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Sunday Night Journal, September 3, 2017

When I was in high school and thinking about college, I thought of the admissions process as a test which I might or might not pass, a door whose default position was closed and which was only opened to those who met certain standards. The college, in my mind, was not offering to accept me; I was asking it for that privilege, and couldn't assume that it would be granted. In fact I probably could have assumed that about the school I ended up going to, the University of Alabama, since I had decent grades and good test scores, but I didn't know that, and there was at least some selectivity involved. 

Years later when I went to work at a small Catholic liberal arts college, I was more than a little shocked to discover that the admissions office could just as well (and more accurately) have been called the sales office. The job of the people who worked there was to sell the college to potential students, and while it did and does have some standards and does not admit everyone who applies, the task of the admissions staff is not to weed out the less qualified and select the best, but to recruit anyone who might possibly be able to manage both the course work and the expense. They were salespeople, as you sensed immediately if you spent time among them. (That's not a put-down; in my experience people who are good at selling are generally likeable.) That was twenty-five years ago. The task was difficult then and is just as much so now. 

I've read a good deal over the past decade or so, especially over the past five years, about the state of higher education. In many ways, as we all know, it's not very good. Among many other things, it has gotten insanely expensive, the cost far exceeding the general rate of inflation, and that's the topic of a lot of the commentary, which attempts to find causes and cures. But most of what I've read looks only at the big public universities, and possibly the bigger and more prestigious private ones. The situation of smaller and poorer institutions is very different. 

One thing which drives the overall development, and which is perhaps the biggest and most obvious thing affecting small colleges, is that there are too many of institutions pursuing too few potential students. I'm not sure exactly how this happened. There was the post-World-War-II baby boom, of course, and the fewer number of children produced by them than by their parents. But these little colleges didn't spring into existence to serve the baby boom--they existed before it. How were they managing before? I don't know. But I came into that job after a decade in the computer industry, and although I don't claim any great business insight it soon became obvious to me that if higher education had been like other areas of business,  it would have been long overdue for a shakeout: that is, for some significant number of the "companies" to fail because they were all selling very similar products and there simply weren't enough customers to support them all. 

That didn't happen, and the biggest single reason for that is federal financial aid. But the "business"--and in some ways, much as academics might like to think otherwise, higher education is in certain fundamental ways a business, even if it isn't intended to make a profit--the business has in some ways changed a great deal in twenty-five years, and in ways that are generally not much to the liking of those who really care about liberal education as an end in itself.

Last week I ran across a piece by John Seery in Modern Age called "Somewhere Between A Jeremiad and a Eulogy" which comes closer than anything else I've read to an accurate description of the situation in small liberal arts colleges. If you're interested in the subject, I recommend reading it. However, it still doesn't quite get to the fundamental problem of schools like mine, because the writer is at a school with a lot of money in the bank as well as a good deal of prestige. He doesn't understand (or at least doesn't address) the situation of schools which don't have big endowments and thus are dependent year-to-year on tuition and donations to keep them afloat.  One such, Marygrove College in Detroit, is essentially closing down, eliminating all its undergraduate programs. If you read the article at that link, you'll get a picture of the threat faced by every similar school; Marygrove has apparently hit a wall toward which many others have skidded fairly close but so far managed to avoid hitting. "Facing budget shortfalls and enrollment declines"--that prospect is all too familiar for similar colleges. And by the way note the names of the schools paragraph toward the end beginning "Other colleges....": a disproportionate number of small private liberal arts colleges are Catholic. (I suppose the early 20th-century improvement in both the numbers and the finances of Catholics in this country, combined with the desire to have specifically Catholic education, is part of my earlier question about how they came into existence pre-baby-boom.)

But the Modern Age piece misses a couple of things that perhaps apply to all institutions but are especially serious for small and relatively poor ones. One is the extent to which many of the changes which faculty deplore are driven by that market problem I mentioned (a "structural" problem, I think they call it). There are not enough qualified (financially and academically) students to go around. Therefore there is competition for them, and therefore every school is constantly looking for something to distinguish itself from other similar ones. For rich schools, the competition is for prestige. For lesser ones, it's for survival. This creates a sort of arms race for amenities. 

