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March 4, 2016 8:45 am

Ignorance: The True Cost of Higher Education

avatar by Ruthie Blum

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Vassar College. Photo: Wiki Commons.

Vassar College. Photo: Wiki Commons.

During several sleepless nights, watching loops of 24-hour news broadcasts devoted to the US presidential race, I noticed certain themes that otherwise might have escaped my attention. One was the claim that first-time voters are “too young to remember” the scandals surrounding former president Bill Clinton and wife Hillary’s behavior during the period that the couple occupied the White House.

This assertion was like a hidden key to unlocking another phenomenon related to Americans in the age group under discussion and the surrounding culture’s attitude toward them. I am talking about the latest “radical chic” on campuses across the country — fever-pitched anti-Israel activism.

At both Ivy League and state schools, accusing the Jewish state of war crimes against the “oppressed Palestinian people” is the current ticket to peer acceptance. Campaigning for boycott, divestment and sanctions against “Israeli apartheid” is so popular that anything from complaints about high tuition and student loans to criticism of professors and guest lecturers has become part and parcel of the movement.

The response of university administrators and faculty has been to cower and hold meetings with student-body representatives to discuss free speech. So rampant has this scenario become that alumni are starting to wake up and take measures, among them threats to cease donating money to their alma maters.

Meanwhile, parents of the kids spending what should be valuable time at institutions of higher learning by planning rallies, creating installations of mock Israeli checkpoints and denouncing dissenting views continue to fork out exorbitant sums of money for degrees that won’t even land most of their children proper jobs.

Parents of the kids who feel threatened or outcast for supporting Israel — and even find swastikas and Hitler graffiti in their dorms — also dole out the tens of thousands of dollars it costs for the privilege of graduating from a name-brand school.

Reports of this worrisome trend bring me back to my own college days in the 1970s. Past the Vietnam War-era sit-ins of the draft-dodging hippies, and after the Yom Kippur War that devastated Israel, I happened to hit a period of less hysteria on campus. Still, at the University of Chicago, like everywhere else, students with causes handed out leaflets and attended demonstrations of one sort or another. These usually focused on feminism and gay rights; and there might have been some pro-Israel students who lived together in kosher houses. But I was never involved in any of it.

One reason for my lack of participation was that I found ideologues to be as tiresome as they were humorless — even though I held strong political positions I was not ashamed to verbalize, in spite of their unpopularity.

Another, far more pressing, cause for my shunning any such activity was homework — endless, mind-boggling, terrifying assignments with looming deadlines imposed by teachers not prone to being generous with good grades.

The self-disciplined students I knew were a source of deep envy. They were the ones who didn’t wait until the last minute to write their papers or study for exams. They spent hours in between and after classes at the library, only rewarding themselves with a beer or a movie when they had completed their own quota to satisfaction.

The rest of us used beer and movies to avoid facing the reams of material that instilled the worst kind of terror in our guts — the fear of failure. It had been made clear to us upon our arrival that this was not going to be anything like high school. The message was that we may have been accepted to the illustrious college by the grace of God, SAT scores, teacher recommendations, personal essays and interviews, but now that we were here, there would be no resting on our laurels. We were going to have to prove ourselves worthy through the work we produced.

One professor returned the first papers we all submitted — without having read them — for exceeding the number of typed pages he had specified and ignoring the rule of a single space after a comma and a double space after a period. These were the days before computers, when we banged out our words on manual (or electric, if we were lucky) typewriters, using carbon paper for copies and white-out on mistakes. Having homework returned for being typed unsatisfactorily meant having to start over from scratch. We were incensed, but nobody was around to comfort us for having been dealt such an unjust blow.

I do not need to question how these kids today have the time or energy to be battling Israel while trying to complete a university degree. Judging by the illiterate way in which they blog for college publications and write posts on social media, the answer is there in black and white. If they have any homework at all, either they aren’t doing it, or their teachers (whose own ability to produce a comprehensible, grammatically correct, properly punctuated sentence is dubious, at best) are grading them on their politics, not knowledge of any subject, least of all the history of the Jewish state.

One does not need an education to be eligible to vote in a democracy. But it is extremely telling that the “best and brightest” — those whose formal educations provide them a mantle of respectability — are not expected to be versed in anything that happened before their time. Indeed, if they are “too young to remember” the White House of the Clintons, both of whom are still alive, one shudders to imagine their approach to George Washington or Abraham Lincoln.

Why, though, is it not taken for granted that they should be reading about these matters?

The answer, alas, is that though these students have everything at their fingertips, including electronic devices with all the world’s information available at the tap of a button, no demands are made of them, least of all intellectual ones.

Ignorance is not bliss. It has, however, become an expensive commodity.

Ruthie Blum is the web editor of The Algemeiner.

