James Kunstler: the coming collapse of universities

Summary: James Howard Kunstler looks at the coming collapse of the university system in America. It’s good news. I know of nobody who better describes the decay of American society, aided by his powerful writing. See my note afterwards which provides details supporting his vision.

Lesson One: Revolution - dreamstime_50435521
ID 50435521 © Idiltoffolo | Dreamstime.

Coercion Meets Its Match

By James Howard Kunstler at his website. Posted with his generous permission.

Like the fabled spring zephyr came news that the Golden Golem of Greatness, (a.k.a. President Trump) signed an executive order that would withhold federal funding from colleges and universities that do not demonstrate support for free speech. It has been an amazement to behold the appalling, hypocritical suppression of the first amendment on campuses across the nation, with their ignoble speech codes, asinine safe spaces, sinister kangaroo courts, and racist anti-whiteness crusades.

Most wondrous of all has been the failure of college presidents, deans, trustees, and faculty chairs to assert their authority and do the right thing – namely, take a stand against the arrant muzzling of free expression by campus Stalinists. Their craven passivity is a symptom of what future historians will identify as the epic institutional collapse of higher education, which first made itself into an industry like any other moneygrubbing business, and then became a titanic racketeering operation. And now it is all coming to grief.

In the years ahead, you will see colleges go out of business at a shocking rate and the contagion will spread to the giant state systems around the country. In my little region alone, several colleges have published their own obituaries in the last few months: Green Mountain College in Poultney, Vermont; Southern Vermont College in Bennington; and Hampshire College over in Amherst, MA (which is desperately searching for a buyout). That’s just the beginning of a wave of closures that will send tens of thousands of academic hierophants flooding the unemployment offices while sleeping in their cars.

Choose Evolution or Revolution - dreamstime_86092871
ID 86092871 © Michaeljayberlin | Dreamstime.

It’s not hard to see how this fiasco developed and blossomed. In the 1960s, when I was in college, Marxism offered a neat, pre-engineered template for opposing the odious Establishment that blundered into the Vietnam War. Students then at least had skin in the game: the threat of getting drafted into the army and shipped over to die in the jungle for a senseless conflict. In fact, many young men unsuited for college took refuge there to evade the military. Then, with a bull market in Boomer Generation PhDs, the faculties were soon filled with the former Sixties radicals.

Many were Boomer women, who set out to explain and correct the evolving relations of men and women in the office workplace of the day. By then the war was over. The sick economy of the 1970s put an end to the ability of men to support a family and more women were forced to enter the office environment. Meanwhile radical progressivism needed an ever-fresh supply of new aggrieved parties to justify its agitation against the old Marxist bugbears of bourgeois values and structural oppression – and incidentally fuel academic careers. Hence, the multiplication of victims into handy intersectional categories.

The Student Loan Mess: How Good Intentions Created a Trillion-Dollar Problem
Available at Amazon.

By the 1980s, it also became evident that 60s civil rights legislation to end Jim Crow laws had not solved the quandaries of race in America, and that disappointment refreshed the progressive crusade to heal the world of injustice and inequality. Every other effort to produce equal outcomes for different categories of people had also proved disappointing, so now progressives resort to plain coercion to force equal outcomes at all costs, and nowhere is that behavior more overt than on campus the past decade.

The delusion that everybody must have a college education finally turned Higher Ed into a racket, when the federal government decided to guarantee college loans – which only prompted colleges to ramp up tuitions way beyond the official inflation rate and undertake massive expansion programs in the competition for the expanding base of student customer-borrowers. Almost all colleges acted as facilitators to this loan racket, though with federal guarantees they had no skin in that game. Now, outstanding student loan debt is $1.5 trillion, and about 40% of it is nonperforming, in euphemistic banker jargon. The student borrowers have been fleeced, many of them financially destroyed for life, and they have only begun to express themselves politically.

The anxiety and remorse behind that dastardly financial behavior, and the prospect of coming institutional ruin, is probably a big factor behind the engineered social justice hysterias that paradoxically made college campuses the most intellectually unfree – and intellectually unsafe! – places in the land. And turned all those college presidents into cowards and cravens. Since coercion is the only behavior modification college administrators understand these days, it’s reasonable that Mr. Trump use federal grant largesse as a lever to end the structural despotism of campus culture. The stumbling economy will take care of the rest.

————————-

Fewer games of beer pong. Fewer marches and demonstrations. More studying.

