'm i'm all for fairness and admissions and even redressing the the the the historical balance where it has worked in a particular direction against the members of of certain groups. I'm all for that that is <hes> you might say it prone equality a pro democracy idea fairness of opportunity in the admissions process but when once the kids come through the turnstile and they are on campus once they are actually engaged in the process of studying and learning and debating they are are members of the community which is not itself by its very nature egalitarian at its heart. It's a community unity which is devoted to the cultivation and transmission of excellence in a whole host of different disciplines and to the pursuit of the truth which is not a democratic vad. We don't decide what's true in any field by a show of hands or vote so yes ask fairness in admissions <hes> ah process open to talent two kids from every corner her and walk of life all races ethnicities backgrounds and maybe as i say a special boost for kids coming from disadvantaged backgrounds but once is there in once they're on campus sitting in the classroom debating were their professors they should be. They should be introduced to the culture of excellence and truth seeking which the school itself represents and embodies yes you're distinguishing the selection process for who gets into taylor harvard or whatever and then after that then let let the meritocracy begins but of course jonathan hyde had that lecture he gave at that was kind of a useful heuristic of of the tea hilo of university. Are you after truth or you. After justice and you have to pick one well but social justice activists they would argue that they're not two different different things that if the truth is we want. We want equal opportunity for everybody. Some people just you know grew up in impoverished homes single angle mom homes in poor neighborhoods. They went to crappy public schools. They can't they're not gonna do good at on their s._a._t.'s. They got up saturday the morning and the mom said you're taking your s._a._t. What's an s._a._t. Versus the you know the harvard kid that goes to a private school and he takes all the training courses. You know he's gonna do three or four. Hundred points points better just by that alone so i think that's what you know. Many of the social justice activists system is not fair already from the get-go and that the point of affirmative action in general and then more point colleges is is this diversity of economic situations sion's as an race as a proxy for that. Let's say yes lander stand all of that and i'm sympathetic to up to a point but those considerations it's bear on the admissions process of the the the sorts of factors you just describe what to be taken into account up to a point in deciding deciding who gets into the selective college or university that we're that we're imagining now they apply fly so to speak at the entrance point and i would go even a little bit further than what you just said and if a if a kid kid from disadvantaged background does poorly on the <hes> on the <hes> the s._a._t. And has low scores on <hes> you know the various subject matter matter test but has strong letters of recommendation from his order teachers who say this has real progress but comes from a broken home. It just hasn't had the running room yet to show what he or she can do but they've got the brains that got the grits. They've got the soul to the do it. I'm inclined to say let's give them a chance and a an applicant like that in my view gets a boost how big a boost is a is a is an open question and not an easy to answer but bruce in the process and and i would go a step beyond beyond that once you've admitted if you take the risk of admitting them and say well they don't really want the papers look quite a solid is the other kids were admitting but we have reason to think there's a real spark there. Maybe they need a little bit of <unk> extra help at the at the beginning in their freshman year to come up to come up to speed all of that is fine but none of it really lake bears directly on by central klang which is that the the work of the college or university versity itself consists at its core not in the advancement of this or that program of social the justice but in the advancement of learning in the various fields of study and in the cultivation action of those habits of of mind and spirit which in a in a in a rough and and cumulative way we describe describe as human excellence they the <hes> the the excellence of being a human being not just a a.