What an academic year: Ken Starr fired for allegedly covering up a scandal in the athletic department, and protests galore, with Yalies saying they can't possibly read Shakespeare (he was a white male) and students at Stanford demanding that a basic course in Western civilization be dropped from the core curriculum. While at . . . but you get the picture.
Joy Pullman at The Federalist says we should not be so surprised:
These events proclaim that higher education has largely devolved into a scam that bilks taxpayers out of $157 billion a year, employers out of prepared employees, and the country out of capable citizens. The students are right: they’re being exploited and oppressed. They’re just aiming their fire at the wrong system.
If students and taxpayers are the victims, who are the victimizers? Follow the money.
Many people are getting rich from higher education, even as colleges and universities fail to educate students and prepare them for life. Pullman writes about athletic programs, which are fine and dandy in their place, but she says are often twisted into semi-pro operations that don't educate people and should not be part of the broader academic life.
But the real problem, it seems to me, is that many colleges are just "diploma mills:" they give meaningless diplomas to English majors who seriously maintain they cannot read Shakespeare. Pullman writes:
Runaway sports structures are only one way in which colleges exploit students. As the Baylor and UNC cases show, higher education corruption is both moral and intellectual, and the two have a symbiotic relationship. Two weeks ago, the New Yorker published an eye-opening account of what passes for student life at Oberlin College, which is rated 23rd in the nation on the dominant (yet idiotic) U.S. News and World Report rankings.
These are the kids who complained that cafeteria sushi and banh mi were racially offensive because the foods weren’t authentic enough, and this the college where a professor can go on a crazy conspiracy-theorist anti-Semitic rant on Facebook and get a pass because she’s black. Oh, yeah, guys: World-class material right here. For comedy. Or tragedy, because it’s really only comedic until you realize these are young people’s lives being mangled by an ideology that only harms their ability to participate in the world as it is, rather than as they have been taught to want it to be.
This is heart-rending stuff. Writer Nathan Heller sits down with “Afro-Latinx” student Megan Bautista, who notes, “A lot of people here are the first in their families, or in the position where they really have to be the breadwinners as soon as they graduate.” Yet their campus studies and pursuits do not seem structured to tangibly empower such students through steering them through actual accomplishments that will result in a life of service to family and country. “They didn’t have the luxury of hours for unpaid activism,” Heller writes. Yet they did it anyway, frequently trekking 40 minutes to Cleveland to protest after a police officer shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice.
As Pullman notes, many of these young people have chosen trendy causes over studying, and that affects their grades. One, for example, complained that he could not produce the level of work the college wanted because he was "dealing with" being arrested at protests. What was the solution: grade inflation. Bautista and her friends petitioned the school to factor in their activism and use it to raise their grades.
Another Oberlin faculty member noticed that her students had begun seating themselves according to race and "went cold" when they had to engage with somebody from a different race. Many refuse to read material that doesn't relate to their own backgrounds:
‘We’re asking to be reflected in our education,” [student Jasmine] Adams cuts in. ‘I literally am so tired of learning about Marx, when he did not include race in his discussion of the market!’ She shrugs incredulously. ‘As a person who plans on returning to my community, I don’t want to assimilate into middle-class values. I’m going home, back to the ’hood of Chicago, to be exactly who I was before I came to Oberlin.’
If this young lady is going home to be exactly the person she was before Oberlin, why has she come to Oberlin? Why are donors and taxpayers supporting her and her fellow students? Certainly not for the service-minded citizens Oberlin and the other “top-tier” colleges like it are producing. These young people are a bunch of uninformed rabble-rousers, not young adults capable of or even interested in contributing to their neighborhoods as parents, employees, Little League volunteers, and so on. Their idea of public service is rhetorically attacking police officers and demanding wealth redistribution, not teaching poor kids to read so they can one day grow up and go to Oberlin. Yet which of these is more tangibly beneficial to addressing racial inequality?
The students didn't get here without help: faculties have become enclaves of just this kind of thinking and that is what students learn a college.
We do have a partial remedy: stop paying for this.
Let schools that do this depend on private donations, but withdraw public funding.
But it’s time for taxes to stop subsidizing the physical, moral, and mental exploitation of young people through a system whose chief effects are providing sinecures for lazy cowards and actively destroying our ability to live together as Americans. Oh, and saddling the latest generation of graduates with an average of approximately $35,000 in college loans while nearly half of them are working jobs that don’t require a college degree, despite promising them college is a one-way ticket out of having to work your way up a career ladder.
And, another point to ponder, when advocates of "free college" talk about college, they are proposing to pour more money–your money–into just this kind of education.