Harsh medicine to fix America’s universities

Summary: I have written hundreds of posts about ways to reform American politics. Time has shown these are inadequate – and that more extreme measures are necessary as the Left remolds America – and the Right serves the 1%, Measures are needed beyond the imagination of Boomer reformers. Now a new generation arises with bigger imaginations. Perhaps they can put their ideas into action. Here is one example, looking at America’s broken universities.

What would Jefferson think of our universities? What would he do?

Statue of Jefferson at U VA - Dreamstime-105195976
ID 105195976 © Jim Lawrence | Dreamstime.

“Preventing Suicide by Higher Education”

By Arthur Milikh.

An excerpt from one of the most powerful articles I’ve seen.
He aks the hard questions. What do our youth learn at college? Is it worth the great expense in money and four years of their lives?

Introduction.

From the birth of the modern conservative movement, dissidents concerned with civic and liberal education have tried almost everything to reshape America’s universities: from refusing to donate to their alma maters (as William F. Buckley prescribed), to funding tenure-track positions, forming independent centers on campuses to host outside speakers, organizing external supplementary seminars to make up for what students do not get in the classroom, and creating new academic departments. Despite 70 years of increasingly sophisticated efforts, conservatives are now begging on many campuses merely to be heard.

America’s universities have been progressivism’s most important asset, its crown jewel. For over half a century, they have served as the left’s R&D headquarters and the intellectual origin or dissemination point for the political and moral transformation of the nation, especially through the sexual revolution and the identity-politics revolution. Universities have trained the new elites who have taken society’s helm and now set its tone through the other institutions thoroughly dominated by the left: the mainstream press, mass entertainment, Fortune 500s, and tech companies.

Universities have also brought to rural and suburban America these moral revolutions, converting generations of young people to their cause. Universities are arguably the most important institution in modern democracy – no other institution has such power to determine the fate of democracy, for good or ill. …

Broken Education - Dreamstime-136847236
Photo 136847236 © Sarahsaahn – Dreamstime.

Our broken universities.

Regrettably, they are no longer animated by their original purpose of serving republican self-government or the freedom of the mind. As such, they must be treated as political entities.

That the freedom of speech is under attack on many campuses should not be surprising, given that the freedom of the mind, of which speech is the expression, is rarely understood as their purpose any longer. Without that purpose, most American universities no longer serve the public good for which they were created and for which they continue to be publicly funded. Their transformation, which in turn has led to the transformation of the nation, has taken place with the unwitting assistance of American taxpayers – and amounts to defrauding the public. If citizens are compelled to pay for others to go to college, it should be to the benefit of the entire nation – forming good citizens and advancing useful sciences, rather than teaching the rising generation that the nation is irredeemably evil.

Taxpayers have funded the research, bankrolled the student loans (including generous forgiveness programs), and allowed the universities and their enormous endowments to operate without paying taxes. These funding sources are the operational life blood of universities, but they can no longer be justified. In fact, it seems likely that the nation would be better off if the vast majority of America’s more than 3,000 colleges and universities closed down.

An executive order signed by President Trump on March 21, 2019, gives administrators in 12 executive-branch agencies that issue research grants broad discretion to withhold funding from universities that suppress “free inquiry” and “undermine learning.” This is a worthwhile half-step to chastening them. But given where things stand, bolder, more aggressive action is needed. If the universities are going to be rebuilt, only external force, rather than pleading or slight policy modifications, will work. Success in this could bring generational change. …

Today, these three {functions of universities} are either corrupted or on their way to corruption in the great majority of America’s universities. In their …open rebellion against these ends, America’s universities too often create students in the opposite vein: ideologues with technical skills, despisers of tradition without insight (not to mention wisdom), or scientists without perspective. These problems are hardly new and have been the centerpiece of the conservative critique of higher education for more than half a century. What is new, however, is the thoroughness of the corruption, the impossibility at this point of changing course through conventional means, and the extent of the pernicious effects of these institutions on the nation as a whole. …

The physical sciences: the next dominoes to fall.

