Fred Reed lays it down in his latest column.
Long ago, before 1965 say, college was understood to be for the intelligent and academically prepared among the young, who would one day both provide leadership for the country and set the tone of society. Perhaps ten percent, but no more than twenty percent, of high-school graduates were thought to have any business on a campus.
It was elitist and deliberately so. Individuals and groups obviously differed in character and aptitude. The universities selected those students who could profit by the things done at universities.
Incoming freshmen were assumed to read with fluency and to know algebra cold. They did, because applicants were screened for these abilities by the SATs. These tests, not yet dumbed down, then measured a student’s ability to handle complex ideas expressed in complex literate English, this being what college students then did.
There were no remedial courses. If you needed them, you belonged somewhere else. The goal of college was learning, not social uplift.
. . .
That is how things were. Then came what are roughly called the Sixties, actually the late Sixties and early Seventies.
They changed everything.
The first and worst change was the philosophy that everybody, or much closer to everybody, should go to college. Disaster followed. There descended on the schools huge numbers of adolescents without the brains, preparation, or interest needed for college. They had little notion of what college was for. The very idea of cultivation seemed undemocratic to them, as of course it was. They set out to avoid it. And did.
Since they were not ready, and for the most part could not be made ready, colleges dumbed down courses. Remedial classes proliferated. These worked poorly. When a graduate of high school can barely read, there is usually an underlying reason why he will never be able to read.
. . .
What the students didn’t want was an education, to the extent that they knew what the word meant. They wanted courses that were easy and fun. Soon there were things like “What if Harry Potter were Real?” and “The Comic Book in the Struggle for Gender Equality.” These were vacuous, but the students didn’t know and wouldn’t have cared. They were in a USP—a university-shaped place—that had the form of schooling, such as numbered courses with solemn-sounding titles, credit hours, and buildings with blackboards. They thought they were in college. They weren’t really, but didn’t really want to be.
College, once a passage into adulthood, became a way of avoiding it. Immaturity and narcissism flourished well into the students’ twenties. This was perhaps because they had never had the experience of having to do things, such as work in a gas station or manage a paper route. They confused universities with their parents and worked to outrage them. With the righteousness of the still-pubescent, they demanded justice for everything and, having no experience of rational argument, or of thought of any kind, called for the abolition of anything that didn’t suit them. To their delight, they discovered that administrations would cave. Expelling them would have been a wiser course. They became the prissiest of prissy moralists.
. . .
The result was that students who wanted to learn nothing did so, at great expense and to little advantage to themselves or society, and were ruthlessly exploited by banks and rooked for exorbitant tuition while failing to grow up.
There's more at the link. Read it and weep.
I learned from the example of my parents - either or both of whom would have beaten me senseless if I'd behaved as the 'students' of the '70's and beyond did. Neither of them earned so much as a school-leaving certificate in the pre-war years of the Great Depression in England. My father entered the Royal Air Force as a so-called 'boy apprentice' in 1936, graduating from the three-year Aircraft Apprentice Scheme course taught by No. 1 School of Technical Training at RAF Halton in 1939 - just in time for World War II. He had a 'good' war, being commissioned in 1940 and ending the conflict as a Squadron Leader (equivalent to a USAF Major). My mother worked as a shop assistant at John Lewis during the day, and stood watch at night with a bucket of sand, a bucket of water and a stirrup pump, to extinguish German incendiaries dropped on British cities. The picture below isn't her, but it illustrates her 'war work' for years on end. Not only the soldiers were on the front lines.
After the war, my parents emigrated to South Africa and began to work at 'improving' themselves, in the parlance of the times. During twelve years of raising a family and studying part-time at night, they each earned the equivalent of a school-leaving certificate, followed by three degrees; Bachelors, Masters and Doctorate in their respective fields. They never asked for any favors from anyone; they paid their own way, worked like dogs, and earned their qualifications the hard way. While they studied, Dad worked at several jobs (sometimes more than one at the same time) while Mom raised their kids. They were immensely proud of their academic and life achievements, and had every right and reason to be so.
I followed their example when it came to my own studies. I've written about my experiences during the 'evil years' in South Africa, so it won't surprise you that my studies were somewhat intermittent. Also, by the time I left high school, my father was preparing to retire and my parents were about to move to another town, so there was no prospect of them paying for my studies. That didn't faze me. I paid my own way (with a little help from them now and again, when they could afford it), and studied part-time, as they had done. I ended up with four University qualifications, the last being because the good Lord changed my career direction (after I'd already become a company director) and redirected me into the ministry. Like my parents, I had to learn self-discipline and the need to apply myself. I don't think it did me any harm.
I look at many university students today and I wonder what the heck they think they're doing there. They certainly don't seem to be learning anything - rather, they seem to be incessantly whining at life, the universe and everything. They seem to expect 'fairness' and 'justice' and 'compassion' and 'understanding' and a bunch of other things that life isn't exactly noted for handing out like candy. Here's a clue, special snowflakes: life doesn't owe you anything. You have to get out there and earn it - and sometimes wrest it from the grasp of a resisting, actively non-cooperative fate! No-one's going to give you anything. You have to get it the hard way. If you expect anything else, you're either a fool or a moonbat.
I hope Fred's young lady, to whom he wrote the words above, learns those lessons before it's too late.