My detractors will say “But Ed, it is Wednesday. The week is nearly over.” I say that back to them!

So this will be brief. There was kind of bigger news than the Sunday edition of The New York Times. ICYMI: bin Laden died.

However, there is one article from the Book Review I’d like to point out. It is from the now-notorious “Professor X” who allegedly teaches at an Ivy League school. In his new book he mentions (among other things) many of the same students I’ve run into–ones who frankly should not be enrolled in college. Now this is a complete appeal to authority and use of anecdotal evidence but whatever. The point I’m trying to make is that at seemingly every level of academic quality there are far too many of the wrong people in school and we’re about to face a severe education bubble.

In case you needed more evidence that it isn’t just me saying this, nor is it isolated, up in Canada, they are about to have the same problem . That’s important because our northern neighbors’ higher education model effectively mirrors ours and their educational trends do.

What’s the point? Well the point is this, politically. The appropriate question we need to start asking sooner rather than later is not how do we keep or make college affordable or accessible for everyone. We need to start finding ways of re-strengthening the value of a Bachelor’s Degree and we desperately need to cull the number of university students.

I’ve gone over some of the reasons for this but here’s a couple others… Master’s Degree programs, if they aren’t terminal, are fast turning into rackets as universities exploit the continual and cheap, T.A.-based labor they provide for swelling undergraduate classes. With more masters-level (and beyond) graduates, an undergraduate education similarly becomes less valuable.

Philosophically, universities and colleges ought, and need to be selective. Not everyone’s child is a delicate flower who needs to attain advanced education. The odds are that they are merely average. And this is where the problem arises. No politician will say that their constituents are not as good as they think and that a vocation is better for them than education so we’re going to continue propagating this myth that college is the only or best route to financial and career-based success.

N.B.: I’ve intentionally left out the problem of student loans and the willingness to saddle people with several thousand dollars worth of debt that will take decades to pay off and with increasing rates of default because well…that’s yet another problem we need to address independently of the above.

 

6 Responses to Open Thread–Sunday Times Edition

  1. JMPrince says:

    More data, where you care to look, you’ll find failure version:
    http://cbsdetroit.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/basicskillsreport_final.pdf

    About 1/2 of adults in Detroit are functionally illiterate. I’m betting there’s not a few states who’d also be in similar dire straights. JMP

  2. JMPrince says:

    Because no one reads or much understands economics, even the simple stuff, and ’cause it’s an Open Thread we bring fun?!:
    http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2011/05/fun-with-google-maps-osama-bin-ladens-hideout-compound/

    [Look for the googlemaps update too] JMP

  3. JMPrince says:

    Addendum on my thoughts on #4 above. This does not apply to much of the current spate of ‘for profit’ colleges, which were created as business enterprises essentially to fleece both students and the government, which they do quite effectively. That’s again a species of larger fraud. Not uncommon, but typically unrelated to the usual ‘lazy, drunk & stupid’ problem of the normative college experience. JMP

  4. JMPrince says:

    That was quick. So bottom line, Why ask why? This is where we’re at, via a nice & easy Slide Show:
    http://www.businessinsider.com/american-dream-middle-class-2011-5#the-competition-for-decent-jobs-in-america-has-gotten-absolutely-insane-1

    Some other thoughts:

    1.) No, going to college was never meant to make you smarter. Ideally, it was supposed to give already reasonably smart people the skills and enhanced social networks they needed to make it in the wider world and to make themselves better understood by others. Somewhere along the way also hopefully to help make the wider world more understandable to you. Sort of like what HS did for prior generations.

    2.) Hence the relative volume and indeed vast numbers of stupid people coming out of college is almost besides the point. That’s the constant in the equation. We’ve just shifted the population to fulfill consumerist needs.

    Most of our yes, functional illiterates are made, formed and set up years before they ever darken the doorways of any college. Some of this is clearly students fault, some of it poverty, poor parenting, persistent lack of motivation & interest, or some vicious combo of some or all conditions. Some of the fault for the condition lies with the ongoing pervasive cultural lack of respect or interest in either learning or academics, from Everyone. Ditto for writing for any real ‘serious’ or ‘business’ purpose.

    3.) So bringing it back home. What are the needs of the jobs of the future? Where are they likely to be & in what sectors? How can we best prepare the students of today (and of yesterday & tomorrow) for those increasingly scarce middle class jobs?

    4.) So again less about dismantling the huge post secondary educational edifice essentially built up in the past 50-65 years. That’s infrastructure anyone and any country would be proud of and properly envious of. It’s forever trying to slowly & even subtly improving on the ‘raw’ or even ‘partly finished products’ that show up at the doors of such institutions. But as far as Quality is concerned? We might be able to show it’s about the same as it ever was. Only about the top 10-20% of college grads have ever really been worth a damn. In most places. And the trick of most enterprises is working with what we’ve got.

    5.) Productive debate begins not with the incessant whining about the invariant but always impressively overwhelming levels of human ignorance and crass stupidity. It lies with the real needs for skills that are in demand and the jobs that are presently going unfilled due to a lack of qualified applicants. Or the ability & ease of finding such ‘needles in haystacks’ when the ratio is under 10:1 even for Micky D’s to find a decent worker, where once any kid in Middle school could suffice.

    We need to focus not only on the symptoms of the problem, but wrestle with the entire issue of work force preparation & job creation. They are related, but not in the ways many imagine.

    JMP

  5. Gunner says:

    Just wanted to make a quick comment on this post…