My field is software and my job involves (I'm still working part-time) the systems that support the dull everyday administrative work of the school. When I started at my school, there was much talk among technologists of using ("leveraging"--I hate that term) technology to set one's school apart. I groaned. I thought that was a recipe for disaster, or at least trouble. What would happen, obviously, I thought, was that the schools with bigger budgets would introduce new technology-based services, and for a while that would give them a competitive advantage, but other schools would be forced to follow along in order to keep up, and for the poorer ones this would not be an advantage but a simple necessity for keeping the doors open. I specifically remember thinking and saying that some twenty years ago when schools began to provide free internet access for their students. This, I said, would do nothing for our school but raise the cost of operating the place, which is exactly what happened. Free internet, including campus-wide wireless coverage, is now considered as much a necessity as electricity--and the school gets just the same appreciation and advantage for providing it.

Seery complains about the escalating cost of software. This is a a fact, and I sympathize. Technology is expensive and it plays a significant role in the rise of tuition. But it is more and more pervasive mainly because people want it, both students and faculty. Some faculty are clueless and frankly a bit bratty about technology: they want it, but they don't want to recognize the expense involved. I've been in more than one meeting where a faculty member has sneered at the school's IT staff because Other School has this or that cool new technology and we don't, unaware of and uninterested in the fact that Other School has three times the staff and four times the budget. In extreme cases the complaint is comparable to griping that the maintenance department is not building new buildings. 

The question of whether all this technology should even be provided is moot at most schools. Some people might argue that it is only a distraction and a drain, and I'd be inclined to agree about a lot of it. But it is not being forced upon people by the IT department--at least not at my school, where IT staff are just desperately trying to keep their heads above water.

A substantial part of Seery's complaint is the expansion of the school's administration. This is certainly a valid complaint. He is dubious that the explanations that point to federal regulations and the demands of accrediting agencies are sufficient. Well, they may not be sufficient, but they are certainly significant. I mentioned earlier that many institutions would have to shut their doors without federal financial aid (mostly loans). That happens to touch on the, um, dare I say, intersection of technology and administrative demands. As it happens my college uses the same administrative software that Seery's college does (unless they have recently changed). I'm very familiar with that software. The financial aid module is definitely the most complex piece of the system. And worse, it changes constantly, requiring attention in various ways from both IT and financial aid staff. And that change is driven by the decisions and policies of the Department of Education, and the college has no more choice about keeping up with those change than it does about paying the utility bill. 

Accreditation, I think, is driven by some of the same forces as technology. Bigger and richer schools establish "best practices." Smaller and poorer ones have to keep up because they have to stay accredited. They would not be eligible for federal programs if they were not, so withdrawal of accreditation would be a death sentence for most schools. (I believe Hillsdale College is one of the very few, if not the only, schools able to prosper outside this system. It would be interesting to know how they do it but it must involve a large endowment.)

Is it any wonder that in the midst of all this the role of faculty is diminished? I deplore that, but I think faculty often fail to comprehend the forces that are driving the change.

There's one thing in the Seery piece I'd like to emphasize, as I suspect it's not know outside of academia. He denies that faculty are, in general, the main drivers of campus leftism:

If you look closely, the most unabashed forms of politically correct scripting on campus—the hunt to root out microaggressions and supposedly traumatizing speech—originate from the bloated administrative wing of campus, often from the Dean of Students Office(s). The people ventriloquizing students, through relentless sensitivity campaigns, about safe spaces, hate speech, structural oppression, and diversity imperatives are the deans and deanlets of residential life (as one of my colleagues puts it, the “Residential Life Industrial Complex”).

I think this is more or less true on most campuses. It was only in the past five or ten years that this began to sink in on me: that the administrative arm which is responsible for overseeing all the non-academic aspects of campus life has a decided impulse toward left-wing proselytizing. I'm on the administrative, not the academic, side of the house, and have very little involvement or contact with academics. But my impression of the faculty at my school is that, though they may be pretty uniformly liberal-progressive in their views, they are also intellectually serious and honest, and are not the single-minded ideologues from whom we hear occasionally, and who seem to be mostly in those dubious specialties that are more less left-wing-activist by definition.

The growth of the whole student life sector is also related to the amenities arms race. As is the need for constructing elaborate recreational centers. As is the need to have a coffee shop in the library. And let's not leave out the effects of general cultural decline and stress which have helped to produce more students with bigger problems than was the case a generation ago, and the corresponding growth in various forms of support and therapy for them. And that reminds me of the lawyers: fear of lawsuits probably also generates defensive measures that require administrative overhead.