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  • Mordecai Ben Natan

    I think that one must look at the UN vote in 1947 to patrician the geographical area called Palestine. The Jews who lived in that area are also Palestinians.
    The Arabs said that if the Jews ever get a state , there will be bloodshed. They did not lie.
    They warned the Arabs living in that part of “Palestine” to get out, so that they ca attack the Jews, and send them into the sea.
    The Jews asked the Arabs to stay.
    BUT on day one of the reborn biblical Jewish state of, Israel, she was attacked by 5 Arab armies
    Of the entire Jewish population at that time, consisted of Jewish Palestinians, WW@ veterans, etc.
    The Arab armies attacked, But with the loss of many Jewish lives, the 5 Arab armies were sent hope with their tails between their legs

    The Arabs tried again and again to “wipe the Jews off the map”. But the Jews/Israel always defeated the Arabs.

    So, how to beat the Jews/Israel, is to use Hitler’s Minister of propaganda. the bigger the lies, the more often told, the more the world will believe it”

    The Arabs made Goebbels look like a nursery school class. Their propaganda is brilliant.

    The cannot beat the Jewish state in a war, so lets beat them with propaganda lies.

    And the whole world believes every lie.

    Abbas the liar, war criminal, stated the knife intifada, by telling the Muslims that the Jews want to destroy the Al Aksa mosque.
    The Imams preached in the mosques to kill Jews with a knife they even showed the Palestinians how to use a knife.
    And when was the name Palestinians coined? Arafat called those Arabs living in the land, Palestinian. Until then they were Arabs.

    Compare the populations. Israel has a Jewish population of about 6 million. Arabs/Palestinians living in Israel are close the Jewish population.

    Beside that, there are 1.6 BILLION Muslims in the world.
    There are 14 Million Jews across the world.
    So, with the Arab money, they are able to spread the lies about Israel being an apartheid state.

    Yet, those Palestinians living in Israel, have the highest rate of income, jobs, and protection , and health care in the Middle East.

    They have Arab representatives in the Knesset, live and share transport, restaurants, hospitals, universities

    sit a hospital, the chances are that you will be treated by a Jewish doctor and nurse, or an Arab doctor and nurse.

    I have been going to Israel for many years. I always seem to hurt myself, or become ill. I visit the night clinics. The waiting rooms are packed with Jews and Muslims. They are seen to by “first come, first seen”
    I have had to wait for my turn as a Jew, to be treated my the medial staff.

    Even the Ultra religious Jews are seen in their turn according to “who was first”

    Netanyahu his held his hand out to Abbas many times, but Abbas does not want to make peace. Israel gave in to his demands many time, but the criminal Abbas will not talk peace.

    This week, the USVP spoke to Abbas to sit and talk to Netanyahu.
    The VP promised Abbas that all he need to do, is say the he recognizes Israel as the Jewish state, and call of the murderous campaign and that the Palestinian state will have east Jerusalem as their capital.He refused.
    why does Abbas refuse to talk and make peace? Because he knows that if he creates peace with the Jewish state, he will be assassinated.
    The Palestinians have been so brain washed by the Arabs, that they want to destroy Israel. That will never happen.
    Lets also look at the past.
    When Jordan controlled the Old City, the destroyed 56 synagogues.


  • Yale

    The real culprit is politically-correct education in civics, history and economics in the middle and high schools. When being in tune with what’s popular outweighs actually knowing what’s in the Constitution, why America succeeded while other civilizations (like Soviet Marxism) have failed, and who starts wars and why, we can’t be surprised when new voters are thrilled with the likes of:
    1)Bernie Sanders, running on a platform endorsing a program that has been tried repeatedly and has never worked.
    2) Hillary Clinton who has accepted bribes in advance through her family foundation
    3)Donald Trump who probably doesn’t know where the Government keeps the original Constitution (and may not care)

    It has taken generations to get us into this situation, and may take generations to work our way out, but until we have made the decision to do so, the clock doesn’t even begin to tick.

  • Ruthie, so true and so sad. Remember that complex math is no longer taught the way it once was. Even the multiplication tables are no longer necessary since now it can be done by the app on the phone. Technology has created intellectual cretins.

  • Ruthie,

    Rather than blame the students, perhaps we should take a look at how departments of middle eastern studies (for example) are funded, and how entire associations of academics (e.g., American Studies) can devolve into such ignorance and eagerness to spread hateful propaganda. In part, this must be a symptom of our best universities’ reliance upon gifts, including gifts from foreign, anti-democratic entities, and the quid-pro-quo that this dependence upon gifts always entails.

  • Sue Davis

    Sadly, also true of university students in Australia.

  • ART

    continued from above.
    The Balfour declaration, San Remo , League of Nations resolutions, UN resolutions, aliyah Aleph and bet, treaties and history are ignored. This is how the pa has stolen legitimacy and history to claim Jerusalem, and land and the alleged history of nationhood. They even challenge the basis of Christianity with impunity

  • ART

    It is not only the students who are clueless about history it is also the media and politicians. They respond at the moment there is no last year, no history. Crisis is not traced to past actions or acts. They are usually presented as sui generis (self generating). This is true about how the mid east is presented