Monday, July 16, 2007

College Prospects

Students and parents of students might want to read a column my friend Byron wrote for yesterday's local paper. He says a number of interesting things and makes some good suggestions for those preparing for the challenges that college life will present. Here's the heart of his essay:

It has been a hard year for higher education. The massacre at Virginia Tech, the revelations of debauchery that came to light in the fiasco of the Duke rape trial, the reports of widespread cheating at some of our most prestigious schools. The arrest on sex charges of a mid-state professor reminds us of the complexities of navigating the college experience.

Books like "Binge: Campus Life in an Age of Disconnection and Excess" claim to report "what your college student won't tell you," while memoirs like "Goat" tell of brutal hazing within the fraternity system. Novels like Tom Wolfe's important "I Am Charlotte Simons" tell of the moral confusion amidst the "hooking up" culture of the postmodern campus. In a hipster sociological work, "My Freshman Year," a prof goes undercover posing as a first-year student living in the dorm. She was surprised to hear what the students said, how little they studied, and what they really thought of her tenured colleagues. She was surprised to see the lewd posters un- ashamedly displayed on many girls' doors.

Happily, there are reports that indicate a cultural, intellectual and spiritual renaissance among college students. Wall Street Journal reporter Naomi Riley's "God on the Quad" documents the increase in religious activities on many campuses. Groups like Hillel, the Newman Center and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship are flourishing. Riley makes it clear that such groups help with the often-tumultuous college transition.

Congregations that have cared for their children through high school are thinking about how to equip them to be faithful in what some have described as Babylon U. Locally, at least one church, Asbury United Methodist, has hired a campus worker whose job it is to represent the church to local colleges. With college and technical school enrollments rising, congregations may need to explore partnerships with para-church college ministry organizations and think creatively about ways to maintain an appropriate presence on campus.

A central Pennsylvania campus worker, Derek Melleby, has recently co-written an upbeat book to help Christian students bring their deepest convictions into their college classrooms. "The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness" is a guide for students that captures, I think, the longing of my confirmation class: to discover a purpose-laden sense of calling for the vocation of being a student. It tells stories of collegians who hungered for intellectual and moral coherence in their young adult lives, an outrageously idealistic sense of making a difference, meshing their faith and their college experience in ways that are exciting and sustainable.

What will become of the 2007 graduates who will leave us next month college-bound?

Some, I am confident, will thrive, holding in fresh ways the values and visions nurtured by home churches, synagogues, schools and community organizations. Let us wish them well. More, let us offer support and encouragement, starting in their freshman year.

Read the whole thing at the link.


Nobel-Caliber Inanity

If awards were given for pure rhetorical inanity Nobel Peace Prize winner Betty Williams of Ireland would surely be in the running. The other day she delivered herself of the following piece of gentle, peace-prize caliber nonsense:

"Right now, I could kill George Bush," she said. "No, I don't mean that. How could you nonviolently kill somebody? I would love to be able to do that." About half the crowd gave her a standing ovation after she called for Mr. Bush's removal from power.

"The Muslim world right now is suffering beyond belief," she said.

"Unless the president of the United States is held responsible for what he's doing and what he has done, there's no one in the Muslim world who will forgive him."

When an audience member told Ms. Williams that Vice President Dick Cheney would become president if George Bush were impeached, she said, "Can't you impeach them both?"

"It's twisted. It's all wrong," she said. "There are so many lies being told. It's hard to be an American and go out into the world right now."

Forget the hypocrisy of a peace-prize winner wishing she could kill someone, that sort of talk is common among the Left and has long ago ceased to surprise or shock us. Focus instead on her implication that the Muslim world right now is "suffering beyond belief" because of George Bush. This is as daft a statement as any that Bush Derangement Syndrome sufferers have levelled at him since 9/11.

Exactly where are Muslims suffering? Afghanistan? Are Muslims there pining for the good old days under the Taliban when women were stoned to death simply for talking to a man who wasn't her husband? Iraq? Are Muslims there worse off today than they were under Saddam Hussein who starved, tortured and murdered them by the hundreds of thousands? Gaza? Are Muslims in Gaza suffering, which they certainly are, because of Bush or because of the corrupt butchers of Hamas? How about Lebanon? Is the suffering in that pitiable land due to George Bush or to the machinations of Hezebollah, Syria, and Iran?

Exactly where and how, Ms. Williams, are Muslims suffering because of American policies under Bush? Of course she doesn't tell us because that would require facts, and it's much easier to get a standing ovation if you don't let inconvenient things like facts get in the way of your demagoguery.

Her statement is so incredibly uninformed, so dumb, as to make one wonder whether Ms. Williams knows anything at all about the world for which she presumes to speak.


Don't Quit Now

The Democrats are increasing the volume on their calls for a withdrawal from Iraq, but as Kimberly Kagin points out in the Wall Street Journal, pulling out now would be to quit just when success is at hand. Of course, as we've argued here before that's precisely why the Democrats are unwilling to wait until General Petraus' progress report is issued in September. The Dems appear to want to do two things: They want to foster the impression that Iraq is a lost cause, and they want us to get out before it becomes plain to everyone that they're wrong.

There's no other explanation for the Democrats' behavior that makes any sense. They have so deeply embedded themselves in the psychology of defeat that to have Iraq turn out well would destroy their credibility with the average American voter for at least a generation. Victory in Iraq would be the worst thing that could happen to the political aspirations of the Democratic party so they demand withdrawal now before victory in Iraq destroys the political credibility of their party.

Read Kagan's entire article. It's an excellent picture of what's really happening in Iraq, and what's happening doesn't look at all like what much of the media is reporting.

While we're on the subject, another thing that doesn't seem to get much mention in the commentary on the war is this: It's becoming increasingly clear that the enemy in Iraq is not comprised to any great extent of Iraqis. The enemy is al Qaida. This doesn't get mentioned much because, I suspect, the critics of the administration have been relentless in faulting Bush for invading Iraq when the real enemy is al Qaida which, we were told, was hiding out in Afghanistan. We were foolish, the argument went, to expend our resources on Iraq when those who declared war on us on 9/11, if not before, were sitting in the mountains of Afghanistan thumbing their noses at us.

Now it appears that the struggle in Iraq is at least largely a struggle of Iraqis and Americans against al Qaida. The tape released by al Zawahiri last week confirms this as does almost every report we read about the fighting. In other words, we are primarily at war with the enemy who attacked us on 9/11, we're winning that war now that we've decided to fight it aggressively, but nevertheless the Democrats and some Republicans want us to quit.

We're like a football team driving down the field with the clock winding down. The team has momentum, they're working their way into field goal range, and just at that moment the coach pulls them off the field and sends them into the locker room. When asked by his stunned players why he did that he tells them that the team has already spent enough energy trying to win, too many players are being injured, and that it's time to go home.

Any coach who did that would be rightly suspected of either having bet against his own team or of having lost his senses. I leave the reader to complete the analogy for him/herself.