Thursday, August 30, 2007

Choosing the Right College

Do you have a young person in your family starting to look at colleges? Do you wonder about the political and social atmosphere at many of them and if they will be a good fit for your child? If the answer is "yes" then you need to take a look at the book Choosing the Right College: 2008-2009: The Whole Truth about America's Top Schools. The guide states that it provides "an independent, truthful assessment of what is really happening at 134 of the nation's top schools." The book covers "the presence or absence of a core curriculum, the nature of student living arrangements, the strength of distribution requirements, the prevalence of ideological bias, the protection of free inquiry, and the state of university safety."

The book uses a "green" light, "yellow" light and "red" light system to serve as a shorthand for the state of civic liberty at a school drawn from students, faculty and other accounts. This "warning" system is in a sidebar for each school so it is easy to get an idea of how well tolerated political discourse, intellectual freedom, and free speech are at a school that one is considering. Perhaps you will be shocked to know that Duke University was given a red light warning for political correctness and crackpot politics prevalent in most of its departments. However, George Mason University received a yellow warning--proceed with caution--because they withdrew an invitation to speak from left-wing fimmaker Michael Moore after two Republicans in Virginia's house of delegates complained about Moore's $35,000 honorarium. So the book seems fair on both sides of the coin when it comes to the warning system.

I wish I had been given this book as a teen when looking at schools and then graduate programs. It might have led to my finding a better fit for my academic interests, political ideas, and general college milieu. Take a look at the book or give it to your teen if college is looming. It may help and it surely won't hurt for him or her to be more aware of what colleges offer in the way of political ideology, safety and student life.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

This sounds useful as long as the author's have applied their standards fairly - as you say they have.

I didn't know about the GMU incident. I've read about some free speech issues they've had and how they're trying accommodate Muslim students' worshipping requirements. I'm surprised they dumped Michael. A truer friend the average American never had for $35,000.

10:11 AM, August 30, 2007  
Blogger Helen said...


The book seemed fair as I read through it but readers will have to use their own judgement. I think it does give some good information to students including what core curriculums are expected and vital statistics such as religious affiliation and how many classes are taught by grad students.

10:15 AM, August 30, 2007  
Blogger Mike said...


$35,000 is a lot of money for them to be spending. Tuition is already high enough as it is. They don't need to add to it by wasting that much money on someone like Michael Moore, regardless of his ideology. If they wanted to pay him, they should have sold tickets or something so that students could vote with their dollars, rather than with the university's funds.

2:10 PM, August 30, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agreed. I was being sarcastic. I can absolutely think of better things for a university to spend money on than a speech by MM.

Actually, I can't think of anyone I'd pay $35,000 dollars just to hear them talk. Jesus, maybe...or Bernadette Peters if she did it naked.

4:24 PM, August 30, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, but you wouldn't hear a word she said........

6:34 PM, August 30, 2007  
Blogger Maxine Weiss said...

I don't like the idea of judging a school by whether or not they allow Michael Moore to speak or not.

I better litmus test is the percentage of students who graduate and get high-paying jobs.

Very careerist, but realistic. There needs to be a book that teaches students, simply, how to play the game, no matter what the idealogy of the school.

12:53 AM, August 31, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Test post.

5:50 AM, August 31, 2007  
Blogger Unknown said...

maxine --

You don't have too. Others (myself included) do. I do because he's a known fraud and propagandist and those are not morals I would wish my grandkids to learn. This is, after all, part of "the game".

7:11 AM, August 31, 2007  
Blogger Helen said...

Oligonicella and Maxine,

I agree that it is a good thing to know what propaganda is being thrown one's way when entering a college. It does matter because it is important to be able to speak up with one's views in class, on campus and in general with other students. If one cannot do this without repercussions, the college may be the wrong atmosphere and fit for some students. Some things are more important than whether or not one can learn to "play the game" or get a good job. Ideological diversity is imperative on campus in order to foster debate and encourage free speech--students need to learn that these ideals are still important and worthwile at some places of higher learning.

7:30 AM, August 31, 2007  
Blogger Webutante said...

My children are long out of college, but I think this is a wonderful idea which changes the discourse for finding the right college. It appears the pendulum may be swinning back a bit from far left of center in the years ahead, just because parents and students are more aware of all that has gone on for the last four decades.

I would be curious what the book says about Vanderbilt, my old alma mater.

10:24 AM, August 31, 2007  
Blogger Helen said...


Vanderbuilt gets a "green" light. "Vanderbuilt attracts fewer radical faculty members and more outright conservative faculty members than do most top-tier schools. One philosophy major reports that, in the clasroom, Vanderbuilt has achieved enviable political balance..." Overall, very good report on your old alma mater but it is very expensive with tuition in 2007 at $33,440 plus room, board and books.

10:33 AM, August 31, 2007  
Blogger Leah said...

From personal experience, it is a wonderful book. My son who is now a sophomore in college went through the whole book. He applied to a number of colleges we never would have considered otherwise. I loaned it to other friends as well who found it very useful.

