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George Will: ‘Alternative Facts’ & Safe Spaces Come from Similar Intellectual Problems

Demotivated students sitting in a lecture hall with one girl napping in college

Myriad intellectual viruses are thriving in academia. Carried by undereducated graduates, these viruses infect the nation’s civic culture.

George Will writes: In 2013, a college student assigned to research a deadly substance sought help via Twitter: “I can’t find the chemical and physical properties of sarin gas someone please help me.” An expert at a security consulting firm tried to be helpful, telling her that sarin is not gas. She replied, “yes the [expletive] it is a gas you ignorant [expletive]. sarin is a liquid & can evaporate … shut the [expletive] up.”

“College, in an earlier time, was supposed to be an uncomfortable experience because growth is always a challenge.”

— Tom Nichols, professor at the U.S. Naval War College and the Harvard Extension School

Tom Nichols, professor at the U.S. Naval War College and the Harvard Extension School, writing in The Chronicle Review, says such a “storm of outraged ego” is an increasingly common phenomenon among students who, having been taught to regard themselves as peers of their teachers, “take correction as an insult.” Nichols relates this to myriad intellectual viruses thriving in academia. Carried by undereducated graduates, these viruses infect the nation’s civic culture.

“Unearned praise and hollow successes build a fragile arrogance in students that can lead them to lash out at the first teacher or employer who dispels that illusion, a habit that carries over into a resistance to believe anything inconvenient or challenging in adulthood.”

— Tom Nichols

Soon the results include the presidential megaphone being used to amplify facially preposterous assertions, e.g., that upward of 5 million illegal votes were cast in 2016. A presidential minion thinks this assertion is justified because it is the president’s “long-standing belief.”

[Read the full story here, at National Review]

“College, in an earlier time,” Nichols writes, “was supposed to be an uncomfortable experience because growth is always a challenge,” replacing youthful simplicities with adult complexities. Today, college involves the “pampering of students as customers,” particularly by grade inflation in a context of declining academic rigor: A recent study showed “A” to be the most commonly awarded grade, 30 percent more frequent than in 1960.

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“Rather than disabuse students of their intellectual solipsism,” Nichols says, “the modern university reinforces it.”

— Tom Nichols

And a 2011 University of Chicago study found that 45 percent of students said that in the previous semester none of their courses required more than 20 pages of writing and 32 percent had no class that required more than 40 pages of reading in a week. Read the rest of this entry »

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Top Secret Bio-Anatomy-Ops: Pentagon Monitors Body Language of World Leaders

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The U.S. Defense Department confirmed it runs a program to monitor the body language of world leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin.

News of the research project, which is called “Body Leads” and run by the Pentagon’s internal think tank known as the Office of Net Assessment, was first reported in an article by Ray Locker of USA Today.

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Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby on Friday confirmed the existence of the program, which costs about $300,000 a year. He said it’s designed to help U.S. officials get a better understanding of world leaders’ “decision-making processes.” But, he added, it’s not used to inform any policy decisions.

President Obama is seen talking with Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, in 2012. More than 95% of Crimeans voted for the Ukrainian region's accession to Russia in a controversial referendum on March 16, according to preliminary results. The White House said that Obama told his Russian counterpart that the U.S. would not recognize the Crimean vote as it violated the Ukrainian constitution and that the US was "prepared to impose additional costs on Russia for its actions." (RiaNovosti / EPA / March 17, 2014)

“Mr. Marshall is an out-of-the-box thinker who likes to study all kinds of issues,” Kirby said during a press conference, referring to the 92-year-old Andrew Marshall, who directs the office and was first appointed to the position during the Nixon administration.

In a recent organizational shakeup, Marshall now reports to Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michael Lumpkin rather than Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

Of Marshall’s reports, Kirby said, “Many of them will never go beyond his office.”

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The department has no plans to make the documents public, even though they’re not classified, Kirby added. When asked whether they would be released under a Freedom of Information Act request, he said, “We’ll certainly take the request under consideration.” Read the rest of this entry »