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EDELBLUT: We Have Not Served Our Students Well

The tragic circumstances unfolding in Israel cannot be overstated.

Mankind has a long and often unpleasant history in which the innocent suffer under the tyranny of the worst of humanity – corruption, power, brutality, cruelty, meanness, and more.

A shocking but not unexpected reaction to these events has unfolded on college campuses.

The knee-jerk reaction of 31 Harvard student organizations unquestioningly sided with Hamas, despite evidence of human atrocities. Harvard was not alone. Across the country, students from higher education learning institutions, including Penn, Yale, Stanford, Columbia, City University of New York, Tufts, and Portland State University, to name a few, came out in unquestioned support of Hamas.

That college students would organize a protest to make their voices heard is to be expected. What is shocking is the content of these protests.

USA Today, reporting on these campus developments, stated, “It’s hard to wrap your mind around: The social justice warriors on college campuses around America have come out in support of terrorists who last weekend raped and murdered and beheaded innocent people (including children, women and the elderly) in Israel.” In another post at the University of Washington, students were chanting, “There is only one solution. Intifada Revolution,” perhaps not fully recognizing or understanding the meaning and force of those words as calling for genocide against Jews.

Part of the shock associated with this student response is the apparent inability to think critically about a very complex circumstance with a very long history. In a reductionist approach, there must be an unquestioned binary of “good guys” versus “bad guys.” In tribalist rhetoric, atrocities committed by “our side” must be overlooked.

This binary perspective is in complete conflict with other cultural developments in which these same individuals insist that the issues are complex and nuanced.

For many years, people have been making observations and writing about the liberal indoctrination of college students by socialist progressives infiltrating campuses. Newsweek reported, “Dissent from, or even a lack of enthusiasm for, woke ideology is no longer tolerated on campus.” The Hoover Institution reported, “The politicization of higher education by activist professors and compliant university administrators deprives students of the opportunity to acquire knowledge and refine their minds.”

While the developments on college campuses are concerning, in and of itself, it does not tell the whole story.

How is it that bright-eyed, anxious, and aspiring freshmen arrive on campus so vulnerable to these progressive ideologies? What, if any, preparation in their secondary high school experience prepared them with critical thinking skills to be able to objectively evaluate these global developments?

The circumstantial evidence seems strong. It is unlikely that these students only started their journey – or slide – to an inability to think critically when they arrived on campus. That process began well before socialist, progressive professors began cultivating their liberal ideology. A recent Education Week article titled “Students Are Easily Duped Online. We Can Teach Them Better” touches on this subject.

It is quite possible that these students missed something substantive before they arrived at college – critical thinking skills. Either that or the same inculcation of progressive ideology affecting them once they reached college was initiated before they ever arrived. Canary Mission, a group that tracks “people and groups that promote hatred of the USA, Israel, and Jews” across the political spectrum, reported that “… 38 percent of the kinds of people who once marched around campus chanting about decolonization go on to teaching careers.”

In either case, we have not served these students well.

We have not served them well if their post-secondary college experience narrows their worldview and makes them see atrocities of rape, murder, and beheading of children, women, and the elderly as acceptable under any circumstances. We have not served them well when all they have is a post-modern perspective that there is no absolute truth and that even rape, murder, and beheading have a place in society. We have not served them well if we have not equipped them to help, serve, and love others, even those with whom they do not agree and may even vehemently disagree.

Secondary and post-secondary education has lost its way when it narrows students’ world by teaching them what to think rather than how to think.

Educators should reflect on the role they may have played in bringing students to a place where human atrocities do not evoke horror.

The unsettling response of students from across the country to the unfolding events in the Middle East shows that, for too long, this has been the case. We have not served our students or our country well.

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GIORDANO: PA Colleges Are Anti-Israel Indoctrination Camps

If a student from one of Pennslvania’s elite universities knocked on your door and asked for a donation to help pay for their tuition, would you drop a buck in their cup? Or would you slam the door in the face of what we’ve seen on our college campuses in the wake of the murderous Hamas terror attack on Israel? Just days after the deadliest attack on Jews since the Holocaust, and Keystone State college students are attacking Israel? Defending the Palestinians?

The only donation I’d want to give is a free kick to the seat of their pants.

But it doesn’t matter because we are all kicking in to help cover the bills. That’s the plan from the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education’s board of governors that oversees Pennsylvania’s 10 state-owned universities. It voted last week to send Gov. Josh Shapiro a budget request of $623.7 million for the upcoming year, an increase of 6.5 percent. Recently, Penn State submitted a request of $483.4 million for next year, an increase of $120.1 million or a 33 percent.

Obviously, plenty of college students don’t share the insanity we’ve seen from UPenn President Liz Magill. Her embrace of antisemites like Roger Waters onto the campus just days before the Hamas attack and her equivocating response has inspired a massive backlash from the alumni community.

Even more problematic for Magill is that Penn has had arguably the greatest number of donors withdrawing the most financial support from any university or college. Penn gets hundreds of millions of dollars a year in federal funding, and presidential candidate Nikki Haley has called for the withdrawal of federal funding for colleges that don’t strongly oppose antisemitism.

In this environment, horrified taxpayers are being asked to pony up even more for higher education in Pennsylvania?

And it’s not just the Hamas story. Our colleges have been on the attack against common-sense Pennsylvania values for years.

Penn State recently had an incident involving Riley Gaines, former University of Florida swimmer and champion of keeping biological men from competing in women’s sports. Gaines was prevented from speaking in a classroom on Penn State’s campus. State Sen. Chis Dush, who represents the district where Penn State is located, witnessed the harassment Gaines faced and told me that he would hold hearings on incidents like this at Penn State and that there could be funding repercussions for the school.