…Should the identity revolution fully impose itself on the sciences – among the last places in universities where the freedom of the mind still excels and is celebrated – they will wither on the branch as have the social sciences and the humanities, with untold losses to our national wealth, power, and prestige. This corrosion will be slow and hidden from the public eye, but likely irreversible once it is visible to all. …We should not assume that science will prosper forever in the absence of the right intellectual conditions. …

{There are alternatives.} The federal government could pay to transfer the laboratories and scientists – or fund the creation of new national laboratories. While this sounds radical, and although there is disagreement among conservatives, it is less radical than tolerating what is already taking place. While it is bad to interrupt scientific research in such a way, it is worse and more dangerous to maintain institutions working to sink the nation while hiding behind the prestige of science. The goal, again, is to make universities serve their fundamental purpose, which at this point can be done only by rebuilding them after they are significantly weakened.

Renewal by fire.

What suicidal nation would continue to publicly fund institutions that intentionally or even semi-consciously undermine the strength and unity of the society that protects them? …

{As} fewer and fewer graduate from colleges, the employment ecosystem and America’s moral horizon would change for the better. Most practical degree programs can return to apprenticeship models. One does not need a four-year college degree to pass a Certified Public Accounting exam. Furthermore, the shortage of working-class labor in America is used to lobby for the importation of immigrants. Few Americans want to hang sheetrock after attending college. While having learned very little in classes, they have, however, often acquired a classist snobbery (and massive debt) that looks down on such labor – even if the wages for it might be higher than for the white-collar jobs to which they aspire.

Reforms like these would be catastrophic for key elements of the existing model of higher education in America. But they could be enormously helpful to forms of higher education that actually serve the nation and fulfill the purpose of the university. …

The purpose of such proposals is not punitive. It is simple sense. Universities that spread poisonous doctrines no longer believe in the purpose of the university. While it is their right to disagree with this purpose, they should not be the beneficiaries of public funds. No society should be expected to subsidize its own corrosion.

This is just a brief excerpt from an article rich in fact and logic.
Published at National Affairs in their Winter 2020 issue. Read the full article!

———————————————

Editor’s afterword

Much of our educational system was created to establish class hierarchies, such as the “liberal arts degree.” Students sit in lectures, a format created in the 11th century – 400 years before the printing press, when books were expensive and rare. They listen to material which most will have forgotten soon after they graduate, and which has little or no effect on their either their personal lives or careers. On this they spend two to four of the best, the most high-energy years of their lives. Their first crucial years away from home are spent in a highly regulated environment, when they could be earning money and learning independence.

Tens of billions of dollars are wasted on this system, money that could be more fruitfully used elsewhere. This is a prime example of cultural senescence, a society’s inability to reform its workings to rationally meet its needs.

Milikh Arthur

About the author

Arthur Milikh is an associate director of the Center for Principles and Politics at the Heritage Foundation. He oversees the center’s research portfolio and gives talks on the tenets of the American political tradition to policymakers, political leaders, and the public. Before joining Heritage in 2014, Milikh worked for the House Armed Services Committee and at the Hudson Institute.

He received a BA in political science from Emory and a master’s degree in political theory from U of Chicago. He is a doctoral candidate at the Catholic University of America.

See his bio and articles at the Heritage Foundation web site and at the Daily Signal.

About the National Affairs

National Affairs is a quarterly journal of essays about domestic policy, political economy, society, culture, and political thought. It aims to help Americans think a little more clearly about our public life, and rise a little more ably to the challenge of self-government. Read more about it here.  Subscribe to it here.

For More Information

Ideas! For some shopping ideas see my recommended books and films at Amazon. Also, see a story about our future: Ultra Violence: Tales from Venus.

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about ways to reform America, and especially these …

  1. The Left goes full open borders, changing America forever.
  2. Visions of America if the Left wins.
  3. The key insight: the Left hates America and will destroy it.
  4. The Left’s bold plans for America – and the coming crash.
  5. Obama tells us sexism is OK now!
  6. The Left tells us that racism is respectable again!
  7. Glimpses of the political revolution just starting.
  8. About the slow-mo revolution by the Left.

Books about the decay of our universities

Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today’s Students by Allan Bloom (1987). This is at the top of my recommended books list. It explains how America got into this hole, an essential understanding for those trying to get us out of it.

Tenured Radicals: How Politics Has Corrupted Our Higher Education by Roger Kimball (1990).

