December 03, 2015
The Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides that: "No State shall … deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Yet many state universities give substantial preferences to certain races in their admissions decisions. In Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978), the Supreme Court approved such preferences, but the case was close, and controversial, and the question will be back before the Supreme Court this term. One side may argue that these preferences level the playing field, remedy prior discrimination, and enhance diversity within the classroom, thus redeeming the true promise of equal protection. But the other may say that these preferences – in favor of some races, at the expense of others – are racial discrimination pure and simple, the precise evil that the Equal Protection Clause was intended to forbid.
November 02, 2015
If you could take a pill that would help you study and get better grades, would you? Off-label use of “smart drugs” – pharmaceuticals meant to treat disorders like ADHD, narcolepsy, and Alzheimer’s – are becoming increasingly popular among college students hoping to get ahead, by helping them to stay focused and alert for longer periods of time. But is this cheating? Should their use as cognitive enhancers be approved by the FDA, the medical community, and society at large? Do the benefits outweigh the risks?
September 16, 2015
High-profile cases have recently put campus sexual assault in the spotlight. One question that has repeatedly come up: why are these cases being handled by campuses at all? Title IX requires that every school receiving federal aid must take concrete steps to deal with hostile environments and sexual assault. This leaves colleges and universities with the task of figuring out what policies and procedures to enforce. Proponents say that campus investigations serve a real need, forcing schools to respond to violence and protecting the interests of victims in ways that the criminal justice system may fail. Can schools provide due process for defendants and adequate justice for victims, or do these cases belong in the courts?
February 24, 2015
What is college for? For many, it’s a time for personal and intellectual growth, to meet new people, and to explore ideas and philosophies that challenge their beliefs. Or is it? Recent cancellations of conservative speakers, rescinded honorary degrees, and scrutiny of certain campus groups have heightened perceptions that there is pervasive liberal intolerance on campuses. Are liberals shutting down speech and debate on campus? Or is this theory a myth, based on the preponderance of liberals at universities rather than intentionally discriminatory actions?
September 09, 2014
In K-12 education, there is nothing more controversial than the Common Core State Standards, national academic standards in English and math. Adopted by more than 40 states, they were developed, in part, to address concerns that American students were falling behind their foreign counterparts and graduating high school without the necessary skills for college and the workforce. But is this the reform we’ve been looking for? Has the federal government overreached and saddled our schools with standards that have been flawed from the start? Or will the Common Core raise the bar and improve the quality of our children’s education?
April 02, 2014
Is the college of the future online? With the popularity of MOOCs (massive open online courses) and the availability of online degree programs at a fraction of their on-campus price, we are experiencing an exciting experiment in higher education. Does the traditional classroom stand a chance? Will online education be the great equalizer, or is a campus-based college experience still necessary?
February 27, 2014
Affirmative action, when used as a factor in college admissions, is meant to foster diversity and provide equal opportunities in education for underrepresented minorities. But is it achieving its stated goals and helping the population it was created to support? Its critics point to students struggling to keep up in schools mismatched to their abilities and to the fact that the policy can be manipulated to benefit affluent and middle class students who already possess many educational advantages. Is it time to overhaul or abolish affirmative action?
October 18, 2013
While gridlock and division in Washington make it difficult for either party or ideology to set the policy agenda, single-party government prevails in three-quarters of the states. In 24 states Republicans control the governorship and both houses of the legislature, and in 13 states Democrats enjoy one-party control. Comparing economic growth, education, health care, quality of life and environment, and the strength of civil society, do red or blue states win out?
October 25, 2011
For many Americans, unemployment is at the top of that list. In the face of a double-dip recession and an unprecedented long-term unemployment rate, President Obama unveiled the American Jobs Act before Congress. His plan? Lower the unemployment rate and stimulate the economy with $447 billion in employer tax breaks, jobless reintegration, state aid, and infrastructure projects, to be paid for with taxes on corporations and the wealthy. Will this plan bring a fast, effective boost to the job market, or will higher taxes punish job creators and sink us further into debt?
October 12, 2011
PRESENTED IN PARTNERSHIP WITH CHICAGO IDEAS WEEKThe herd mentality that assumes college is the only path to reaching one’s full potential is under fire. Student loan debt has surpassed credit card debt, unemployment for those with bachelor’s degrees is at an all-time high, and entrepreneurs like the founders of Facebook and Microsoft prove that extraordinary success is possible without it. But recent studies show that college is economically beneficial even to those whose jobs don’t require it. Is it still the best way to ensure social mobility, or is America’s love affair with higher education unjustified?
September 20, 2011
In a modern, post-industrial economy that seems better suited to women than men, many are wondering if men have been permanently left behind. Education and employment statistics point to a clear and growing dominance in women’s status at home and in the workplace. Are men primed for a comeback or have the old rules changed for good?
March 16, 2010
Teachers unions: They’re powerful, they’re defensive, and they’re stubborn. And if it seems their leadership places a premium on protecting its members – above all other interests – we should not be surprised, because protecting jobs and wages is what unions were created to do. And there’s the rub, say critics who argue the unions are shielding too many teachers who do their jobs poorly – teachers who should be replaced, for the good of the children. Indeed, so central is good teaching to good learning, some say it’s the unions as presently constructed – more than anything other factor – that are undermining America’s schools. But can it really be that simple? In a ranking of whom to blame for what’s wrong in America’s classrooms, do teachers unions really come before slashed budgets? Or crumbling infrastructure, broken homes and the influence of narcotics? Do bad teachers so outnumber good ones that the union represents a collection of educational misfits? The question comes down to a decision: do we need to reform the unions before we do anything else , and if we do, is that the fix that will once again make US public education the model system it once was?