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Book Review Corner - College Books

By Charles and Betty Burger
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #4, 1993.

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Charles and Betty Burger


One of the first questions new home schoolers are inevitably asked is, "But will your children be able to get into college?" The answer up to this point has been, "Yes, home schoolers can and do get into college, including prestigious institutions such as Yale and Harvard."

As waves of Political Correctness begin to wash over our land, we may want to reconsider this time-tested response. By the time our children are ready for college, will we want them to go to Harvard or Yale?

It is appropriate, then, that the first PHS Book Review column features five books about what's happening now in your friendly local State U and Ivy League U, followed by three guides to choosing a college.

Even if your children are all preschoolers, it's not too early to start keeping an eye on the college scene. We will be looking at college choices in more detail in future issues. —The Editor

Political Corruptness?

If you don't know what all the fuss is about over Political Correctness (PC), but plan on sending your children off to college or even using a home study program, you should read Political Correctness: The Cloning of the American Mind (Huntington House). It is essentially a short course in higher education's new liberal orthodoxy. Upon completion, you'll know the origins of PC, understand its theoretical basis (i.e. deconstructionism), how to spot it, how it affects university administration and teaching, and much more. Written by "insider" David Thibodaux, English professor at the University of Southwestern Louisiana, it is concise, scholarly (many quotes from professional journals), and easily understood by the layman. You get all you need to know in only 173 pages of medium-size print. An additional 33 pages at the end contain interviews with other university professors—interesting, but not necessary reading.

Unlike some other books on the topic, this one isn't packed with shocking examples of university life. Oh yes, some examples are given—such as the dormitory run by militant lesbians and sensitivity workshops to rid students of their Christian principles—but only enough to make the point. Much of the content is more practical: the author evaluates curricula, defines terms, and exposes the motives and methods of the leftist establishment, such as how euphemisms and labels are used to suppress free speech. Some attention is given to PC in the public schools, but the primary concern is with higher education.

Dr. Thibodaux will convince you, if he needs to, of the dangers involved in secular higher education. Instead of being "a place for the free and unfettered exchange of ideas and information," he exposes it as a place for Marxist and anti-Christian propaganda on the order of a re-education camp. And the author isn't a sensationalist.

The Asylum of Your Choice?

After high school, many young people go on to study at the asylum of their choice. At least, it would be hard to reach any other conclusion after reading Dinesh D'Souza's Illiberal Education: The Politics of Race and Sex on Campus (The Free Press/Macmillan, $19.95). This book is a documentary on contemporary college life—and it paints a grim picture indeed. D'Souza picks up where Dr. Thibodaux leaves off, filling in those pages of shocking examples which our good professor omitted. So here we have the perfect supplementary volume to Political Correctness. You'll see the complete picture as you witness PC in action.

A recent Dartmouth graduate and dark-skinned Asian, D'Souza was not yet 30 when his book was published in 1991. Thus, perhaps thinking he was one of "them," many professors, administrators, and students opened up to D'Souza in a way you would not normally expect. He records many such candid interviews. In one, influential Professor Gates at Duke University "identified what he called 'a rainbow coalition of blacks, leftists, feminists, deconstructionists, and Marxists' who had now infiltrated academia and were 'ready to take control.' It would not be much longer, he predicted."

Do you look forward to the prospect of your children reading I, Rigoberta Menchu instead of Shakespeare, learning to use the word "ovular" in place of "seminar," and being disciplined for calling homosexuality a sin? If not, reading Illiberal Education will provide a sobering experience.

Tenured Radicals?

In Tenured Radicals: How Politics Has Corrupted Our Higher Education (Harper & Row, $18.95), Roger Kimball shows that recent developments in the study of the humanities really amount to nothing more than ideological assaults on our culture. He exposes the academic establishment for what it is—radical. Kimball's method is similar to that of Dr. Thibodaux's. He quotes extensively from books, journal articles, and various conferences and symposia which he attended.

This is definitely not for beginners—parents who just want to see what all the fuss over higher education is about. Mr. Kimball introduces terms and concepts which he never explains, and it is easy to get lost or miss the point. For instance, he assumes you know the difference between theory and example as methods of literary criticism, that you understand structuralism, post-structuralism, deconstructionism, and Lacanian analysis, and that you are familiar with the presuppositions of traditional humanistic study.

If you are versed in PC, and are looking for a broader study of campus radicalism which includes such topics as the leftist defense of Paul de Man's pro-Nazi writings and the effect of deconstructionism on architecture, this is the book for you.

College Daze?

The Hollow Men: Politics and Corruption in Higher Education (Regnery Gateway, $19.95) by Charles Sykes is a book about what a college can and should be. In it Mr. Sykes chronicles the history of Dartmouth College as a microcosm of what has happened at other colleges and universities across America.