Both students and parents expect as a matter of course services and facilities that would have been considered luxurious and unnecessary even twenty years ago, to say nothing of forty or fifty. In short you could probably account for a substantial portion of the rise in college costs if you could figure out a way to measure the impact of the arms race, the constant push for schools to keep up or at least not fall too far behind in the competition for making themselves attractive to students.

If this sounds like students (and parents) are in the position of being picky and demanding customers in a buyer's market, they are. I've heard many times a student complaint that begins with "I'm paying $N,000 every year to go to school here, and I expect..." And this mentality, I hear, gets into the classroom as well, and probably has an effect on grade inflation.

Well, I'm running out of time, so I'll stop there, though I could run on at length. As an academic manqué, and a firm believer in the ideals of liberal education, as well as an employee at an IHED (institution of higher education), this is a subject of great import to me. I had several other things I'd meant to discuss but they can wait till next week.


I went out to bring in the garbage can one morning last week and looked up and saw this. I think I looked up because I had walked into a spider web and couldn't figure out what it was doing in the middle of the driveway. It made me think of Mirkwood. It's at least fifteen feet from one of the two trees to which the web was attached to the other.




Sunday Night Journal, July 30, 2017

I am beginning to accept the fact that there are simply too many books for me to read and too many recordings for me to hear in the amount of time I have left to live, even stretching my potential longevity as far as it can be stretched. I'm finding this surprisingly difficult. It was always true, and would have been true even if I had continued to pursue both at something like the rate I was doing it before I devoted the better part of forty years to job and family. But I had in the back of my mind that when I retired I would finally be able to do all the writing and reading and listening that I'd been putting off.

Well, even apart from the fact that I'm only about two-thirds retired, it isn't working out that way. Life still makes a number of demands that I hadn't really considered. I don't mean to sound whiny, because I am thankful every day that I don't have to go off to a job that will, including the commute, occupy at least ten hours of the day. Still, a reckoning with reality must be made, priorities must be set.

I'm saying all this as preface to an admission. I have just done something which as far as I can remember I have never done before, and of which I am somewhat ashamed. I have chosen to skim a book that I chose to read. I suppose I have skimmed a book before--my freshman biology textbook in college, for instance, when I was desperately trying to absorb enough information to avoid failing a final exam. But I don't think I've ever done it with what I am tempted to call a real book, and one that I wanted to read. Now I have.

The book is William F. Buckley's God and Man at Yale. As anyone who's ever been anywhere near the conservative movement knows, this was Buckley's first book, written when he was a recent graduate of Yale. I've always had the impression that it's considered a conservative classic. It's been sitting on my shelf for some years, and I decided to check it off my list.

It's a disappointment. If it were not by the man whose initials all conservatives and many liberals recognize, it would probably have been mostly forgotten, and of mainly historical interest. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but the book is more specifically about Yale at that moment (the late 1940s) than I anticipated. It's a case study of the state of instruction on religion and economics at Yale--or rather, I should say, the process of secularization and liberalization (in the political sense) at Yale, because that's what Buckley is describing. As such, much of it is far too detailed to be of much interest to me. It includes a discussion of specific instructors, textbooks, events, speeches, and controversies which I would think only a historian or very dedicated Yale alumnus would care about. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone not specifically interested in Buckley or Yale or both.

That said, I am struck by how familiar Buckley's complaints sound. The process by which we arrived at the almost complete domination of leftist thought in the academy was well advanced by 1950. Buckley chastises Yale for pretending to be engaged in a disinterested search for truth but actually having an orthodoxy favoring secularism and statism. By our standards it was relatively conservative, giving lip service to Christianity and opposing communism. Buckley wanted Yale to dispense with the pose of neutrality and to openly favor what I will very loosely call Americanism (not that he puts it that way). Well, he certainly got part of that wish: the pose of neutrality is not fooling much of anyone these days. I wonder if even those who preach it belligerently on their own behalf really believe it. When cant words like "diversity" are part of the mission statement, and institutions insist fervently on their dedication to them, everyone knows what is meant. And every day brings us a new story of some notable incident involving the enforcement of this orthodoxy.

