College goes over the cultural edge

First, a brief note: I’m listening to KSFO Wednesday morning with guest host Brad Sussman at the microphone. He’s talking about the fire in London that took at least 12 lives. Sussman, brother of regular host Brian Sussman, says the fire was a “heart-wrenching” experience. Why do radio stations pay commentators who don’t know the difference between “heart-rending” and “heart-wrenching,” not to mention that “gut-rending” sounds equally ridiculous?

Now that I’ve gotten that one off my chest, let me talk about an increasingly common trend on certain college campuses. Readers of the Daily Republic know full well that affirmative action in college admissions has become so widespread that we rarely hear comments or complaints about the trend. But it turns out there’s a new phenomenon that goes far beyond the original alleged intent of affirmative action.

The “pioneer,” if you want to call it that, in the use of this new trend, is Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. I may have mentioned Evergreen before, because it was the last teaching assignment for my friend Don before he died of cancer at age 54. At the time, Evergreen was considered progressive, but these days we need a new word to describe what’s going on at that school – and may start showing up elsewhere.

Evergreen, as with many radical, progressive schools, has not been using grades – letter or numerical – for many years, so that’s not news. What Evergreen has initiated, however, is news. In lieu of grades, Evergreen had been using end-of-semester comments or analysis of each student’s progress and understanding of the course material. But now, Evergreen has gone over the cultural edge.

First, in a variation on the Day of Absence at Evergreen, during which favored minorities – blacks, gays, women, etc. – would not show up on campus to demonstrate how important their presence was, Evergreen students insisted that white male students and professors leave campus for the day. One professor, Bret Weinstein, refused to leave the campus, and a major uproar ensued.

OK, that’s how the Day of Absence has been perverted, but there’s something even worse, if you can believe that, going on at Evergreen State College. Many students and faculty are demanding – they always “demand,” don’t they? – not just equality of opportunity in admissions, but equality of performance evaluations for each and every course. In other words, if half of the white male students – if there are any left – receive “outstanding” evaluations, then half of the minority students must receive that evaluation as well.

You might be thinking that a trend such as we’re witnessing at Evergreen will have little resonance around the country, but you would be wrong. I would bet that grading at small, publicly funded colleges will begin to reflect the Evergreen trend. I’m quite sure, however, that the STEM subjects will be immune from this pernicious trend. The STEM subjects are science, technology, engineering and math. And ask yourself, if you were being sued, would you go to a lawyer whose degree was from a place like Evergreen State College?

Bud Stevenson, a retired stockbroker, lives in Fairfield. Reach him at [email protected].