Beer pong table - dreamstime_120461783
ID 120461783 © Oleksandra Naumenko | Dreamstime.

Editor’s note

Kunstler describes in his usual dramatic fashion the future of American colleges. They will be victims of their own greed, irresponsible behavior, and technological change.

For example, colleges compete by showing kids their lavish facilities (far nicer than 40 years ago, which in turn nicer than 40 years before that). The college’s salespeople do not mention that the kid might be paying for these amenities for the rest of her (or less commonly, his) life. It’s like taking an 18 year old to a Porsche dealer, selling him a car without discussing the debt payments. It is more honest to sell crack on street corners. As Matt Taibbi says, we’ve become a Grifter Nation.

The number of employees at US colleges and universities has increased 2.6X since 1978 while the population has risen only 1.4X. Worse, much of those people teach subjects of little or benefit to their student’s lives — and of less benefit to their future incomes. The latter is important, since the skyrocketing cost of tuition has been paid for by debt. In 1962 the Federal government granted $100 million in student loans and $1 billion in 1971. Outstanding student loans grew to $480 billion in 2006, and to $1.6 trillion today. About one-fifth of Federal education loans are over 30+ days delinquent.

This education house of cards eventually will fall from its own irrationality. But technology will help push it over. The current form of education was developed in medieval times – when books were too expensive for individual students, and lectures were needed to deliver information. Continuing this in the 21st century is quite mad. Podcasts and online education can deliver quality education at a fraction of the cost. Without the bongs, nightly pickups, and beer parties — supported by parents’ savings and students’ borrowing.

One decisive factor will be American’s realization that we get fantastic benefits from a small fraction of the spending on higher education – and little or nothing (or negative benefits) from the rest. We spend 2.6% of GDP on higher education, far more than other nations, but get little more for it (our health care system has similar dynamics).

The second and more decisive factor will be American’s anger, paying vast sums to have their children re-educated to despise everything they were raised to value.

We can only guess at the nature of the new system of college education that will replace our current mind-blowingly expensive and low-gain system. But it will certainly require far fewer college employees. Fewer English and gender-studies professors doing “research.” Fewer scholarships for girls’ rowing. Fewer highly paid vice presidents for diversity. If built with a little wisdom, it will provide quality education at less cost to more people than the mess we have today.

About James Kunstler: I used to consider him a doomster. Now I agree with him about many things – as described in : A new, dark picture of America’s future.

James Howard Kunstler
Photo by Charlie Samuels.

About James Howard Kunstler

James Howard Kunstler (Wikipedia) worked as a reporter and feature writer for a number of newspapers, before working as a staff writer for Rolling Stone Magazine. In 1975, he began writing books on a full-time basis. Kunstler is the author of 12 novels and has been a regular contributor to many major media, writing about environmental and economic issues. He is a leading supporter of the movement known as “New Urbanism.”

He has lectured at Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Princeton, Dartmouth, Cornell, MIT, and many other colleges. He has written five non-fiction books. See more about the most recent one below.

See some of his recent posts about America. They’re all well worth reading!

For More Information

Ideas! For shopping ideas, see my recommended books and films at Amazon.

I recommend reading The Student Loan Mess: How Good Intentions Created a Trillion-Dollar Problem by Joel and Eric Best (U California Press, 2014).

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.  For more about these matters, see Reforming America: steps to new politics and especially these …

  1. Should we despair, giving up on America?
  2. The bitter fruits of our alienation from America.
  3. Andrew Bacevich looks at America’s political rot and describes solutions.
  4. ImportantThe bizarre but easy next step to fixing America – more about problem recognition.
  5. Kunstler describes the ugly fruits of America’s social decay.

About Kunstler’s most recent book

Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology, and the Fate of the Nation
Available at Amazon.

Too Much Magic:
Wishful Thinking, Technology, and the Fate of the Nation.

Kunstler’s critically acclaimed and best-selling The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century (2005) quickly became a grassroots hit, going into nine printings in hardcover. Kunstler’s shocking vision of our post-oil future caught the attention of environmentalists and business leaders alike, and stimulated widespread discussion about our dependence on fossil fuels and our dysfunctional financial and government institutions. Kunstler has since become a key commentator on the future, profiled in The New Yorker and invited to speak at TED and other events. In “Too Much Magic,” Kunstler evaluates what has changed in the last seven years and shows us that in a post-financial-crisis world, his ideas are more relevant than ever.