I will say of God and Man at Yale that it is well-written and well-argued, and in general pretty impressive for a 25-year-old. But it's a period piece now.


I referred back there at the start of this little piece to reading and listening. I used two different words for two different things. It might have been handy to have one word. But not at the cost of resorting to a construct I see often, sometimes used by people who I think should know better. I mean the word "consuming," as in "consuming art" in reference to multiple arts.   How can anyone write or read that without a shudder? It makes me think of this character, the vacuum monster, from Yellow Submarine, which I had not thought of since I saw the movie ca. 1970. 


When I think of something being consumed, I think of it being gone, chewed up and swallowed or otherwise used up. Years ago I read some technology writer predicting the ways--the devices and the media--by which we would "consume infotainment." The phrase comes close to physically nauseating me.


Last week, writing about the film Mother and Child, I meant to mention Annette Benning's performance as Karen, which was one of the best of several excellent performances in the film. And it made me think about acting in general. For much of my life I really didn't have a great deal of regard for the art of acting, for the gifts required to do it well. I just took it for granted that some people had a knack for pretending to be other people, or for creating an appealing screen persona (e.g. John Wayne), and in fact for pretending in general.

I just spent an hour looking for a remark, which I was sure was by Samuel Johnson, which disparages acting. What I recall is that he said it needed only "great plasticity of features" and...something else...I can't remember what.

Well, if Johnson said that, I don't know where. I must have read it somewhere, because I don't think I would have invented that phrase. I've searched an online version of Boswell's Life without finding it, and done a number of Google searches for the phrase and variations of it, with no luck. At the moment I'm suspecting that it wasn't Johnson who said it, but someone else of roughly the same period, and that I read it in The Oxford Book of Literary Quotations. But if so it'll take me a while to find it.

Anyway: when I first read it, I knew, of course, that it was hyperbole, but came close enough to agreeing that I thought it was pretty sharp. At at some point, maybe fifteen or so years ago, I began to appreciate just how difficult good acting must be. The thought crossed my mind during several scenes in Mother and Child when the camera is on Karen's face: for instance, the moment when she is combing her mother's hair and chatting about her day at work. She mentions that a new guy has started there, and that he seems nice. 

"Karen, don't get your hopes up," is her mother's response. Karen says nothing, and there is not a great deal visible in her face, but it's enough to say everything about Karen's relationship with her mother and indeed about her life in general.

"Plasticity of features," indeed. Yes, that's required, just as an unusually high level of manual dexterity is required for playing a musical instrument well. But that's just the minimal requirement.

Of course the writer, who was also the director, must get credit for creating the exchange. He's the composer, the two women are the performers who bring it to life.


I'd like to know how these roses came to be here, stuck in a log on the beach. Was it a sad story or a happy one? There were several others here and there, one some distance away as if perhaps it had been tossed.


Propaganda in the Catholic University (or College)

Francesca Murphy has written a fascinating piece for First Things about the push for revision of the curriculum to make it more "goal-oriented." Like most bits of educational jargon, the phrase seems vague and harmless on its face, but in fact means, for those who are in the trade, something more specific. In this case it seems to be in part an attempt to get all that useless intellectual stuff--in particular theology and philosophy (at Notre Dame)--out of the way of the vocational training which is what most students go to college for, and in part--the bigger part, I suspect--a justification for propagandizing, which no one will be surprised to find directed toward the inculcation of standard secular liberal views. It requires only the slightest familiarity with contemporary higher education to know that one of the more popular goals, "critical thinking," is likely to involve, for instance, rather more criticism of patriotism than of the United Nations, and more of colonialism than of communism.

Who could argue with the idea that education ought to have a goal, or goals? The goal of a course on Shakespeare is for the students to read and understand Shakespeare; one hopes that they will appreciate him as well, but the reading and understanding are the course. But this sort of goal is apparently not a goal in the sense that the curriculum revisers use the word. For them the goals of education are, as Dr. Murphy bluntly puts it, "right-mindedness." 

Catholic higher education has in modern times been considered to have a very dubious relationship to the pursuit of truth, to be more concerned with inculcating Catholic belief than with real intellectual achievement. Supposedly that ended after Vatican II; the universities declared themselves independent, proudly announced that they were not in the business of catechetics, and in practice often not only neglected but actively opposed the idea of a duty to transmit the faith. No doubt there were serious defects in what they were reacting to. But one might suppose that the old desire to teach correct doctrine did not disappear, but only adopted new doctrines. This is implicit in the arguments against the deep thinking and learning required to become literate in specific disciplines with definite content.

