Segregated college dorms -- "ethnic theme houses" -- represent "the soft bigotry of campus paternalism," writes Suzanne Fields. She cites the New York Civil Rights Coalition's "Stigma of Inclusion" report, which decries race-based programs for counseling, mentoring, tutoring and housing minority students. Fields writes:

Ethnic houses actually encourage what they decry, by infantilizing students, pampering them in their ethnic insecurities, and creating a divisiveness through racial stereotyping. A Latino student gives away the insidiousness of this approach, describing how he found his blood roots at Amherst: "For me, there's more consciousness of my background as a Latino male," he says. "Before I came to Amherst, I wasn't thinking about race or class or gender or sexual orientation, I was just thinking about people wanting to learn."

The black theme house at MIT is called "Chocolate City."

Teaching Discrimination

Students of different races learn to communicate if they're encouraged to see themselves as individuals, says Professor Alan Kors, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. In the 1970s, Kors co-founded a college house at Penn. It was advertised as "a place to be whoever you are." Although Penn was only 2 percent black, the house was never less than 20 percent black, Kors told Front Page magazine:

People offended each other all the time and then they humanized their conversations and leaned how to talk to each other...

If you teach people to filter everything through the prism of race, they're going to do that. What universities are doing now would be the equivalent if, on the first day of orientation, you've got Jewish and Christians in a room and then you show films of the Holocaust. And then you say to the Jewish students, "That's what they did to you." And then you say to the Christians, "That's what you did to them." [And then say to all of them], "Now that you understand things, go out and get along." This would not increase natural human interaction.

Manuel Cufre, a Latin American immigrant at a New York City high school, would agree. He complains about an American history mid-term that focuses on discrimination.

Says Cufre:

I personally think that, in a school of mostly non-white kids, constantly raising the topic of racism and discrimination (as we do) just keeps people finding excuses for failure, instead of trying to improve themselves. And also, of course, feeling hostility towards the "main oppressor" -- whites. (No distinction between them).

The Diversity Pity Party

Discriminations, the place to go for commentary on racial preferences, links to John McWhorter, a Berkeley linguistics professor, who argues that giving preferences to middle-class blacks "perpetuates black mediocrity."

Most black students who make it to selective universities come from middle-class families, McWhorter says. Yet they're held to "much lower standards than the ones set for whites."

Lowered standards lead to lower performance. Incentive lies at the heart of all human endeavor, and if we set the bar low, then only the occasional shooting star will have any reason to rise above it.

... In their recent book "Black Pride and Black Prejudice," Paul Sniderman and Thomas Piazza report that 90 percent of 756 blacks surveyed rejected admitting a black student over a white one when their difference in SAT scores is 25 points. In a poll in this newspaper last year, 86 percent of blacks rejected using race as a factor in college admissions.

At Rice, reports Scrappleface, students are judged not by the color of their skin but by "the content of their thesaurus."

Loco Parents

Parents are complaining about grades, demanding their child be admitted to filled classes, questioning assignments and asking for exams to be rescheduled to fit family vacations. These are parents of college students. AP reports:

Sociology professor Gary Stokley recalls when meeting the parents of his students at Louisiana Tech University was limited to a few handshakes at graduation.

Now, to the dismay of Stokley and other academics, angry parents are introducing themselves much sooner to professors and department heads as they complain about their children's grades.

It's not surprising that more parents are complaining. More students are going to college than ever before, and more arrive with inflated self-esteem, weak academic skills and a slacker work ethic. Under privacy laws, universities can't tell parents their child's grades, but Mom or Dad usually find out -- with the student's explanation for why it's all the professor's fault. Parents, especially those paying $20,000 to $40,000 a year to a private university, feel entitled to demand their money's worth.

The story includes NoIndoctrination.org as an example of parental pressure on professors, since the site was founded by the mother of a college student. However, the site provides a forum for students -- not parents -- to complain about what they see as indoctrination. Chronicle of Higher Education's colloquy is worth reading.

Winners

Downtown College Prep, a San Jose charter school with 300 students in 9th, 10th and 11th grade, is fielding a boys' basketball team for the first time this year. The school recruits Hispanic students, most of whom are short. Many haven't played basketball before. The San Jose Mercury News ran a front-page story on the team's performance at an invitational geared for large high schools. The Lobos lost. But they're improving.

Sammy Garcia is one basketball player who can see progress in a 98-10 loss.

"What do you mean? This was much better than the first game," he said Thursday.

Downtown College Prep High School, where grade-point averages mean more than scoring averages, lost its opener the day before, 110-6.

...Jennifer Andaluz, the school's co-founder and executive director, doesn't worry that the routs will harm the psyches of her students.

"These kids have all lost before," she said.

I’m writing a book about the school. My favorite chapter tells the story of the girls' basketball team -- averaging about five-foot-two in height -- which lost by huge margins to taller, older, more experienced teams, until the end of the season. The Lady Lobos won their last game. That victory encouraged the baseball team, which lost its opener 34-0, and the softball team, which lost 24-0, to keep trying. Both those teams won in the end too.

Sometimes you don’t have to win to be a winner.

Joanne Jacobs used to have a paying job as a Knight-Ridder columnist and San Jose Mercury News editorial writer. Now she blogs for tips at JoanneJacobs.com while writing a book, Start-Up High, about a San Jose charter school. She's never gotten a dime from Enron.

Respond to the Writer