“Too Much Magic” is what Kunstler sees in the bright visions of a future world dreamed up by overly optimistic souls who believe technology will solve all our problems. Their visions remind him of the flying cars and robot maids that were the dominant images of the future in the 1950s. Kunstler’s idea of the future is much more sober: he analyzes the various technologies (vertical farms, fracking, corn ethanol) suggested as overnight solutions to the energy crisis and finds none that he thinks will work long-term to cure a society dependent on gas-guzzling cars, in love with an inefficient ideal of suburbia, and unwilling to fundamentally change its high-energy lifestyle. Kunstler also offers concrete ideas as to how we can help ourselves adjust to a society where the oil tap is running dry.

With vision, clarity of thought, and a pragmatic worldview, Kunstler argues that the time for magical thinking and hoping for miracles is over and that the time to begin preparing for the long emergency has begun.

27 thoughts on “James Kunstler: the coming collapse of universities

  1. “By the 1980s, it also became evident that 60s civil rights legislation to end Jim Crow laws had not solved the quandaries of race in America, and that disappointment refreshed the progressive crusade to heal the world of injustice and inequality. Every other effort to produce equal outcomes for different categories of people had also proved disappointing, so now progressives resort to plain coercion to force equal outcomes at all costs, and nowhere is that behavior more overt than on campus the past decade.”

    My experience:

    As someone whose mother, aunts, and grandmother were part of the education system during this time, I still vividly recall first my grandmother and then my mother leaving the public education system when the rule became if you flunked one of the new black students you had to flunk one of the old white students. This was at the end of the segregated South.

    Somewhere there is a good article about how black leaders thought it was giving the high school diploma which could erase some of the inequalities of pay. Industry started giving basic competency tests. Then it was thought giving a bachelor degree, and industry started apprenticeships, co-opting, and mentoring.

    Apparently, it is now the master and PhD programs. Industry has responded with internships which determine competency.

    Larry, do Joel and Eric Best talk about those students who don’t go to school except as a way to live by accruing debt today? One of the telling, IMO, trends are these fake students going into selling drugs, even when they are supposed to be in school learning; I don’t know how wide spread it is, but it is happening in my area.

  2. One of those political unknowns is if the average college student who made a bad investment in their education will be mad at the system or feel that they need to protect their sunk cost.

  3. Cambridge University’s treatment of Jordan Peterson indicates that the rot is not limited to American Universities. The action by the administration of rescinding a fellowship offer for work at the CU School of Divinity epitomizes the problems James Kunstler describes in this post. I am deeply ashamed of my Alma Mater.

  4. Largely off-topic (apologies, FM, but I’m on vacation and do not have access to my usual emails/accounts), Republicans get even with Obama for immigration reform by illegally creating new victims. Those victims know better and are fighting back more effectively than the Republicans expected.

    These are registered voters and the Republicans are motivating to vote the wrong way from the Republican perspective. This could end very badly for the Republicans in 2020. Of course, that depends on who wins the rampant crap-shoot that currently defines the 2020 Democratic party nomination process.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the winner isn’t a Trump-equivalent from the Left.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/immigration/2019/03/23/how-flight-attendant-texas-ended-up-an-ice-detention-center-six-weeks/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.6c34f206a988

    1. Pluto,

      (A) The Mueller report is not out. We don’t know what it says.

      (B) That article just re-hashes what’s been said for two years.

      • Much of that has already been well disputed, such as the first point about the “hacking” of the DNC data).
      • The second has been decisively disproved by information released by the social media companies themselves.
      • The third is innuendo by the NYT (“discussions” are not “business interests”).
      • The 4th is just them trolling you (this just in, all Presidents since Ike lie a lot). I doubt Trump is in the same league of complusive lying as the Clintons. (Nixon was strategic in his lies.)
      • The 5th is even more meaningless.
      • The 6th is good news (the Deep State’s efforts to start a new cold war should be fought).
      • The 7th is routine business in DC (it’s OK for our leaders to have contacts with foreigners).
      • The 8th is reporting Democrat’s charges as gospel.
      • The last is misdirection: the charges on others have been all process crimes – unrelated to Russiagate. Probably attempts to get someone to turn on Trump and make claims about him in exchange for light treatment.

      (C) I am amazed at your willingness to believe what you are told, despite the near total-lack of evidence for most of the claims about Russiagate.

