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Walter Williams
Walter E. Williams
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Tuition Pays for This


According to College Board, average tuition and fees for the 2013-14 school year totaled $30,094 at private colleges, $8,893 for in-state residents at public colleges and $22,203 for out-of-state residents. Many schools, such as Columbia University and George Washington University, charge yearly tuition and fees close to $50,000. Faced with the increasing costs of higher education, parents and taxpayers might like to know what they're getting for their money.

Campus Reform documents outrageous behavior at some colleges. Mark Landis, a former accounting professor at San Francisco State University, frequently entertained students at this home. He now faces 15 charges of invasion of privacy. Police say he was discovered with dozens of graphic videos he had made of students using his bathroom.

Mireille Miller-Young — professor of feminist studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara — recently pleaded no contest to charges of theft of banners and assault on a pro-life protester last March.

Every so often, colleges get it right, as the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign did when it withdrew its teaching offer to Steven G. Salaita. He had used his Twitter account to tell followers they are awful human beings if they support Israel, saying he supports the complete destruction of Israel, as well as calling for the decolonization of North America.

Then there are some strange college courses. At Georgetown University, there's a course called Philosophy and Star Trek, where professor Linda Wetzel explores questions such as "Can persons survive death?" and "Is time travel possible? Could we go back and kill our grandmothers?"

At Columbia College Chicago, there's a class called Zombies in Popular Media. The course description reads, "Daily assignments focus on reflection and commentary, while final projects foster thoughtful connections between student disciplines and the figure of the zombie."

West Coast colleges refuse to be left behind the times. University of California, Irvine physics professor Michael Dennin teaches The Science of Superheroes, in which he explores questions such as "Have you ever wondered if Superman could really bend steel bars?" and "Would a 'gamma ray' accident turn you into the Hulk?" and "What is a 'spidey-sense'?"

The average person would think that the major task of colleges is to educate and advance human knowledge.

The best way to do that is to have competition in the marketplace of ideas. But Michael Yaki, head of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, disagrees. During a July 5 briefing on sexual harassment law in education, Yaki explained that college free speech restrictions are necessary because adolescent and young adult brains process information differently than adult brains.

Fortunately, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has waged a successful campaign against college restrictions on free speech. Some of its past victories include eliminating restrictions such as Bowdoin College's ban on jokes and stories "experienced by others as harassing"; Brown University's ban on "verbal behavior" that produced "feelings of impotence, anger or disenfranchisement," whether "unintentional or intentional"; the University of Connecticut's absurd ban of "inappropriately directed laughter"; and Colby College's ban on any speech that could lead to a loss of self-esteem. Some colleges sought to protect female students. Bryn Mawr College banned "suggestive looks," and "unwelcome flirtations" were not allowed at Haverford College.

Greg Lukianoff, president of FIRE and author of "Unlearning Liberty," argues that campus censorship is contributing to an atmosphere of stifled discourse. In 2010, an Association of American Colleges and Universities study found that only 17 percent of professors strongly agreed with the statement that it is "safe to hold unpopular positions on campus." Only 30 percent of college seniors strongly agreed with that statement. The First Amendment Center's annual survey found that a startling 47 percent of young people believe that the First Amendment "goes too far."

The bottom line is that many colleges have lost sight of their basic educational mission of teaching young people critical thinking skills, and they're failing at that mission at higher and higher costs to parents and taxpayers.

Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University. To find out more about Walter E. Williams and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at



