Phil Hanlon’s sensible proposals for Dartmouth

Dartmouth’s president Phil Hanlon has announced several significant measures designed to curb student alcohol abuse, improve the College’s culture, and make it a more academically serious institution. The student newspaper summarizes them here. Not surprisingly, though, the best discussion can be found on Joe Asch’s Dartblog.

The most publicized element of Hanlon’s plan is an on-campus ban on hard liquor. Hanlon, who impresses me as a data-driven guy, found that hard alcohol poses the most significant risks to student health.

The obvious objection to the ban is that students will simply drink their hard liquor off-campus and this will increase the incidence of drunk driving. Maybe. But as long as frats and sororities are around (Hanlon resisted pressure to do away with them) and beer and wine are served there, it seems likely that hard liquor consumption by students will decline significantly under Hanlon’s new regime, assuming it is enforced.

Hanlon also announced a new policy for student housing. As I understand it, freshmen will continue to live in separate dorms, but now they will be assigned to one of six clusters of dormitories where they will reside thereafter. These “communities” will organize and host social and academic programs, and eventually each will have dedicated space for study and social interaction. Each will have a house professor and graduate students in residence.

This system, which will resemble those used at Yale and Harvard, is intended to foster communal ties. It addresses, among other concerns, what I understand to be a real problem at Dartmouth — the fact that, after their freshmen year, students tend to be shuttled around from dorm to dorm, sometimes within the same year, as a product of the “D Plan” and all of the studying abroad. Students may still need to be shuttled, but at least they will be part of a common community throughout.

Hanlon also takes on, albeit very tentatively, what I take to be the biggest problem at Dartmouth — declining academic seriousness, manifested most starkly in grade inflation. He stated:

I am asking the faculty to consider a number of ways to increase the rigor of our curriculum — from curbing grade inflation, limiting lay ups, to not cancelling classes around celebration weekends, to earlier start times for classes on Tuesday and Thursday mornings.

Hanlon appears to have heeded the wisdom expressed in this statement from Mike Mastanduno, dean of the faculty:

More than I’d like to, I hear this: “It’s really hard to teach on Thursday morning because of what the students do on Wednesday night.” I hear that from faculty. What I never hear, and what I’d love to start hearing from students is, “It’s really hard to do what we want to do on Wednesday night because of what’s expected of us on Thursday morning.”

Hanlon may also be mindful of a study cited by Dan Rockmore, a professor of Mathematics and Computer Science at Dartmouth. It shows that studying time has declined from an average of 24 hours/week to 14 hours/week since 1961. Meanwhile, average grades have risen steadily.

There’s more to Hanlon’s proposal, including an unfortunate bow to hiring a “representative” faculty. I’m confident that he does not mean a philosophically or ideologically representative faculty.

On balance, though, Hanlon’s ideas seem well thought out and more likely to help Dartmouth than to harm it.

Jeb Bush, Pot-Smoking Bully!

The Boston Globe has a long article on Jeb Bush’s high school years at Andover. The Globe piece has been picked up by many other news outlets; the Hill’s headline is typical: “Jeb Bush was a pot-smoking bully, say former classmates.”

The Globe article is actually rather interesting. It is as much about Andover as Bush. Bush’s high school years were from 1967 to 1971, and most of what the Globe records of Andover–kids were smoking pot and protesting the war–could have been written about nearly any school.

It’s hard to make much of the marijuana smoking. The Democrats now consider pot to be a positive good, right? One thing missing from the Globe piece is whether Bush and his friends called themselves the “choom gang.”

What about the claim that Jeb was a bully? It is based on precisely two incidents. In one, Bush and some friends sewed another boy’s pajama bottoms shut. In the other, Bush lifted up another boy. That’s the “bullying” tally for his four years at Andover. Pathetic.

This is reminiscent, of course, of the Washington Post’s long story about Mitt Romney’s high school days, featuring a decades-ago incident where Romney and others cut another boy’s hair. It’s remarkable: just when you think investigative reporting is dead, another Republican presidential candidate comes along to get reporters’ juices flowing again. Think what doggedness it requires to go back forty-odd years to research a politician’s high school days!

Of course, no such energy is expended on researching the pasts of Democratic candidates. Forget about high school; we still don’t know anything about Barack Obama’s college or law school records, which apparently are treated as state secrets. Why? My guess is that he applied to college and/or law school as a foreign student from Kenya and secured preferential treatment or scholarship assistance on that basis. We know that he represented himself as a Kenyan for something like 20 years, even though he wasn’t. Also, why wouldn’t Obama release any of his medical records? (He had a doctor write a one-page letter instead.) He is a relatively young and apparently healthy man. What’s the problem? Is there something in his medical history that he didn’t want voters to know about? And if that is the case, isn’t it a little more significant than lifting up another kid as a teenager?