Closing of the American Mind
Available at Amazon.
Tenured Radicals: How Politics Has Corrupted Our Higher Education
Available at Amazon.

39 thoughts on “Harsh medicine to fix America’s universities”

  1. Hello!

    I believe that you duplicated a paragraph. The paragraph that begins with “Today, these three ends are either corrupted or on their way to corruption in the great majority of America’s universities,” seems quite similar to the one below it.

  2. I teach Maths with a Trade School, a further point, as we move to 50% doing degrees, the people doing Trades are in the next band down, and many Teachers say the calibre of Trades people is declining academically, as many of the brighter ones now do Arts degrees.

    This has two disadvantages, better educated Trades people doing the work hands on, help invent better ways of doing the job. Arts degrees add little value to the economy compared to a Trades person running a business and having the hands on skills to make things in their shed. (Hewitt Packard etc)

    I know we need Arts degrees, but if most end up in dead end clerical jobs, they add little value to society or themselves, when 20 years ago these job were available to 16 to 18 year olds straight out of school.

    1. Just a guy,

      We are long past the time we should ask what our youth are getting from the two or four years they invest in college? If the degree has become a signaling mechanism, it is an insanely expensive one. Not just in money, but in the waste of time – when they could be using their high energy to build careers.

      1. Let us not forget that it is the employers that require these signals. Some change is necessary in that domain as well.

  3. LK: Universities that spread poisonous doctrines no longer believe in the purpose of the university.

    Perhaps you should expound and expand on this to replace the duplicate paragraph. It is not that the Universities spread poisonous doctrines, but that they have become intolerant to differing opinions. The Left and the Right will see free speech and teaching critical thinking as an attack on their values. The universities should return to the approach that made them such a power in the first place: the development of a better human capable of thinking for themselves, tolerant of other opinions, but not subservient to any.

    There are some excellent small universities, such as Wofford in South Carolina, who still educate along the classic lines. They have updated their approaches and curriculum, but have kept their purpose. They also depend more on their success with students than the success of obtaining government money.

      1. In my son’s case, a pediatrician. As did others. His wife is a veterinarian. They mentored and kept track of how the students were doing. As part of their service to others, my son and daughter in law helped others pass courses and the Medcap. My wife and I noticed his maturing not as a pampered person, but as a well rounded adult.

  4. Delinking university degrees entirely from future employment prospects would be the real revolution IMO. It seems to me that the only jobs that really need it are MDs, JDs and upper level management. Couldn’t a trade school teach someone how to be a chemist or other lab researcher?

    Conversely once that’s done, getting a liberal arts education should be next to free.

    1. Randolorian,

      “Conversely once that’s done, getting a liberal arts education should be next to free.”

      It can’t be free. First, it takes four years of a youth’s life. What do they get that is worth that fantastic investment of time? Life is short.

      Second, nothing is free. I assume that you mean taxpayers should pay for it. Why? What is the social benefit? Why is that investment of funds more useful than the many other things that could be done with those tens of billions in dollars per year?

      1. There’s nothing that says the cost should be so high. Right now you can learn everything you ever wanted to know about particle physics, SUSY, cosmology, etc, by watching Leonard Suskind’s excellent lectures, made available on Youtube, by Standford University. For free. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLQrxduI9Pds1fm91Dmn8x1lo-O_kpZGk8. Why not adopt that model?

        I suspect that if employment is no longer connected to a four year degree, few people (except for the ones truly passionate about learning) will opt for it.

  5. To address one point about it being necessary for a MD or JD having a 4 year college degree, I would dispute that notion entirely. I have a MD and the first two years of a traditional MD degree can be accomplished in the library or desk, same as JD. Most med students never went or go to class and it has become such a problem for obnoxious and arrogant professors that they are making class mandatory at many schools. The only year that matters is the third year clinical rotations which can be accomplished at any hospital. The only things that matter for JD is passing the bar and clerkships. The idea that 4 years obtaining a worthless or overly expensive degree is necessary is ridiculous.

    On a second note, please check the college scorecard provided by the department of education (https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/) to see how much you were ripped off based on your income bracket. Spread to the younger generation,so they’ll be smarter and maybe try to just get the credential as quickly and cheaply as possible.