16 Comments | Post Comment
Stupidity is the second most common substance in the universe, after hydrogen. Some might suggest that tea party politicians are trying to corner the market on this substance, but, as Mr. Williams' piece shows, there is plenty to go around.
I think, however, he may be a bit too quick to dismiss the value of odd classes. While the "Science of Superheros" class, for example, might not be particularly useful for a physics major, it might well be of value for an english major.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Mark
Mon Aug 18, 2014 8:28 AM
Firing an American citizen, professor Steven Salaita, for using his private twitter account for exercising his first amendment right of freedom of speech is fine w/Dr. Williams.
Is now ok to violate rights of citizens if they don't agree w/sacred cow Israel.
Who or what is next?
Of course if same professor had come out in defense of Israel and not in defense of Palestinians, Williams would have been ok w/that.
How dare he sit in judgement of anyone?
One can not mistake this fool for anything but what he is, an overpaid, uninformed, biased partisan hack. Take your rightful place Dr. Williams alongside your brethren Limbaugh, Hannity, Sowell, ad nauseum.
Comment: #2
Posted by: steveM
Mon Aug 18, 2014 8:32 AM
This is why I regularly contribute to FIRE - funny how the ACLU couldn't be bothered to come to the defense of free speech on campuses, but two lawyers in Philadelphia founded a group just for that purpose.

And Mark, FYI, it isn't "tea party hacks" who are writing the outrageously Orwellian restrictions in college handbooks - including, jokes, looks, even laughter - it's the far leftist mind control element where everything is rigidly politically correct, especially as interpreted by extreme feminists and the mentally castrated men who are cowed by them. The same people who have designated "free speech zones" - far from campus activity, measuring about the size of a pocket handkerchief and, oh yes, you have to get permission for your protest two weeks in advance. FIRE has taken them down one by one. If you don't believe me, check their website.

Goodness Steve, it must really gall you to see an educated black man who doesn't toe the far left propaganda like he's expected to. I notice you didn't offer a single piece of information to counter what he said. For a prospective professor to spew venom over Israel clearly delineates his political entrenchment - and also makes it clear how incapable he would be of having an intellectual discussion with his Jewish students.

Comment: #3
Posted by: Maggie Lawrence
Mon Aug 18, 2014 2:36 PM
Maggie Lawrence, no mam it doesn't gall me. What 'galls' me is what I wrote; and what galls me is author's white washing of truth and complete distortions of what were once facts. Now you interpret that however it suits you. You're just another cog in this dysfunctional wheel.
Comment: #4
Posted by: steveM
Mon Aug 18, 2014 3:36 PM
Maggie Lawrence, now have more time for finish.
Seem you never had an "intellectual discussion" for if had would realize is discussion w/conflicting or opposing opinions and views. Maybe you prefer they teach only views you approve? From books you get to approve? Are you the moral police? Academic Censor? You credentialed to determine professors ability to remain impartial when reviewing and grading student?
No. You not. Is more than obvious from tone of your comment.
Maybe instead of contribute to your campus cause, you go on campus & attend a class. While I''m sure you'd prefer all teachers spew the same propaganda and teach from books you approve is not how is done in America.
I start by educate you Israel does not represent all or even majority of Jews. Israel is a state it is not the Jewish religion. Judaism and Zionism are diametrically opposite and in disagreement. Those are facts and not up for debate.
I think what you fear is an intellectual discussion. Again, maybe it escaped your limited experiences that it is common for faculty to teach and discuss opposing and conflicting viewpoints. It encourages critical thinking and allows for open discourse and intelligent intellectual exchange of ideas. So sorry it your preference to keep young people ignorant and unaware of differing opinions. Maybe should go back to Israel or China or N. Korea. They like keep their people ignorant you be right at home.
Firing an American citizen, professor Steven Salaita, for using his private twitter account for exercising his first amendment right of freedom of speech is fine w/Dr. Williams.
Is now ok to violate rights of citizens if they don't agree w/sacred cow Israel.
Who or what is next?

