From Sultan Knish: ‘Universal Education Or Universal Competence’

Full piece here.

One of the main targets here is the political Left in polemical fashion, and some folks on the Left deserve criticism as much as anyone:

‘The more you universalize education, the lower the value of that education becomes. When the goal of education is not to teach, but to graduate, then the educational system becomes a cattle run which exists only to move students through the system and then out the door through classroom promotion. The High School education of today is inferior to the Elementary School education of yesterday and the four year college graduate of today couldn’t even begin to match wits with a high school graduate from 1946.’

Diminishing returns.  Undoubtedly, the ground has shifted beneath our feet, and our educational institutions have not changed to keep pace.  This problem belongs to all of us.  Perhaps our educational system will be increasingly fertile ground for the culture wars. Even the Left has recently been criticizing the very meritocracy they’ve helped to create.

There are many political, monied, and ideological interests who have a big stake in resisting any change in our schools.  If and when necessary changes are suggested, they will naturally fight for their own self-interest, often under universalist ideals through political means (especially in our cities…a piece of the pie they are sure they have been denied).  This can end up harming the people these institutions are meant to serve.

‘Above all else, a society of competent men and women is self-ruled. Competence is the core of independence while standardized education is the essence of collectivism. Once you know how to do something, you are less likely to be awed by men and women who only know how to rule over others.’

All standardization is not necessarily harmful, but it can be increasingly harmful in the current context, under many current conditions that have led to a top-down, politicized educational-industrial complex.   It is incredibly wasteful and inefficient.

There is a spirit of egalitarianism in America that needs to be protected from the excessive and collectivist egalitarians, the teacher’s unions and many an educrat, the politicians and a corrupt system of patronage in our cities.   Education naturally attracts a lot of ‘universalists’.

Millions of young people are passing through lower and higher ed shielded from much genuine criticism and failure, and academic rigor that both rewards hard work and intellectual challenge, and is appropriately competitive.  They are receiving inflated grades and playing the system for what they can.  The rest of us are paying for it in one way or another.

Did lower or higher ed fail you?  Your children?  If so, how?

Addition:  Megan McArdle has a piece here on the value of college.  It’s still probably worth it for the average student, and especially for the bright, motivated student who is aware of what he/she’s paying for, and with a stake in his/her own costs and future in the labor market.  Otherwise, there’s a large psychological and public buy-in and many individuals making many bad decisions.  A bubble?

uploaded by mattbucher

Related On This Site:  Louis Menand At The New Yorker: ‘Live And Learn: Why We Have College’

Michelle Rhee At Newsweek: “What I’ve Learned”Repost-’Too Much “Quality Control” In Universities?’

Robert Samuelson Via Real Clear Politics: ‘Why School Reform Fails’From The Bellevue Reporter-Walter Backstrom’s: ‘Educational Progress And The Liberal Plantation’

Via Instapundit: Jerry Bowyer At Forbes: ‘A College Bubble So Big Even The New York Times And 60 Minutes Can See It…Sort Of’

A deeper look at what education “ought” to be…mostly like it is now: A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’

The libertarian angle, getting smart, ambitious people off of the degree treadmill:  From The American Interest: Francis Fukuyama Interviews Peter Thiel-’A Conversation With Peter Thiel’ I think it’s going too far, trying to apply libertarian economics onto education, but Milton Friedman on Education is thought-provoking
Walter Russell Mead takes a look at the blue model (the old progressive model) from the ground up in NYC to argue that it’s simply not working.  Check out his series at The American Interest.  He has a big vision with some holes in it, but it’s one that embraces change boldly.

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From Sultan Knish: ‘The Mirage Of Moderate Islam’

Full piece here.

This is one of the least charitable views of the Middle-East, and Islam, that I’ve seen.  It casts a cold eye upon the Muslim World, identifying its darkest tendencies as central to Islam itself.

On it, the Middle-East is comprised mostly of a bunch of tribes (some nomadic) which are cobbled together upon a later version of Judeo-Christian metaphysics called Islam, for which the penalty of apostasy is death.  There is no State upon this vision (Westphalian or not), really only the Mosque, with the Caliphate being the end game.

As noted elsewhere, Islam does not really create a centralized political authority (like Rome).  Additionally, on this view, its spread by conquest (the sword) is highlighted, which its adherents are always seeking to advance:

‘Its moment of religious transcendence was not that of the law or the spirit, but the sight of tribal rivalries uniting under a single green banner. The banner of Islam.’