In a shift that reflects trends in higher education more broadly, the [curriculum] review questions the very idea of discipline-oriented requirements that specify courses taught by particular departments. Are disciplines the building blocks of university education and thus the proper focus for a core curriculum? Or should we recognize that academic disciplines are “artificial” and reorient our thinking around curricular “goals” such as “critical thinking skills,” “effective communication,” “ethical decision-making skills”? Or the capacity to “comprehend the variations of people’s relationship with God and develop respect for the religious beliefs of others,” as one Catholic university defines a distinctively religious goal?

The article demonstrates at some length that this represents, implicitly if not explicitly, a shift away from liberal education and toward propagandizing .

Rather than pursuing the truth through missteps, failed experiments, and odd hypothetical suggestions, the propagandist defines the learning goal, and then designs courses and textbooks to get the students there efficiently. We recognize the propagandizing mentality easily wherever it appears by its illiberal mien, suppressing questions and punishing dissent. But it’s also present when students are taught to assent too quickly to easy moralisms, substituting self-righteous feeling for serious ethical reflection, something that’s only too easy to imagine when one reads the social justice or “global engagement” goals of many Catholic universities.

I've only given a bare introduction to the article, and you really need to read the whole thing. Since I'm not involved in these curricular battles, what strikes me is that this matter is bigger than Catholic education, and bigger than education in general: it is an aspect of the increasing predominance of a secular religion which is as confident as Christianity is defensive, and which does not question the universal applicability of its doctrines and a consequent duty to go into all the world and preach them.

The Condition of the Humanities

Coincidentally, in relation to our discussion of the situation of the humanities in contemporary education, this piece on that very subject appears in The New Criterion. It's by Mark Bauerlein, a professor of English at Emory. He argues--if I may allow myself an over-simplified summary--that the academics who should be fighting to preserve the place of the humanities, and perhaps even think they are doing so, are instead making them irrelevant by treating them as mere exhibitions and illustrations in the study, or rather the polemics, of race, gender, etc. 

As long as language and literature professors insist that they instill something valuable that no other areas instill, language/literature requirements have a claim. No scientist will rise in a college meeting and say, “C’mon, do our students really need to study another language that much?” as long as the humanists stand vigorously for it. But if their commitment falls more on race-class-gender-sexuality than on Virgil-Dante-Shakespeare-Milton, what can the humanities demand? In the faculty meeting, the English professor who says, “I think all students should have a course on gender” evokes a speedy reply from the sociologist: “Yes, and we have many courses to provide. We really don’t see English doing that job.” It is hard to imagine the first retorting, “No, we should do it. We’ve got some brilliant theorists over here, and their readings of gender in Jane Austen are crucial!”

Actually that's not at all hard for me to imagine, and I'm a little surprised that an actual academic would find it so. But be that as it may, it's an interesting report on developments over the past few decades, and sheds light on the questions we were asking in our conversation.

Kids These Days

From Donald Kagan's farewell speech upon his retirement from Yale:

Whatever the formal religious attachments of our students may be, I find that a firm belief in the traditional values and the ability to understand and the willingness to defend them are rare. Still rarer is an informed understanding of the traditions and institutions of our western civilization and of our country and an appreciation of their special qualities and values. The admirable, even the uniquely good elements are taken for granted as if they were universally available, had always existed, and required no special effort to preserve. All shortcomings, however, are quickly noticed and harshly condemned. Our society is judged not against the experience of human societies in other times and places, but against the Kingdom of Heaven. There is great danger in this, because our society, no less than others now and in the past, requires the allegiance and devotion of its members if it is to defend itself and make progress toward a better life.

Traditional beliefs, however, are not replaced by a different set of values resting on different traditions. Instead, I find a kind of cultural void, an ignorance of the past, a sense of rootlessness and aimlessness, as though not only the students but also the world was born yesterday, a feeling that they are attached to the society in which they live only incidentally and accidentally. Having little or no sense of the human experience through the ages, of what has been tried, of what has succeeded and what has failed, of what is the price of cherishing some values as opposed to others, or of how values relate to one another, they leap from acting as though anything is possible, without cost, to despairing that nothing is possible. They are inclined to see other people’s values as mere prejudices, one no better than another, while viewing their own as entirely valid, for they see themselves as autonomous entities entitled to be free from interference by society and from obligation to it.