      I suggest reading The Big List of Lies by our Leaders. Of course, that won’t change your thinking. Of course, you’ll believe the next story just as eagerly. But you might get a moment of entertainment from it. Which is, after all, the purpose of information to subjects of what was once America.

      Instead of wasting time reading information of no use to you, prepare for the next regime! Airport TSA teaches us a properly subservient frame of mind – and obedience. But that might not be enough for our next gen of leaders. Just to be on the safe side, practice bowing. Bow low!

      1. FM, I am only going to respond to two of your comments:

        A. The Mueller Report is not out yet. – You’re basically right but not exactly. Some members of the Federal Attorney General’s office, which initially ordered the investigation and has received the final official version of the report last week know what’s in it.

        Trump likely is also well aware of the general nature of the report because Mueller’s team obviously had to question Trump’s family and supporters in connection to the report. Of course, the Mueller inner team that wrote the report also knows whats in it.

        Mueller’s behavior on this report interests me. According to some usually pretty reliable non-US sources, he went into the office to work on this report for roughly 750 straight days (I wish Trump had shown such a work ethic!). Mueller does not seem to me to be the type to do so if there was no fire to go with the smoke. He’s a Marine officer who went into the Special Forces, was wounded multiple times in Vietnam, and then eventually into the FBI because of his earnest pursuit of the truth. He’s also always sought to be where the fire is hottest. I cannot believe that such a man would spend two intense years of his life proving that Trump didn’t do anything wrong.

        But that is only the beginning of the discussion on how people in Washington have reacted.

        The behavior of the political leaders of both parties who have officially or are in danger of officially receiving the contents is what interests me the most. Regardless of political affiliation, they do not want special access to the information in the report. When was the last time you heard top leaders of BOTH political parties requesting to NOT HAVE SPECIAL INFORMATION ABOUT A HUGE MULTI-YEAR INVESTIGATION INTO THE SITTING PRESIDENT’S FAILINGS? I would have not believed this possible a year ago and I am having troubles imagining what could be in the report that would cause such behavior.

        Trump is on his 5th Attorney General, by my count, and at least two of them have been appointed (or dismissed) as a direct result of their anticipated reaction to the Mueller report (although Trump does seem to have major problems figuring out how law-enforcement will react to such things in general). Apparently Trump thought that William Barr would bury the report, instead Barr refused to recuse himself and is talking about releasing at least portions of the report today to Congress.

        Nancy Pelosi, for whom I have nearly zero respect, has urged there to be no special classified briefings. Where does that make sense in this age of special leader privileges? The Democratic Party could milk outrage over Trump with just a few minor allegations and truth tweaks for the next couple of years and Pelosi is willing to pass that up? That doesn’t sound like the greedy, small-minded, political gangster I’ve come to know and loathe. Perhaps she was outmaneuvered, but I doubt it because that sort of game is her favorite and she’s really good at it and we ALL know that anything released to Congress will be leaked to the press in a matter of seconds.

        A lot of members of Congress from both parties are just urging that the whole thing be released, apparently figuring that is the easiest way to ride out the coming waves of discontent from their voters.

        On to the next item:

        C) I am amazed at your willingness to believe what you are told, despite the near total-lack of evidence for most of the claims about Russiagate.

        Who said I believed anything without evidence? All I did was ask for your comments about all the people who have been arrested and convicted around Trump in connection with crimes that might be part of Russiagate.

      2. Pluto,

        Thank you for adding to the billion of words guessing about the contents of the report and what comes next.

        “The Mueller Report is not out yet. – You’re basically right but not exactly.”

        I am exactly correct with respect to your comment. Neither you, me, nor the New York Times knows what’s in the report. Nobody with over 80 IQ pays attention to what a Trump appointee says about it.

        The NYT article you pointed to as so authoritative is almost fact-free.

        Your thousand word replies ignore those two points, which were the key two points. If you would reply to exact quotes instead of with essays, there would be basis for a useful conversation.

      3. Sorry for the double-post earlier!

        Now, as for the comment about having troubles believing that our leaders lie. Of course they do! Lincoln lied when necessary and probably so did Washington. That’s not the point. The question is why did they lie?

        For example, you correctly point out that Clinton was probably the most morally compromised president in living memory. True, but he was also a remarkably lucky and effective administrator who managed to keep the country going in generally the right direction while mostly avoiding directly contaminating it with his personal bad behavior. We could have done worse than Clinton although he certainly was one more step down the road to our current mess.

