American Thinker’s David Solway has some interesting observations on the state of higher education in the US. Excerpt:
I have just been perusing a towering stack of student essays that my wife, a university prof, has been grading over the last week. The spectacle of ineptitude, ignorance, and tactical evasion of once standard commitment is light-years beyond belief. According to my reckoning, perhaps four fifths of the students registered in both her arts undergraduate courses and graduate seminars exhibit one or several of the following deficiencies. To put it in bullet form, they:
- lack interest in anything apart from their congenial pursuits, a phenomenon demonstrably less evident in precursor generations.
- lack coping ability with real-world events, against which they seek not engagement, but insulation – the infantile or “snowflake” mentality that has grown so prominent.
- have little knowledge of English grammar and concinnity.
- suffer from impoverished vocabularies.
- cannot follow text or topic directions.
- are given to outright plagiarism from online sources, which, extrapolating from the submissions I am examining, is a tactic adopted by approximately one fifth of the cohort in question.
- claim exemptions on grounds of disability where almost anything, from exam anxiety to memory failings to agoraphobia to time management issues, counts as a certified disability in the current permissive and anti-scholarly climate.
- are incapable of reading text with understanding or of discriminating among narrative planes – i.e., cannot tell the differences among the view of the author, the view of the narrator, and the view of the characters in the novel under discussion. The almost complete absence of hermeneutic discernment is pervasive. Reading, as Furedi points out in Power of Reading: From Socrates to Twitter, connotes more than literacy, “involv[ing] interpretation and imagination” in an effort to “gain meaning.” Of course, reading in Furedi’s terms depends upon literacy, so it is not surprising that these mature students tend to function on a grade eight level.
I can think of a few things that would help reform the existing system of higher education or, if it collapses completely, instituting a new one:
- Get government out of education. Government almost never improves anything. The explosion of government-sponsored financing and loans has (this is Economics 101, folks) been the key factor behind the explosion in education costs. This will help to…
- Return higher education to its core purpose, which is producing young adults with marketable skills. A return to a market-based system would also have the desirable effect of eliminating all the bullshit Underwater Ethnic Dog-Polishing degrees too much in evidence today.
- Drop all the “every kid should go to college” nonsense. A good, free-market network of trade schools producing qualified welders, pipe-fitters, carpenters and electricians would be great for young folks looking to get into the job market and in the long term, great for our economy.
Solway concludes: Academia is by this time too radically compromised and too extensively diseased to be revived. Clearly, this is not a happy scenario. Some few exceptions to the general rout will survive – a Hillsdale College, for example, and perhaps a university here and there will manage to halt or at least delay its subsidence into irrelevance and desuetude. But the university system as we know it has signed its death warrant. The sooner it disappears, the sooner we can begin rebuilding from the foundations – assuming the culture has not stagnated beyond salvage. Sometimes collapse is the only remedy.
Well, I have an answer: Disconnect government from education. At all levels.