Monday, June 18, 2007

The Fabric of America is Just Fine, Thank You

Two events this past week would cheer anyone worried about how the fabric of America is holding up to the dual challenges of 1. Confronting and containing Islamic fundamentalist terrorists without shredding our Constitution, and 2. Maintaining traditional American values that are under siege by the hate-America crowd.

Confronting and containing Islamic fundamentalist terrorists without shredding our Constitution:

The system is definitely working. The horrific attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 brought with it the understanding that defending ourselves from these maniacs would require means and methods we don’t like to use. The criminal justice system cannot adequately protect Americans from the use of weapons that can kill thousands and even hundreds of thousands. We need to surveil and find these people before they act, we need to get critical information from them and we need to put them away for a very long time without jeopardizing national security or subjecting witnesses to their own murder by people, some of whom, think they will go to heaven if they die for their “cause”.

And so a wartime president has responded, putting forth methods that trouble many Americans. It has now been firmly established that foreign nationals captured without uniform on the battlefield can be designated as ‘enemy combatants’ and dealt with as such; and it has been established that American citizens who are terrorists must be subjected to our normal criminal justice system (although in my mind when they conspire to terrorize America they have renounced their citizenship). We are now in the throes of establishing whether or not the ‘enemy combatant’ label can be applied to aliens who are here legally. The President is pushing for security, and the courts are pushing back. At some point the issue will be decided, as it should be, by our system – and it works!

Maintaining traditional American values that are under siege by the hate-America crowd:

My readers well know of my concerns about the poisoning of America’s youth by the hate-America, multiculturalism crowd now dominating our colleges and universities and showing up often even in our public schools. Fortunately, this week I happened to attend the graduation exercises at a small-town high school with 263 graduates of a tri-town combined high school. As I watched the totally American proceedings take place and realized how many places in the USA where this same event was transpiring, a shudder of joy came over me. The American flag was everywhere, the National Anthem was played, the Pledge of Allegiance was given and (gasp) even God was prominently mentioned.

It is still of paramount importance that we find and root out the evil presence of multiculturalism wherever we find it, but maybe we don’t have to worry too much about the youth of America – they may not be getting a very good education, but they look and sound just like we did.

And on the college scene:

A College Education
Revolt of the alumni and other good news.

Sunday, June 17, 2007 12:01 a.m.

Any number of colleges and universities seem to be having PR travails these days, but this may be a case where the turmoil is healthy. The school year that is now ending has turned out to be something of a banner year for academic reform.

Consider the recent unrest at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. When the school's tour guides were informed in an email last winter that a century-old cross was to be expelled from the school's chapel, alumni and students mounted a "Save the Wren Cross" campaign. Press releases, a Web site, and a petition that collected 18,000 signatures led to a restoration.

This experience has emboldened what might be called the William and Mary electorate. A new organization is now asking if the governing Board of Visitors should renew the college president's contract. That's normally a rubber-stamp affair, but now college executives are being forced to defend themselves against charges of poor financial stewardship.

The merits of these disputes seem less important than the fact that there is now earnest and public discussion about the performance of college administrators, who, like career government bureaucrats, are usually adept at avoiding accountability. Stakeholders are suddenly feeling empowered.

That's certainly true at Dartmouth College, in New Hampshire, where alumni have used a petition process for the board of trustees to elect four independent candidates in recent years. These "petition candidates" have run against disciplinary procedures that lack due process rights, speech codes, and an increased budget emphasis on administrative bureaucracy at the expense of academics.

The Dartmouth administration responded last fall by proposing a new set of trustee election rules that would have made these outsider candidacies more difficult. The measure needed support from two-thirds of voting alumni to pass but failed to get even a majority. The year ended with the election of a fourth reformist, University of Virginia law professor Stephen Smith.

Elsewhere, market forces prevailed. Antioch College in Ohio--which became famous for sundry curious radicalisms like requiring verbal consent before two students may kiss--was designed to accommodate 2,700 students, but will soon close its doors indefinitely. Its enrollment, now around 300, is no longer sustainable.

The radical professoriate has also had a bad year. Ward Churchill, the University of Colorado professor who called Americans killed on September 11 "little Eichmanns," was recommended for dismissal. And Norman Finkelstein, who wrote "The Holocaust Industry" and professed the belief that "Schindler's List" was designed to blind Americans to current Middle East policy, was denied tenure at DePaul University.

Does it seem uncouth that students and alumni are pouring their criticisms into press releases? It shouldn't. Colleges and universities have largely brought this stakeholder activism on themselves--when they decided to become instruments of fashionable politics instead of repositories of knowledge.


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