Quote of the Day:

The public is steadily losing confidence in undergraduate education, given that we hear constantly about how poorly educated are today’s graduates and how few well-paying jobs await them. The cost of college is a national scandal. Collective student-loan debt in America is about $1.2 trillion. Campus political correctness is now daily news.

 –Victor Davis Hanson in "Can Our Colleges Be Saved?"

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian and I know that he doesn't have a purely utilitarian idea of higher education as merely vocational training.

Nevertheless he does posit the very good idea that society should have a way to find out whether our enormous expenditures on education have any benefit. He writes:

SAT and ACT examinations originated in the 1920s and 1960s, respectively, as meritocratic ways to allow applicants from less prestigious high schools and from minority groups to be assessed on their aptitude for college — without the old-boy, establishment prejudices of class, gender, and race. Would such blind ams also work in reverse as national college exit tests?

Could bachelor’s degrees be predicated on certifying that graduates possess a minimum level of common knowledge?

Lawyers with degrees can only practice after passing bar exams. Doctors cannot practice medicine upon the completion of M.D. degrees unless they are board certified. Why can’t undergraduate degrees likewise be certified? One can certainly imagine the ensuing hysteria.

What would happen if some students from less prestigious state schools graduated from college with higher exit-test scores than the majority of Harvard and Yale graduates? What if students still did not test any higher in analytics and vocabulary after of dollars and several years of lectures and classroom hours?

Would schools then cut back on “studies” courses, the number of administrators, or lavish recreational facilities to help ensure that students first and foremost mastered a classical body of common knowledge? Would administrators be forced to acknowledge that their campuses had price-gouged students but imparted to them little in return? Public corporations open their books to shareholders.

Shouldn’t publicly supported colleges and tax-exempt private universities do the same for taxpayers and tuition-paying students? Shouldn’t the public know how much of their contributions are allotted for particular academic departments, sports programs, and study centers?

My guess is that theacademics and administrators who inhabit these progressive Shangri Las will never willingly provide the kind of evidence we need.