        Why does Trump lie? Near as I can tell, it’s to keep everybody off-balance, perhaps including himself. That doesn’t work for me nearly as well as Clinton’s reason.

      4. Pluto,

        “The question is why did they lie?”

        That’s why it is important to read the post, not just respond to the title. You’ll see that the lies since Ike were intended to conceal errors or outright malfeasance, or to gain support for their policies.

        “Why does Trump lie? Near as I can tell,”

        Wow, that’s weird. Clinton lied mostly to protect himself – as evident from the nature of his lies (ie, they were instrumental) – something you seem to ignore. Despite your attempts at telepathy, we don’t know why Trump lies.

        “who managed to keep the country going in generally the right direction”

        If Trump’s term ended today, that would be an exact description of his term. Strong economic growth, no major foreign policy disasters, domestic stability. Odd that you don’t see that.

        “That doesn’t work for me nearly as well as Clinton’s reason.”

        Clinton lies to protect himself. Trump lies “to keep everyone off-balance.” You prefer the latter. That seems odd, imo. But each to his own.

      5. Pluto,

        “Lincoln lied when necessary …”

        That’s quite a definite statement! Can you provide some supporting evidence. He was a wordsmith, careful with his statements. And he did play the dirty game of politics according to the rules of his day. But let’s see some examples of Lincoln’s lies.

        Your statement is false in a broader sense. As I have so often said, Americans live in the now – able to see neither the past nor the future. Ike’s statement was a watershed event in US history, which is why it had such an impact at the time (and why Ike considered it the biggest mistake of his Administration). Other than regarding events during war, US Presidents had a remarkable history of telling the truth to the American people. Only after WWII, and esp after Ike, did they lie like rugs.

      6. FM: “Instead of wasting time reading information of no use to you, prepare for the next regime! Airport TSA teaches us a properly subservient frame of mind – and obedience. But that might not be enough for our next gen of leaders. Just to be on the safe side, practice bowing. Bow low!”

        Oddly enough, that’s what I’ve been doing lately. But I’m increasingly doubtful it will happen. There does not appear to be any leader in America today that has the ambition to take the risks necessary. I’m more predicting that the US is going to turn into a sopping wet cracker, potentially tasty but totally incapable of standing up for itself or acting in a meaningful way to protect others.

    2. FM: now that I have access to a screen that is more than 2 inches wide, I’ve re-read this exchange and am very impressed with our ability to talk past each other. I will give examples (likely from both sides).

      1. Initially I didn’t ask if you to read the article for more information about the Mueller report, which you correctly pointed out had not been released yet.

      I asked you to read the report to see all the people who had been arrested and sent to jail during the period that Mueller was investigating on charges related to the Mueller report. I believe the report was completely accurate about that information since it was compiling publicly known knowledge.

      2. FM: “I am amazed at your willingness to believe what you are told, despite the near total-lack of evidence for most of the claims about Russiagate.”

      Yes, there is a public lack of knowledge about what is called Russiagate. I’m mostly interested in trying to understand what knowledge is officially out there and if there is more that is to be released. As of yet, I honestly have no real understanding of what Russiagate is, or what is going on, or what it might become. Too busy in real life, not really sure I care. More looking out of curiosity.

      3. FM: “Pluto,

      Thank you for adding to the billion of words guessing about the contents of the report and what comes next. ”

      You’re welcome!

      4. FM: “I am exactly correct with respect to your comment. Neither you, me, nor the New York Times knows what’s in the report. Nobody with over 80 IQ pays attention to what a Trump appointee says about it. ”

      As I mentioned earlier, I wasn’t interested in the NYT’s speculation about what is in the Mueller report. I was interested in the very large number (30-50?) that have been arrested, tried in court. Many have been sentenced for a crime during Mueller’s investigation. As I said, that does not strike me as completely ineffective or as evidence that the Mueller report had no content.

      5. Pluto: “Lincoln lied when necessary …”

      FM: “That’s quite a definite statement! Can you provide some supporting evidence. He was a wordsmith, careful with his statements. And he did play the dirty game of politics according to the rules of his day. But let’s see some examples of Lincoln’s lies.”

      See the website below. I haven’t fully vetted the site yet but it’s doing okay so far.

      https://www.quora.com/Did-Abraham-Lincoln-ever-tell-a-lie-in-his-lifetime

      6. Pluto, “The question is why did they lie?”

      FM: “That’s why it is important to read the post, not just respond to the title. You’ll see that the lies since Ike were intended to conceal errors or outright malfeasance, or to gain support for their policies.”