    1. Hottip,

      “To address one point about it being necessary for a MD or JD having a 4 year college degree”

      They were referring to the undergraduate years.

      “I have a MD and the first two years of a traditional MD degree can be accomplished in the library or desk, same as JD.”

      I have often heard from MD’s and medical school professors that the degree could easily be two years of academia – the rest in a paid clinical capacity. A kind of apprenticeship or nurse practitioner role.

      Much of our current professional organizations are to establish class hierarchies, not produce the most efficient operational outcomes.

      1. No argument from me on those points. It’s why some MD degrees are going to there years, like nyu which is also free, but i would be happy to see the two year plan come to fruition.

        The undergrad comment refers to people who make a disclaimer that the 4 year degree is either overvalued or unecessary except for those perusing the MD, JD, etc. I disagree with them. You could sit in the library, take the exams, get real world experience and move on using currently available resources without having a large chunk of your money and time taken without real benefit.

        I think the only thing most older generations hope they’re paying for at this point is for their children to find business or marriage partners of their class or higher.

      2. hottip,

        “The undergrad comment refers to people who make a disclaimer that the 4 year degree is either overvalued or unecessary except for those perusing the MD, JD, etc. I disagree with them.”

        Got it. I agree!

    2. Maybe nothing really requires a 4 year degree then..

      I can tell you that when I did hiring I wouldn’t bother looking at the resume, only if they did the ‘coding challenge’ correctly. Furthermore, it certainly seemed like the better candidates were ones that were self taught. Food for thought.

      1. Randolorian,

        Universities were created to train priests in an age when literacy was rare. Then they became a class distinction for the aristocracy, when keeping the young idle rich busy was difficult.

        Now the university system has become parasitic, consuming vast resources of time and money disproportionate to the value it creates. Much like health care and the military. This is a symptom of culture senescence. If not fixed, it will lead to decay and a probably traumatic change to a new system.

  6. First, it takes four years of a youth’s life. What do they get that is worth that fantastic investment of time? Life is short.

    In the present era of post modernism and moral and epistemological relativism, nothing.

    What I got from it (before moving to science) was two things which have been of enormous personal value. One was a training in how to deconstruct an argument. If you like it was classical logic training. The other was a sense of how to judge quality in literature. How to tell whether something was worth taking seriously. How to see the difference between Flaubert, Ford Madox Ford, and George Eliot.

    Why Heinlein, who Larry often refers to, is not a novelist, cannot be said to know how to write. Why Hegel is not even wrong.

    Now lots of people, moral relativists and under the spell of the Parisian nonsense factory without realizing it, will say that all this is just intellectual snobbery. Having absorbed in the cultural air the idea that to say one thing is better than another is to say I like it, and that to ascribe meanings of various sorts only says what my own reactions are based on my class position….

    What they are missing is what I got out of it.

    Would I pay again what it cost? It was on scholarships. No, if I had to pay for it, go into debt for it, I’d almost certainly have gone straight to science or to some business study, like accounting. I would not have been able to justify it economically.

    But I am enormously grateful to have had what it gave me for all of my subsequent life. And I do think society has benefited from my having it, in the contributions I have been able to make in places and roles I worked in.

    1. I am with Henrik on most of this – except that I am skeptical that the situation on campus is as dire as claimed. I obtained a liberal arts degree from an elite women’s college in the early 90s, in the early days of the hysteria over political correctness. At the time, having a subversive personality, I often took conservative political and social positions that were odds with the strongly held beliefs of most of my classmates and professors. At no time did my professors or peers punish me in any way. Yes, there were debates about hate speech and whether to invite certain speakers to campus, but I obtained a classical education in which I was encouraged to explore and express a number of ideas that were not necessarily popular.

      Now was the four years I spent worth it? Hmmm. I was raised with a strong bias that a liberal arts degree is extremely important, not in order to earn a living but, as Henrik points out, in order to be able to critically evaluate arguments and to appreciate the arts. Larry is probably right as well that my parents also saw a degree from a prestigious college as an important class marker. I would say the primary thing I learned was how to figure out what I know versus what I don’t know – and also whether others in fact know what they claim to know.

