Free Northerner on the root of the tuition bubble:
No. It doesn’t. 68% of high school graduates go to college.
Thank about that for a second.
The average graduate is going to college
Remember back to your high school graduation; think about your average classmate.
The guy who wasn’t particularly bright or particularly stupid.
Do you think he would benefit from spending 4 years learning political theory or reading Rousseau?
Do you think it would benefit anyone else that he “learned” this?
The evidence says he doesn’t.
One-third of those entering college drop-out.
They pay the expense of a couple years of college and do not even get the dubious benefits of a degree.
The college system is taking advantage of these people who shouldn’t be in college.
One-third of college students are dropping out, at the same time, grade inflation is running rampant.
College is becoming increasingly easy, yet still a third of students still can’t hack it.
The admissions people are failing their job. One-third of people entering university are not capable of completing even the dumbed-down modern university curriculum.
Think about how many more would not be capable of completing college if standards were similar to those 50 years ago.
Which nails it perfectly.
Years ago, when I was at university, I asked one of the older professors of history what he thought about the changes in the student body over his career. This gentleman, a word entirely applicable to him, said that when he started teaching in the early 1960s he would flunk between a quarter and a third of his first year classes. Faster forward to the early 2000s and he rarely flunked a student. I jokingly asked him if that was because young people are smarter now than they were forty years earlier. He found my little joke rather too funny.
He confided in me that in the late 1960s the president of the university did the rounds. He explained that he was receiving pressure from the provincial government. Too many students were going off to university and then failing to graduate. The logical inference would have been that the high schools had either failed to prepare these students, or that the students were not academically capable or inclined. Political logic, however, is not like ordinary logic. It works by different rules. A government minister couldn't admit that many public high schools just weren't good enough, or that little Johnny was a bit daft. That would have contravened the egalitarian ethos of the age. So if the high schools couldn't be fixed, they'd fix the universities instead.
Now by fix they didn't mean improve. Nope. They meant dumb down. Now this was at one of the most prestigious universities in the land. You can well imagine that dumbing down at such a place was bad enough, dumbing down at less academically selective schools would be the equivalent of destroying virtually all academic rigour. This dumbing down also had the added advantage of filling in all those empty spaces left when the Baby Boomers graduated.
The art of dumbing down something as complicated as a university is a tricky one. If you dumb down the engineering program you get falling bridges and dead people. If you dumb down political science, well you just get more NDP voters. The thing that politicians and the university presidents failed to grasp is that while creating more NDP voters is not a good thing in the short-run, it's a disastrous thing in the long run. There is nothing more dangerous to the future of a society than half-educated liberal arts majors.
What do you do with a liberal arts degree?
You rule over people who didn't take liberal arts.
Who do you think runs much of the mid and even high bureaucracy? Where do you think the bulk of political staffers, speech writers and high flying politicians come from? What do many journalists study before going to journalism school? It's the liberal arts broadly defined. In the modern sense the liberal arts is no longer just the traditional subjects of History, Philosophy and Literature (English). It has expanded to include quasi-pseudo-subjects like political science, pseudo-subjects like semiotics and making shit up stuff like gender studies. When people complain that liberal arts gets you a job as a barista, they're more often referring to the gender studies major than the history major. The latter is usually a bit more intelligent and far less "unconventional" in their personality.
A point I try to emphasize is that the problem isn't so much useless degrees as useless people taking degrees. Even in our modern sideways moving economy, or down ways if you're an American, the clever and the bold succeed and even thrive. The piece of paper hanging on the wall matters less than the personality of the individual. A university degree in most fields qualifies you to work as a corporate drone. It proves you are somewhat more intelligent than average, somewhat less genuinely rebellious than average and have a proven capacity to absorb bullshit. This is the true value of subjects like gender studies, they allow you to absorb corporate bullshit with relative ease.
Gender studies is about people who don't want to work coming up with elaborate excuses to parasite off the taxpayer. In more highly regulated industries the corporate leadership is dominated by people who come up with elaborate excuses to rent seek off the consumer. Neither group is especially interested in objective reality or providing value for end users. That would require actual thought and effort. Bullshit is the method by which the lazy and moderately clever attempt to rule over the lazy and stupid.
How does a society get to such a state? By turning out endless armies of pseudo-liberal arts majors. What was once an academically rigorous exploration of the human condition has, over the last half century, become a job lot for otherwise unemployable teachers at both the secondary and post-secondary level. It has created a recruitable mass of workers who are fitted for nothing more than shuffling paper around, brown nosing and playing petty office politics. They are unfitted for manual labour because of their years of pseudo-learning and its consequent pretensions. They are unfitted for genuine intellectual labour since most are either too unintelligent, or too poorly educated, to engage in such work.
Mass university education, one of the more terrible ideas to emerge from the quite terrible twentieth century, might very well be what finishes off western civilization. It has generated a massive class of people who are unable, in any real sense, to work. They cannot think and they cannot toil. But Lord how they eat! This is the end result of egalitarianism run amok. Everyone is just as clever as everyone else and all must have their now worthless prize: The B.A.
Pity the poor liberal arts major who still believes in those timeless truths, who wanted to work and think hard in the pursuit of truth and understanding. Gresham taught us that bad money drives out good. The same applies to university diplomas.