      I’m confused by your response, which indicates that you were confused by my comment. Let me rephrase my original comment and see if it makes more sense to you.

      Pluto rephrasing original question: “What was the motivation for their lies. Did they foresee that they could prevent themselves from being sent to jail for actions they did or were they seeking to build a case for a different relationship with the Russians? I am more comfortable with the latter than the former.”

      7. Pluto: ““Why does Trump lie? Near as I can tell,”

      FM: “Despite your attempts at telepathy, we don’t know why Trump lies.”

      Actually, I spend far too much time analyzing Trumps statements logically. Telepathy is not involved, believe me. I find Trump to be so weird that I doubt direct mental communication would be possible or even remotely close to desirable.

      8. Pluto: “who managed to keep the country going in generally the right direction”

      FM: “If Trump’s term ended today, that would be an exact description of his term. Strong economic growth, no major foreign policy disasters, domestic stability. Odd that you don’t see that.”

      Why do you assume that I don’t see that? I actually do and have pointed it out more than once both on this site and in other locations. On the other hand, we’re talking 8 years vs. 2 years. A lot can go wrong in less than 6 years when you’re President, just ask Richard Nixon

      I want it noted that I refrained from an Adolf Hitler 1939-45 analogy very intentionally, knowing your distaste for it’s overuse.

      1. Pluto,

        I’ve found that people relying on Google Knowledge frequent produce wrong answers. It’s a sign that your original statement was made w.o basis. Producing stuff and saying that you don’t know if it is correct is rude. However, the entries refute your statement. They discuss things Lincoln did in his personal capacity (whereas the question was Lincoln as president speaking to the American people). They also discuss unethical behavior (by our standards), again beside the point.

        This is the usual bogus shifting the goalposts. The question was not “Was Lincoln a saint?”

        As for the rest, “jeepers” seems the only useful reply. I’ll stick with my direct replies to what you said. I see no point in continuing this. You ignore what I said, so why bother?

      2. FM: “Pluto,

        “Lincoln lied when necessary …”

        That’s quite a definite statement! Can you provide some supporting evidence. He was a wordsmith, careful with his statements. And he did play the dirty game of politics according to the rules of his day. But let’s see some examples of Lincoln’s lies.”

        Later, also from FM: “Pluto,

        I’ve found that people relying on Google Knowledge frequent produce wrong answers. It’s a sign that your original statement was made w.o basis. Producing stuff and saying that you don’t know if it is correct is rude. However, the entries refute your statement. They discuss things Lincoln did in his personal capacity (whereas the question was Lincoln as president speaking to the American people). They also discuss unethical behavior (by our standards), again beside the point.”

        FM, I’ve been running like the wind on non-FM-related issues and have not had enough time to fully research issues until now. I’ve done my best to keep up with you and to respond in a timely fashion but seem to have earned heaps of abuse from you on this topic.

        I’m not complaining or arguing, I’m attempting to explain to you why I have not done my usual level of work before sending messages. As noted before, I highly value your work and do my best to not leave you waiting for an answer.

        Now that I have a bit more time, I will respond more appropriately to your comment.

        The initial reason I put in the comment about Lincoln lying was due to a mistaken memory on my part that I discovered after posting it was attributed to Zachary Taylor instead. In keeping with your blanket statement that “all Presidents lie,” I attempted to find an instance where Lincoln was later found to have made a false statement to the American people but had very seriously inadequate time to find and verify the answers for the same reason that you already stated, Lincoln was a remarkable (and vastly underrated) wordsmith, and this was not appreciated by the majority of the citizens in the Northern States during the Civil War. Virtually all instances that I could find where Lincoln was accused by contemporaries of lying during his Presidency were either fabrications by his political opponents or instances where people unintentionally misunderstood him (back to the wordsmith comment).

        The one situation where I could find that Lincoln might have been considered to have lied occurred during his frun for the Presidency in 1860. At that time Lincoln stated that he did not believe Blacks to be equal to Whites. I have always been impressed by Lincoln’s drive to keep the US political union together prior to the Civil War through strictly political means but this was a bit of a fib, compared against his statements after the battle of Antietam. It is possible that he fully believed the not-equal theory but we will never know.

        P.S. – My source for this is not immediately available. I will get it later because I’ve run out of time.

