Thursday, November 19, 2015

"A Crisis Our Universities Deserve"

That's the title of an op-ed article in the New York Times last weekend.  Here's a brief excerpt.

At small liberal-arts colleges, big state schools and Ivies alike, protesters are defenestrating presidents and deans, occupying quads, and demanding wholesale social and academic change.

. . .

But the activists’ many critics, conservative and liberal, need a clearer sense of what these students are reacting against.

The protesters at Yale and Missouri and a longer list of schools stand accused of being spoiled, silly, self-dramatizing — and many of them are. But they’re also dealing with a university system that’s genuinely corrupt, and that’s long relied on rote appeals to the activists’ own left-wing pieties to cloak its utter lack of higher purpose.

. . .

The protesters may be obnoxious enemies of free debate ... but they aren’t wrong to smell the rot around them. And they’re vindicated every time they push and an administrator caves: It’s proof that they have a monopoly on moral spine, and that any small-l liberal alternative is simply hollow.

There's more at the link.  Recommended reading.

I found myself several times nodding in agreement as I read the article.  It seems to me that too many universities have been taken over by the 'hippie generation' of the 1960's, who believed in drugs, free love and flower power.  They've lost their intellectual rigor, their focus on education as their goal.  Instead they've become self-sustaining moonbat colonies, existing only to ensure the financial security of faculty members who couldn't hold down a job in any enterprise where they were required to actually produce something of importance, or contribute to corporate profits by their endeavors.  There are honorable exceptions, of course, but far too many academic institutions appear to have lost their way.

I don't know what the answer might be.  It's easy to demand a clean sweep, kicking out anyone and everyone who lacks academic rigor and intellectual honesty . . . but where will we find worthwhile, desirable faculty to replace the worthless and undesirable?  Such people are thin on the ground, particularly because many of them abandoned higher studies when they realized they'd be force-fed with liberal/progressive propaganda for years in their quest for a doctorate, and had no guarantee that they'd actually be awarded their degree in such a politically hostile environment.  Instead, they went out into the world and made a living the hard way.  Why would such people want to give up what they've earned through their own efforts, and descend into the cesspit that comprises a large part of academia today?

Perhaps the answer might be to recruit those who've made a success of their lives, and then retired.  If they could be persuaded to teach for a few hours each day - even each week - and back up their lessons with examples from the lives they've led, that might be a good start.  However, we'd have to exclude most politicians and bureaucrats right from the start.  Let's recruit only those who've genuinely produced something, and thereby contributed economically and in meaningful terms to society.  Leeches on that society should not be allowed to apply.

Your thoughts?



Anonymous said...

I went to school in east Texas. A hidden jewel named LeTourneau College.
I had professors that ran the gamut: physicist at GE working on turbines in the 50's, .gov helicopter pilot in Viet Nam that couldn't tell us where he had been or done, an actual JED from the OSS, a carrier pilot from WW2, a honest to God welder (they had one of the two welding engineering programs in the nation at the time).

Almost everyone of the faculty had been there and done it. And they backed it up with real experiences to solidify learning. I spent a lot of time developing relationships with them, on and off campus. I really appreciated their accessibility. I mean, when was the last time you heard of someone fishing ALL day with his Calculus professor? Talking about the Great Unpleasantness with someone who dug up yankee bones and uniforms as a kid? Hearing about exploits in the Burmese jungle fighting the Japanese? Machine Tool lab with an actual machinist? Industrial Engineering issues in a flat belt run cotton mill?

Of course I didn't get a BA in Advanced Liberal Victimology, but my BS has proven my desire and ability to learn. And I learned from those who did.

College derailed when they decided to offer worthless degrees to increase profits. When .gov got involved in tuition, it started to balloon. Greedy academics...


Glen Filthie said...

You have to keep in mind who it is that is driving all this. It isn't the STEM students, it's the interior designers, the artsy-fartsy types, the polisci types - the usual liberal arts types whose men wear tutus and whose wymyn have beards and hairy armpits. Everyone else is up to their necks racing deadlines for assignments and cramming for exams.