So, in matters like the Gaines incident at Penn State or law firms or other businesses saying they wouldn’t hire students at places like Harvard that signed a document blaming Israel for the attacks by Hamas, I’ve been challenged by some who say withholding funding or blocking students from jobs is just cancel culture.

I asked Allan Dershowitz, Harvard professor and champion of the First Amendment, about this. He told me Harvard would not allow a Ku Klux Klansman on campus, and these Harvard students were endorsing the same kind of hatred. He also said a business has every right to not hire someone endorsing the Nazi-like atrocities committed by Hamas.

The most disturbing part of all this to me personally was the stance of LaSalle University, my alma mater. The school is run by the Christian Brothers, and its Oct. 9 statement conflated the savage attacks by Hamas with Israel’s attempts at self-defense. It said, “Over the weekend, the world witnessed the sudden violence taking place throughout Israel and Gaza. The reports, images, and videos we are seeing in the news and social media are disturbing and anguishing.”

In addition, the LaSalle University Muslim Student Association, on its Instagram account, channeled the student statement at Harvard University and said, “We, the signed student organizations on this letter, hold the Israeli government accountable for the ongoing violence occurring.” They went on to say, “The events occurring are not isolated; for the past two decades, millions of Palestinians in Gaza have been forced to live in open-air prisons. Israeli authorities have threatened to escalate the conflict, resulting in casualties in Gaza. In the days ahead, Palestinians will face the brunt of Israel’s aggression, and the blame solely lies with the apartheid regime.”

Even more outrageous to me, this statement was endorsed by the LaSalle University Student Government Association, the LaSalle University Ambassadors, the Residential Student Association, and even the Powerlifting Club endorsed it. It all raises the question about what is being taught at LaSalle. The university should be clear that the actions of Hamas cannot be justified and link this to the Catholic fabric of the university.

This attack on Israel has outed once again that many colleges and universities are well-funded indoctrination bubbles, and any public or private dollars they get must be scrutinized.

Biden College Debt Bailout Backed By Local Students, but Its Future is Uncertain  

President Joe Biden’s announcement of student debt forgiveness last month is set to give current college students and those still struggling with debt some relief. Delaware Valley college attendees said they are thankful, but they add even more needs to be done.

Biden’s plan would relieve $10,000 in student debt for all borrowers making less than $125,000 as an individual or $250,000 per year as a household. That figure can rise to as much as $20,000 in debt for those receiving Pell Grants, a loan typically provided to lower-income households.

Faia Kronick, a senior at Bryn Mawr College, said she was surprised by the announcement.

“Biden did say he was going to address student debt, but I wasn’t sure if it was going to happen,” Kronick said. Biden’s own skepticism toward a forgiveness plan even as early as this year fed into that uncertainty. However, if the plan is implemented, Kronick would have all her debt forgiven.

“It seemed like the president wasn’t actually going to do what he said,” Victoria Awotide, a junior at Eastern University, said, expressing similar surprise that the move was finally taken.

Half of Awotide’s debt is set to be forgiven. She said that would take a burden off her in the future. She hoped she won’t have to take on jobs she does not like just so she can pay off her loans.

She has already worked at two part-time jobs since freshman year to lessen the burden but said that hasn’t made a huge dent despite pay being above minimum wage. But she hopes it helps her mother the most, who also has tried to help pay off the loans.

“It would be a huge relief for her, she’s a single mom,” Awotide said.

Kronick agreed a major burden would be removed from her future, as she would no longer have to include it when balancing her checkbook. However, she said she feels for her peers, many of whom still will have large debts remaining even after the forgiveness plan takes effect.

“I think they should just cancel all student debt,” Kronick said, believing there should be more done. “A lot of people have a lot more than $10,000 or $20,000 in debt. So while it’s still good, they should have done more.”

Awotide expressed a similar concern about the one-time nature of the program. She said she could end up having another $10,000 to pay by the time she graduates, meaning she would be right back where she started before the debt relief plan began.

However, the loan forgiveness program may not happen. Legal challenges are expected, which some experts argue must be approved by Congress, rather than ordered by the president.

Reflecting the nature of that uncertainty is the lack of plan local schools have for promoting the program to students.

All local schools who responded to DVJ’s requests for comment declined to say how their financial aid offices plan to help their qualifying students receive relief, and none of their websites detailed anything either.

Plus, not all the reception to the plan has been friendly. Some Americans argue they paid off their loans, so why shouldn’t the following generations do the same?

Awotide and Kronick both believe people should have more compassion for those in the current situation, and instead celebrate something that they think will help so many people struggling today.

“I don’t think anyone loses when other people win,” Kronick said. “We all benefit when other people around us live a quality life.”

That view is disputed by many Americans who would foot the bill, estimated to be as high as $1 trillion by the Penn Wharton Budget Model, to cover the cost of the loans. A new poll released by the libertarian Cato Institute found 76 percent of Americans oppose transferring college debts to taxpayers if it drives up the price of college. And 64 percent are against it if it raises taxes.

Meanwhile, Awotide says she thinks it is a sign that the government and politicians may keep to the promises they make to their constituents, even if it may be done for politically motivated reasons such as the upcoming midterm elections or Biden’s re-election bid.

“It just could be a tactic to get re-elected in 2024,” she said. “But for now at least, it kind of shows that the government is actually planning on (doing) what they said.”