  5. No just the US universities, it is the same in the Uk and Australia, I have worked in Universities in both countries.

    At my last University we have a huge fee paying International Students department, it is the Masters of proessional Accounting and Masters of Business, these are subjects that are on the lists of studies for Permanent Residency in Australia. If you fail more than 10% of the students we are called in the see the Head of School, being mainly casual Tutors and Lecturers, the situation is obvious, pass them or look for other work.

    The Universities are mainly not interested in studnets or teaching, the average tenure lecturer spends three to four days a week reseaching and writng and the one ot two days teaching, casual Tutors are employed to do the Tutorial follow ups to the 2 hour lecture and exam writing. It is that way in both the Uk and Aus Univeisites I have worked at.

    The agenda in Australia is maximise immigrants to reduce the whiteness of the country, this I have see over fifteen years working in Universities on a casual basis. Why did I stick it, few other good jobs in the regional area if you are as I was 40 when I started. At 55 I got a job in the local college and I left the University same day. Still do some property developing on the side, but have never had the capital to do it full time, and following 2008 am damn glad I never borrowed enough to do it full time.

    As an aside my teenage son asked me what I thought about him doing an apprenticeship as an electrician, his best frined’s Dad has a contracting business; and as lso would I be disappointed if he didn’t go to Uni. I can honestly say, I would have no problem if that was what he wanted to do.

    This article does, though worry me, as it is in a way adding booking burning to all the other things that are discussed.

  6. Not just the US, of course, is what I should have typed. I had too many kids around me demanding different things, please forgive the appalling typos.

  7. The question is, what will cause the fall. The University system is an industry like any other, and as long as it can sell its products at a profit it will continue.

    There are some clues in the attitudes of some of the people I know in Europe with teenage kids. They are, several quite independently, coming to the conclusion that they are prepared to pay for professional qualifications of some sort, including ones acquired at a university if that’s the only place to go. I know of one local and well regarded university that is offering courses, including up to degree level, in specialist engineering. But in a semi apprentice type environment with a large corporate sponsor, mostly or all off-campus and on site.

    But they don’t see, won’t pay for, and are urging their children to avoid, traditional degree courses, especially in the liberal arts. So for instance, engineering or nursing courses, or qualify as a plumber, an electrician, accountant, IT administration or programming, a mechanic. They still believe in education as a route to opportunity and self improvement, they don’t want their kids to be bartenders. But its qualifications and not a degree.

    What the parents no longer think, as they probably would have 20 or 30 years ago, is that a degree from a good university in the liberal arts was a mark of and guarantee of success, either personal or financial. Also, they are looking hard headedly at their own assets and are not willing to take on the expense, and they are also looking at the debt levels and not willing for their kids to take it on either.

    Once people stop buying it, there will be a collapse. There has been a lag in perception because the grandparents have been slow in realizing that neither the world nor the universities are what they remember. But the news is spreading.

    1. henrik,

      Economics processes run something like science as described by Thomas Kuhn in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Change comes when an alternative appears. As people become aware of the dysfunctional nature of our mind-blowingly expensive colleges, the pressure will grow to produce an alternative. After experimentation (trial and error), a viable alternative will appear (perhaps more than one form). Then change will come. Big. Fast.

      In 1925, there were 22 million horses in the US. There were 11 million in 1945. There were 3 million in 1960.

      Stephen Jay Gould, speaking of biological evolution, called it “punctuated evolution.” Long periods of stability with brief periods of drastic change.

      Geologists see the world as changing slowly (gradualism), then reshaped by cataclysmic change.

      Lenin said the same thing in more extreme form: “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.”

      This is always a surprise to people.

  8. I was considering this for a while since I work in this field and wanted to think if I had many thoughts to contribute other than technical details.

    My big insight is that for most people the purpose of education is twofold: “reify my values, which I may not be able to articulate well or quantify” and “make the student produce more Friedman units, i.e. by gaining valuable technical skills.” (“My values” here is, in my experience, primarily the parents/sponsors, but there is pressure from the institution/instructors as well.)

    The second one is straightforward enough, although the process admits of much refinement. The first one is the big problem. I can envision the creation of online course ecologies that create entirely new levels of social confusion, because people will not even have common experiences to share one with another. I doubt this will do much to build the qualities you need to be a proactive citizen, but as you have observed, many people do not seem very interested in that. After all, a free citizen might choose incorrectly…

    1. SF,

      That’s an interesting perspective! I agree with the second – which I would express as “going to school to make more money.” It’s the top reason people go, overwhelmingly.