Comment: #5
Posted by: steveM
Mon Aug 18, 2014 4:54 PM
Sir;... What makes you or anyone thing colleges should be places of free speech? People have to be there. It is as essential as a job, and peace of mind there in an ordered environment is as essential as at the work place. Employers could be sued, and Universities should be sued if they do not provide for a peaceful, well ordered, and respectful environment. Children should be seen and not heard. Until people know something they should keep it shut on the way there.
As for your comment on spidy-sense. I don't know what spidey sense is, but if it were possible to define, it would be possible because I could define sense. There may be an ulterior motive at work in subject courses that is beyond you. Einstein conceived of relativity while playing mind games. If the chances of any of these imaginary physicists being an Einstein were nil; are you prepared to say there is no point in trying to make reason of unreason? Clearly, people like yourself making unreason out of unreason are a living example of GIGO: garbage in, garbage out.
If you don't know if you are stuck in a mad house or an opium den it is time to find out. Kids coming out of highschool have nearly no reasoning ability. They can make no distinction between things and abstraction, rather like yourself, they have no theory of forms, no understanding of idea and conception. They cannot define their terms, rather, again, like yourself. Now; a task most onerous to some: the acquisition of knowledge is one of the greatest joys of life; but it is made such an obligation in youth, and is so stiffled of excitment that people very often seek the barest minimum, and agree to shed that as they must learn more. To stand in awe of the great learners and educator of other times is to stand at all. These people made our world possible, and others have taken the credit. While the uneducated and the degreed go forth in this life on their bellies like worms, those people who really grasp what knowledge is about stand on their back legs like a man. If this were my world and you know it is not; I would teach philosophy to first graders. College is not too late to learn, but true knowledge is no unconscious process, and it is best if not attempted unconsiously. All people must learn to think, and think to learn.
Again to your marketplace of ideas. College should be no such thing, but rather a place of learning. Ideas in and of themselves have no measure of truth. A transendent concept can be built on so much rubbish. Physical concepts do reflect certain knowledge and in their definitions is physical knowledge. If knowlege is judgement according to Kant, then it is upon certain knowledge, physical concepts that we can judge and act. This nonsense of polluting the process of knowlege and making it a marketplace of ideas spawned by brains too short to define an idea is like money changing on the temple steps. It is an affront to the dignity of the place. All education should be about practical arts because in all these arts is found truth. If I cut a leg of an triangle it must be true to the measure, and the measure must be true to reality. That may not mean exact; but compared to moral forms, transcendent concepts; wrong entirely would be more right. You can't sell ideas because the best ones are free and no one can afford the bad ones. But again; by what right do you or anyone interrupt the leaning of practical arts when in the practical arts all true knowledge lies.
It is inevitable that in the liberal arts colleges that liberty should be a consideration. As an abstraction, a sense of morality is essential in such places, and it is important to consider anthropology, sociology, psychology, ethics, and politics when all of these have a full measure of moral judgement in them. This is not the same a a shopping cart of recycled nonsense offered as ideas. There is some knowledge even in these mild sciences. There is no knowledge in most of the so called liberal thinking or reactionary. There is neither freedom nor knowledge in the ideas of the right, and taken to their conclusion they will result in ignorance and slavery.
Thanks... Sweeney
Comment: #6
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Mon Aug 18, 2014 6:52 PM
Re: Maggie Lawrence
I did not say "hacks". If you are going to quote me, please use my words. I did not say that this was tea party stupidity. They seem to save that for GOP politics. Yes, fools can be found in college administrations as well as congress. It's just that they are more dangerous in government, as the GOP has so often demonstrated.
Comment: #7
Posted by: Mark
Mon Aug 18, 2014 8:15 PM
Re: Mark;... It is easy to see everyone has an opinion; but when it comes to college it is fair to ask whether or not ones opinion is valid before people are subjected to it. It is reasonable to say no one is entitled to express any opinion in university when they do not have the education sufficient to back it up. Outside of the university, a whole set of different rules apply, but these can generally be expressed as: opinion is found in reverse proportion to knowledge. If you know you know. If you do not know, you are forced to believe, and if you are so ignorant you have no grasp of your ignorance you can be a pundit. I know it is fun to say stuff like Stupidity is a substance more common than hydrogen; but it is not substance, and is only a characteristic of most people on the right. It is natural for the uneducated who really do not know by what right they hold a share in the commonwealth to fear knowledge, because the ignorant all fear that knowledge is power. While power is a quality of knowledge, it makes much more sense to say as Socrates, that knowledge is Virtue, or to say as Kant; that knowledge is judgement.
To hate education as the right does, to pick away at the rights universities claim to educate their students unmolested does not alter that fact that the ignorance of the right is their greatest impediment to freedom real or ideal. The danger that educated people will seek power over the many, the right in particular is real enough; but it only demostrates the ignorance and incompleteness of ones education to seek power over anyone. Power over ones self is freedom, and power over others is tyranny. Who would seek tyranny before the virtues of liberty is mad.
Thanks... Sweeney
Comment: #8
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Mon Aug 18, 2014 11:08 PM
I'm not a huge fan our system of higher education. Certainly, in terms value per dollar spent it leaves much to be desired.