My thinking is that the Mickey Mouse courses need to be cut. They are a drain on the tax payer and the universities and exist only to give worthless degrees to worthless people. The second part of the solution would be the re-introduction of standards and codes of conduct. Get rid of the affirmative action enrollment, come down hard on the party animals that aren't there to learn, and get back in the game of educating students. That in turn would lead to tenured profs being held in high esteem and involve prestige - and that in turn would attract the talent you need.

Contrary to the multi-culti crowd and hairy chested feminists - those prestigious, exclusive old-school schools lost the qualities that made them great when they were forced to open their doors to everyone. Being black, gay or female should not be grounds for admittance - performance and achievement should.

This is actually a simple problem to fix: rewind about 40 years and start again.

Mike said...

Once again, the left has created its own worst enemy. In the French Revolution, the Montagnards spawned the Jacobins, from whose ranks arose the even more radical and bloodthirsty Cordeliers, and thousands of Jacobins, including Robespierre, ended up in the guillotine during the Terror.

So it is gratifying to see the entrenched leftists in university administrations being bludgeoned by their promotion of the cults of victimization and egalitarianism.

Jonathan H said...

As Glen mentions, it is instructive to note that everything we hear about is various types of 'liberal arts' schools or student - NONE of this has happened at a science or engineering school, and most of the schools that have come up in the news don't have any kind of science or engineering program.
As you mention, the schools are reaping what they have sowed for decades!

SteveG said...

I attended a private non-profit for my Masters (Information Security) recently. One thing that appealed to me about it was one job requirement for faculty. Five years minimum industry experience. I had a great time, learned a lot and politics was a forbidden subject.

Anonymous said...

+1 to all the above.

My best professors had worked in the real world; the worst ones had spent their lives in academia and had been hired because they could publish, not because they could teach.

We had no time for PC bullshit, we were too busy learning a profession.

I'm talking about the UCLA School of Engineering 40 years ago.

- Don in Oregon

Borepatch said...

Why should the government have any role in funding higher education at all? Let the students pay the freight or if they don't let the Universities close.

The advantages of this is that there would not be a Department of Education, there wouldn't need to be more administrators than faculty, departments that didn't give students an actual return on their investment would close, and the education market would settle at the level its customers are willing to pay.

In theory there's a public interest in a properly educated population, but we're clearly not getting that. So why subsidize it at all?

Uncle Lar said...

I graduated high school at 17 thoroughly disgusted with education. I returned at 33 and spent two and a half years earning a BSE with dual concentrations on the Industrial and Systems disciplines. That degree typically takes between four and five years unless of course you treat school as a full time job.
With my shiny new degree and 15 years of work experience I found a job. My new employer paid for my masters degree in Operations Research. The MSEOR was obtained in a graduate only program with classes exclusively given in the evenings and taught by professors who were also employed in the local industries. That school was actively opposed by the local state university and finally shut down. Unfair competition don't you know. Of course that same university has been trying to drive the local community college away for at least as long with much less success.
Periodically I am contacted by the university alumni association where I earned my BS looking for donations. I always tell them that I think $100 a year is fair, and since that school's decision to deny my valid transfer credits caused me to lose three months of earnings I would start contributing as soon as that had been paid off. By my calculations a mere 50 years or so.
The US University system is long since due to crash and burn. Should be interesting to see what arises from the ashes.

Chuck Pergiel said...

First positive explanation I've heard about the apparent nonsense. I'm a science and math guy, but I get the impression that most people aren't. Science and technology aren't everything. There is a lot more that goes into making our civilization, such as it is. Many of the artsy-fartsy type degrees appear to be little more than activities to keep the feeble minded entertained. But you never know. All kinds of oddball insights, insights that have had a profound impact on our world, have come from the most unlikely places.

Adam said...

The way to solve this is to remove all government funding for higher education and let competition in. Period.

With increased competition employers will be able to choose new graduates from either old school alumni infected by liberal rot or from newer colleges dedicated to the principles of learning and critical thinking.

This will sort things out.

Sherm said...