      I’d add a third reason: to have fun. Guides to colleges devote large amounts of space to this aspect, so I suspect it is a big factor.

      Parents send their children to have their values re-enforced. I doubt many kids have much interest in the project. Certainly the schools, esp Catholic colleges, sell this aspect. But mostly fraudulently. Once the kids arrive, the process of stripping away the parents’ values beginning with orientation.

      I can’t even guess how more modern colleges would change this. I doubt they would be entirely online, since few people (at least today) could handle that.

    2. “More money” seems generally accurate although I think “moving up a level in society” is also in the mix. A plumber who sends his child to college, and his child ends up making about as much as he did (but with less poop-filled pipes) – I think that plumber feels he accomplished something. Much of the allure of the premium Ivy League and similar schools is the prospect of moving into the outer reaches of the top of the top. etc.

      I think if parents think there is a real chance of this, they will accept the risk of cultural injury.

      Of course, the perspective where this is heavily parent-driven is itself an accident of history, if probably a necessary one given the price tags.

  9. In Australia the government ties Permanent Residency (PR) in with University education, if the international students do a degree or post graduate on the skills list, then they get x points, it they pass IELTS (English Language) y points, to the point that education is Australia’s third largest industry.

    There is a huge demand locally from left and right supports to reduce immigration for a while, to absorb the population and build an appropriate amounts of infrastructure. The government can not come out and tell the truth, if there was less immigration, then student numbers would drop dramatically and so would the economy.

    Working in a regional university, not even a main city university where PR is more of an issue,our international students make up 90% of the masters in business or accounting courses. These students pay full fees and the university would not survive without them, at in the form it exists in now. I asked my tutorial groups what was the main reason they were studying here, of the 90% international students (read 99% Asian) at least 95% said PR.
    To afford the fees the mainly Chinese and Indian students would be upper middle class in their home countries, there is also a sizable Vietnamese component. These students are told that there is huge demand for them and their skills, that they will make money and be rich, a much more important thing for Asian people who often come from zero welfare countries, also the parents pay for education, with the idea the children will sent home money in their retirement. In these countries university education is still less common and believed to add value, so there are a few years of growth left in the universities, if students and parents see it as a pathway into the country. I think as the economy slows and I believe will stay near stagnation levels for a while more, many students have watched Laura Southern’s latest movie and realize the agents in their countries and the universities are lying to them about all the good jobs in the West and they are now trapped in the West in low skilled jobs. They have spent their inheritance in education, and work as cleaners, Uber drivers and few end up in professional jobs. An ex-student who is a friend now, she gave up a good job in accounting in Vietnam, spent her inheritance on a masters in Professional Accounting and worked in a nail bar while she did the two year degree, she got PR and all she got was some casual book-keeping and she is now working six days a week in a nail bar, plus doing some cleaning for cash in the evenings. It isn’t racism her ex boyfriend from the same master was white Australian and he did warehouse work after post grad, one day in the office book-keeping and four days loading trucks. They split up when he got a job as a book-keeper/store-keeper out in the mines in the desert area. She would not go to live there. This story is not uncommon as too often the students have not enough English skills and there just are not the accounting jobs now.

    I have a degree, masters and post grad cert, and my son is thinking about being an electrician after school, I think this would be great, but the funny thing is my father was an electrician and he encouraged and “prompted me” to study to not work hard like him. This is where the universities will concentrate marketing among the better off manual workers and areas that have not studied before.

    Mainly though, like all the government’s of the western world the local people are tired of the universities and governments, so rather than the people getting new governments and universities, the universities and governments have combined to bring in a new people, at least in Australia.

  10. ‘Free’ money for students in the form of indefeasible loans has boosted college revenues, at the expense of creating a large class of graduating debt slaves.
    Why would anyone be surprised if this model is losing favor, kids are not stupid and can see that they are getting shafted. If mass college failure is a byproduct, it is simple justice.
    More generally, why would the victims of these policies not support radical alternatives? AOC is causing palpitations among older politicians because she articulates some of the discontent existing policies have created. Much harsher successors are very plausible.

    1. Etudiant,

      Yes, that’s America today. Anger at exploitive policies, channeled by activists into unwise policies.

      Sliding down the slippery slope. Let’s try to enjoy the trip.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.