As for Hillary Clinton, the press is still covering up for her. No need to go back to high school–how about her tenure as Secretary of State? The Libyan adventure was a disaster that appears to be leading to another failed, terrorist-dominated state. Benghazi, bad as it was, is only a part of that story. And how about Elizabeth Warren? For reasons that I find mystifying, she is taken seriously as a presidential candidate. She has run in only one election, and hasn’t been vetted at all. The only thing we know about her, other than the fact that she is a leftist, is that she advanced herself in academia by falsely claiming to be an Indian. (A nice parallel there with Obama’s fictitious Kenyan origins.) Do you think that at this moment, newspaper reporters are hunting down Warren’s high school classmates, looking for negative quotes or discreditable incidents? No, I don’t think so either.

Romney’s non-entry and the shape of the race

Mitt Romney delivered two gifts to the Republican Party on Friday. The first was his decision not to run for president. Unlike many, I believe Romney would have been an okay nominee. However, the GOP may well need better than “okay,” and there are some in the potential field who seem better equipped to take advantage of what I perceive to be Hillary Clinton’s weaknesses.

This leads to Romney’s second gift — his endorsement, in effect, of the kind of candidate who is likely to be most troublesome for Clinton. As Romney put it:

I believe that one of our next generation of Republican leaders — one who may not be as well-known as I am today, one who has not yet taken their message across the country, one who is just getting started — may well emerge as being better able to defeat the Democrat nominee. In fact, I expect and hope that to be the case.

There may be a tension, though, between Romney’s two gifts. By not running, he seems to improve the prospects of Jeb Bush, who is not a “next generation” leader “just getting started.”

This, at least, is the conventional wisdom.

I’m not so sure it’s correct. By bowing out, Romney may provide oxygen for “next generation” candidates, such as Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, and Bobby Jindal. (Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, also in that category, supply their own oxygen).

It’s true, of course, that Romney’s non-entry frees up donors and consultants, a disproportionate number of whom may opt for Bush. Moreover, it means that Bush won’t lose center-right votes to Romney.

But if there are enough center-right Republican primary/caucus participants to nominate Bush, there probably are enough of them to have nominated Bush or Romney, whichever one did better in the early going. Moreover, it’s not at all clear that Bush will have the center-right, or “establishment,” niche to himself. Chris Christie, for example, now may end up co-occupying it.

Thus, the main effect of Romney’s non-entry may be to move the race more quickly to where it probably would have been after the early going — a field dominated by an “establishment” candidate (now probably Bush), a Tea Party favorite or two (probably Cruz and/or Paul), a “bridge candidate or two (say Walker and/or Rubio), and maybe Mike Huckabee if he retains his popularity among evangelicals.

Moving to that stage sooner rather than later, without the distraction of a “clash of the establishment titans,” probably helps the “non-establishment” candidates. The sooner they obtain credibility and move to the foreground, the better for them — and the better for the Party, I think.

Charles Blows Again

We took note here last summer of the feebleness of New York Times columnist Charles Blow, and now he’s offered up another howler for our instruction. Last week he wrote to complain about the harassment young black males receive from police, and this time it was personal because his son, a Yale student, had been briefly detained at gunpoint on the University’s grounds. Blow’s son’s account went as follows:

“I did not pay him any mind, and continued to walk back towards my room. I looked behind me, and noticed that the police officer was following me. He spoke into his shoulder-mounted radio and said, ‘I got him.’

“I faced forward again, presuming that the officer was not talking to me. I then heard him say, ‘Hey, turn around!’ — which I did.

“The officer raised his gun at me, and told me to get on the ground.

“At this point, I stopped looking directly at the officer, and looked down towards the pavement. I dropped to my knees first, with my hands raised, then laid down on my stomach.

“The officer asked me what my name was. I gave him my name.

“The officer asked me what school I went to. I told him Yale University.

“At this point, the officer told me to get up.”

The officer gave his name, then asked my son to “give him a call the next day.”

No doubt this episode was unsetting to Blow and his son, who was apparently approached by the officer because he matched the description of a burglary suspect phoned in to police shortly before.

But Blow neglected to report one important detail of the episode: the Yale police officer who stopped him is black. Yale University, hardly a hotbed of reaction, felt compelled to push back against Blow’s tacit suggestion that this was an example of racist policing, as reported in the Washington Examiner:

“The officer, who himself is African American, was responding to a specific description relayed by individuals who had reported a crime in progress,” said a Monday email to Yale’s campus community. The email was first noticed by The Root, a black-centric news website.

“What happened on Cross Campus on Saturday is not a replay of what happened in Ferguson; Staten Island; Cleveland; or so many other places in our time and over time in the United States,” the email said.

The email is signed by Yale President Steve Salovey, Dean of Yale College Jonathan Halloway and Yale Police Department Chief Ronnell Higgins.

Higgins is also black.

Blow did not return a request for comment on why he omitted the race of the officer in his column or whether the race of the officer matters.

Of course not. It didn’t fit the The Narrative.

Another Reason to Home School Your Kids

A faithful reader passes along the snapshot of a high school world history textbook that notes the “fantastic economic results” of Stalin’s management of the Soviet economy back in the glory days of the successive Five Year plans. No wonder people fall for Elizabeth Warren.