11:33 AM, August 31, 2007  
Blogger Assistant Village Idiot said...

I wish they would update the 1993 National Review guide to Liberal-Arts colleges. It still has fair accuracy, but waning. It doesn't list conservative schools, but core-curriculum schools which give an actual, um, education. That list has a fair overlap with green light schools, for reasons that will occur to you when you think about it.

12:33 PM, August 31, 2007  
Blogger Unknown said...

Did the book's authors realize that GMU is a state university? If it were private, maybe the "yellow warning" would make more sense. I don't think they should be spending $35,000 of taxpayer money on any speaker, no matter what their political stripe. $35,000 could pay tuition, room and board for a couple of years for some deserving student.

1:05 PM, August 31, 2007  
Blogger Serket said...

A school in Utah paid $40,000 to Michael Moore to visit in 2004. They also paid for Sean Hannity to come.

3:03 PM, August 31, 2007  
Blogger Webutante said...

Thanks, Helen, for the info on Vanderbilt. That's very heartening to hear of their green light rating. But the tuition is indeed outrageous.

And thanks again for this interesting post. Hope you all have a great weekend.

5:45 PM, August 31, 2007  
Blogger Unknown said...


I also wish I'd had a guide like this. New College was actually a pretty tolerant place until my final year. In all modesty, I must admit that my monopoly on the media and friendly associations with the campus cops (mostly ex-NYPD), the most influential professors & pretty much every physically capable man and woman on campus had a LITTLE influence on feminist excess. It's a small school (fewer then 500 students my first year) & I'm generally a nice guy & I made it clear in a Godfather kind of way in my columns and editorials that I did not have much tolerance for intolerance.

Years later I asked one of the campus cops who was retiring why the NC PD put up with some of my more, ah, "explosive" fits.

His reply:

"You helped keep the feminists from going ape s*** everywhere. And you filled in the holes in the drywall without us having to ask."

Actually, what I really would have liked would be a guide to schools which would help me get employed when I graduated...

5:55 PM, August 31, 2007  
Blogger Unknown said...

Miket, Helen, serket, et al:

I happen to agree with Michael Moore on a lot of issues but I find his big bucks honorariums for speaking engagements offensive & hypocritical. It's not like the guy likely to be featured on the other side of the camera in the sequel to "Roger and Me." I don't mind at all if private organizations shell out big sums for speakers. I DO MIND IT when schools (any schools), which pretty much have a captive audience, subject their students to these expensive lectures.

You want a liberal-type speaker to come in & talk about the environment and health care? Fine. But why not find someone local who'll come in & speak for a few hundred bucks? That's reasonable. Or fish around until you can get a rich big name who believes hard enough that they'll work pro bono, or for the cost of travel and lodging.

Same goes for the guys across the aisle. If you've running a small liberal arts school and you want to shake things up a little by bringing in a conservative speaker, go local or find someone who will speak pro bono.

College is so expensive these days. Shelling out $35,000 & $40,000 honorariums for a celebrity to come in and yak for an hour is NOT COOL. I mean, that's right about a year's tuition at some of the more "elite" private schools. It's an insult to the students and their families.

I'll shut up now. The cup runneth over. Again.

6:07 PM, August 31, 2007  
Blogger Helen said...


I agree that these honorariums at state schools are outrageous. I do think, however, that it important that schools provide equal time for speakers with different viewpoints, political beliefs and opinions. If the school is providing large sums to conservative speakers or vice versa--to liberal speakers, they should also bring in and pay those with different viewpoints. Of course, Michael Moore is a fraud, in my opinion and I would pay not to hear him speak but that is another topic.

8:18 PM, August 31, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

With what's been in the news a while back, it certainly appears liberal students and organizers don't want conservative types to speak on campus.

The interruptions they cause certainly would not be accepted by those same people, were it the other way around.

It speaks volumes about tolerance and open minds. Rips the rug right out from underneath them.

11:31 AM, September 01, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Makes me wonder what they're scared of.

11:34 AM, September 01, 2007  
Blogger Unknown said...

br549 -- Examination of their core values.

12:17 PM, September 01, 2007  
Blogger Maxine Weiss said...

Do we know that GMU did, in fact, spend tax-payer money?

Even public schools have a large portion of their funding come from private donations and endowments.

Endowments and donors are what influences a school's agenda. It's all about fund raising, and putting someone's name on the side of a building.

"Playing the game" is just another term for getting-along skills, no matter what the ideology of the school

2:32 PM, September 01, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maxine - I think it was going to, which was why the state assemblymen objected. If GMU had really wanted Moore, they could have dipped into the private donations and endowments. Either way, it would have been a colossal waste of cash. I wouldn't pay Karl Rove that much to speak, either.

I agree with you about playing the game, however, at least in some areas of study.

9:26 PM, September 03, 2007  
Blogger Tony said...

You can also check out student review sites like While this tool won't be the only piece of info you'll need to select a college, it is another helpful input!

11:39 AM, August 28, 2008  
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11:44 AM, February 04, 2009  
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