After the conquest, presumably, Islam goes deep with its transcendental claims, profound metaphysics and daily rituals.  It maintains authority by strict control of political, public, and social life, eventually planning for the next conquest to unite yet another tribe.  It does this through prayer, service and eventually action as each person is required to submit the will in faith to God.  In Islam, this is non-negotiable, and it’s also anathema to many in the post-Enlightenment West, accustomed as we are to separation of Church and State.

On Greenfield’s view, this is why ‘moderate’ Muslims cannot really be found by Western standards, because moderates aren’t really allowed by what he terms a ‘supremacist’ political/religious/moral philosophy that doesn’t create any space for them in the public square.

The analogy Greenfield uses is Gulags are to Communism what Al Qaeda is to Islam.


There are, of course (Greenfield stops at deeper divisions like racial or genetic categories) moderate people getting on with life the Muslim World:  Pragmatists, wise men and idiots, politicians and poets, young people flush with the dreams and hopes of youth and old people who don’t particularly care.

Yet, below the surface, lie the old tribal and family loyalties attached to ‘supremacist’ Islam.  This drives Muslims onward with or without the imported models of Western Statecraft, colonial boundaries, waves of technology and ideology such as Communism, Capitalism, Humanism, etc that the West has sent their way.  Such imports can be grafted onto the root, but the root remains.

This is why the West, according to our author, still insists in seeing the mirage of moderation projected upon the Middle East and Islamic societies through our foreign policy.  We’re looking for familiarity which may not be there:

‘The two primary paradigms through which Western political elites see Islam, are that of tyranny on the right, and that of the evils of Western foreign policy on the left. Bush employed the former when he defined the problem as being one of tyranny, rather than Islam. Having defined the problem in terms of a majority of “Good Muslims” oppressed by “Bad Tyrants”, Bush tried to liberate the former from the latter, only to discover that there was a good deal of overlap between the two. Under Obama, we have seen the left implement its own construct of Islam, as popular resistance movements against colonial oppression, who are reacting to the evils of American foreign policy.

How much room is there for diplomacy and effective policy on the back of this analysis?  On it, all Muslims are essentially supremacists, moral absolutists and many are tribal, semi-civilized nomads, never really worth trusting because the worst of them is the best of them.

Across any bargaining table would be someone from the Muslim world who sees you as either a potential convert or a body on the battlefield to global Muslim domination (or someone who eventually has to answer to a group of people who do).  This isn’t exactly a pragmatic state of mind for folks in the U.S to be in when dealing with what may be an adversary, or even someone for whom there may be some temporary shared interest worth defining.

I suspect this analysis (with its truths) comes from a position of Jewish nationalism, the high tensions in Israel with a hostile Muslim world surrounding it (the Hamas charter refuses the right of Israel to exist), increasing anti-semitism in Europe, and a more left of center American administration seemingly abandoning Israel as we commit to liberal internationalist doctrine.  This is what some Israelis are likely thinking.

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

Thanks to a reader for the link.

Related On This Site:  Samuel Huntington worked against modernization theory, and argued that a chasm between the West and Islam will be a primary source of post Cold-war conflict: Clash of Civilizations:  From The Atlantic: Samuel Huntington’s Death And Life’s Work

His student, Francis Fukuyama and once neo-conservative (likely before working with the locals against Russians in Afghanistan and sometime after we invaded Iraq) charted his own course in The End Of History.   From The American Interest Online: Francis Fukuyama On Samuel Huntington…he’s now taken that model of Hegelian statecraft home:  Francis Fukuyama At The American Interest-’The Two Europes’

So, it wasn’t an Arab Spring, but there has been an erosion of the old rituals and control of the public square….more individualization that has affected the man on the Street, according to an Olivier Roy: Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘What Did The Arab Spring Really Change?’

Roger Scruton suggests Islam is incompatible with Western Freedom: From YouTube: Roger Scruton On Religious Freedom, Islam & Atheism

Ayan Hirsi Ali has her own agenda, and will use the political right in Europe to frame the debate (and she’s on a personal mission against Islam), but notice non-Muslims are not the ones threatening her with death: Tunku Varadarajan Reviews Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s ‘Nomad’ At The Daily BeastRepost-Ayan Hirsi Ali At The CSM: ‘Swiss Ban On Minarets Was A Vote For Tolerance And Inclusion’

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