By Richard Vedder
Several things struck me this morning worthy of brief commentary. First, before I even got to work, at 7:00 a.m. (unlike many college professors, I work more than a 30 or 35 hour week) I heard Sport Illustrated's Frank Deford deliver a brilliant commentary on NPR's Morning Edition. Deford argued that a significant cause of the gender gap in college graduation rates was sports. Males become so wrapped up in sports from an early age that they put making the team ahead of doing well academically in school. Their parents push them too, perhaps thinking that prowess in pushing a ball around (or whatever) will bring scholarships and thus financial salvation.
There is no doubt a good deal of truth to this, but there are some flaws in the argument. Guys have been sports crazy for decades, even before there was a gender gap. Has their "craziness" gotten worse? Probably, yes. However, the fall in male participation in college relative to women has occurred at precisely the same time that there has been a huge upsurge in women's sports, in part thanks to Title IX.
Indeed, Deford argues, tongue-in-cheek, that Title IX may come to the guy's rescue by making women as nuts about sports as men, and therefore equally neglectful of academics in favor of the new 3 Rs of running, rebounding, and replay, which are nearly as popular with college boys as the 3 Fs of foreplay, fondling and fornication.
A few days ago, I lashed out at the New York Times for their incredibly biased article on conservative think tanks and their ties to Wal-Mart. Tom Sowell, the syndicated columnist (and friend) has written a marvelous column, pointing out scholars at good think tanks do not even know the sources of funding, and do not want to know them. A firewall exists between the scholars and the development people. The scholars at the prestige think tanks (e.g., Hoover, Brookings, AEI, Cato) write what they want in an unimpeded fashion, with at least as much academic freedom as in universities. The universities, in turn, foster this ideological and unbalanced journalism by increasingly veering away from the dispassionate, objective presentation and analysis of facts in the classroom, and more towards propagandizing on politically correct topics by third-rate minds who masquerade as scholars.
Speaking of think tanks, a little encounter with the Cato Institute shows that human frailities and abandonment of principles occur there just as at universities. Human beings are human beings. Several months ago, I was asked informally if I would participate in a Cato conference on the report of the Spellings Commission, of which I am a member. I agreed in principle. I have been a friend of Cato for years, advising them occasionally for slave remuneration on educational issues, writing for their publications on numerous occasions, etc. While I am affiliated with the American Enterprise Institute, I consider Cato to be an important and constructive force in America. Yet I learn yesterday that I am being disinvited as a participant at the Cato conference, not because they are mad at me, but because Charles Miller, Commission chair, would not participate if I were included. If true, I find Charles's behavior more than a little annoying, since I have been a good and loyal member of his commission, being the first to actually indicate a willingness to sign the report.The Texas ego maybe got the best of Charles. But I was more disappointed in Cato for this rather shoddy treatment of a long time friend and ally. They apparently put conference attendance ahead of loyalty, honor, and principle. I will not be attending the Cato conference.