Non-violence belongs in schools more than the military

In response to “Is High School Too Young for Military Recruitment?” published March 28 – April 3, 2019:

The Soviet Union had its Young Pioneers, Hitler’s Germany had its Hitler’s Youth, the U.S. has JrROTC. Military training should have no place in our high schools. The use of non-violence means for resolving differences is what belongs in our high schools.

— Rick Yoder, website comment

Everyone should serve

In response to “Is High School Too Young for Military Recruitment?” published March 28 – April 3, 2019:

Perhaps if America went to universal service, like Israel, rather than the all volunteer army, it wouldn’t be necessary. Fortunately the “activists” don’t make the rules. There is an obligation to defend America, largely born by the young. Exposing them to the military is fine. You can’t join prior to 18 without parental consent. Selfless Service. Quite a concept.

— John Smolenski, website comment

The college admissions scandal

What does the recent college admissions scandal tell us about the moral state of American universities today? I have heard a lot of academics say that the public and the press are using the scandal to exaggerate the faults of the academy. But the scandal reveals some pretty deep features of the academic system.

Take what happened at Yale. A soccer coach took a bribe in exchange for admitting a student. Note that the coach didn’t simply attest that the student was a great soccer player, leaving it to the admissions office to make the final decision. No, the coaches actually get to make the admissions decisions. This is wrong.

After all, universities don’t allow English professors to have discretion in admissions. Suppose a student has unimpressive grades and SATs but is a brilliant creative writer. The admissions staff has the right to admit this student — but the place where real expertise on creative writing is located, the English department, has no say at all. The English department does not get a certain number of draft picks each year, as the coaches do.

If we ask why coaches have this power, the answer is that it helps to create stronger teams. If we ask why a university needs to have strong teams, the answer is basically all about money. Former athletes tend to be good donors. And many donors who were never athletes connect to their alma mater through sports. They don’t want to give money if the university has losing teams. There is, then, a system-wide subordination of academic priorities to fundraising goals.

Of course, some of the donations are used to enhance academic programs — to hire new professors, develop the library, etc. This is why college administrators rarely take any meaningful steps to limit the impact of sports on admissions.

How much money would colleges and universities lose if they downplayed sports and played up something else (like commitment to learning!). The University of Chicago is ranked number three in the country after Princeton and Harvard. It has received many donations exceeding $100 million and has an $8.2 billion endowment. Robert Hutchins, a former president of the University of Chicago, famously said, “In many colleges, it is possible for a boy to win 12 letters without learning how to write one.” Chicago boasts that 89 Nobel Prize recipients have been faculty or alumni. Chicago has made it big — not by being a sports powerhouse but by being an intellectual powerhouse.

More colleges and universities should dismantle the university-sports complex that is poisoning the admissions process, even when it operates legally.

— Daniel Gordon, UMass Amherst history professor