Sykes first introduces us to the Dartmouth that existed under President Hopkins (1916-1945). He holds it up as the prototype of a true college characterized by a strong core curriculum, an emphasis on teaching, a concern for educating the student as a whole person, and genuine academic freedom. He describes the school's descent chronologically from that high point in its history to its present degenerate, intolerant state as a PC propaganda house, including detailed, graphic examples which are not fun reading.

While Mr. Sykes does not write from a Christian point of view, his work raises questions for the Christian community about the traditional liberal arts and especially academic freedom. What is the value to the Christian of the age-old dialog between "Athens and Jerusalem" (or reason and faith)? How should a Christian view academic freedom? How far should the privilege of free speech go? There are issues here that the Christian community needs to address. The Hollow Men gives a lot of food for thought.

Hire Education?

Money is Richard M. Huber's concern in How Professors Play the Cat Guarding the Cream: Why We're Paying More and Getting Less in Higher Education (George Mason University Press, $19.95). How and why has it come about that we pay such exorbitant prices for so little in higher education? How can we cut costs and still improve quality? Huber provides an enlightening and thorough comparison between university and corporate business structure and accountability. He points out the basic problem: in a university, tenured faculty who are accountable only to themselves run the show.

It follows that Dr. Huber's concerns are practical, not ethical. For example, he views multiculturalism as unworkable in America, and hence teaching it as a waste of money. Dr. Huber discusses reforms he believes won't succeed (like jettisoning tenure) but lists seven he believes are doable that would improve quality and cut costs, such as requiring teacher training.

This book is not immediately applicable to home schoolers, but is a good reference. It contains a summary of conservative vs. revisionist positions, and two lists of 53 "Ironies of the University," covering the illogical, inane characteristics of modern American higher education.

Choosing a College

Considering all the problems in colleges and universities these days, how does one choose a college and get an education while there? The three guides we reviewed are helpful in finding one's way through the maze. Thomas Sowell's Choosing a College: A Guide for Parents & Students (Perennial Library/Harper & Row, $7.95) is a very thorough resource. Dr. Sowell holds your hand and leads you through the types of "colleges" (universities, liberal arts colleges, and technical schools), tells you how to evaluate the kind of education you will get, and how to appraise the ideological and physical environment. He explains how to match your abilities to a school and the disservice you do yourself if you don't. This section is particularly essential for minority students, who are frequently exploited by admissions directors seeking quotas, and admitted into schools where they are bound to fail. Sowell, who is black, explains how the process works, and why it is better to go to a school where you can shine, rather than serving as quota meat for a school that's over your head. He also outlines what to look for during a campus visit, which he highly recommends.

The guide is packed with detailed information that clearly explains the entire process, from SATs and applications to final choices. One of the best features of the guide is its parent-friendliness. Sowell encourages active, intimate parental involvement and warns that "professional" counselors and admissions staff will try to shut parents out of the decision-making process. This book is armor, weapon, and guide for the entire trip through choosing a college.

Christian Parent and Student Guide

Similar to Sowell's guide, but from a Christian perspective, is Ronald Nash's The Christian Parent and Student Guide to Choosing a College (Word Publishing). Dr. Nash goes to significant lengths to awaken Christian parents to their responsibility for their children's education. Home schoolers have already reckoned with this issue. He is, in general, less detailed than Sowell, but adds a chapter on the advantages and disadvantages of evangelical Christian colleges. He warns that at a sound one the student learns a Christian worldview, whereas at an unsound one he can be easily led astray because of the tendency to trust the professors. At a pagan university you know to be on your guard.

He strongly warns parents that they cannot trust their memories of college from 20-30 years ago. Things have changed, and even the best Christian schools have been infiltrated. Dr. Nash has a very useful section on the issues any collegiate must be prepared to face and defend from a Christian perspective—the problem of evil, miracles, modern biblical criticism, and Christianity vs. a host of "isms" and "ologies." His suggestions for further reading on the topics are worth following through on.

National Review College Guide

The third guide we reviewed is decidedly different. The National Review College Guide (Simon & Schuster, $13) by Charles Sykes and Brad Minor actually tells the student where he should go to college—that is if he wants an education, not just a degree. The guide consists of four sections. Section 1, a preface, outlines the authors' philosophy and the three criteria by which they judged colleges. The criteria are: (1) a strong required liberal arts core, (2) a qualified and available faculty, and (3) an environment that values academic freedom and true educational experiences. Section 2 critiques 58 colleges which passed the three criteria. Some Christian schools are included. Section 3 tells why most big name schools didn't cut it, and Section 4 tells you how to get a decent education wherever you go. The NR Guide is valuable to anyone searching for a college that teaches in the traditional sense.

Since major book publishers usually prefer not to fill retail orders, we suggest you obtain the books reviewed in this column through your local bookstore. Ask for them by name and publisher. All the books reviewed in this column are also available at discount from Conservative Book Club. We highly recommend CBC membership to our readers; it is an excellent source of important books, such as these, which are rarely promoted in chain bookstores. To join, take advantage of one of their special offers, found in this and other magazines.


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