Stalin copy

Here’s the text in case you can’t make out the photo:

These forceful means of making the Soviet Union a modern industrial nation took a great toll on people’s personal lives. Many families and marriages broke up.

Yeah, a widespread system of Gulags, mass executions, deliberate starvation, and purges of your intelligentsia are often quite hard on marriages. To continue:

Stalin’s grim methods, however, also produced fantastic economic results. Although most targets of the first Five-Year Plan fell short, the Soviets made impressive gains. A second plan, launched in 1933, proved equally successful. From 1928 to 1937, industrial production increased more than 25 percent.

I suppose we shouldn’t be too hard on the textbook’s authors, Roger Beck and Linda Black, for merely following some the dimmest bulbs of liberal economics. Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson’s fabulous book Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty remind us:

Indeed, the most widely used economics textbook in economics, written by Nobel Prize-winner Paul Samuelson, repeatedly predicted the coming economic dominance of the Soviet Union. In the 1961 edition, Samuelson predicted that Soviet national income would overtake that of the United States possibly by 1984, but probably by 1997. In the 1980 edition there was little change in the analysis, though the two dates were delayed to 2002 and 2012.

Acemoglu and Robinson go on to explain exactly why the Soviet Union realized these industrial production gains, and also why they were one-off changes that couldn’t be sustained:

But in some instances the productivity of labor and capital may be so much higher in one sector or activity, such as heavy industry in the Soviet Union, that even a top-down process under extractive institutions that allocates resources toward that sector can generate growth. . . [O]nce all the very inefficiently used resources had been reallocated to industry, there were few economic gains left to be had by fiat. Then the Soviet system hit a roadblock, with a lack of innovation and poor economic incentives preventing any further progress.

Between 1928 and 1960, Acemoglu and Robinson estimate, Soviet national income grew at 6 percent a year. Even these figures can be doubted. Two Soviet economists, Grigory Khanin and V. Selyunin, argued in 1987 that the Soviet economy peaked and began its decline in the early 1960s. The real long-term growth rate of the Soviet Union from the 1920s to the 1980s had been no better than 3.3 percent a year; the official statistics claimed 7.9 percent growth rate. Regardless of the real rate of growth, Acemoglu and Robinson conclude that “This quick economic growth was not created by technological change, but by reallocating labor and by capital accumulation through the creation of new tools and factories. . . [But] growth first slowed down and then totally collapsed.”

Acemoglu and Robinson further pointed out that one prominent group of Western Sovietologists predicted in 1980 that the Soviet economy would continue to grow at a 3.15 percent annual rate through the year 2000. The projection “does not portray a Soviet economy on the verge of collapse.” Another leading Sovietologist, Seweryn Bialer of Columbia University, wrote in Foreign Affairs that “The Soviet Union is not now nor will it be during the next decade in the throes of a true systemic crisis, for it boasts enormous unused reserves of political and social stability that suffice to endure the deepest difficulties.”

That last sentence kinda sounds like a description of the American Left: enormous unused reserves of nonsense that enable it to endure the deepest political difficulties. Meanwhile, get the Acemoglu and Robinson book if you want a sound treatment of economic growth and development.

Not Islamic either, part quatre

The Obama administration has dragged the Pentagon into its clown show on the Taliban and terrorism. Megyn Kelly devoted a segment to the swap of Bowe Bergdahl for the Taliban Five as well as the proper categorization of the Taliban last night on her FNC Kelly File show (full video below, eleven minutes long). Pentagon spokesman Admiral John Kirby appeared to respond to Kelly’s questions.

As to the Taliban, Kirby, asserted: “We consider them an armed insurgency…they aren’t considered a foreign terrorist organization.” What won’t he and his colleagues say? Is resignation not an option? Admiral Kirby faithfully toes the Obama administration line in a degrading cause.

Not Islamic either, part trois

NRO’s Brendan Bordelon reports:

In the latest round of verbal gymnastics over the Taliban, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki refused to categorize the murder of American civilians at Kabul International Airport an act of “terrorism.”

The Taliban claimed responsibility for that attack on Friday, which killed three civilian contractors working for the U.S. government and wounded one other. The gunman was reportedly a member of Afghan security forces who turned his weapon on his colleagues before being killed.

“He managed yesterday evening to attain his goal and opened fire with his rifle on a group of American occupiers,” Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said. The attacker was then “martyred by return fire.”

At Friday’s State Department briefing, Psaki was asked whether the U.S. government categorized the assault as terrorism.

“Obviously any attack that kills contractors – that kills individuals who are working there in harms way — is horrific and a tragedy,” she said. “But I’m not gonna put new labels on it today.”

The Obama administration is engaged in peace talks with the Afghan Taliban as it prepares to withdraw American forces from the region. U.S. policy has long been to avoid negotiations with terrorist groups.

The video below (37 seconds) captures the psickening Ms. Psaki toeing the line.