Our Rapidly Declining Higher Education System (Originally Posted 18 May 2012)

I saw a few articles in the last week that I wanted to mention, relative to my post last week about student loan debt.

Mark Taylor makes some very good points in this piece from Bloomberg.  In summary, colleges and universities engage in unhealthy competition – to score the highest rating possible in the US News and World Report rankings, to have the flashiest new facilities such a student centers or sports facilities, or by adding unjustified doctoral programs because of a perception of prestige.

It would be nice if the kind of competition they engaged in was who could provide the best, most well rounded education at the lowest cost, and turn out graduates capable of meeting the needs of the current marketplace.  It’s heresy, I know.

If you follow my Twitter account (it’s @climbthebuddha and there is a link at the top right of this page), you would have seen a couple articles here, and here that I posted regarding the firing of Naomi Schaefer Riley from a position as a blogger for the Chronicle of Higher Education. The fire able offense?  She didn’t kill anyone.  She didn’t blatantly lie and steal financial opportunity from future generations, like our “elected” representatives in Washington.  No, her crime was having the temerity to question the standards by which certain black studies programs issue doctoral degrees.

There is a disease which is especially prevalent at our institutions of “higher learning.”  It is the disease of Group Think, which is kind of ironic, isn’t it?  It would be funny if it wasn’t so absurd, and so damaging to the future of our country and our society.  The whole idea behind tenure is to enable academics to think on their own, to challenge the status quo, and not be worried that they might lose they paycheckif they refuse to fall in line with the rest of the crowd.  But that’s not tolerated at American universities these days.  Since universities are the bastions of today’s far left liberal thinking, anyone who dares fall out of line is likely to get their heads chopped off.  Especially in a matter like race, where questioning the intellectual rigor of a doctoral thesis automatically qualifies you as a racist.

Speaking of the Chronicle of Education, this article on the site brings me back full circle to my prior post.  The article is a sympathetic piece on the financial difficulties of adjunct professors who have to use food stamps to make ends meet.  Look, I feel bad for anyone who is having a tough time making ends meet.  But maybe before achieving doctoral degrees in their chosen fields, these pin heads should have taken a course in basic economics – although, if the class was taught by Paul Krugman, it may have done more harm than good.

If they had taken the basic economics class, they may have learned that there is very limited demand for people with doctorates in medieval history and film studies (a couple of the people they profile in the article).  They may have been  able to determine that pursuing that path would likely lead to part time work at third rate schools in the hinterlands, not tenured positions at Harvard or Princeton.

If they had a true passion for the subject, maybe that conclusion wouldn’t have mattered.  Maybe they would have pursued the doctorate for the love of knowledge and willingly suffered the consequences.  Or maybe they would have decided instead to pursue a degree that is actually valued in the real world where people get jobs where they create value for their employers and receive fair compensation in return (at least that’s how it used to work most of the time).

I especially liked the part about Elliott Stegall, a 51 year-old white guy pursuing a doctorate in film studies at Florida State and teaching part time at Northwest Florida State College.  For his dissertation, he is writing about how Hollywood films portray Vietnam soldiers as psychotic men who return home destroyed by the war.  Come to think of it, I’ve seen Apocolypse Now, The Deer Hunter, Coming Home, Full Metal Jacket, Born on the 4th of July, and Platoon (to name a few).  Maybe I could also qualify for a doctorate in film studies and move on to pass that knowledge on to future generations at some backwater “institution” in the middle of nowhere and live, as Mr. Stegall puts it, “where the poor folk live.”

From that set of movies, I’d put this clip up against any of them.

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