The whole thing is very much worth reading, and you can find it here. But this section in particular struck me, especially those last two sentences. And it isn't just the young people: the syndrome is widespread among my generation. They see themselves as judging their own society from outside as if they had no part in it, and, more significantly, as if it had no part in them--as if they had come into being already transcending their own culture, and rather contemptuous of it. Of gratitude for their heritage and what it has given them, there is little or no trace. It is difficult to see how a society can survive if this attitude is sufficiently widespread, and it is most widespread among the elite.


In the Objective Room

Remember the Objective Room from C.S. Lewis's That Hideous Strength, an environment designed to undermine or destroy a person's natural responses to disorienting or repellent things? This story made me think of it: as part of a university (!) classroom exercise students were told to write the name of Jesus on a piece of paper and step on it.They weren't forced to do the actual stomping, but were expected to participate in a bit of brainwashing:

“Have the students write the name JESUS in big letters on a piece of paper,” the lesson reads. “Ask the students to stand up and put the paper on the floor in front of them with the name facing up. Ask the students to think about it for a moment. After a brief period of silence instruct them to step on the paper. Most will hesitate. Ask why they can’t step on the paper. Discuss the importance of symbols in culture.” (see this story)

The obvious result of this, and probably the conscious purpose, is to encourage students to remove themselves from active belief in such a thing as Christianity, or at least a strong residual respect for it, to that olympian plane of objectivity where they recognize that such beliefs are simply cultural symbols, all essentially alike.

The specifics of this case and its disposition are less important than what they reveal about the education establishment. The university trotted out the usual academic boilerplate: "open discourse...sensitive topics...dialogue and debate." But we all know this kind of desensitization is almost always directed at Christianity and other enemies of progressivism. As the old song says, there's something happening here; contrary to the song, though, what it is is exactly clear.

Giving Up on Freedom

I have been trying to write something about this for more than a week now, but there's so much I could say about it that I haven't been able to get started in the brief snatches of time I've had available. So I'm going to give up and just point you elsewhere.

The topic is a new book called Against Autonomy: Justifiying Coercive Paternalism by a Bowdoin College philosophy (I really want to write "philosophy") professor named Sarah Conly. You can get the general idea from the title, but you really have to read a few excerpts, and some comments from sympathizers, to appreciate the mad quality of her reasoning. 

It's been apparent for some time that there's a growing impatience with freedom among progressives. They know what's best for us, they  know how things should be run, and yet somewhere near half of the American public rejects their prescriptions, and many others simply ignore them. It's pretty frustrating to know you're right, and that in a rightly ordered world people like you would be running things, and yet be ignored. A certain number of such people are getting tired of waiting for the masses to see the light, and are beginning to consider the benefits of coercion. 

Like a lot of scary people, Conly is not all wrong by any means. She begins, in fact, with the sound insight, understood by any Christian and indeed explicitly stated by St. Paul, that we often do not know what is really in our own best interests, and do not always do it when we know it. And pretty much everyone accepts that sometimes people have to be, at a minimum, forcibly restrained from doing certain things that they may want to do, otherwise known as crimes. But she seems to be talking about something much much more specific, and not about restraint, but positive coercion, and in areas which have generally been considered mostly private, such as personal health.

Most strikingly, what does she point us to as our means of knowing what we should do? Social science research. And what is the means she suggests by which we should be directed to do it? Government regulation.

This, you see, is where I have come to a mental stop every time I started to write about this: the idea that social science research, notoriously adept at proving anything and nothing, should be our authority is so deeply wrong from so many perspectives that I don't even know what to say. 

So allow me to direct you to several posts by Neo-neocon, best read in the order they were written: firstsecondthird, and fourth. And I will leave to your imagination the kind of world Dr. Conly's ideas, widely adopted, would give us. We seem to be seeing progressivism in flight from liberalism, both classical and contemporary--perhaps an inevitable reaction against liberalism's excessive emphasis on personal autonomy

I'm obliged to note that since I haven't read the book I could be mistaken about it, but the quoted excerpts, and her own words, indicate that I am not.