I admit I'm getting into the old fart range. I worked full-time days and went to school nights to get my degrees and had a wife and two kids by the time I finished. Admittedly it was in a different era, when college didn't cost an arm and leg but, even so, I stuck with state schools and a degree (accounting) that would get me a better job when I was done.

I don't necessarily react negatively when someone gets a degree that won't get them a job. The problem isn't the degree itself, it's the expectations of those getting the degree and the rigor required to graduate.

At one time a college degree, in any subject, meant that the individual had learned how to study, work, and apply themselves to reach a goal. It meant they had developed critical think skills, could argue and debate a point, and were teachable. Businesses knew they could hire a graduate and have a fair expectation that they could be trained into a productive and valuable employee. No more.

Once business lost that expectation they learned to look to degrees that retained the rigor of the past. STEM degrees, some business degrees, and, I expect, a few others help people get jobs if only for that reason.

I've a brother who got an English degree from UCLA. He stayed to get his MBA so he could get a job. I've a daughter with a degree in public relations. She worked went to school nights for two years so she could teach moderate to severe special ed. She never worries about having a job.

I've another daughter with a PhD in Literacy Education. She was a college professor for several years but left because of the insanity. She now works in a mostly minority high school trying to help high school students read at least as well as they should have after grade school. (Note - Education degrees/departments are not all bad in and of themselves.)

Quartermaster said...

I am familiar with LeTourneau College. I went to church with an IE grad who retired a number of years ago. He went when R.G was still around and got a ride in R.G.'s B-25 he used as his private plane. R.G. happened to be going to the same place and he hitched a ride to a job interview.

My mother met R.G. when he used to travel speaking at Churches. He said between the college and other Christian ministries he gave away 90% of his income and still had more money than he knew what to do with. As he invented most of the exotic welding methods we use today, the patents brought him great wealth.

The Welding Engineering program still exists at LeTourneau College, although they've changed the name. And, it's still a good place to go to college.

One phenomenon I've noted repeatedly is that the college students that cause the trouble at various campuses are almost never STEM students. The town on which Ohio University has been inflicted has annual trouble with the time change and bars closing early. I spoke with the department chair of Civil Engineering after one round of that annual fight and he said, "It wasn't our students. They don't have the time."

Rolf said...

Adam - YES. Cut government subsidies, outside of (maybe) some specific and limited fundamental research grants, especially from the FedGov. That includes all forms of government guarantees on student loans, and make them partially bankruptcy-discharged (i.e., if you reasonably declare bankruptcy, then you still have to pay back the principle, adjusted for inflation only, but no interest). Allow universities to finance education through "future wage percentage repayments" plans, i.e., make bets on the future employability of their graduates.

Promote more trade-schools, and have a better method of promoting a "fast skills development track, then into the workforce, then go back for a more introspective and philosophical development when you are mature enough to appreciate it" mentality. We REALLY don't need any 50th-percentile HS grads becoming philosophy majors because it's easy and they like to argue, at least not until they have a few years real-world work experience under their belts.

Also scrap Title IX and any other counter-productive and bureaucracy-promoting regulations.

Joe in PNG said...

There's a deeper problem.

First, the belief that every American kid needs to go to college at all. This is nonsense, but one that the educational establishment is keen to keep on pushing. How many guidance councilors or advisers are going to tell a kid to go to trade school or become an apprentice? How many people have gotten some degree, only to go on to something completely unrelated?

Second, the theory that college is a place for kids to "find themselves", an educational hothouse for ideas to grow and flourish, for intellectual talents to develop. Yeah... no. More a factory for lockstep conformity to proper groupthink, but more importantly, it's too damn expensive for that nonsense.

Third, the above makes it clear that the bubble is about to burst. Too many people are finishing up years of too damn expensive schooling with super high student debts and few employment opportunities. Too many employers are finding that a college degree is pretty much a participation trophy, and have to spend expensive time and effort to reteach what the degree says they should already know.

What do we do? Nothing- the Gods of the Copybook Headings are about to take care of it.

Chuck Pergiel said...

Anybody know where you can get one of these Copybooks?

Joe in PNG said...