      I am forever grateful that I have this way of thinking ingrained in me, regardless of whether it has enhanced my earning capacity or not. (I am pretty sure it has, however.) But there are a couple of fair questions to ask: (1) How to pay for it; and (2) Is it necessary for this type of education to occur between the ripe old ages of 18 and 22? As to the latter question, I entered college with a solid, basic knowledge of the sciences, history, literature and the arts and a solid foundation of critical thinking skills, all thanks to an excellent secondary education. History is also rife with examples of people who were essentially completely educated by the age of 16 or 18. Perhaps the real problem we face is with our public schools? I don’t know enough about that to say. On the other hand, even with a solid secondary education, I don’t think much could substitute for four years of having my every idea, assumption and argument questioned and examined from every angle.

      The lack of critical thinking skills in the population at large should terrify all of us. While I don’t claim perfection in my ability to separate wheat from chaff, I am unnerved by the examples I see all around me of people simply accepting clearly fake news and/or snake oil with nary a question. This seems to me to occur less frequently (though it does occur) among those with a four year degree in the liberal arts. I am not sure how we solve this. I support initiatives such as retired Justice Souter’s efforts to revive civics education, but such efforts are just a small drop in the bucket.

      1. Concerned Citizen

        I obtained a liberal arts degree from an elite women’s college in the early 90s, in the early days of the hysteria over political correctness. At the time, having a subversive personality, I often took conservative political and social positions that were odds with the strongly held beliefs of most of my classmates and professors. At no time did my professors or peers punish me in any way. Yes, there were debates about hate speech and whether to invite certain speakers to campus, but I obtained a classical education in which I was encouraged to explore and express a number of ideas that were not necessarily popular.

        That was 30 years ago. Most colleges campuses have changed a lot, just as society itself.

        This seems to me to occur less frequently (though it does occur) among those with a four year degree in the liberal arts.

        Depends on what you consider “fake news”. Most people with a liberal arts degree become liberal and participate in identity politics, PC culture, LGBT movements, etc. They look at the world through an ideological perspective instead of being more pragmatic. I’m referring mostly to newly graduates. If you’re talking about your friends I don’t doubt they would have a way of thinking similar to yours.

        in order to be able to critically evaluate arguments and to appreciate the arts

        It’s not necessary to spend four years just to develop critical thinking. A revamp of public schools (1st – 12th grade) should be enough. Then have higher education for actual practices that benefit society.

      2. The problem was that the kind of liberal arts education we had isn’t something many people can benefit from. It was designed to produce a person with a set of skills that not all that many either can develop or will find useful. It was designed for people who ideally would work in public life or academia, or who would not need paid employment at all.

        When universities attempted to deliver a dumbed down version of this to 50% of the population, and when they did that from the standpoint of moral relativism and post-modernism, we had what sounds like an ongoing disaster, delivering neither a proper liberal arts education nor any useful practical skills.

        Frank Leavis used to argue that the study of literature, which he called ‘English’, should be the basis for a general liberal education which would benefit large proportions of the population. We seem to have proved him wrong. It could not be done for most of them, and for those for whom it could be done, it did not do what he thought it would. And the effects on society of the attempt have been negative – because in adapting the means to what was practical and achievable we have been offering a form of education which he would have been appalled by.

        The driving force was what was possible. It was a misconceived target in the first place. Its like using a drill as a router, it destroyed the tool.

      3. henrik,

        “The problem was that the kind of liberal arts education we had isn’t something many people can benefit from. It was designed to produce a person with a set of skills that not all that many either can develop or will find useful.”

        What “skills” were those?

      4. What “skills” were those?

        I am not sure you will recognize them as real skills. But essentially there were two.

        One, the ability to do philosophy like GE Moore. To disentangle the logic of an argument and evaluate it.

        Two, the ability to read and judge literature. To read and understand and be able to rate properly ‘Sailing to Byzantium’, and to see and know why ‘Musee des Beaux Arts’ is a significant but much lower achievement. To grasp what he is doing in ‘Speech After Long Silence’. Or what Marvell is doing in the ‘Horation Ode’, and why they are similar. To see why Women in Love is a real if flawed achievement, why the first version was better than the first, and to appreciate the moral and intellectual tragedy that The Plumed Serpent represents.

        To be able to write things of the order of ‘The Romantic Agony’. Or Eric Auberbach’s Mimesis.

