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Dennis Clayson: Higher education?

Dennis Clayson: Higher education?

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Ground zero for much of the craziness we are currently enduring originally came from our system of higher education. A system that has become so degraded that “higher” may not be the proper adjective to describe it.

For years, I sat on a committee which was charged with selecting research projects that would receive funding from our limited university research budget. It was interesting and sometimes frustrating.

The committee funded a project to send someone to Canada to study a long-dead Canadian author. Was the researcher interested in history? Literature? No. The researcher was attempting to show the author was a lesbian.

Almost every year, the committee funded an artist who did “performance art.” Performance art is an “… exhibition created through actions executed by the artist or other participants.” In other words, painting yourself blue and chaining yourself to a 1968 Volkswagen is performance art.

Meanwhile, the committee denied funding to a professor who was an expert in banking. The reason, as one brilliant professor put it, “Won’t this study just make banks richer?” No, the research would make banks more efficient and better able to serve clientele. Life was easy for this professor: business, bad; trendy social issues, good.

A project to study the marketing dynamics between China and the US was denied. An arrogant professor told the committee that this project must be rejected. The researcher didn’t speak Chinese. While the researcher did speak several languages and had years of international experience, plus colleagues who were fluent in Chinese, knowing more about how China ended up making almost everything bought in America was unworthy of funding.

Finding out if a long-dead writer in Canada was a lesbian was important, knowing how China took over the world’s markets was not.

About ten years ago, professors of education began to put up signs on their office doors stating their office was a “safe space.” None of the signs indicated what a student would be safe from. About the same time, little sticky notes appeared on campus. In the men’s restroom, one would be met with little notes stating, “You are a special person.” I won’t elaborate on the apparent failure of the writers to note the irony.

About the same time, the university decided to update its mission. Input was sought from everyone. The faculty overwhelmingly decided our mission was “diversity and inclusion.”

Nothing about producing knowledgeable students, or even the best classroom experience. Evidently, the mission of a university was to accept everyone as they were, and make sure of proper ratios between anointed groups. That there was no there, there, didn’t seem to register with these brilliant “educators.”

Much of these bizarre actions at universities are generated by illusions, or by events almost exclusively in the past. Take women’s rights as an example. Modern universities are essentially designed for women. More women than men go to college. Women get higher grades. They are more likely to go to graduate school.

At my job, my dean was a woman, as was the associate dean, the department chair, and the head of the MBA program. Out in the real world, my doctor was a woman, as was my senator, and my governor. If actions at a modern university are designed for true diversity, they would emphasize men’s rights.

Dennis Clayson is an Elko County native and retired professor of business.

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