I'm also not a big fan of trial by anecdote which is what Dr. Williams' column above mostly seems to consist of.

So there is one perv on staff in San Francisco, one over-zealous feminist in Santa Barbara and Illinois heroically saved its students from being exposed to one anti-Israel opinion. Also, there are a few zany [but “mostly harmless” as it says in “The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy”] pop culture courses scattered around the landscape.

This is a comprehensive indictment of the system? Umm…not really.

As regards freedom of speech concerns, diverse views should not just be tolerated but actively encouraged in a learning environment [even for folks who don't care much for Israel]. At the same time the college community like any other thrives in an atmosphere of civility and it is not acceptable to express one's “opinion” through uncivil behavior.

It's pretty basic stuff but it has to be a difficult balancing act for college administrators. I can see where mistakes are made regularly on both sides of that fine line. But to infer a conspiracy to suppress free speech from that is kind of a stretch. [And let's not forget that this is not really a “freedom of speech” issue as the First Amendment only applies to suppression of speech by the government.]

I understand that Dr. Williams is paid to have an opinion on a weekly basis and they can't all be gems but this one seems rather thin to me.
Comment: #9
Posted by: ABarkus
Tue Aug 19, 2014 8:37 AM
Lots of comments, most of them playing strictly to type, as I suppose mine do. There is only one opinion I can see no logic in, surprise: "To hate education as the right does..."

Hate education.

I remember a post I wrote last summer about Tawana Brawley's appearance in the Zimmerman trial. I expressed sympathy for her overmatched personality, her intellectual unpreparedness, her shame, and how that shame translated into an arrogant stupidity to many. Both sides hit me for all of the obvious reasons, with no one seeming to understand my point; We all let that girl down. Her and millions like her who leave inner city schools totally unprepared to even balance a checking account. If I've lost you already, sorry.

But, no matter what lie any one would like to perpetuate, the left has been totally in control of education, especially in those inner cities, for over 40 years. I spent 30 of those 40 in the business, and if you think the right is calling the shots in education you have missed the landing zone by two galaxies. Failing to really educate inner city and other students has been the means by which the left has sought and gained power over others. As Sweeney says, power over others is tyranny.

Balancing a checkbook has a marvelous effect upon one's ability to think critically.

It is not the right calling for limits upon the amount of soda a citizen may consume, and it is not the right that had a man fired because he eight years ago voted for a DOMA proposal. It is not the right that puts bakers out of business in honor of pet constituencies, and it is not the right that is wearing masks in the streets of Seattle and other American cities. The right has not been in charge of cities like Detroit and Chicago where mayhem is the weekend rule.

Hate education? Only the brand of stupidity the left has substituted for knowledge and which has brought us to the point where masks are being worn in our cities. Democrats in masks, a long tradition beginning with the Klan and continuing today in cities all across America. Only the two goofballs who seek revolution are gleeful on these pages; One is addicted to failed Marxism, the other can't wait for a modern caliphate. Some of the others have yet to decide if they should don the mask of hate and evil, but they lean toward it.,