        It is like an operation for cataract, or the enlightenment which Zen writers recount. You find one day that you can see. It is learning to read.

        To know that life is too short to permit us to spend much time on Hegel or any on Nietzche.

        People dismiss it, in particular they dismiss the value judgements that this sort of close reading and way of approaching argument leads to. They often find it snobbish because it dismisses much popular writing whether literary or conceptual. They would like all writing to be on the same level, so Tolkien, Heinlein, Tolstoy, Camus…. All thinkers, all writers, after all. No, not when you have been taught to read and argue.

        And then I turned to the study of science and only later realised how much I had to be grateful to my old teachers for.

      5. Randolorian,

        Mragaret: “The lack of critical thinking skills in the population at large should terrify all of us.”

        That’s the usual chaff. It would be meaningful if there was a historical comparison showing that the percent of Americans with “critical thinking skills” was decreasing, or if their level of such skills was decreasing. But without that, it’s just the usual complaint of “those darn kids.”

        The number with such skils might be rising, or the average level might be skyrocketing. Without such data, I suggest no “terror” is needed.

  7. Producing more university degrees than jobs to employ them deflates the educational currency. I suspect that a few years from now, a whole generation of college graduates will come to realize that the world is very much not as their professors depicted it, and they will feel betrayed. They will further realize that the sheepskin they obtained at great cost in time and money is in reality nearly worthless. This will become widely known, and new students will stay away in droves. The bubble will pop, and sanity will once again assert itself in the Academy.

    My inner Pollyanna speaking, perhaps.

    1. Yes, I suspect we will see the rise of skills based education and the withering of the liberal arts as the general understanding dawns that in their present form liberal arts degrees have negative value. Either sciences or education in the professions, and people abandoning college for the trades.

      At which point we encounter the other issue Larry has written extensively about, AI and the changes it brings to the work environment.

  8. Allow student loans to be eliminated by bankruptcy. Problem solved.

    It wouldn’t kill student loans entirely, but it would force them to be smaller, and a whole lot more selective, which would eliminate education bloat almost overnight. Easy student loans are the #1 reason useless degree programs continue to exist, tuition is soaring even while more and more people go to college (and college is less and less economically rewarding), and admin infects campuses like a spreading cancer, sucking up resources and manufacturing problems to justify its own existence. There are a lot of people in college now, who have no reason to be there, and there are a lot of jobs that currently require a college degree, which have no reason to require one except that it’s expensive signalling: a BA says “I’ve got loans I desperately need to pay off, and I’m willing to tolerate a huge amount of idiocy for a very long time, at a ridiculously low rate of pay”. Perfect corporate wage-slave.

    The disillusionment with degrees is already there. But so far, people are having a hard time seeing any way out of the trap: lack of a degree is still a bar to entry for many professions.

    However, it has been our experience that for any profession that doesn’t explicitly require a degree, if you have a BA, you get better results in a job search if you don’t mention it in your resume. We gather from interviewer comments that for those jobs, a BA signals “I expect to be paid more, but you’ll still have to train me”.

    This won’t last forever. We’re GenY, hubs and I both went to college (and got zero value out of it) and we are raising our kids with the expectation that they’ll get into the trades, and then if they want to go to college, they can use their trade to finance college, and it’ll still be there for them as a fallback, if college doesn’t lead to a career they actually want (basically: a useful trade is mandatory. College is optional and we won’t be paying for it). We’re nudging this along by providing the kids (still under 10) with basic, good-quality sets of tools, comprehensive books on how things work and how to repair stuff, simple repair projects that we advise them on and pay them money for (8 y.o. recently replaced four floor planks on our porch, without assistance), and a generous budget for thrifted machinery, parts, and appliances for the kids to disassemble. We’re allergic to debt, and we are aggressively teaching our kids about personal finance, how credit cards and loans work, how banks make money, how to calculate profit and loss, how people get and keep jobs, etc. All the stuff we wish someone had taught us, instead of “you’re so smart, of course you’ll go to college and be successful!”

    1. Cord,

      “Allow student loans to be eliminated by bankruptcy. Problem solved.”

      So only children of the upper class would have good access to advanced degrees and good jobs? Cementing our class system into place. Not an acceptable solution to most Americans.

