March 22, 2012

CHARLOTTE ALLEN: The ‘Inequality’ Movement–A Campus Product.

The sharp political focus on inequality, driven into the public mind by the Occupy movement and endorsed by President Obama in his State of the Union message, was born, not on the street, but on the campus. It thrives there, mostly under the aegis of elite universities such as Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, Columbia and Johns Hopkins. Those universities have free-standing inequality centers bearing such titles such as Multidisciplinary Program on Inequality and Social Policy (Harvard), Global Network on Inequality (Princeton), and the Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality (Stanford).

Cornell now offers a minor in inequality studies for students who are ” interested in government service, policy work, or related jobs in nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), or want to go on to graduate work in anthropology, economics, government, history, law, literature, philosophy, psychology, public policy, or sociology.”

At the University of California, Berkeley, students study “Social Inequalities, American Cultures.” Occidental College’s program is called “Social Class and Inequality in the United States,” and at the University of Michigan, it’s “Poverty, Inequality, and Public Policy.”

Most campuses play it straight, evaluating the effects of programs meant to uplift the poor and reduce poverty. Other colleges manage to combine many unlovely campus obsessions into a single curriculum: advocacy teaching, Marxism, the feeling that America is deeply unjust, race and gender theory, quota thinking, anti-male feminist analysis, and the belief that a primary job of government is to redistribute wealth.

You want to redistribute wealth? Spend your endowment to provide free tuition. You want to fight inequality? Start admitting applicants at random, without regard to SAT scores or grades.

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