Comment: #10
Posted by: Tom
Tue Aug 19, 2014 9:21 AM
Re: Tom;... Bull...
To judge the amount of total money spent on eduction we do not stand well at all compared to other industrialized countries. Taken as a whole, where we do spend money, on higher education, we fair rather well. The problem is money, trying to do the labor intensive job of education short of labor, and the legal inpediments to dscipline are not the responsibility of the liberals and even when they play a part, it is not pivital. As in so many issues the only economy the right practices in regard to education is a false economy. Even this nonsense of pushing the market place of ideas into schools when people are paying top dollar for an education, and not for half baked, tried and rejected ideas that can be picked up at the rotary club for free.
To get people to think is difficult. To have them think in new ways is nearly impossible; but what the right takes as thought, which is always accepted and unpoved principals- are not thought at all. Their religious nonsense that gums up the work of government is not based upon thought, and they simply reject theology, as they always have in preference to faith. These people cannot teach because they do not know, and when they believe the world will soon end, all thought for the future is so much unpacked luggage. I have never once heard a republican say one good thing about the educational system, and the idea of educating the children of others ginds against their grain. They would rather incarcerate people at great cost that educate them at small cost. What they really hate is the idea that some poor person with the drive to be successful can beat their kids out of a name college and make better use of the education than their own children. The only way they can maintain their income and political advantages is to keep the masses ignorant. The only way the poor can become educated is to reject the ideological nonsense of the right, and this is a catch 22 since to do so takes some education to begin with.
Yes; the poor have many disadvantages, and face many impediments to eduction. I worked with one of my children on a civics course; and while I believed mine in my time was bad; hers was far worse. Majority rule is confused with democracy, and freedom in every sense is linked to free enterprise. How did capitalist economics get so tangled with political education? Our constitution establishes a privilage for property, but it does never bless one form of economy against another. It does not say it exists in any fashion to expedite commerce, and says the opposite, that it has the power to regulate commerce. This link of business with government is purely propaganda, and it is no wonder when the poor reject both government and business as doing nothing for them..There is something to be said for the obvious lesson taught to the poor that only money is honorable, and poverty is dishonorable. If I prefer to be honorably poor, I have also never known poverty as dire as the poor. If they judge correctly that no one ever asks in America how some one came by their wealth, because it is the wealth itself that gives honor; then how can I judge them wrong? We say work is worthy, but if a poor person can find a job it is not worth a living wage. You see; the poor learn the lessons that are obvious, and forget the lessons that contradict the obvious. It does not mean they are not educated; but what they know, we do not want them to think.
Comment: #11
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Tue Aug 19, 2014 8:21 PM
Sweeney, nonsense. You stand awaiting your friend Karl Marx and his philosophy to rise from the dead and ascend to a worldwide throne, and you accuse others of not thinking in new ways?

Lots of words amounting to nonsense. I don't see you packing up and moving to Cuba, where Marxism is practiced under the hood of a 1958 Ford if you are one of the lucky ones.

Utter nonsense.
Comment: #12
Posted by: Tom
Thu Aug 21, 2014 8:28 AM
How did this discussion about "the anomalous and skewed opinions of 'professors' in colleges who are charging students big bucks for a proper education" condescend into a personal slug-fest among ourselves? We are not important; our students and our future are. Irrespective of how Professor Williams poses it, the question is clear: What is being to taught to our students in college, how are their impressionable minds being influenced, and what will they think and do with that input?

I'd even go so far as to ask: Are they learning to love and appreciate, or are they learning to hate and destruct?
Comment: #13
Posted by: Rick Martinez
Thu Aug 21, 2014 10:36 AM
What, you don't call this fun? Sweeney and I go back 4 years now. He can take it.
Comment: #14
Posted by: Tom
Thu Aug 21, 2014 11:47 AM
Thanks, Tom, for a nice sense of humor...and yes, intelligent, engaging back and forth. My dad was a farmer way back in the 1930's and truly cared about his ranch and the environment. He always said "After war we know about a land by its grass and its animals…everything depends on everything..." Thanks for ending the discussion on an UP note.
Comment: #15
Posted by: Rick Martinez
Thu Aug 21, 2014 5:42 PM
Your dad sounds remarkable. Thanks for allowing Sweeney and I to duke it out without fists.
Comment: #16
Posted by: Tom
Fri Aug 22, 2014 8:36 AM
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