      1. Not at all. My mother got through a master’s degree without loans, waiting tables. Student-loans-for-everyone is the REASON you can’t do that anymore. If everyone can get a crazy amount of credit to go to school, then schools can charge whatever the flip they want. Scaling back the student loan industry would force schools to ratchet that back down, and become more affordable again. I don’t propose debt-forgiveness-for-all. But if you’re flat broke 5, 8, 10 years down the road, and you’re wiling to go through bankruptcy, you should be able to discharge student loans same as any other debt. It’d make the lenders a heckuva lot more cautious.

      2. Cord,

        “My mother got through a master’s degree without loans, waiting tables.”

        I don’t know how old you are, but those days are long gone. Community college, yes. But not 8 years of a decent school and grad program – unless you are in a special group on which aid is showered. Or you are in the super-elite that goes to the very best schools which have endowments the size many nations’ GDP.

        But for the hoi polloi, no.

  9. Incidentally enough, I am somehow subscribed to some ‘academic’ papers mailing list containing the keyword ‘microagression.’ Here are some select titles of the type of nonsense we are paying for:

    “BOOK REVIEWS MAKING THE MODERN FAMILY: INTERRACIAL INTIMACY AND THE SOCIAL PRODUCTION OF WHITENESS”

    “Racial microaggressions as a tool for critical race research”

    “Adapting to Injustice: Young Bisexual Women’s Interpretations of Microaggressions”

    I’d post more but I’d rather not unnecessarily depress all of your readers.

  10. I have read articles predicting that a significant number of colleges will be closing in coming years because of low birth rates. Articles predict that the north east will be greatly affected. I would think that some colleges will cater to families who are disgusted by woke campuses. I think there has to be demand for classically liberal or conservative colleges. The market is there. They can adapt or close.

    1. Alpenglow,

      “I think there has to be demand for classically liberal or conservative colleges.”

      Why? That education was originally designed to produce Christian priests and ministers, and later as finishing schools for aristocrats. What is the immense value that produce now that is worth great cost and four years of prime time for young men and women?

  11. “Regrettably they are no longer animated by their original purpose of serving republican self-government or the freedom of the mind, as such they must be treated as political entities.”

    What is new, however, is the thoroughness of the corruption, the impossibility at this point of changing course through conventional means and the extent of the pernicious effect on the nation as a whole.”

    Let these sentences sink in.

    Does this implicit call for revolution( of going back to our roots) lay out a path beyond civil war? What will be the new basis of identity? What will be the new basis of meaning? Is it still possible in 2020 to have faith as the foundation of national identity? Was it ever possible? Is freedom’s origin in the act of violation and the burden of freedom to successfully create a space for law?

    Lots of work to do.

    1. James,

      “Does this implicit call for revolution( of going back to our roots) lay out a path beyond civil war”

      Not remotely. I suggest reading the article.

      “What will be the new basis of identity?”

      I doubt that four years of college is or has ever been anybody’s “basis of identity.”

      “What will be the new basis of meaning? Is it still possible in 2020 to have faith as the foundation of national identity? ”

      Not even remotely relevant to the role of colleges in the 21st century.

  12. There was a period in the early 70’s when even with a stem degree jobs were scarce. I postulated at the time as increasing percentages of our young people chose college instead of employment that the colleges were simply warehouses for labor that was not currently needed. Not so sure that is not currently the case.

    What would the unemployment situation be if 50% of the college students suddenly dropped out and entered the employment market?

    1. dprof,

      The history of the US since WWII is one of boom-bust cycles for specialists. A field is hot, pundits predict the scarcity to last forever, colleges hop on the bandwagon to train hoardes of students, oversupply – then sometimes the field itself hits a bust.

      Aerospace engineers in the 1980s, when the space program was (rightly) closed pretty much down and the SST was cancelled. What do you call an aerospace engineer? “Waiter!”

      Many in the oil and gas business in the 1980s – petroleum chemists and engineers, geotech experts, etc. What do you call a geotech engineer? “Waiter!”

      It would not surprise me for this to happen in software and some STEM fields.

  13. Pingback: Energy & Environmental Newsletter: February 17, 2020 - Master Resource

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